Six months after their forcible repatriation from Thailand, the whereabouts of two Chinese asylum seekers remain unknown, their families told RFA.
Sichuan-based rights activist Jiang Yefei and Henan activist Dong Guangping, who had fled persecution in their home country, were handed over by Thai police to Chinese authorities on Nov. 13, in a move that drew strong criticism from the United Nations.
Both men had United Nations refugee status and were awaiting resettlement in Canada.
They are being held in China under criminal detention for "organizing illegal border crossings and illegally crossing the border," amid fears they are at risk of torture.
Jiang's wife Chu Ling and Dong's wife Gu Shuhua and daughter Dong Xuerui arrived in Canada safely several days after the repatriation.
But Gu said it is hard to enjoy their personal freedom and safety in the absence of news from Dong.
"My daughter and I may be in Toronto in a country that is relatively free and where human rights are respected, but we are still sad and grieving because Dong Guangping has disappeared and [may have] been tortured," she said.
Gu said there is still no news from police of Dong's whereabouts, and his lawyers and relatives have been unable to find out where he is being held.
The family has received no official documents linked to his detention, she added.
One earlier online report suggested Dong was being held in the northern province of Hebei, but his lawyer had been unable to confirm it, Gu said.
"I am still very angry that he was forcibly repatriated to China by the Thai authorities," she told RFA.
She said Dong had been the target of political persecution in China for more than a decade, and has already spent time behind bars for his activism.
Similar situation for Jiang
Jiang's wife Chu Ling said her family is in a similar situation.
"My mood is so low and depressed right now, and I cry at the slightest thing," Chu said. "Recently I saw a report that [another dissident] was detained, held for more than two years in prolonged pretrial detention, before being sentenced [to 11 years in jail]."
"I am so worried that the same thing will happen to Jiang Yefei," she said.
Jiang's lawyer Ran Tong said he had been to detention centers in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu to look for his client, but to no avail.
He said Jiang may be being held in the northern port city of Tianjin where police are coordinating a nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers, activists and law firm staff that began on July 9, 2015 in Beijing.
"I am guessing that they are holding all of these people in Tianjin," Ran said. "There is no need for this; the legal process should be transparent."
"There's nothing to be afraid of; I don't know why the law enforcement authorities don't even have the confidence to make their detention public," he said.
Meanwhile, Dong's lawyer Chang Boyang said he had lodged a freedom of information request to police asking for his client's whereabouts, and details of which law enforcement agency is holding him, and why.
He said he also plans to apply for an administrative review of the case by China's cabinet, the State Council.
"I still haven't received any reply [from the freedom of information request]," Chang told RFA. "If I still don't get a reply in another day, then I'll probably apply for an administrative review."
Three other Chinese nationals were repatriated from Thailand at the same time as Jiang and Dong, but their identities remain unconfirmed.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.