Bangkok Working Closer with Beijing as Another Chinese Journalist Disappears in Thailand

Bangkok Working Closer with Beijing as Another Chinese Journalist Disappears in Thailand
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像

What you need to know

Li Xin, a Chinese editor who secretly works as the government’s informant, has disappeared in Thailand after he left China seeking for asylum. This is the latest case in the recent string of disappearances and abductions aimed at Chinese citizens who threaten the CCP. Is Thailand no longer safe for Chinese fugitives?

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Compiled by Vic Chiang

Li Xin, a former editor at Southern Metropolis Daily, a newspaper that’s famous for its plainspoken manner in southern China, has disappeared in Thailand while seeking asylum. His supporters worry that he has been added to the list of the recent string of disappearances and abductions of Chinese activists who got deported back to China by foreign governments cooperating with the Chinese government.

Li escaped to India in October 2015 after getting fed up of secretly working as the government’s informant. Failing to apply for a political refugee status at the American embassy in New Delhi, Li made his way to give it a second try in Thailand. He was last heard on a train en route to the border of Laos.

AP reports, Li was forced to become a government informant after he was caught sharing information of China’s Internet censorship to the Taiwanese government. He was once detained for the event back in 2013. “I was very fearful. They could drag me back (to jail) anytime," Li said in an interview in New Delhi. “I did not want to work for them, but I felt I had no choice.”

This is not the first time the Thai government has helped China in clandestine renditions targeted on Chinese activists. Last November, the Hong Kong dissident bookseller Gui Minhei disappeared from his apartment in Pattaya, a beach resort in Thailand. He then reappeared on Chinese state television, saying that he had returned to China on his own will to commit a crime he had done a decade ago. However, his family believed he was forcibly taken back to China.

Security agencies have long been tracing down Chinese fugitives who defy the Chinese government. Now they are taking a further step to eradicate the possibilities for these escapees to find safety in a foreign land. In Southeast Asia, cases of Chinese dissidents been sent back to China have been raised.

New York Times reports, “The government is desperate to make friends with a powerful player," said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher on Thailand for Human Rights Watch. As the economic cooperation tightens between Thailand and China, the Thai government has increased its assistance regarding police cooperation and even secretive extraditions to China.

According to UNHCR’s principle of non-refoulement, people who stay in a foreign country due to political concerns that they may face harsh treatment in their home country should not be extradited. But the deportations from Thailand to China have been accelerating in spite of the principle.

“This is a very spine-chilling precedent set by the junta. Thailand is no longer a safe haven," said Phasuk.

Edited by Olivia Yang

“Ignoring Protests, Thailand Deports About 100 Uighurs Back to China" (New York Times)
“Chinese journalist who defected is missing from Thailand" (AP)
“US Urges Thailand to Investigate Disappearance of Chinese Journalist" (Voice of America)