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11 Sep 2023

Chinese lawyer in Laos facing imminent deportation

Last Friday (28 July) renowned Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei (卢思位) was taken in by local police in Laos. Lu, who was holding a valid Laotian visa, was en route to Thailand to catch a flight to the US to reunite with his family there. 

This video, shot by his friend, shows Lu being taken away by local police.

Lu is perhaps best known as the lead defense lawyer for the HK12, a group of 12 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protesters who were captured by the China Coast Guard as they tried to take a speedboat  to Taiwan in 2020. Among the 12 was an EU/Portuguese citizen, who was detained and charged in Hong Kong following his imprisonment in China.

China stripped Lu and co-defender Ren Quanniu of their licences to practice law in early 2021 because of their work for the HK12  and a long list of defending earlier human rights cases.

Lu, his wife and daughter were set to head for the US where he had been awarded a fellowship in late 2021. However, Lu was prevented from leaving with them after Chinese authorities placed him under an exit ban and police surveillance.

Read our report, Trapped, on China's expanding use of Exit Bans




We will continue to update this post with the latest developments.

September 11: The Chinese embassy in Laos filed a request to have Lu "handed over" to China, stating that Sichuan police have launched an investigation and that Lu has already been approved for criminal detention. Lawyers have still not been able to visit Lu. The request letter conspicuously does not mention wanting Lu extradited, but merely "handed over", despite the existence of a (rarely or never used) extradition treaty between the two countries. 


Letter 179/23 issued by the Chinese embassy in Laos on September 11.

“The Chinese Embassy presents its greetings to the Ministry of Public Security of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and has the honour to inform the following:

According to the investigation of the public security organs of Sichuan Province of China, the Chinese suspect in the case of illegally across the national border (frontier), Lu Siwei (male, born on January 9, 1973, identity card No. 320582197301095719), illegally left China's Yunnan Province on July 12, 2023, and was arrested by the Laotian police on July 28, and is currently being detained in Vientiane City of Laos. On September 3, 2023, Sichuan police authorized to place Lu Siwei under criminal detention on suspicion of the crime of illegally crossing the national border (frontier).

In order to bring the suspect Lu Siwei to justice as soon as possible, the Ministry of Public Security of China would like to request your Ministry to hand over the suspect to the Chinese side, and to inform the Chinese side of the time and manner of the handover.

The photo of the suspect and the legal formalities are attached.

The Chinese Embassy would be grateful for any assistance from the Lao side.

Best regards.”


August 11: Safeguard Defenders file an urgent request to the UN's Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) on behalf of Lu.

August 11: Several UN experts issue a statement calling for Lu's release and prevention of forced return to China.

August 10: Upon visit to Lu's place of detention by two ChinaAid workers currently in Laos, the visitors were told they could meet Lu, but when checking the computer to prepare, local guards said, with surprise, that Lu was no longer there, and had been taken away during the night of Aug 9 and 10. Lu is now in a state of enforced disappearance

August 9: Lu's three Laotian lawyers now say the case is now entirely political, not conforming with local legal regulations. 

August 7: Lawyers file a request to meet Lu with the Ministry of Justice and request access to the case file. No response whatsoever (as of August 13). Multiple requests to meet Lu has been met with silence. The Laotian government cannot even issue a response to such requests. 

August 5: In a letter responding to the 29 Principles, the Laotian embassy in London, UK, acknowledges holding Lu in detention, pending investigation for "illegal entry" and, if found guilty, deportation. The letter states:

"We kindly acknowledge herewith the receipt of your email, take note of and thank for your concern. We would like to inform that Mr. Lu Siwei, a Chinese national, who has been arrested by our authorities on 28th July 2023 in the Lao PDR due to the suspect of using fraudulent travel documents when entering into the territory of the Lao PDR, is healthy and kept in police custody. He is now waiting for investigation and criminal proceedings that will be taken place soon according to the laws of the Lao PDR. If found guilty, Mr. Siwei will be deported in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Lao PDR and treaties the Lao PDR is party to. That is why we see that there shall be no point to protest in this regard. 

While we are the point of view that there shall be no reasons to demonstrate in front of our Embassy here in London because it will be only annoying the people living nearby, we are however pleased to receive your joint letter. We sincerely hope that you will reconsider your intention. However, we are not in the position to forbid you because it is your right. In case you insist to do I would suggest to get appropriate permission from authorities concerned. Please bear in mind that the foreign embassies accredited to the United Kingdom fully enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities in accordance with its domestic laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961. 

Thank you so much for your kind understanding and kind cooperation."

July 31: Lu's deportation to China appears imminent. According to a field source, Lu was moved to the national immigration detention center near the airport on the morning of Monday, July 31, and officials from the Chinese embassy appear to have awaited his arrival. A contact at the immigration center confirmed this development in the early afternoon.


Lu had arrived in Laos earlier this month (holding a valid visa for the country) and planned to travel by train to Thailand along the route that starts at Thanaleng Station, southeast of the capital, Vientiane. The station is a short distance from the Thai-Laotian Friendship Bridge. Lu planned to fly from Thailand to the US to reunite with his wife and daughter but instead he is now in the custody of Laotian police. According to a message he sent to a friend, Laotian police told him they were planning to deport him and put him on a flight back to China.

Lu was accompanied by two friends throughout his Laos trip, both from North America, who witnessed firsthand what happened. Thanks to his friends and the work of Bob Fu at ChinaAid, we have a fairly clear picture of how the situation has developed so far.

Local police confiscated Lu's passport, saying there was an issue as Lu tried to pass immigration control at Thanaleng Station on the morning of July 28. The three of them had arrived to buy tickets and go through immigration at around 8:35 in the morning. Their train was set to depart at around 10. One of the friend's passports was taken away too with no explanation. After a while, the police returned, handcuffed Lu and took him away to an interrogation room at the station.  At 10:20, Lu messaged one of his friends to say that police had told him he would be deported back to China and that he would resist boarding any flight they attempted to put him on.

A short time later they returned and grabbed Lu’s luggage. At around 11, they reappeared with Lu and his luggage, placed him into a car and drove away (shown in the video above).

One of the friends recounts:

“As a friend, I stepped in and asked what the issue was and that I wanted to go with him since we were friends and travel companions. Ultimately there were 10 or more immigration officials there and they forcibly held me back and pushed/pulled me away from him while others pushed Lu into the car. The car sped off with him inside a bit after 11:10.”

This is the last known contact with Lu. The Laotian police told his friend Lu would be taken to the airport and deported back to China. This confirms Lu's earlier message. 

It is believed Lu is under the custody of the Laos Railway Police. As in China, the railways have their own separate police force. It is unclear if Lu is now being held at a railway police detention centre or is already at the immigration detention centre at the airport.

Should Lu be deported, it is likely he will join the long list of rights defense lawyers to be detained, summarily tried and sentenced to prison in China.


This event follows the disappearance in early June 2023 by Chinese and Laotian police officers of a well-known Chinese dissident in Vientiane, Yang Zewei (also known as Qiao Xinxin). Notwithstanding his legal residence status in Laos, Yang was detained in a joint police raid and taken away. His current whereabouts remain unknown.

Laos maintains an extradition treaty with China, which is the appropriate legal instrument to utilize should China want a suspected criminal returned from Laos. However, there has so far not been a single known case of China making an extradition request to Laos.

Read the report, Hide and Seek, on China's attempt to expand use of extraditions

All known cases of Chinese nationals returned from Laos have either been conducted under illegal or irregular operations, including via China’s Operation Fox Hunt, or by having the Laotian government order their deportation (not extradition), which requires no judicial proceedings and offers no safeguards. This happens so often that they are called  “disguised extraditions”. Safeguard Defenders have identified five cases of people forcibly returned from Laos to China, some of whom are human rights defenders.

Read the report, Involuntary Returns, on China's methods to forcibly return people from abroad

As this growing number of cases indicates, Laos is rapidly becoming a dangerous place for Chinese human rights defenders. It appears the Laotian government closely cooperates with China's demands, even when the targets hold legal visas and have violated no law in Laos. This represents a dangerous trend that undermines the international rule of law and human rights in the region.


Safeguard Defenders calls on Foreign Ministries and local Embassies to:

  • Make urgent inquiries about Lu's current whereabouts and the legal basis for his detention and announced deportation.
  • Urgently encourage the Laotian government to allow Lu access to legal counsel and judicial safeguards.
  • Ensure no deportation to China is carried out and Lu is allowed to continue his travels as planned to reunite with his family.