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Jiang Yefei photographed in immigration jail in Thailand.
(BOXUN) On the evening of Friday November 13, 2015, five Chinese refugees boarded a plane to return to China.
After Chinese friends in Thailand repeatedly questioned police working at the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) in Bangkok, it was confirmed that dissidents Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping were repatriated to China on the evening of Friday November 13, 2015 by the Chinese Communist Party.
News from inside the Immigration Detention Center also revealed that in addition to Jiang and Dong, three other refugees were repatriated. The other three remain unidentified. But the Chinese citizen Li Yuzhou, who has been held as a United Nations refugee in the Immigration Detention Center for more than seven years, was not repatriated with the other five.
Before the repatriation, the receiving country had already agreed to accept the refugees. The negotiation was still in process.
Jiang Yefei’s wife Chu Ling told reporters: “About a week before the sudden repatriation, the receiving country had already signed an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We knew which Western country was going to receive us, and were already making preparations. Detailed negotiations were taking place between the receiving country, the UNHCR, and the Thai government’s Immigration Bureau. Who guessed that the Chinese Communist Party would suddenly trample international law and brazenly snatch my husband from the hands of the receiving country and UNHCR?
“My husband is the other half of my life. I can’t think straight. This is so beyond the conventional,” Chu Ling said.
Sources said: the Chinese Communist Party paid their bail and bought their air tickets.
Sources said that after repeatedly asking several police at the Immigration Detention Center if the two had already been repatriated to China, the IDC police finally answered: “The Chinese government paid for their bail and air tickets, they’ve already been repatriated.” The Chinese sources incredulously asked, Jiang and Dong are UNHCR refugees, how can they be repatriated? The police responded: “They’re wanted criminals, if the Chinese government pays we repatriate them.”
Reporters called the UNHCR Thai government office, but the official refused to comment on individual refugee cases.
International rescue group can’t compete with China-Thailand money nexus.
On October 28, 2015, after Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping were first detained, many international actors and organizations began to prepare a rescue operation. This included overseas Chinese democracy parties: Federation for a Democratic China, China Social Democratic Party, the China Democracy Party, Initiatives for China, China Aid etc. as well as Amnesty International, UNHCR, and several western governments. All participated in the rescue effort. But the international effort was a failure, it couldn’t overcome the unholy financial alliance between the Chinese Communist Party and the Thai military government. This violated international norms, and handed over people granted refugee status by the UN to their country of origin.
Chinese and Thai governments brazenly violate “non-refoulement of refugees” international principle.
The 1951 UN Refugee Convention Article 33 prohibits repatriation of refugees. Namely: No country may forcibly repatriate or expel refugees on their territory to their home country. According to the 1951 UNHCR Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees Article 33: “No signatory country shall in any way expel or return refugees to their home country or other countries if this could lead to the refugee’s life or freedom being threatened due to their ethnicity, religion, race, nationality, or membership in any social or political group.”
This principle has been widely accepted by the international community and is part of customary international law. Therefore, even countries that are not signatories of the UNHCR Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees have an obligation to respect the principle of prohibition against repatriation. Signatory countries are obligated by the UNHCR Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, non-signatory countries by customary international law.
The Thai government knows what it means to return these dissidents to China. Forced repatriation ignores common international practice and ethical standards. The UNHCR is even more clear about the dire consequences they’ll face, but can’t do anything to protect the political refugees they approved.
“Official refugee status” can no longer guarantee the safety of refugees. Chinese refugees in Thailand are now in a collective state of panic.
Jiang Yefei was a long-time creator of a comic series satirizing Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. Observers believe that this is the reason the Communist Party was so determined to repatriate and punish him. Dong Guangping had participated in events commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Massacre and deceased former Communist Party reformist leader Zhao Ziyang. He’d been detained several times and was considered one of the “Ten Zhengzhou Gentlemen.”
The two had already been declared formal refugees by the UNHCR. Now this status can’t protect political refugees. This is an unprecedented threat for Chinese refugee safety.
Photograph of Dong Guangping while previously detained in China.
At present there are more than 100 Chinese refugees in Thailand seeking political asylum. These include democracy activists, human rights defenders and Falungong adherents. A few days ago, a Falungong adherent named Little Lin who was serving as an interpreter for the family members of Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, and another Falungong adherent named Zhou Yong, were also detained by the Thai immigration police. This was connected to the recent repatriation from Thailand of Hong Kong-based Chinese publisher Ah Hai. The Xi Jinping government’s extraterritorial abductions have caused a high tide of panic among Chinese refugees in Thailand. Refugees contacted by reporters are very shocked by the repatriation of Jiang and Dong because they’d been granted formal refugee status by the UNHCR.
“We don’t know what to do. Thailand has no security to speak of, the Chinese Communist Party can abduct anyone it wants and take them back to China. What’s the next step we should take? The United Nations can’t protect us either,” one refugee said.