China: Human Rights Lawyer Extradited And Detained

Lu Siwei
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Lu Siwei lived in Chengdu, Sichuan. He is a renowned rights defender and lawyer who has advocated for vulnerable groups and represented numerous political dissidents. He was detained by Lao police on 28 July 2023 while he was boarding a train bound for Thailand, on charges of travelling on fraudulent documents. He was planning to travel onward to the USA to rejoin his family. In Laos, he was not allowed to meet with a lawyer or representatives of his family. Despite the efforts of Amnesty International and other organisations, it appears the Lao government has forcibly repatriated Lu, which could amount to a violation of its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.
After many years taking “sensitive” or human rights-related cases within mainland China, Lu rose to prominence for his role in seeking to defend one of the 12 Hongkongers who were arrested in 2020 after fleeing Hong Kong by boat and being intercepted by the Chinese Coast Guard. In response, provincial judicial authorities suspended Lu’s license. As the Chinese authorities have become increasingly intolerant of independent rights advocacy, they have intimidated and harassed Lu in different ways, 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. 

Prior to this high-profile case, Lu was best known for working extensively to support human rights defenders, including representing the case of Chengdu Tiananmen Square commemorations, human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, famous poet Wang Zang, and others in the Chinese legal community who had been targeted in the “709 crackdown” in 2015.   

Lu’s case is also emblematic of a worrying trend of Chinese authorities pressuring other governments, notably in southeast Asia but not exclusively, into forcibly returning vulnerable individuals back to China, where they have faced arbitrary detention, unfair trials, torture, enforced disappearances, and other forms of ill-treatment. Gui Minhai, a bookseller, was disappeared in Thailand in 2015 only to resurface in China without his passport. In August 2022, activists and media reported the disappearance of Chinese democracy activist Dong Guangping from Vietnam into Chinese custody. And in August 2023, Laos-based activist Yang Zewei was reported to be held in a detention centre in China after being arrested in Vientiane, the Lao capital. 

Many detainees in China, especially human rights defenders (HRDs), have reportedly been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment while in detention. Detainees with deteriorating health are often denied or unable to access adequate medical treatment. Amnesty International raised concern about arbitrary detention, torture and other Ill-treatment, and unfair trial in our submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group ahead of China’s fourth UPR January 2024.

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