A Chinese woman who helped to expose the abuse of women inmates at the infamous Masanjia labor camp has died of cancer in Thailand, where she was seeking resettlement as a political refugee.
Hao Wei, who hails from the northeastern province of Liaoning, fled China with her daughter, arriving in Bangkok last October, where the pair applied for refugee status with the United Nations.
"She had a lymphoma, which was already in a late stage by the time she arrived in Thailand," Hao's friend Liu Shui told RFA on Thursday. "Her cancer wasn't detected until her release from Masanjia Re-education Through Labor camp."
"But she didn't want to stay in China to receive treatment, because of the persecution at the hands of the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party," Liu said. "So she came to Thailand after that."
Chinese political asylum-seekers are continuing to flee to military junta-ruled Thailand in spite of a growing willingness by authorities there to detain and repatriate refugees, who now feel increasingly vulnerable.
Last November, Chongqing-based activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei were handed back to Chinese authorities in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N., which had already classified them as genuine political refugees.
They are now in criminal detention in Chongqing, where they face subversion charges, while their families have been resettled in Canada.
Liu said Hao's death has left remaining Chinese political refugees in Thailand with fears that similar fates could befall them.
"Everyone is very frightened, because the Thai authorities give us no quarter whatsoever," she said. "If they catch us, they lock us up in an immigration detention center."
"When this happened to Jiang Yefei, the Communist Party continued to persecute him after he got home, so they will lock us up too," Liu said.
Thailand-based refugee Ai Ming said many political asylum-seekers have no ID or travel documents, so are unable to work while their applications are being processed by the U.N.
"We are all in dire straits, all in the same boat," Ai said. "Three of us have gotten dengue fever, that I know of, and they didn't get any medical help for their recovery."
"Thailand isn't a signatory to the International Convention on Refugees, so refugees have no legal protection here, and we can't work."
Liu said Hao's daughter is now faced with medical bills from the hospital where her mother was treated, that she is unable to pay.
Hao's application was based on 10 years of persecution at the hands of the authorities after she persisted in complaints about local government officials and the treatment of inmates at Masanjia.
Former inmates have detailed a regime of daily torture and abuse, failure of medical care, and grueling overtime at Masanjia, a police-run facility where women regarded as troublemakers by the authorities were sent without trial for up to four years at a time.
China's National People's Congress (NPC) voted on Dec. 28, 2013, to end the system of administrative punishments known in Chinese as "re-education through labor," or laojiao, but lawyers and inmates' families say many of the camps are still in operation under a different name.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.