Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan are preparing to try an activist on subversion charges after he was forcibly repatriated by Thailand despite having been granted political refugee status by the United Nations.
Activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei were handed back to Chinese authorities in November 2015, in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and human rights groups.
They have since been held in a detention center in the southwestern city of Chongqing, while their families have been resettled in Canada.
Dong's Canada-based wife Gu Shuhua said she is very concerned for his well-being, and that he also faces charges relating to his illegal crossing of the border with neighboring Myanmar during his flight to Thailand.
"Dong Guangping is facing two charges, one of 'illegally crossing a border,' and the other is 'incitement to subvert state power,'" she said on Thursday. "I strongly condemn these charges that have been brought by the Chinese government against Dong Guangping."
"Dong Guangping is a good man who fought to enable a better life for ordinary Chinese people," Gu said. "He wanted constitutional government one day for China. He was unarmed, with no vested interests and without ties to any organizations, so how could he have incited people to bring down the regime?"
Gu said she fears her husband will receive a heavy jail term. "Dong Guangping has been framed, and he could be sent away for a long time," she said.
Dong's lawyer Chang Boguang told RFA that he has been repeatedly denied permission to meet with his client, and he wasn't notified that the authorities are now preparing a trial.
"I heard that the case was moving to trial, but I haven't had any official communication," Chang said. "His wife instructed me to act in his defense, but I have been to Chongqing four times and haven't been allowed to see him in spite of lodging all the right paperwork with the court."
"The court has said it won't allow me to act for Dong Guangping, saying that he already has a lawyer, one that has been allocated for him by the authorities in Chongqing."
Sources said that Jiang Yefei is facing the same charges as Dong, and was formally arrested on May 13, 2016. Jiang's family have also been informed that he has "changed lawyers."
Dong Guangping fled China with his family in September after serving a three-year jail term for subversion from 2001-2004, and being “disappeared” and held for eight months in secret detention in 2014.
Political cartoonist Jiang Yefei had been in Thailand since fleeing China in 2008, where he was detained and tortured after he criticized the ruling Chinese Communist Party's handling of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, and was granted refugee status last April by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Chinese officials told his brother that Beijing would be seeking his extradition on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power" after he published a number of satirical cartoons targeting President Xi Jinping.
Both Jiang and Dong have "confessed" to the charges against them, their relatives have told RFA.
Thailand isn't a signatory to the United Nations covenant on refugees, and doesn't recognize the concept of political asylum. However, Chinese refugees, once approved by UNHCR, have the option of resettlement in more than 50 countries if they can evade detention by the country's immigration police.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.