The wife of Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei has confirmed that her husband has been deported to China from Laos, where he was detained more than two months ago.
Lu is being held in the Xindu Detention Center in Chengdu, Sichuan province, his wife, Zhang Chunxiao, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The detention center notified Lu’s family members to send clothes, medicine and money, she said. The center did not tell the family when Lu had arrived at the detention center or when he was returned to China.
“This is the result of a painful 65-day wait, [I am] full of pain and anger,” Zhang said on X on Wednesday.
Lu was known for taking on politically sensitive cases, including one involving 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy student activists whom the Chinese coast guard arrested in August 2020 as they tried to flee to Taiwan by boat.
In January 2021, Sichuan judicial authorities revoked Lu’s license to practice law. In May of that year, authorities blocked his departure at Shanghai Pudong Airport as he tried to go to the United States as a visiting scholar. Lu was under a travel ban to prevent him from leaving China.
This year, on July 28, Lu was arrested in Laos as he tried to travel to the United States to reunite with his wife and daughter. Rights groups said that at the time of his arrest, Lu had a valid passport and visas for Laos and the United States.
Zhang said that as of early October, the Laotian government had yet to provide information in response to requests from U.S. and U.N. officials for evidence of Lu’s being in Laos or formal deportation documents.
VOA reached out to the Chinese embassies in Laos and the U.K., as well as the Chinese Foreign Ministry, but received no response. VOA Cantonese contacted the Lao Embassy in London but did not receive a response.
Zhang added that Lu’s Laotian lawyer told her on September 11 that Lu had already been deported. VOA Cantonese contacted the lawyer but did not receive a response.
Since Lu’s arrest, the Laotian government’s only response has been a brief email to the U.K.-based nonprofit 29 Principles, which supports Chinese human rights lawyers, Zhang said. In that August 4 email, Laos confirmed its police were holding Lu on suspicion of “using fraudulent travel documents” while entering Laos.
“Is Lu Siwei, a small figure, worthy of Laos making up such a colossal lie? What is the truth behind this thick fog?” Zhang said on X.
Zhang told VOA Cantonese that Chinese authorities had appointed a lawyer to represent Lu, but work wouldn’t start until Saturday because of the Golden Week holiday.
She also said she was worried about her husband’s health because he has psoriasis and requires daily medication.
Last month, a letter from the Chinese Embassy in Laos circulated online, stating that Sichuan police had approved the criminal detention of Lu on September 3 on charges of illegally crossing the border, according to Yahoo News. The letter said that the Chinese Ministry of Public Security had requested that Lu be handed over to China, and they asked Laos to inform China of the timing and method of the transfer.
Chakra Ip, executive director of 29 Principles, told VOA Cantonese that she was sad and angry about Lu’s deportation.
“In Laos, criminal proceedings are not made public, and when we inquired about the case, we pointed out that Lu is a human rights lawyer, and he has no criminal record in China, therefore he should not be deported to China, as any deportation requires a solid background or evidence of the crime for the suspect to be deported,” said Ip, who posted a video appeal on YouTube.
Ip also said that as Laos is a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture, it has a responsibility to protect Lu from human rights violations.
“Laos has a responsibility to ensure that Lu, as a human rights lawyer, should not be deported to a place where he may face torture or even prolonged detention. We are very angry about this deportation, which should not have happened,” she said.
In August, five U.N. human rights experts wrote to the Laotian government requesting information about Lu’s situation. There was no response.
The experts expressed “grave concern” about Lu’s case and said his deportation to China would be a violation of the principle of nonrefoulment under international law.
“[T]here are substantial grounds to believe that Mr. Lu Siwei would be in danger of being subjected to irreparable harm upon return to China on account of torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading or ill treatment or punishment, and other serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance,” they wrote.