China/Thailand: Establish The Whereabouts of Chinese Journalist Kidnapped from Thailand
China, action created 15.2.2016, petition is active
Chinese journalist Li Xin went missing in Thailand on 11 January and is believed to be detained in China. In October 2015, Li Xin first fled to India, after being threatened by Chinese officials who pressured him to inform against his colleagues and friends. Li Xin initially cooperated, but after he realized he was placing himself and his family in danger, he fled to India in order to evade imprisonment. After being denied asylum in India, he travelled to Thailand where he planned to secure refugee status. Li Xin last made contact with his partner on 3 February, although his whereabouts remain unknown.
Chinese journalist Li Xin last made contact with his partner on 3 February, in which he said he had "voluntarily" returned to assist with an investigation. His partner, however, believes that Li Xin was forced by the Chinese authorities to return to China.
On 11 January, Li Xin sent an SMS message to his partner indicating that he was travelling to the Thailand-Laos border. Following this, on 2 February, his partner received a call from Chengguan Town Police Station - Li Xin's hometown in Henan province. She was told that she would receive a call from Li Xin the following day. On 3 February, Li Xin called and told her to "lead a stable life" and "not to communicate with people outside," and that he would "try his best to return as soon as possible." Li Xin did not say where he was.
Li Xin first escaped from China in October 2015, firstly to India, where he revealed in a media interview that Chinese state security officials had put him under intense pressure to act as an informant against his colleagues and friends. These officials threatened to imprison Li Xin if he refused to cooperate. After initially cooperating, he refused to continue, since he believed he was placing himself and his family in danger. Li Xin decided to leave China, although his pregnant partner and two-year-old son remained in China. After being denied asylum in India, Li Xin travelled to Thailand, where he planned to apply for refugee status and seek settlement in another country.
Li Xin's case is the latest in a series of cases where dissidents and members of ethnic minorities have been forcibly returned to China from countries in South East Asia.
Southeast Asian countries are increasingly under pressure from the Chinese government to violate the non-refoulement principle. This principle prohibits the return of people to any country or jurisdiction where there is a real risk of serious human rights violations. This principle is enshrined in numerous international treaties, and has achieved the status of customary international law, binding on all states regardless of whether they have ratified the relevant treaties, such as the UN Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Many countries have forcibly returned dissidents and members of ethnic minorities who fled from China, in violation of the non-refoulement obligation. In November 2015, Jian Yefei and Dong Guangping, two Chinese activists recognized as refugees by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were deported from Thailand to China, and are at grave risk of torture and ill-treatment, including unfair trials (see UA 259/16: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa17/2880/2015/en/).
In July 2015, the Thai authorities forcibly returned 100 people to China - ethnic Uighurs of Chinese citizenship who were at risk of torture and other cruel, inhumanm and degrading treatment or punishment upon their return. In December 2012, Malaysia also forcibly returned six Uighurs, whose claims for asylum were pending with the UNHCR. In December 2009, Cambodia forcibly returned 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers. Of these 20, five have been sentenced to life imprisonment, while eight others have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 16-20 years under closed trials.
In addition, individuals who are critical of the Chinese leadership, or who are linked to them, have vanished from South East Asian countries in recent months in unclear circumstances. For instance, Gui Minhai, a Swedish national of Chinese origin, went missing in Thailand in October 2015, while activists have voiced fears that he was removed to China. On 17 January 2016, Gui Minhai appeared on Chinese state television CCTV making a “confession”, which may have been made under duress. Similarly, in October 2015, 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of Chinese lawyer Wang Yu, and Chinese activists Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian, were taken away by uniformed officials and plain-clothed individuals from a town in Myanmar close to the Chinese border. After several days with no information on their whereabouts, Bao Zhuoxuan was returned to his grandparents’ home in Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in northern China. It is believed that the two men travelling with him are being held by Chinese authorities.