© Zhang Chunxiao. The photo shows Lu Siwei on a road at an undisclosed location around 300 km north of Vientiane, Laos, on 27 July 2023.

China, Lao People's Democratic Republic
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85 NGOs urge Laos to immediately release Chinese lawyer Lu Siwei, prevent refoulement

In a public statement, 85 NGOs urge Laos to immediately release Chinese lawyer Lu Siwei, detained en route to reuniting with his family in the United States. Laos risks contravening its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture if it sends Lu back to China, where he would likely face arbitrary detention and torture.

Update: On 11 August, seven UN experts issued a public call for Laos to immediately release Lu Siwei and allow him to reunite with his family in the United States. The experts stress that Lu is at risk of ‘irreparable harm’ should he be deported back to China, including torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance: for the experts, this would contravene Laos’ obligations related to non-refoulement, under Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torutre (CAT).

ISHR joins 84 civil society organisations and bar associations in urging Laotian authorities to halt all processes of repatriation for Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei (卢思位), at serious risk of forced repatriation to China where he faces a high likelihood of torture and other ill-treatment, and release him immediately.

Lu Siwei is a renowned human rights defender and lawyer in China, advocating for vulnerable groups and representing numerous political dissidents. As the Chinese authorities have become increasingly intolerant of independent human rights advocacy, they have targeted Lu with intimidation and harassment, including disbarment in January 2021 for online speech that allegedly ‘endangered national security.’ Lu Siwei was also physically attacked while traveling to the hearing for his disbarment. Since then, Lu has been closely monitored by the Chinese authorities and subject to an exit ban since May 2021. It is understood that Lu was in Laos en route to joining his family in the United States.

I ask that the international community does its best to rescue my husband Lu Siwei, targeted only because he did his utmost to help those in need. I hope that with global support he can come to the US and reunite with me and our daughter.
Zhang Chunxiao, wife of Lu Siwei

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, declared that she was ‘very disturbed’ and called on Laos to ‘immediately disclose his whereabouts and release him.’

The 85 civil society groups urge UN Member States to: 

  • Ask Lao authorities to immediately halt Lu Siwei’s repatriation and to move quickly to ensure he has access to the relevant UN authorities and a lawyer of his choice.
  • Publicly call on Chinese authorities to drop any potential charges against Lu Siwei.
Laos ratified the UN Convention against Torture, which prohibits returning individuals to countries where they risk persecution or torture. Repatriating a human rights defender back to China where he faces high risks of arbitrary detention, disappearance, and torture or ill-treatment would be a violation of the Laotian government’s obligations under international law. It would also show Laos is unable to act independently of the will of its powerful neighbour.
Raphael Viana David, ISHR Programme Manager (China and Latin America)
Lu Siwei is a prominent lawyer in China, but the government has imposed exit ban for defending human rights cases such as the 'Hong Kong 12' detained at sea. It is crucial that Laos immediately suspends all procedures aimed at repatriating Lu and releases him, in accordance with Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture.
Chakra Ip, Executive Director of The 29 Principles

Lu Siwei’s arrest and possible deportation takes place in the context of the Chinese government’s renewed crackdown on human rights lawyers, known as the ‘709 Crackdown 2.0’.

Download the full statement in English and Chinese. Read the full statement in English below:

NGOs and Lawyers Groups Call on Governments & Lao Authorities to
Ensure the Immediate Release of Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Lu Siwei

(1 August 2023) Lao authorities have reportedly arrested and detained well-known Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei since 28 July 2023. We are gravely concerned that he is at serious risk of forced repatriation to China where he faces the high likelihood of torture and other ill-treatment. 

Southeast Asian governments have frequently been pressured into forcibly returning vulnerable individuals back to China, where they have faced arbitrary detention, unfair trials, torture, enforced disappearances, and other ill-treatment. Our organizations have documented numerous cases, ranging from the 2009 forced return of Uyghurs from Cambodia to the August 2022 disappearance of Chinese democracy activist Dong Guangping from Vietnam into Chinese custody. Gui Minhai, a bookseller, was disappeared in Thailand in 2015 only to resurface in China without his passport. These individuals are effectively disappeared for extended periods, with family members and colleagues unable to obtain information until months or years after. 

We urge third party governments to: 

  1. Ask Lao authorities to immediately halt Lu Siwei’s repatriation and to move quickly to ensure he has access to the relevant UN authorities and a lawyer of his choice; and, 
  2. Publicly call on Chinese authorities to drop any potential charges against Lu Siwei. 

By handing Lu Siwei over to the Chinese authorities, the Lao government would be putting Lu Siwei at grave risk of torture and inhuman treatment. UN rights experts have found that the Chinese government frequently subjects rights defenders and lawyers to torture and inhuman treatment. Under international customary law and as a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) since September 2012, the Lao PDR government has a non-refoulement obligation as stipulated in Article 3 of the CAT not to return a person to a state where they are at high likelihood of being subjected to torture. 

We urge the Lao government to: 

  1. Halt all processes of repatriation for Lu Siwei and release him immediately according to its international human rights obligations; 
  2. Arrange for him to meet with the relevant UN authorities and a lawyer of his own choosing; 
  3. Allow him to meet with diplomats from the United States and other countries, as needed, to help him resume his journey to reunite with his family currently in the United States; and 
  4. Pending the above, to disclose his whereabouts and ensure his personal safety as well as his physical and mental well-being. 
    1.  

Lu Siwei is a renowned rights defender and lawyer in China, advocating for vulnerable groups and representing numerous political dissidents. As the Chinese authorities have become increasingly intolerant of independent rights advocacy, they have targeted Lu with intimidation and harassment, including disbarment in January 2021 for online speech that allegedly “endangered national security”. Lu Siwei was also physically attacked while traveling to the hearing for his disbarment. Since then, Lu has been closely monitored by the Chinese authorities and subject to an exit ban since May 2021. It is understood that Lu was in Laos en route to joining his family in the United States. 

Undersigned, in alphabetical order 

      1. ALTSEAN-Burma 
      2. Amnesty International 
      3. ARTICLE 19 
      4. Asia Democracy Network (ADN) 
      5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 
      6. Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales 
      7. Bytes For All, Pakistan 
      8. Campaign For Uyghurs 
      9. Chicago Solidarity with Hong Kong
      10. ChinaAid 
      11. China Change 
      12. Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) 
      13. Civic Initiatives 
      14. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
      15. Comité pour la Liberté à Hong-Kong
      16. Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation 
      17. Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) 
      18. CSW 
      19. Defense without Borders-Solidarity Lawyers (DSF-AS)  
      20. Exile Hub, Thailand, Myanmar 
      21. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders 
      22. Focus on the Global South 
      23. Foundation for Media Alternatives 
      24. Free Expression Myanmar 
      25. Freedom Seekers International
      26. Freiheit für Hongkong e.V. 
      27. Fresh Eyes, United Kingdom 
      28. Front Line Defenders 
      29. Georgetown Center for Asian Law 
      30. Gill H. Boehringer, Professor, Chair, Australian Branch, IAPL 
      31. Girl Up Southeast Asia
      32. Hong Kong Aid
      33. Hong Kong Democracy Council
      34. Hong Kong Watch
      35. Hongkonger in Deutschland e.V. 
      36. Humanitarian China 
      37. Human Rights in China 
      38. Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH) 
      39. Human Rights Watch
      40. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement 
      41. ILGA Asia 
      42. Indonesia Save Uyghur 
      43. Innovation for Change
      44. Innovation for Change-East Asia 
      45. Innovation for Change South Asia 
      46. International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers 
      47. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
      48. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 
      49. International Society for Human Rights 
      50. International Tibet Network Secretariat 
      51. Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan 
      52. Japan Hong Kong Democracy Alliance (JHKDA)
      53. Judicial Reform Foundation 
      54. Lady Liberty Hong Kong (LLHK)
      55. Lamp of Liberty
      56. Lawyers for Lawyers 
      57. Manushya Foundation 
      58. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
      59. New School for Democracy Association 
      60. New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong (NY4HK)
      61. Open Net (Korea) 
      62. PakVoices.pk 
      63. PEN America 
      64. Public Virtue Research Institute 
      65. Safeguard Defenders 
      66. Saskatchewan stands with Hong Kong 
      67. Social Innovations Advisory 
      68. Society of Young Social Innovators (SYSI) 
      69. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) 
      70. Taipei Bar Association Human Rights Committee 
      71. Taiwan Bar Association Human Rights Protection Committee 
      72. Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network 
      73. Texans Supporting Hong Kong (TX4HK)
      74. The Rights Practice
      75. Tibet Initiative Deutschland e.V. 
      76. Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy 
      77. 29 Principles 
      78. Uyghur Human Rights Project 
      79. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation 
      80. Wang Dan, Dialogue China 
      81. We The Hongkongers 
      82. Winnipeg Hong Kong Concern
      83. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders 
      84. Young Leadership for Social Change Network 
      85. Re-water CIC

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