Chu Ling, wife of cartoonist Jiang Yefei, has claimed that Chinese agents posed as United Nations officials in order to abduct her husband and fellow rights-advocate Dong Guanping from Bangkok on November 13. Both men held refugee status by United Nations decree.
Jiang Yefei and Dong Guanping had been held in detention by Thai authorities since mid October. Chu said that agents pretending to be UN personnel convinced both men to sign documents that would allow them to travel to Canada, where they had been granted asylum. “But the document was in Thai,” Chu told Al Jazeera. “They signed it even though they couldn’t understand the words. Later, we found out that they had signed papers agreeing to be deported back to China.”
The Chinese government has charged Jiang with “trafficking” by helping Dong Guanping in his flight to Thailand, but it’s been suggested that his arrest is also related to China’s mass arrest of human rights lawyers and activists in July. On December 3rd, Jiang and Dong were shown on CCTV, Chinese state-run TV, being interrogated by officials. Concern has been raised over Jang’s appearance in that video: Jiang’s left eye appears swollen, and he speaks with difficulty and has trouble trying to straighten up, possibly an indication that he has been beaten. Chinese Amnesty International has called for the Chinese government to free Jiang and Dong unless they are charged with a legitimate international offense.
Jiang Yefei was jailed and tortured in China in 2008 for cartoons critical of his government. He fled to Thailand later that year, reportedly after hearing he was to be arrested again. He has been living in Thailand since then, awaiting refugee resettlement.
According to Jiang Yefei’s wife, the Chinese authorities once again became interested in Jiang when the cartoonist began targeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in cartoons, warning Jiang’s brother in China that the cartoons must stop. The exiled couple then began getting anonymous phone calls in Thailand, Chu Lin told Al Jazeera reporter Anneliese McAuliffe. “They knew that Jiang was doing the cartoons and the person on the phone warned him to stop making the cartoons.”
Human Rights Watch has posted an open letter to Thailand’s Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, in protest of Thailand’s complicity in the forced repatriation of Jiang Yefei, Dong Guanping and other Chinese dissidents. The military government of Thailand is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees a does not recognize political asylum.
Chu Ling, now in Canada with Dong’s wife and daughter, told Radio Free Asia: “I call on the international community, on the U.S. Congress, and the Canadian government to pay very close attention to the cases of these deportees. They should criticize the Thai government for putting two refugees from mainland China in danger. If nobody speaks out for them; if governments don’t speak out, then there is really no safety for anyone who tries to escape [China].”