China Jails Two Political Refugees Sent Home From Thailand After Secret Trial

china-gu-shuhua-canada-1000.jpg A screen grab from file footage shows Dong Guangping's wife Gu Shuhua following her resettlement in Canada.
Courtesy of an RFA listener

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese mega-city of Chongqing have tried in secret and jailed two rights activists sent home from Thailand as they were awaiting resettlement as political refugees, prompting an international outcry.

Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei fled with their families to Thailand in 2015, and were granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees office in Bangkok.

But as they awaited resettlement in a third country, they were handed over to China by the Thai police, in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N.

Dong and Jiang were both found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" and "illegally crossing a national border" by a court in Chongqing.

Jiang received a six-and-a-half-year jail term, while Dong was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, their relatives said, citing phone calls with police and online reports.

Jiang's wife Chu Ling and Dong's wife Gu Shuhua and daughter Dong Xuerui flew to Canada from Bangkok for resettlement as political refugees just days after the two men were repatriated.

Gu told RFA on Wednesday that she has still received no official notification of her husband's trial or sentence from the authorities.

She said she had learned his fate from a July 13 Facebook post by the China News Service.

"I read that news item online," Gu said. "The [ruling] Chinese Communist Party isn't going to send the families any notification at all. We weren't even notified of his detention or formal arrest."

No legal documents or lawyer

She added: "None of the legal documents were available ... I heard that the trial was held on July 26, 2017, but that Dong didn't have a lawyer at that time."

The China News Service report said the court found that, "between May 2009 and October 2015, the defendant Jiang Yefei subverted the power of the Chinese state and sought to overthrow the socialist system, and in Thailand joined several overseas organizations aimed at overthrowing Chinese state."

It said Dong Guangping had joined and helped Jiang Yefei to cross the border into neighboring Laos from China's southwestern province of Yunnan, bypassing border inspections, and traveling from there to Bangkok.

"[Jiang] participated in two occasions on activities aimed at subverting the Chinese government and overthrowing socialism," the report said.

According to Gu, the activities referred to in the report were small gatherings that could have had no such effect.

"I would like to protest in the strongest terms the persecution visited upon Dong Guangping and upon us, his family, by the Chinese Communist Party," she said. "Dong Guangping is innocent."

"How could a gathering of the kind [attended by Dong and Jiang] lead to the overthrow of the entire Communist Party state machinery?" she said. "Which government did it subvert?"

"I call upon the Chinese Communist Party to release Dong Guangping and to drop the charges against him; which I dismiss totally," Gu added.

Secret trial

Dong's former lawyer, Chang Boyang, said he was denied permission to meet with his client when he showed up at the Chongqing No. 2 Detention Center last July.

"This trial went against the principle of openness; it was tantamount to a secret trial that the outside world knew nothing about," Chang said. "It is unclear if they had the support of any lawyer."

"I filed a complaint at the political and legal affairs committee [about not being given access to Dong] but they didn't give me any information at all," he said. "Everything and everyone was kept totally in the dark."

"This kind of trial goes against all the legal rules and regulations, because defendants in a secret trial have no access to a legal defense."

Zhengzhou democracy activist Chen Wei said Jiang's sister was only told on Tuesday, after making repeated phone calls to police.

"They then told her that they weren't obliged to give her any other details," Chen said. "This entire case has been prosecuted behind the scenes ... over a period of three years."

He said the men's families had been denied permission to send them money or clothing to meet their daily needs during three years of pretrial detention.

"The real reason the trial wasn't an open one was that they didn't have any evidence, and that neither of them would 'confess' to their 'crimes'," he said.

Dong had been a prominent rights activist before his initial detention in May 2014, after he participated in memorials for late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, late reformist premier Hu Yaobang, and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) massacre of civilians that put an end to weeks of student protest on Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

After his release on bail, pending trial, Dong fled China in September 2015, only to be sent back to China with Jiang the following November.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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