BEIJING China briefly detained two prominent dissidents ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the men said on Tuesday, even as the government defended its record. Police seized veteran dissidents Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Zuhua late on Monday night and only released them on Tuesday, Zhang told Reuters by telephone.
"They said we had been getting intellectuals' signatures for a charter, and so they took us away," Zhang said, referring to a document he had been helping draft calling for greater respect for human rights in China.
"It was a very constructive document," he added. "We asked them which clauses were miswritten and they didn't say. But tomorrow is international human rights day, so it's natural to ask for respect for human rights at this time."
Zhang quit the Communist Youth League once headed by late Party chief and reformist Hu Yaobang in protest against the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Tiananmen Square.
Police also searched his house and confiscated his computer, Zhang said.
"I'm very angry about it. It's an abuse of our human rights," he added.
Beijing police could not be reached for comment. China on Tuesday defended its human rights record while admitting some areas were "less than satisfactory" and called on other countries not to politicise the issue.
"Due to natural, historical, cultural and economic and social factors, there are still many problems and difficulties in the development of human rights," Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office, as saying.
But Wang pointed to problems with social security, income distribution and production safety, rather than areas such as arbitrary detention and controls on freedom of speech.
"Under the precondition of recognising the universality of human rights, all governments and people have the right to adopt different policy measures according to their respective national conditions to seek human rights development best suited to their country," he said.
Some countries had "politicised and ideologised human rights by practising double standards, flying the 'human rights' flag to negate the sovereignty of other countries and carry out power politics", Wang said.
China is frequently criticised by the United States and Europe for its lack of respect for human rights.