Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei (Photo: AP)
China on Monday said the preliminary death sentence handed out to Egypt's ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by a court this week is a domestic affair, declining to join other states which have criticised the ruling.
In response to a question at a press conference on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that China "believes that the domestic affairs of Egypt should be decided by the Egyptian people themselves."
On Saturday, Morsi and 105 other defendants received a preliminary death sentence on charges related to breaking out of jail during the 2011 unrest, when mass protests erupted against then president Hosni Mubarak.
The sentence has gone to the grand mufti, a senior cleric, for consultation. His advice regarding the ruling is non-binding as the court will return a verdict in the case on 2 June.
Lei added that China hopes that "Egypt will continue with the process of political transition, and realise social stability, economic growth and improvement of people's livelihood."
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Sunday that the "the court decision to seek the death penalty... was taken at the end of a mass trial that was not in line with Egypt's obligations under international law."
Mogherini said that the EU opposes the death penalty “under all circumstances.”
US officials also denounced the sentence, saying they were deeply concerned by yet another mass death sentence in Egypt.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meanwhile decried the court's verdict as a "return to Ancient Egypt."
The Egyptian authorities described the criticism as "ignorant and inaccurate."
China has also faced international criticism for its death penalty record; the country has the highest number of executions worldwide.