Detained Tiananmen Activist’s Wife, Child Seek Political Asylum in Bangkok

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on June 9, 2016

The wife of a Chinese activist detained by police after marking the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre has applied for political asylum in Thailand, activists said on Wednesday.

Liu Xiaodong and the couple’s three-year-old son applied for asylum with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok on Tuesday, Thailand-based dissident Lin Dajun told RFA.

“Zhao Changqing is in police custody in China, and [Liu] has applied for political asylum here,” Lin said. “I went with her when she made the application.”

On June 1, police in the Chinese capital detained Zhao and a group of fellow activists after they met in private to mark the 27th anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

Zhao, who is a veteran of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement, was detained alongside nine other activists who also held memorial events to mark the anniversary, according to the  Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which compiles reports from rights groups and activists in China.

It listed the detained activists, who weren’t all detained in the same raid, as Li Meiqing, Li Wei, Liang Taiping, Lu Fuhai, Luo Yaling, Ma Qing, Ma Xinli and Xu Caihong, Zhang Baocheng, Li Meiqing, Xu Caihong, Zhang Baocheng, and Zhao Changqing.

Nine activists, including Zhao, are being held on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” while Lu Fuhai faces charges of “incitement to subvert state power,”  CHRD said in a statement on its website.

Zhao was among a group of seven detained in Beijing after they posted a group photo online, sitting in front of a slogan calling for the release of political prisoners Guo Feixiong and Yu Shiwen, and calling for a memorial for the victims of the June 4 military crackdown, which ended weeks of pro-democracy protests in Beijing.

The activists had gathered at Zhang Baocheng’s home on May 28, when the photo was likely taken,  CHRD said, adding that at least five of those detained are being held at the Fengtai District Detention Center in a southern suburb of Beijing.

It said three of the activists were detained in Sichuan, including two in Chengdu, after they shared photos online of a special edition liquor commemorating June 4, 1989, bearing the slogan “Never give up, never forget.”

The detentions came amid tight security ahead of the June 4 anniversary, public commemoration of which is banned by the government, which styles the 1989 democracy protests a “counterrevolutionary rebellion.”

U.S.-based rights activist Yang Jianli, who advised Liu Xiaodong on her application, said Zhao, 47, had been concerned for the safety of his pregnant wife and child before his detention, and had wanted them to leave China.

“It’s pretty tough for her as a single woman in Thailand, both pregnant and with a small child to take care of,” Yang said. “I hope that she will be able to leave Thailand soon, for her own peace of mind.”

Abduction and torture

China has succeeded in repatriating asylum-seekers from Thailand in the past, with the help of Thai police, sparking widespread criticism from rights groups.

Two Chinese asylum seekers who were sent back by the Thai authorities at China’s request in spite of being granted political refugee status by the United Nations are now at risk of torture, rights groups have warned.

Sichuan-based rights activist Jiang Yefei and Henan activist Dong Guangping were handed over by Thai police to Chinese authorities on Nov. 13.

Both men had been previously been persecuted for their rights activism, and were awaiting resettlement in Canada, but were sent back to China just days ahead of their planned resettlement as refugees, after last-minute talks broke down, rights groups said.

Thailand-based activists like Li Xiaolong have told RFA they live in constant fear of being detained or abducted by Chinese police, or by the Thai authorities acting on Beijing’s request.

Li said on Wednesday that two Chinese-speaking men had come to his home on Saturday while he was out, asking to “take him to dinner.”

“They were definitely sent by the Chinese government,” Li said. “That same day, I was hosting an event to markJune 4, and there were some suspicious people there as well.”

“They sat there watching us for a long time during dinner.”

Zhao Changqing has already served two-and-a-half years in prison for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” after being detained in April 2013 and released in October 2015.

A native of northern Shaanxi province, Zhao has served three jail terms in total, including after taking part as a student leader in the 1989 pro-democracy movement. Since his release in 2007, he has devoted himself to promoting civic activism and organizing advocacy campaigns on issues ranging from equal education rights to anti-corruption measures, CHRD said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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