06/07/2023, 11.31
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Beijing arrests anti-censorship activist refugee in Laos

Qiao Xinxin was detained in a cross-border operation by Beijing security forces. According to local sources, he was picked up by three Laotian and six Chinese police officers linked to the Communist Party. The dissident and former contributor to Radio Free Asia founded the 'Internet Firewall of China' movement against net restrictions.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The grip of Chinese repression also crosses borders and moves quietly into neighbouring Laos, where a dissident was arrested in great secrecy by the police and taken to an unknown destination.

The incident took place in the past few days, before the 4 June anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing, which was bloodily suppressed by the communist leadership.

The target was pro-democracy activist Qiao Xinxin, a former journalist for Radio Free Asia (Rfa) and founder of the 'Internet Firewall of China' movement, which fights against censorship on the Internet, symbolically likened to the Great Wall.

In recent weeks, the dissident himself had accused the Chinese Communist Party leadership of using his family to threaten or blackmail him. And to force him to stop his pro-rights campaign and fight against 'the wall' by ordering him to cross the borders and return to the motherland from his exile in Thailand and Laos.

The 'great wall' on the web is one of the main sources of censorship used by China and an element of strong contrast between Beijing and the West. It allows browsing and content on major search engines such as Google or social platforms such as Twitter and YouTube to be blocked, for a total of 310,000 websites meticulously scrutinised. It also allows certain particularly sensitive topics to be blacked out, as happens every year for the Tiananmen events or major events or topics such as the Dalai Lama and Tibet.

Among the activists who have been fighting against this harsh form of censorship in recent times is a former Rfa contributor, formerly known as Yang Zewei, who was born in August 1986 in Qidong County, Hunan Province. According to some reports, he was arrested by Chinese police in a cross-border operation in Laos between late May and early June on the eve of the 34th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. 

According to the Respect for Rights Protection Network, there has been no news of Qiao Xinxin's fate for days. On 3 June, a friend of the dissident went to his home and found it locked. A neighbour, a Laotian, reported that three days earlier three local police officers and six Chinese police officers linked to the Communist Party had arrived and taken him away. Other acquaintances confirmed the arrest but could not speak earlier because they were followed by plainclothes police officers.

Qiao Xinxin had long known that he was in the crosshairs of the Beijing authorities, in particular of the number two in the Party's Public Security Bureau, Chen Siyuan, who allegedly launched a manhunt to find him.

At the same time, the Hunan department launched an investigation into the dissident, putting pressure on relatives and friends. From the little information available, it is not known at the moment where he is and where in mainland China he is being held or whether he is still in custody in Laos.

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