25 Aug 2023

Disappeared critic abroad emerges in Chinese detention center

Two months ago, we published information on the disappearance of Chinese critic Yang Zewei (杨泽伟), also known as Qiao Xinxin (乔鑫鑫), in Laos and feared that Yang might be a victim of the CCP’s transnational kidnapping. 

On 24 August, James Lin, a human rights activist in the Netherlands, posted a notification of arrest issued on 7 July by the affiliated sub-bureau directly under the Hengyang Public Security Bureau. It states that Yang has been arrested on charges of "inciting subversion of the state power" and is currently detained at the Hengyang Youth Detention Center. It shows that the Laos government had allowed the arrest to take place, as outlined in Safeguard Defenders' more detailed post on his arrest in the Laotian capital by both Chinese and Laotian police officers. This is another example of a Type 3 involuntary return, where Chinese police either kidnap wanted targets overseas, or act in collusion with a friendly government. Laos maintains an extradition treaty with China, but he faced no extradition process, and was taken back by Chinese police officers, in violation of law. Of the six known Chinese citizens apprehended in Laos and returned to China, no one has ever faced an extradition proceeding.

The CCP’s involuntary returns operations on foreign soil directly threaten the safety of Chinese activists living in exile and host countries' national and judicial sovereignty. Victims of China’s involuntary returns will not be given a fair trial when their rights to remain in a country and to be awarded due process have already been undermined by their forced return, not to mention that they are at high risk of torture or ill-treatment once inside China's judicial system.

James Lin also revealed that Yang, who is being detained in his hometown Hengyang City, cannot be visited by his parents and relatives. Yang's family have faced threats and intimidation from local public security officers, forcing them into silence.

The family has now broken the silence and hopes Yang can receive support from the international community and legal assistance while in custody. Yang Zexiong, Yang Zewei's older brother, mentioned that his brother has been abroad for many years, and the family back home is unaware of what he has done or any political statements he may have made in Laos. However, he believes that Yang Zewei would not engage in actions such as inciting subversion of state power.

One day after James Lin shared the notification of arrest, the letter was forcibly taken away from the premises by local political security officers, the director of Lingguan Police Station Xiao Xiangjun [肖祥军], and the village committee secretary. The reason provided was that it could jeopardize their careers.