10/05/2023, 13.07
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Dissident deported from Laos to China, the other side of Southeast Asian affairs

Lawyer Lu Siwei - detained in July in Vientiane while trying to flee the People's Republic - is in a detention centre in Sichuan despite warnings from UN Human Rights Council officials. The same place where Beijing seeks re-election for a new three-year term on 10 October.

Milan (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Arrested in Laos and deported to a prison in the People's Republic of China. The appeals of international organizations were to no avail: the Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei is in the Xindu detention center in Sichuan according to his wife Zhang Chunxiao. An exile in the United States, she broke the news last July of her husband's detention in Laos, where he was also attempting to leave China.

Zhang Chunxiao told Radio Free Asia that Lu Siwei's family in China received a notice from the detention center asking for clothes, medicine and money to be sent. Lu Siwei suffers from a serious skin disease and has been without medicine for more than two months.

During the phone call it was not specified how long he has been in China or on what charges he is detained. Last month, the Chinese embassy in Laos sent a communication to the Lao Ministry of Public Security stating that his criminal detention had been authorized for illegally crossing the border. On this basis, Beijing asked the Laotian authorities for the transfer "as soon as possible".

Lu Siwei defended the lawyers arrested in the "709 case" and those arrested in the "June 4 liquor case" in Chengdu. In 2021, Sichuan's judicial department revoked his lawyer's license for representing 12 people from Hong Kong, which was deemed a "threat to national security."

He has already been the victim of intimidation and harassment while on his way to his disbarment hearing. Since May 2021 he was also subject to a ban on leaving the country. He had arrived in Laos via Vietnam and when he was stopped he was boarding a train to Thailand, from where he would try to join his family in the United States.

A group of senior officials from the UN Human Rights Council also intervened in Lu Siwei's case in August and reminded the Laos government that "under international law the principle of 'non-refoulement' guarantees that no one should be repatriated to a country where he or she may suffer torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and other forms of violence." If Liu Siwei had been transferred to China - they wrote - it would have been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention against Torture, of which Laos is a signatory country.

Due to its increasingly close ties with Beijing, the Vientiane government has evidently wanted to ignore these calls. And - in the shadow of the affairs of the Belt and Road Initiative - the concern of Chinese dissidents is now growing throughout South-East Asia, who no longer feel safe even outside the borders of the People's Republic of China.

The case of Li Siwei, for example, was also carefully followed by Chen Siming, another Chinese activist who has been at the Taiwan airport for two weeks from where he made a request for political asylum. He too had followed the same path, fleeing to Laos and then to Thailand to escape a threat of internment in a psychiatric hospital for having commemorated the victims of Tiananmen.

All this is happening on the eve of the October 10th meeting, when the People's Republic of China will seek (and in all likelihood obtain) re-election for another three-year term in the same UN Human Rights Council which is supposed to monitor these violations.

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