The wife of a Chinese cartoonist and rights activist who was jailed after being repatriated from Thailand where he was granted United Nations refugee status has appealed to international bodies to put pressure on Beijing for his release.
Canada-based Chu Ling, wife of Jiang Yefei, has called on the U.N., the Canadian government, and rights groups to do everything in their power to put pressure on the ruling Chinese Communist Party for his release.
In an open letter, Chu hit out at the Chinese government for pursuing her husband out of political revenge for satirical cartoons about President Xi Jinping, one of which depicted Xi as an emperor with a bird in a cage, clad in silk embossed with the Communist Party's hammer and sickle, and ignoring sick and impoverished workers and farmers standing before him.
This human rights case has to do with Xi Jinping's personal vengeance," Chu wrote, warning that the high-level backing for his incarceration meant his personal safety is at risk in jail.
Chu said she and her family had remained silent at first, in the hope of "preserving Jiang's life and out of fear of further mad revenge and torture being inflicted upon him."
But she said he had already been hurt.
"One of Jiang’s eyes has been permanently damaged; he was forced to accept a lawyer assigned by the authorities; his family members were denied the right to attend his trial; and he has been barred from having any communication with the outside world," she wrote.
"In every age, there are the brave ones who stand up to oppose dictators, hoping that the dictators will change course," the letter, translated by the U.S.-based group Human Rights in China, said.
"But Xi Jinping's era is a vastly different era, of intensified oppression of different voices who suffer more cruel and direct consequences."
Since she began her campaign, Chu says there has been no news of Jiang.
"The Chinese government has imposed an information blackout, so we don't know anything," she said in an interview with RFA on Wednesday. "I think that is pretty frightening."
"One of Jiang Yefei's eyes has already been damaged beyond repair, so I hope he will be able to get out on medical parole and seek medical treatment overseas," she said.
Jiang's sister Jiang Haoyang said she had been turned away from the detention center when she tried to deliver some clothing and food to Jiang.
"They said that they have clothes to wear inside, and that he'd have no use for them," she said."I asked the guard about my brother's injury, how his eye was ... and he said it was probably self-inflicted."
"I said I didn't think so, and that I was worried and they tried to reassure me that they would treat him well and I should stop worrying, because he was very cooperative."
Jiang Haoyang said she was skeptical that Chu's appeal would make much difference to the authorities in China.
"It's the same all over China nowadays. A lot of people have been arrested for standing up for people's rights," she said.
An official who answered the phone at the Chongqing Detention Center where Jiang is being held declined to comment on his state of health.
"We can't check that for you from here, and we don't really know about it," the official said.
Sent back from Thailand
Jiang was jailed by a court in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing in July, alongside fellow activist and asylum-seeker Dong Guangping.
Jiang and Dong 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.
Chu, Dong's wife Gu Shuhua, and her daughter Dong Xuerui flew to Canada from Bangkok for resettlement as political refugees just days after the two men were repatriated.
Chu called on London-based rights group Amnesty International, the Canadian government, and the United Nations to intervene in Jiang's case and to put pressure on Beijing to grant him medical parole and safe passage to join his family in Canada.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.