The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on 3 August 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.
Since the sending of the communication, Lu Siwei was deported in September 2023 from the Lao PDR to the People’s Republic of China and is now reportedly being held in a detention centre in Sichuan Province, China. He has allegedly been denied access to a lawyer of his choice.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.
Topic: the detention of human rights defender and lawyer Mr. Lu Siwei and the related imminent risk of deportation to China.
Mr. Lu Siwei is a well-known human rights defender and lawyer from Chengdu, in Sichuan province. His work has focused on issues such as freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, and torture. Mr. Lu Siwei has defended fellow human rights lawyers facing criminal prosecution, or who have already been convicted. He also represented one of 12 Hong Kong human rights activists who were detained at sea by mainland Chinese authorities while trying to flee to Taiwan in August 2020.
On 15 January 2021, the Sichuan Judicial department formally revoked Mr. Lu Siwei’s lawyer’s license on the grounds of “inappropriate” and “malicious” online expressions, which are said to have “harmed national security”.
Subsequently, in May 2021, Mr. Lu Siwei was informed that an exit ban had been imposed against him on “national security” grounds. Since then, the human rights defender continued to face regular surveillance and harassment, reason why his wife and daughter left China in 2022 and are now based in the United States of America.
On 28 July 2023, Mr. Lu Siwei was detained and questioned by the Lao police while preparing to board a train for Thailand at Thanaleng railway station, in the Dongphosy village, Vientiane Prefecture, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, where he arrived with the aim of flying from Thailand to the United States to reunite with his family.
The same day at 11:20am, Mr. Lu Siwei was taken by police car to Thanaleng police station. According to Mr. Lu Siwei’s final message to a friend who he had been travelling with, the Lao police intended to take him to the airport and deport him back to China.
As of 31 of July 2023, Mr. Lu Siwei is being held at the Lao national immigration department detention center, where he has reportedly not been permitted access to a lawyer.
In the communication, we express our grave concern at the current detention of Mr. Lu Siwei, which may be related to his legitimate work as a human rights defender and lawyer.
We further note with grave concern the related risk of imminent deportation to China he is reportedly facing, where there are substantial grounds to believe that Mr. Lu Siwei would be in danger of being subjected to irreparable harm upon return to China on account of torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading or ill-treatment or punishment, and other serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance.
We recall that, under international human rights law, the principle of non-refoulement guarantees that no one should be returned to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and other irreparable harm, without discrimination of any kind.