The wife of a Chinese refugee, one of two repatriated in a sudden move last month by Thai authorities, says he may be in danger of torture back in China.
Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, who had fled persecution in their home country, were handed back to Chinese authorities on Nov. 13, in a move that drew strong criticism from the United Nations. Both men had U.N. refugee status and were awaiting resettlement in Canada.
Jiang's wife Chu Ling and Dong's wife Gu Shuhua and daughter Dong Xuerui arrived in Canada safely several days later, however.
Now, Chu says the men, who are under criminal detention for "organizing illegal border crossings and illegally crossing the border," are in danger.
"I call on the international community, on the U.S. Congress, and the Canadian government to pay very close attention to the cases of these deportees," she told RFA on Tuesday.
"They should criticize the Thai government for putting two refugees from mainland China in danger," Chu said.
"If nobody speaks out for them; if governments don't speak out, then there is really no safety for anyone who tries to escape [China]," she said.
Chu also called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party not to torture Jiang and Dong, and to respect their human rights.
In an earlier interview with RFA, Chu had rejected the charges against the two men.
"They are just bringing trumped-up charges," Chu said.
"I reject this idea that Jiang Yefei was engaged in people smuggling; there was no self-interest in his helping those two others, including Dong Guangping, to cross the border."
"Jiang wanted to help Dong because he was a pro-democracy activist in trouble, even though we didn't know him beforehand," she said.
"The Chinese Communist Party is trying to make [them] look like common criminals."
Two apply as refugees
Meanwhile, two more Chinese nationals have since applied for political asylum with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok.
Zhang Wei and Ning Wenzhong lodged their application for refugee status with UNHCR in Bangkok after fleeing persecution at the hands of China's state security police, Zhang told RFA on Tuesday.
"I was involved with rights activism back in China, and the government was constantly ... inviting me for 'tea' if I took part in any activities on or around sensitive dates," he said.
"They would summon me to the police bureau for questioning, where I would be held for the whole day," he said. "If you try to stand up for human rights, the authorities will do everything in their power to give you trouble."
"I could see that it was only a matter of time before my friends were detained, and either sent to jail or held under residential surveillance," Zhang said.
Zhang said he currently holds a letter of protection from UNHCR, but that he hasn't been granted an interview to establish his refugee status until 2018.
"They told me at UNHCR that there are a lot of refugees in the world," he said.
Zhang said Chinese nationals seeking asylum in Bangkok are targeted by the Chinese embassy in the city for surveillance.
"We see them whenever we go to the immigration department," he said.
But he said the refugee community would continue to work to rescue Jiang and Dong.
"We are really very concerned that they will be persecuted when they return," Zhang added.
Ning said that any Chinese national who had helped Jiang and Dong's cause is now in "great danger" in Bangkok.
"Dong Guangping had made it to the threshold of the free world, and yet he was still arrested and taken back [to China]," he said.
"This is a huge, huge setback for the Chinese democracy movement."
Reported by Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.