NGOs Call on Governments and Lao Authorities to Ensure the Immediate Release of Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Lu Siwei


August 1, 2023

[Below is a joint statement supported by the Uyghur Human Rights Project calling on Laos to halt the repatriation of human rights lawyer Lu Siwei]

Lao authorities have reportedly arrested and detained well-known Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei since 28 July 2023. We are gravely concerned that he is at serious risk of forced repatriation to China where he faces the high likelihood of torture and other ill-treatment.

Southeast Asian governments have frequently been pressured into forcibly returning vulnerable individuals back to China, where they have faced arbitrary detention, unfair trials, torture, enforced disappearances, and other ill-treatment. Our organizations have documented numerous cases, ranging from the 2009 forced return of Uyghurs from Cambodia to the August 2022 disappearance of Chinese democracy activist Dong Guangping from Vietnam into Chinese custody. Gui Minhai, a bookseller, was disappeared in Thailand in 2015 only to resurface in China without his passport. These individuals are effectively disappeared for extended periods, with family members and colleagues unable to obtain information until months or years after.

We urge third party governments to:

  1. Ask Lao authorities to immediately halt Lu Siwei’s repatriation and to move quickly to ensure he has access to the relevant UN authorities and a lawyer of his choice; and,
  2. Publicly call on Chinese authorities to drop any potential charges against Lu Siwei.

By handing Lu Siwei over to the Chinese authorities, the Lao government would be putting Lu Siwei at grave risk of torture and inhuman treatment. UN rights experts have found that the Chinese government frequently subjects rights defenders and lawyers to torture and inhuman treatment.1E/C.12/CHN/CO/3, CESCR Concluding observations on the third periodic report of China, including Hong Kong, China, and Macao, China, 2 March 2023; and CAT/C/CHN/CO/5, CAT Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of China, 3 February 2016.. Under international customary law and as a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) since September 2012, the Lao PDR government has a non-refoulement obligation as stipulated in Article 3 of the CAT not to return a person to a state where they are at high likelihood of being subjected to torture.

We urge the Lao government to:

  1. Halt all processes of repatriation for Lu Siwei and release him immediately according to its international human rights obligations;
  2. Arrange for him to meet with the relevant UN authorities and a lawyer of his own choosing;
  3. Allow him to meet with diplomats from the United States and other countries, as needed, to help him resume his journey to reunite with his family currently in the United States; and
  4. Pending the above, to disclose his whereabouts and ensure his personal safety as well as his physical and mental well-being.

Lu Siwei is a renowned rights defender and lawyer in China, advocating for vulnerable groups and representing numerous political dissidents. As the Chinese authorities have become increasingly intolerant of independent rights advocacy, they have targeted Lu with intimidation and harassment, 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. It is understood that Lu was in Laos en route to joining his family in the United States. 

Undersigned, in alphabetical order

  1. Amnesty International
  2. ALTSEAN-Burma
  3. Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. ARTICLE 19
  6. Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
  7. Bytes For All, Pakistan
  8. Campaign For Uyghurs
  9. ChinaAid
  10. China Change
  11. Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
  12. Civic Initiatives
  13. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  14. Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM)
  15. Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation  
  16. CSW
  17. Exile Hub, Thailand, Myanmar
  18. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  19. Focus on the Global South
  20. Foundation for Media Alternatives
  21. Free Expression Myanmar
  22. Freiheit für Hongkong e.V.
  23. Fresh Eyes, United Kingdom
  24. Front Line Defenders
  25. Georgetown Center for Asian Law
  26. Gill H. Boehringer, Professor, Chair, Australian Branch, IAPL
  27. Hong Kong Watch
  28. Hongkonger in Deutschland e.V.
  29. Humanitarian China
  30. Human Rights in China
  31. Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH)
  32. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
  33. ILGA Asia
  34. Indonesia Save Uyghur
  35. Innovation for Change South Asia
  36. International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers
  37. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  38. International Tibet Network Secretariat
  39. Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan
  40. Judicial Reform Foundation
  41. Lawyers for Lawyers
  42. Manushya Foundation
  43. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
  44. New School for Democracy Association
  45. Open Net (Korea)
  47. PEN America
  48. Public Virtue Research Institute
  49. Safeguard Defenders
  50. Social Innovations Advisory
  51. Society of Young Social Innovators (SYSI)
  52. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)
  53. Taipei Bar Association Human Rights Committee
  54. Taiwan Bar Association Human Rights Protection Committee
  55. Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network
  56. Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
  57. Tibet Initiative Deutschland e.V.
  58. 29 Principles
  59. Uyghur Human Rights Project
  60. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
  61. Wang Dan, Dialogue China
  62. We The Hongkongers
  63. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  64. Young Leadership for Social Change Network

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