16 Jul 2021

Sweden stops deportation of Chinese dissident

The Swedish migration board has issued a stay in the execution of deportation order for Baolige Wurina, an Inner Mongolian dissident living in Sweden for over ten years, now with a wife and two small children. The board's decision, issued June 30, also grants Baolige a new hearing. The decision could have significant implications for Inner Mongolian dissidents in Sweden and across Europe.

Despite a clearly deteriorating situation for human rights in the 'autonomous' region of Inner Mongolia, and despite Baolige's longstanding activism in Sweden, both the migration board and later the migration court deemed that he could be returned (after having had his asylum request denied) without significant risk. However, due to media attention in Sweden and abroad, the issue of both Baolige and the situation in Inner Mongolia - where thousands have been detained in a crackdown since 2020 - the migration board has now reversed its decision. It notes that more information about the situation in Inner Mongolia has become known, and will be analyzed at the new hearing, but also that Baolige's activism itself, and the political and media attention to him and his case, now places him at heightened risk should he be returned to China. 

For details about Baolige and his case, see Safeguard Defenders previous article Swedish deportation of Inner Mongolian activist to China imminent.

Safeguard Defenders has informed the migration board about the situation in Inner Mongolia, and specifically, the risks posed to Baolige due to his public activism, including leading a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Stockholm, and his appearance in several Swedish media that is closely monitored, some would say harassed, by the Chinese embassy, In addition, Baolige is one of many whose return is actively being sought by China via 'voluntary returns', likewise the subject of a major reporting set for release this autumn. In the case of Baolige, his parents have been regularly visited and intimidated by the police, with the intent of making Baolige return 'voluntarily'. That he is being sought after in such a manner places Baolige at significantly heightened risk of persecution should be returned.

For information on Chinese espionage on Tibetan- and Uyghur communities in Sweden, see Safeguard Defenders investigation The Tibetan refugee who turned spy for China in Sweden.

In 2018 the Swedish migration board took a decision on Uyghurs, which was later replicated by other countries. It found that being an Uyghur was in itself enough for them to face persecution if returned, similar to how Tibetans have been treated in the past. This decision has provided a safe haven for Uyghurs, much like Tibetans, and also curtailed China's attempt to force their return via non-extradition means. Almost all returned fugitives to China, according to State media figures, are via non-extradition means, as China has great difficulties in securing extraditions due to its admittedly politically controlled legal system, and institutionalized use of torture. 

For information about China's attempt to force the return of critics through non-extradition means, see Safeguard Defenders article Trapped in Dubai – China’s hunt for a teenage dissident.

There is no set date for the new hearing yet. It is possible, if the evidence is strong enough, that Inner Mongolians might be given a safe haven like Uighurs and Tibetans before them, should the migration board find that the crackdown in Inner Mongolia - which seeks to eradicate Mongolian language and culture - is severe enough. The fact that Baolige, a lone man in his 30s, is responsible for bringing about such a review also means that his return would now guarantee persecution, as these developments are being monitored by the Chinese embassy.