Authorities in Thailand have agreed in principle to release on bail a Chinese asylum seeker detained on illegal immigration charges, but they have refused bail for his wife and a fellow activist, local sources told RFA's Cantonese Service.
Li Xiaolong, his wife Gu Qiao, their child Li Yisheng, and a refugee named Song Zhiyu are currently in police custody in the southern Thai resort of Chumphon after they tried to reach Australia in a private yacht for fear of being sent back to China.
An employee answering the phone at the Chumphon Court confirmed that three Chinese nationals, two male, one female, are currently being held in the Chumphon Detention Center.
He said that only Li has a valid passport, while the other two have none. Li and Gu's infant son is currently in the Chumphon government orphanage, he added.
All of the refugees have been recognized as genuine, and hold protection letters issued by the United Nations.
A local court has set bail at 100,000 Thai baht (U.S.$2,850) for Li, but refused it for Gu and Song, Li's brother Li Minwei told RFA on Friday.
However, they had been permitted visits in the immigration detention center where they are currently being held, Li Minwei said.
"The visit lasted about three minutes; it was so quick, and they wouldn't let us speak," Li Minwei said after visiting the detainees. "I told him we'd bail him out first, and he agreed."
"The court said [he] could go out on bail but not the other two."
But when they went to bail Li out, they found the bail "price" had risen to 130,000 baht (U.S. $3,700) he said.
Meanwhile, fellow Chinese activist Zhao Wei said he had managed to visit with Song briefly.
"He really doesn't want to be sent back to mainland China, because he has already done five years in prison there," Zhao said. "It wasn't easy for him to escape in the first place, and now he has to go back there."
Zhao, who was on the boat but remains free because he has a valid Thai visa, said he had visited U.N. officials in Bangkok to make inquiries about the detainees, but had met with no new response.
"Nobody has been in touch with the relatives," he told RFA.
Calls to the Bangkok office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) went unanswered during office hours on Friday.
Activists on the run
In an interview before his detention, Li told RFA that most Chinese activists are now effectively on the run, constantly on the move in a bid to evade arrest and deportation on illegal immigration charges.
In November, Chinese asylum-seekers Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, who had fled persecution in their home country, were handed back to the Chinese authorities in a move that drew strong criticism from the United Nations.
They are now under criminal detention in China for "organizing illegal border crossings and illegally crossing the border."
Jiang's wife Chu Ling, and Dong's wife Gu Shuhua and daughter Dong Xuerui were later flown to Canada from Bangkok for resettlement as political refugees. They fear Jiang and Dong are now at risk of torture and other violations of their rights.
Three other Chinese nationals were repatriated at the same time, but their identities remain unconfirmed.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.