Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Royal Thai Government
Government House
Bangkok, Thailand
 

RE: Refoulement of Chinese refugees Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei

Dear Prime Minister Gen. Prayut,

Human Rights Watch is outraged to learn that over the weekend of November 14-15, 2015, your government forced back to China two Chinese nationals who had been granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and accepted for refugee resettlement by a third country. 

This is a clear case of refoulement that is prohibited under customary international law and a blatant violation of Thailand’s obligations under article 3 of the Convention against Torture, which states that a government must fully consider prior whether an individual would be in danger of being subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if they are deported.  Individuals who are known to have been involved in issues considered politically sensitive or from ethnic or religious groups who are forcibly returned to China have faced precisely such treatment.  Officials in your government failed to conduct such an assessment for the two individuals, and have contradicted the pledge you gave to the UN General Assembly on September 29 that “Thailand has always accorded priority to protecting and promoting human rights for all groups of people.” 

The two individuals sent back by your government are Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei.  Dong is a democracy activist from Zhengzhou City in Henan Province. He arrived in Thailand in September 2015. Between 2001 and 2004, he was jailed in China for the political charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” He was again detained for “gathering crowds to disturb order in public space” for 10 months between 2014 and 2015 for publicly commemorating victims of the Tiananmen Massacre.

Jiang Yefei is a democracy activist and political cartoonist from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, who went to Thailand in 2008. He was fleeing harassment by the authorities after he was twice detained in 2008 as a result of his criticism of the Chinese government for its handling of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. Further background information about Jiang is available at http://biweekly.hrichina.org/article/2388.

Human Rights Watch also understands that representatives of your government, including officials from the National Security Council, the Ministry of Justice, the Immigration Department, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were explicitly informed on November 10 that these two persons had been extended refugee status by the UNHCR and that a third country had decided to accept these two men and their families for urgent refugee resettlement. 

It is therefore apparent that this refoulement was a deliberate, pre-mediated rights violation, and highlights your government’s total disregard for fundamental human rights.  It is also contradicts the various pledges you and other senior members of the National Council for Peace and Order have made on various overseas trips to respect human rights.

This rights violation compounds the abuses committed in the forcible return to China of 109 ethnic Turks in July 2015, when they were hooded and forced on planes, escorted by Chinese police, and returned to China.  Their whereabouts and wellbeing remain unknown.

Human Rights Watch calls on you to end all deportations of any UNHCR-recognized persons of concern who are in the official process of seeking refugee status, or have been formally accorded refugee status after a refugee status determination interview, regardless of their nationality or country of origin. Thailand should also ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, and urgently revamp its immigration laws to recognize refugee status under Thai law. We also urge an investigation into the unlawful return of the Chinese refugees and that appropriate action be taken to prosecute those responsible.

The Royal Thai Government should immediately request information from China’s government about the whereabouts of these two men, where they are being held, the conditions of their detention, as well as any charges filed against them, and make that information public.  They should have immediate access to lawyers and family members.

Your government should also urgently request that the Chinese government drop all charges against Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei, release them immediately without preconditions, and permit them to travel abroad to rejoin their families. 

I look forward to hearing from you about this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Sophie Richardson
China Director, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
 

CC: 

Mr. Don Pramudwinai
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand
443 Sri Ayudhya Rd., Bangkok 10400

Gen. Paiboon Khumchaya
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice of the Kingdom of Thailand
Chaeng Watthana Rd., Khlong Kluea, Pak Kret, Nonthaburi 11120

Mr. Pisan Manawapat
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America
Royal Thai Embassy in Washington
1024 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007