China has hit out against the order to extradite WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange to the US, saying Washington presented its true face in regard to its freedom of speech and the press rhetoric.
At the behest of the US, a UK court earlier this week issued a formal order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.
Assange's lawyers had argued against the extradition order, saying the whistle-blower could be handed the death sentence in the US for espionage charges.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a press conference on Thursday that the United States request unveiled the "hypocritical" nature of the American government.
"This is the true face of the US 'freedom of speech and the press.' The extradition of Assange to the US can lay bare the hypocritical nature of the US government better than the WikiLeaks revelations," the spokesperson said.
The things this journalist has gone through ever since he revealed US war crimes tell people that "those who expose the so-called atrocities of other countries are heroes, while those who expose the scandals of the US are criminals," he added.
Nils Melzer, a UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, warned Assange is not guaranteed a fair trial in the United States, where he is likely to face torture and ultimately receive the death sentence.
The Australian-born journalist, who has denied all accusations against him, has been held in a British prison for over 36 months. Before that, he spent seven years holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, under threat of arrest by the UK authorities.
Assange says he had merely engaged in investigative journalistic activities that is legal in the US, and that accusations of him conspiring to hack the Pentagon's computer systems were false. He and his supporters believe the accusations are politically motivated and "represent an unprecedented attack on press freedom and the public's right to know - seeking to criminalize basic journalistic activity."