US calls for China to ‘confirm’ location of rights lawyer

Lu Siwei was arrested in Laos while trying to travel to the US. Beijing says it’s none of Washington’s business.
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
2023.10.12
Washington
US calls for China to ‘confirm’ location of rights lawyer Chinese rights lawyer Lu Siwei stands along a road, at an undisclosed location, around 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Vientiane, Laos, on July 27, 2023. He was heading south to the border with Thailand.
Anonymous source via AP

The United States has condemned last month’s “forced repatriation” of rights lawyer Lu Siwei and called for China to identify his location. 

Lu was arrested in Laos on July 28 while trying to travel to the United States, his family says. Lao authorities told Lu’s lawyer he was sent back to China last month, and the Chinese Embassy in Vientiane said he was wanted in Sichuan province for an illegal border crossing.

In a statement Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller called for Lu’s current location to be identified.

“The United States condemns the forced repatriation of People’s Republic of China (PRC) national and human rights lawyer Lu Siwei to the PRC from Laos, at the request of PRC authorities,” Miller said.

“We call on the PRC to confirm Lu’s current location; allow for external verification by independent observers of Lu’s well-being, including access for doctors to treat Lu’s chronic health condition; and enable his access to a lawyer of his choosing,” the spokesman said.

Don’t interfere

Lu, an outspoken rights advocate, was arrested while trying to board a train to Thailand en route to the United States to join his family. 

The lawyer had been under surveillance in China since his attorney’s license was revoked in 2021 for speaking out on a case linked to the 2019 democracy protests in Hong Kong. Authorities had installed a camera at the door of his home, and he was also banned from leaving China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing in Beijing on Thursday that Lu’s case was not Washington’s business and said he was being dealt with lawfully by authorities.

“The judicial organs strictly handle cases according to the law and the relevant person’s legitimate rights are fully protected,” Wang said. “The U.S. must not interfere through any means with Chinese judicial organs’ handling of cases according to the law.”

But there remain fears about how Chinese authorities will treat Lu. 

Lu's wife, Zhang Chunxiao, told Radio Free Asia after he was repatriated last month she believed he would be “probably tortured” and that she and their daughter would not see him for a decade.

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