Rights Watchdog Rips Thailand’s Deportation of Chinese Dissidents

BenarNews Staff
2015.11.19
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151119-TH-dissidents-620 Jiang Yefei's wife Chu Ling (second from left), Dong Guangping's wife Gu Shuhua (first from right) and their daughter Dong Xuerui (second from right), pose with activists before departing from Bangkok, Nov. 18, 2015.
Courtesy of an activist

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday condemned Thailand’s deportation of two Chinese dissidents who had been granted refugee status by the U.N. and accepted for settlement in Canada.

But Thailand defended its action, saying Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei had entered the country illegally.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) this week protested to Bangkok over their forced repatriation last weekend, as rights groups expressed concern that the duo would be severely punished upon returning home.

“[T]his refoulement was a deliberate, pre-mediated rights violation, and highlights your government’s total disregard for fundamental human rights,” Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, said in a letter addressed to Thai junta chief Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

Richardson said the Thai government should have considered whether Dong, a democracy activist from Zhengzhou City in Henan province, and Jiang, a democracy activist and political cartoonist from Chengdu in Sichuan province, would be in danger of being subjected to torture, cruel, and inhuman or degrading treatment if deported.

“Individuals who are known to have been involved in issues considered politically sensitive or from ethnic or religious groups who are forcibly returned to China have faced precisely such treatment,” she wrote.

Jiang had lived in Thailand since 2008 and Dong had arrived there this past September. The two were arrested in October on charges of illegal immigration. They pleaded guilty and were fined.

Thai officials said the men were deported because they had violated the kingdom’s immigration laws, Reuters reported Thursday.

"We have taken every step in accordance with the Thai laws," Gen. Thawip Netniyom, secretary-general of the country's National Security Council, told the news agency. "All we know is that they appear to be dissidents of the Chinese government. We don't know about their other offences."

The Chinese foreign ministry said the issue was being handled in accordance with the law, according to Reuters.

‘Of no use at all’

But UNHCR called Jiang and Dong legitimate refugees, who should not have been sent back to China.

“This action by Thailand is clearly a serious disappointment, and underscores the longstanding gap in Thai domestic law concerning ensuring appropriate treatment of persons with international protection needs,” the UNHCR said.

Jiang and Dong had “protection letters” from UNHCR that are issued to those who apply for political asylum while their applications for resettlement are underway. The process can take years.

Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for UNHCR, told Reuters: "These people are recognized refugees, meaning they were interviewed and their claim of persecution was found to be legitimate."

"They should not be sent back to a place where their lives can be put in danger," she added.

However, Beijing enacted a national security law on July 1 that allows for the principle that Chinese law is enforceable in other countries, according to rights activist Cao Jinbo.

“A protection letter is of no use at all,” Cao said. “Dong and Jiang had already been granted refugee status, but (UNHCR) was unable to guarantee their safety.”

‘They are safe now’

On Wednesday, Dong’s and Jiang’s families left Thailand for the safety of Canada.

Jiang’s wife Chu Ling, Dong’s wife Gu Shuhua and his daughter Dong Xuerui flew to Toronto from Bangkok.

“They are safe now … but they are feeling very sad, because they were unable to travel with their loved ones,” democracy activist Li Xiaolong said.

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