Chinese Democracy Activist Granted Refugee Status by United Nations

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china-refugees-thailand-mar1-2016.jpg A group of Chinese asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia in a private yacht lands in southern Thailand after their vessel took on too much water, Mar. 1, 2016.
Photo courtesy of family

A rights activist from the southwestern province of Yunnan has fled China and arrived in Thailand seeking asylum, as the United Nations granted political refugee status to two family members of another activist.

Democracy activist Zhou Ping arrived in Bangkok at the end of August with his wife and two sons, applying for resettlement with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees on the grounds that his family's future had been placed in jeopardy because of his peaceful activism.

Zhou, a former member of the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP) told RFA on on Monday he had feared for his children's future under the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which frequently jails peaceful dissidents and those who press for democratic change.

But he said he had cut off contact with exiled Chinese dissidents in Thailand after the authorities there detained a number of activists and repatriated them at Beijing's request.

Chinese political asylum-seekers are continuing to flee to Thailand in spite of a growing willingness by the country's military junta to detain and repatriate refugees.

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.

Seeking a safe environment

Zhou said he is simply looking for a safe place to bring up his family.

"Certain people [detain and repatriate us] on behalf of certain foreign countries," Zhou told RFA. "But we need security, and a safe environment in which to raise the next generation."

"Children's education is so important."

Chinese authorities are increasingly denying the children of dissidents access to education, prompting many to send their children overseas if possible.

Authorities in the eastern province of Anhui jailed rights activist Zhang Lin for three years on public order charges after he campaigned publicly for his daughters to be allowed to attend school.

Zhang's daughters Anni and Ruli eventually left China for California after their father's arrest in August 2013, where they were taken in by Reggie Littlejohn, founder of the Women's Rights Without Frontiers rights group, and granted political asylum.

Anni was dubbed "China's youngest prisoner of conscience" after she was taken out of school by state security police and detained for several hours in February 2013, and prevented from attending school during her father’s house arrest.

Wife faces deportation

After his daughters’ escape, Zhang and three fellow activists were jailed for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” for their role in the campaign for Zhang Anni’s place in school.

Meanwhile, Li Xiaolong, another Chinese political refugee currently in Thailand, called on the U.N. to speak out in favor of his detained wife Gu Qiao, who is currently facing deportation to China after being found without a valid Thai visa.

"Now that my wife has obtained refugee status and a letter of protection from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, she needs them to make a bit more effort to [prevent] her deportation," Li said.

Gu is currently facing deportation for illegal immigration after the family were rescued from the wreck of a sailing yacht off the coast of southern Thailand.

They and a group of other refugees were attempting to sail the yacht to Australia when it foundered.

Gu, who holds no passport, is being held in a Thai immigration detention center, and recently pleaded guilty to immigration offenses, paving the way for her repatriation.

Li was released on bail with the children, while another refugee who sailed with them, Zhao Wei, was released because he holds a valid Thai visa, as were two other members of the yacht's crew.

Gu was later transferred to the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center from a similar facility in Chumphon, where the rescue operation took place.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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