Seeking refuge and fearing persecution by the Chinese government, a young journalist rushed to Thailand. Now, he’s missing.
Li Xin was the editor of a popular Chinese newspaper called the Southern Metropolitan Daily. His wife says he feared being punished by the Chinese government for going public about the censorship he faced as an editor, and how state officials threatened to charge him with spying unless he agreed to become their informant gathering intel. on his friends and colleagues.
After failing to obtain a visa to the United States in India, Li sought asylum in Thailand.
The last He Fanfmei heard from her husband was when he sent her a text message noting he was heading for Thailand’s northeastern border with Laos.
Now, she and Li’s supporters fear that Thai security officials handed him over to their counterparts in China.
Their concerns are exacerbated by mounting reports of extraditions to China which are organized by Thai officials.
Back in July, the Thai government returned about 100 Uighurs. This ethnic minority group comprised mostly of Sunni Muslims resides in a volatile region of Northeaster China, where they experience tense relations with the Chinese government.
Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong publisher associated with a bookstore selling titles critical of the ruling Communist Party, disappeared in October from his vacation home in Thailand. He resurfaced on Chinese state-run TV, where he suspiciously confessed to voluntarily returning to China to address a previous drunk-driving charge in which a woman was killed.
Two Chinese dissidents in November sought sanctuary in Thailand before being returned to China even though they were listed as refugees by the United Nations refugee agency. The Chinese government later said the two were suspected of illegal border crossing and being in Thailand without authorization.
Analysts say the Thai government’s cooperation with China’s ruling Communist Party is one of mutual benefit. Thailand seems to be seeing economic and political support in return for cooperation with security officials.
“The government is desperate to make friends with a powerful player,” said Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch in an interview with the New York Times. “This is a very spine-chilling precedent set by the junta. Thailand is no longer a safe haven.”