Authorities in Thailand have detained two Chinese refugees, one of whom helped detained dissident Huang Qi, and both of whom now face repatriation to China, RFA has learned.
Jia Huajiang, 37, who hails from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, was arrested by Thai police on May 6, and is currently being held in an immigration detention center in Pattaya.
Jia only holds temporary refugee status, and has yet to receive a formal notification of his status from the United Nations, fellow Chinese refugee Ai Wu said after visiting him.
"We went to visit him over several days," Ai said. "He was sent to the immigration detention center; I'm not sure if it's the one in Bangkok."
"I'm pretty worried right now [that he could be sent back to China]," she said. "But as long as he doesn't sign anything, it's less likely that will happen."
At the time of Jia's detention, Ai's husband Yang Chong called on the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to issue Jia with an official document recognizing his refugee status as soon as possible.
"People from Xinjiang will definitely receive a very heavy prison sentence, usually for more than 10 years, so this situation is definitely more serious for him," Yang said.
Thai police have also detained Chinese dissident Liu Xuehong who recently supported detained rights activist Huang Qi, the founder of the Tianwang human rights website.
Her husband Shuai Zhongren said Liu's detention came after the couple made a placard in support of Huang on May 5, and walked through the streets of Bangkok in protest.
"But as soon as we got to the imperial palace, we were stopped and checked by police," Shuai said. "Then Liu was taken into a police cell because her visa had expired, and held there until ... the immigration police took her away to an immigration detention center."
Seeking UNHCR help
He said Liu, who comes from the central Chinese province of Hubei, appeared at a hearing at Dusit Kwaeng Court in Bangkok two days later.
"The police charged her with overstaying her visa, but the Thai authorities didn't supply any interpreter at any point," Shuai said. "Liu pointed out that she couldn't understand the proceedings, but they refused to comply with her request."
Fellow Chinese refugee Xing Jian said Liu has been officially recognized by UNHCR, and called on the agency to lend her its support as soon as possible.
"Thailand should have a duty to care for and protect U.N. refugees," Xing said. "Now she can only seek the help of UNHCR. There are also human rights groups that can call on the Thai government to release people."
Calls to the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok rang unanswered during office hours after Jia and Liu's detentions.
Huang, 56, stood trial in January at the Mianyang Intermediate People's Court in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan on charges of "leaking state secrets" and "leaking state secrets overseas," amid concerns that he could soon die in detention.
A co-defendant has publicly accused the police of torturing him, Huang and a third defendant in a bid to force a "confession" from them.
Huang was recently identified by Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as one of 10 citizen journalists in danger of dying in detention.
Huang, who founded the Tianwang rights website, has repeatedly denied the charges and refused to "confess."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.