BANGKOK—A group of Chinese activists has launched an online petition calling on Thailand not to repatriate dissident Lu Decheng, who served a 16-year jail term for splattering the portrait of Chairman Mao on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
"We are extremely concerned to hear that one of the three heroes who threw ink and eggs at the portrait of Mao Zedong during the 1989 democracy movement on Tiananmen Square has been detained and is likely to be deported back to China," said the petition, which was headed by the chairman of the New York-based Human Rights in China group, Liu Qing.
Lu Decheng, one of the three Mao portrait protesters, escaped from China a month ago after completing his prison term for "counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement and counter-revolutionary sabotage."
But his bid for freedom landed him in a Bangkok jail cell instead.
The petition also called for the release of Mao portrait protester and former journalist Yu Dongyue, who Lu said has been tortured to the point of insanity in a Chinese jail.
Lu was arrested by Thai police together with fellow activist Zhao Wendong at a meeting of Chinese dissidents at a Bangkok Catholic cathedral although both had sought U.N. refugee protection, Human Rights in China said on its Web site.
Bangkok-based Chinese dissident Wen Bo said Lu and Zhao had refused to pay a fine for illegal immigration of 11,000 baht (U.S.$281) because the alternative was 55 days in prison.
We are extremely concerned to hear that one of the three heroes who threw ink and eggs at the portrait of Mao Zedong during the 1989 democracy movement on Tiananmen Square has been detained and is likely to be deported back to China.
"We daren't pay that fine, because the penalty for not paying it is 55 days in jail, whereas if we paid it, they would be repatriated to China much sooner," Wen told RFA's Mandarin service. "That's what we're most afraid of."
"The lawyers told us this was the most important thing. I went to take food to [Lu] at 4 p.m. this afternoon, but he didn't come out. His cellphone has already been confiscated," Wen said.
He said Lu was still waiting for a reply from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to his application for refugee status and could be deported if it wasn't approved during the 55 days of his sentence.
"He is likely to be deported after 55 days. Right now his health isn't too good... It's not suited to being locked up in a small cell for such a long time," Wen said. "I hope that they will find a way to speed up his refugee application. Time is very important to Lu Decheng right now."
Lu has said he would rather die than face a Chinese prison again.
Time is very important to Lu Decheng right now.
Dozens of fellow Tiananmen veterans signed the online petition in support of Lu and Yu Dongyue, including former student leader Wang Dan, exiled China Democracy Party founders Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai, and Pittsburgh-based poet Huang Xiang.
Since his escape, Lu and third fellow Mao portrait protester Yu Zhijian have called repeatedly on central government in Beijing to release Yu Dongyue on medical grounds, and for their own rehabilitation, but with no result.
Lu told RFA on his release that Yu had been tortured to the point of psychosis in jail in the central province of Hunan, sparking further appeals from overseas rights groups to Chinese government officials.