The teenage son of two detained Chinese rights lawyers was detained alongside two friends and fellow activists in a cross-border police operation in a rebel-controlled part of northern Myanmar, sources told RFA on Wednesday.
Bao Zhuoxuan, also known by his nickname Bao Mengmeng, was taken away from the Huadu Guesthouse in the border town of Mongla by local police on Oct. 6.
Bao, the 16-year-old son of detained rights lawyers Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, had crossed the border as a tourist earlier this month after he was denied permission to leave the country legally, sources said at the time.
Fellow activists Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian were detained at the same time, reportedly by police who showed Burmese IDs, but all records of the arrests were then deleted from official files and surveillance footage, a close friend of Wang Yu's said.
"During the process of detaining the three Chinese citizens, the head of the Mongla political and legal affairs committee of the Myanmar government, whose surname is Liu, accompanied police officers from the Inner Mongolia region [of China] and from Xishuangbanna [in China's neighboring Yunnan province] in the operation," the friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
"They even deleted all record of the arrest from their files, at the request of the Chinese side," the friend said. "People in Myanmar police uniforms went to the Huadu Guesthouse [in Mongla] and deleted all of the video [of the operation] from their surveillance cameras."
"Sources on the ground have told us that this operation was carried out with the consent of [local army commander] Lin Mingxian, who is in effective control in the region."
Ethnic Chinese region
Mongla is in a military zone controlled by former Chinese citizen Lin Xianming and his son Lin Daode of the 815 Army, but China's currency, the yuan, circulates freely there, and there are close economic ties, as well as cross-border postal services.
The region's 80,000 residents are mostly ethnic Han Chinese, and the official language is Mandarin. The region has regular transport links across the border and shares a telephone code with China's Xishuangbanna region, whose police officers have the ability to cross the border easily.
A recent program helping opium poppy farmers to switch to cultivating other economically viable crops has been largely bankrolled by Beijing.
The region borders the Kokang region run by ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, Lin Dexian's father-in-law.
"The Myanmar government has never been in charge of Mongla," a Kokang resident told RFA. Asked if the Mongla police force is also under Lin's command, the resident said: "Yes, yes, yes."
The Chinese police, meanwhile, have working agreements in place with many of the ethnic rebel forces along Mongla's southwestern border with Yunnan province, local sources said.
"The Chinese side would have to get in touch with them and get their agreement; it would be the same with all the rebel zones, including with us at the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)," a high-ranking KIA official surnamed Pai told RFA.
"They send details of the suspect, their location, their photograph, age, description and so on," he said.
"After they have communicated, then they carry out a joint operation; it would be the same in Mongla ... the local police would carry out the arrests, and then they hand them over to the Chinese side at the border," Pai said.
Pai said the system has evolved after large numbers of criminal suspects from mainland China would disappear across the porous border into rebel regions of northern Myanmar to evade capture.
"Quite a lot of their murder suspects escape over here," Pai said.
Bao Mengmeng was initially held at an unknown location following the detention of his parents, Bao Longjun and Wang Yu, which kicked off a nationwide police operation that has detained or questioned at least 293 rights lawyers and their associates since the night of July 9-10, the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group reported on its website.
Bao, who had planned to attend college in Australia, was later told he couldn't leave China because his departure would "harm state security," and police confiscated his passport.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.