UN condemns Thai repatriation of Chinese dissidents

(From the Guardian)

Rights groups express concern over expulsion of two registered refugees, believed to be Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, who may be at risk of torture

By Oliver Holmes

Thailand has deported two veteran Chinese dissidents and registered refugees back to China, angering rights groups and the UN.

Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping were arrested by Thai authorities on 28 October for not having valid visas.

Jiang Yefei in Thai custody; Image copyright Jiang Yefei family

Jiang Yefei in Thai custody; Image copyright Jiang Yefei family

The world body’s refugee agency, UNHCR, did not name the activists or their nationalities but said it was “deeply concerned over the refoulement of two recognised refugees from Thailand”.

It said the men had been approved to be resettled outside Thailand and China and were due to depart days after the unannounced deportation this weekend.

“This action by Thailand is clearly a serious disappointment, and underscores the longstanding gap in Thai domestic law concerning ensuring appropriate treatment of persons with international protection needs,” the UNHCR said.

Thailand has not signed the 1951 refugee convention and does not recognise the status of refugees and asylum seekers. However, the government asserts that it observes the convention in practice.

The UNHCR said the reasons for the deportation remained unclear, and it occurred despite numerous official interventions by members of the international community, including the UNHCR’s representives in Thailand.

Amnesty International said Jiang was arrested and tortured in China in 2008 after criticising Beijing’s handling of the earthquake in Sichuan province that year. Dong was detained after participating in a peaceful event commemorating victims of the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

Amnesty said the pair were “at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as unfair trials in China after having been deported from Thailand by local authorities”.

It said unidentified individuals paid the men’s fines on 6 November and they were transferred immediately to the immigration detention centre for deportation. Their families had not received official notice of their deportation, it added.

Under the current ruling junta, Thailand has strengthened ties with China, including signing an agreement to boost joint military engagement over the next five years, from intelligence sharing to fighting international crime.

In July, Thailand forcefully deported about 100 ethnic Uighur Muslims back to China. The UNHCR said at the time that the expulsion was “a flagrant violation of international law”.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of the Turkic-speaking minority have fled unrest and persecution in China’s western Xinjiang region, where hundreds of people have been killed. Many have transited through south-east Asia. Read more


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