Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei was arrested in Laos while attempting to reach Thailand. Activists and family members fear that if deported back to China, Lu will face imprisonment.
Lu Siwei’s Journey
On Friday morning, Lao police arrested Lu Siwei as he was boarding a train to Thailand. Lu was reportedly traveling to Bangkok to catch a flight to the United States to reunite with his wife and daughter. His wife, Zhang Chunxiao, expressed her concern for his safety, stating that if he is sent back to China, he would be imprisoned.
The Chinese foreign ministry has not yet responded to this incident.
Background: Lu Siwei’s Work as a Human Rights Lawyer
Lu has a history of handling sensitive cases, defending individuals considered political targets by Chinese authorities. In 2021, he and a colleague had their licenses revoked, allegedly due to their representation of the “Hong Kong 12”. This group of activists tried to flee Hong Kong after China implemented a sweeping national security law. Some of these activists were already facing prosecution for alleged crimes linked to the massive pro-democracy protests that took place in Hong Kong in 2019.
Later in 2021, Lu was prohibited from leaving China to attend a visiting fellowship in the United States. His wife and daughter resettled in the U.S. last year.
The Role of ChinaAid in Lu’s Escape
Bob Fu, founder of the Texas-based religious rights group ChinaAid, revealed that Lu’s family contacted him two weeks ago seeking assistance in Lu’s escape from China. ChinaAid had previously helped over 60 Chinese Christians resettle in Texas after they were detained in Pattaya for overstaying their visas.
During his arrest, Lu was accompanied by two activists working with ChinaAid. Lao police briefly detained one of these activists and confiscated his passport before returning it.
Beijing’s Pursuit of Critics Abroad
Lu’s arrest on Lao soil highlights Beijing’s efforts to pursue critics beyond its borders. This is part of a wider crackdown that has instilled fear in Chinese dissidents.
Dissidents fleeing the Chinese state have reported harassment in other Southeast Asian countries, including the family of one individual detained by Thai police after bomb threats were made under their name.