Chinese rights lawyer Lu Siwei is out on 'bail, pending trial'

Lu remains under close surveillance, 'exchanging a smaller prison for a bigger one,' a fellow lawyer says.
By Gao Feng for RFA Mandarin
2023.10.31
Chinese rights lawyer Lu Siwei is out on 'bail, pending trial' Chinese rights lawyer Lu Siwei on a road at an undisclosed location north of Vientiane, Laos, July 27, 2023, as he headed south to the border with Thailand. Lu, stripped of his license for taking on sensitive cases, was arrested in Laos.
Anonymous Source via AP

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have released human rights lawyer Lu Siwei on "bail, pending trial" following his forcible repatriation from Laos.

Lu was repatriated to China last month after being arrested in Laos en route to join his family in the United States, in what rights activists said was yet another example of transnational law enforcement by Beijing.

Police released Lu, who has been behind bars for more than three months, on "bail, pending trial," on Oct. 28, his U.S.-based wife Zhang Chunxiao told Radio Free Asia following a phone call with her husband.

"I was surprised to hear his voice, because I didn't expect it so soon," Zhang said, adding that Lu spent the last month up until his release in the Xindu Detention Center.

"I asked him how he got out, and he said he'd been in a month, and could therefore be released on bail pending trial, but he couldn't say too much for the time being," she said.

"His contact with me is [being monitored] so that's all he told me ... just enough to reassure me and calm me down," Zhang said. "I am so relieved he got out."

Fellow human rights lawyer Wu Shaoping said Lu's release on bail could have something to do with the huge international outcry over Lu's arrest and disappearance in Laos.

"It's possible that Lao's repatriation of Lu Siwei to China violated international treaties [on human rights]," Wu said. "If the Chinese Communist Party were to torture him and sentence him, Laos could also come under a lot of international pressure."

However, Wu said Lu is highly likely to be under continuing surveillance and restrictions on his movements, however.

"He's still in a state of unfreedom," Wu said. "He's just been moved from a smaller prison to a larger one."

He said the authorities could redetain him at any time if he is deemed to have broken the terms of his bail, and that they may or may not still prosecute him.

'Approved for criminal detention'

Authorities in Laos told American and United Nations diplomats that Lu Siwei was still in the country, even after he was sent back to face detention in China, Zhang told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview.

Lu's lawyer confirmed on Sept. 14 that his client had left Laos for China several days earlier. Yet the authorities in Laos were still claiming that he was still in the country, Zhang said in early October.

According to an official notification dated Sept. 11 issued by the Chinese Embassy in Laos to the Lao Ministry of Public Security, Lu was "approved for criminal detention" by police in Sichuan on Sept. 3, on suspicion of "illegally crossing a border."

The document, a copy of which was circulating on social media in recent days but which has now been proven likely genuine, informed the Lao authorities that the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China "requires that the suspect Lu Siwei be transferred to China, to be brought to justice as soon as possible."

According to Wu Shaoping, Beijing wanted to send a strong warning to any other dissidents thinking of fleeing the country via its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Police in Beijing stepped up action targeting rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang and his family in June, pressuring their private landlord to evict them, while slapping a travel ban on Li Heping and his family, while denying rights attorney Xie Yang a phone call with his sick father.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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