PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani court has ruled that a Chinese national arrested on blasphemy charges be held in jail for two weeks, pending trial, a police officer said Tuesday. Under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, anyone convicted of blasphemy can be sentenced to death.
The Chinese man, identified by police only as Tian, was arrested on Sunday night, hours after hundreds of residents and laborers working on a dam project in the town of Komela in northwestern Pakistan blocked a key highway and rallied demanding his arrest.
Tian was part of a group of Chinese working on the Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan. He was accused by Pakistani laborers of blasphemy after criticizing two drivers working on the project of taking too much time to pray during work hours.
Tian was whisked away from northwestern Pakistan and brought before a court in the city of Abottabad, where he on Monday pleaded not guilty. He also insisted that he did not insult Islam or the Prophet Muhammad, said Arshad Khan, a local police officer.
In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin said the embassy in Islamabad was looking into the situation.
“The Chinese government has always asked Chinese citizens overseas to abide by the laws and regulations of their host countries and respect local customs and traditions,” Wang told reporters at a news conference.
Pakistani authorities say their arrest of Tian had saved him from the hands of a crowd and possible attack by angry residents.
Although arrests of Muslims and non-Muslims on charges of blasphemy are common in Pakistan, foreigners are rarely among those arrested.
In 2021, a mob lynched a Sri Lankan man at a sports equipment factory in the eastern Punjab province. It later burned his body in public over allegations he desecrated posters bearing the name of the Prophet Muhammad.