Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Human rights activists are calling for the liberation of two members of the China democratic movement, arrested and detained by Thai immigration authorities after asking the United Nations to be recognized as political refugees.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that Dong Guangping fled China with his family in September after serving a three-year jail term for subversion from 2001-2004, and being “disappeared” and held for eight months in secret detention in 2014.
Political cartoonist Jiang Yefei had been in Thailand since fleeing China in 2008, where he was detained and tortured after he criticized the ruling Chinese Communist Party's handling of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, and was granted refugee status last April by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Chinese officials told his brother in October that Beijing would be seeking his extradition on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power" after he published a number of satirical cartoons targeting President Xi Jinping.
According to Jiang’s wife, Chu Ling, the cartoonist and activist Dong have both pleaded guilty to the immigration-related charges against them during interrogation under duress. "He is not capable of reading the Thai language - adds Chu - and we had agreed by phone that he would never plead guilty, whatever the cost."
In the recent past members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned as an "evil cult" in China, had previously allowed the Thai police to note that they accepted the charges against them, before sending them to China-influenced areas of northern Myanmar close to the Chinese border, where they were eventually repatriated. "Today - she concludes - there is an arrest warrant in China hanging over Jiang yefei’s head".
Frontline Defenders, an activist group based in Dublin has launched a petition for the release of the two men, adding that the Chinese passport Jiang is no longer valid and it is not known if Dong Guangping is in possession of a valid passport. The campaign is aimed at Bangkok authorities appealing for the "immediate and unconditional release of Dong and Jiang yefei". The Chinese activist Lin Dajun, based in Thailand, said that refugees fleeing persecution of the Chinese government find only a "precarious" situation when they arrive in the country.
Moreover, the government in Bangkok has never signed the UN convention on refugees and does not recognize the concept of political asylum. The only option for Chinese refugees whose status is recognized by the UNHCR is to move to one of the 50 countries in the world that guarantees asylum.