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China calls on UK to seek 'severe punishment' for those responsible for lorry deaths

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China calls on UK to seek 'severe punishment' for those responsible for lorry deaths
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REUTERS/Simon Dawson
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China has called on Britain to seek "severe punishment" for those involved in the deaths of 39 people, believed to be Chinese nationals, found in a lorry container near London.

Police investigating the deaths said they had arrested two people on Friday on suspicion of human trafficking and continued to question the driver as a murder suspect.

The Chinese Embassy in London said it had sent a team to Essex, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said police had not yet been able to verify the nationalities of the deceased.

"We hope that the British side can as soon as possible confirm and verify the identities of the victims, ascertain what happened and severely punish criminals involved in the case," she told a daily news briefing.

For years, immigrants have attempted to reach Britain stowed away in the back of trucks, often seeking to reach the United Kingdom from the European mainland.

Earlier, China-backed media Global Times on Friday said the UK and European countries must accept some responsibility for their deaths.

At the moment it was impossible to say how much responsibility the dead should bear for the tragedy, the Chinese newspaper said in an editorial.

"But such a serious humanitarian disaster has occurred under the eyes of the British and Europeans," it said. "It is clear that Britain and relevant European countries have not fulfilled their responsibility to protect these people from such a death."

Even if proved they were smuggled into the country, the victims' death was not their fault, said the paper, which is published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily.

"We hope that Britain and European countries will put into effect their various commitments to human rights and make due efforts for Chinese people to be free from abuse and sudden death."

Britain appears not to have learned its lesson from the Dover incident two decades ago, it added.

"Imagine how thoroughly European countries would take measures if dozens of Europeans were collectively tragically killed in some way," the paper said.

"Could the British and European people ask themselves why they have not been able to avoid a similar tragedy...Did they take all the serious remedial action that they could have?"

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