KYIV, UKRAINE — A teen who says she is a US permanent resident, and her fiancée are once again fleeing the threat of extradition to their homeland, China, a sign of Beijing’s protracted reach over alleged dissidents abroad is in.
Chinese authorities last year sought 19-year-old student Wang Jingyu over his online comments about the deadly border clash between Chinese and Indian forces.
He was arrested by plainclothes police in Dubai in early April while transferring for a flight to the US and held for weeks, in a case the US State Department described as a human rights concern. . He said that the Chinese authorities in Dubai have taken his green card.
Wang was released on May 27, hours after the Associated Press asked about him. He fled first to Turkey and then to Ukraine, as a temporary safe haven open to Chinese passport holders without COVID-19 entry restrictions.
But on Thursday, the AP has learned, Wang had received a warning via email that Chinese officials knew he was hiding in Ukraine and had escalated the charges against him for subversion of state power, according to Chinese officials. A vaguely defined charge often used by critics to imprison them. The email claimed to be from the state security department of Chongqing city police, which said they were looking for him.
“From the simple allegation of raising disputes and instigating trouble and humiliating our frontline martyrs, your actions have completely changed,” the email read. “We in the public security organs and the national security organs know where you are. I want to remind you that China and Ukraine have an extradition agreement.
On Monday, Wang received another email from the same person saying he had taken measures if the couple ran away again. The AP has seen screenshots of both the emails.
“I was really scared, I couldn’t sleep well at night,” Wang said. “It was very clear from what they said that they would take action against me.”
Panicked, Wang and her fiancée, 26-year-old Wu Huan, flew to the Netherlands, which does not have an extradition treaty with China. They are seeking asylum or at least a temporary stay visa.
Upon arrival at Amsterdam airport, the couple were informed by Dutch immigration officials that their passports had been revoked, said ChinaAid president Bob Fu, who helped organize their exodus from Ukraine.
Bass Belder, a former member of the European Parliament, said he was in contact with the Dutch Ministry of Justice to bring the couple’s plight to the minister’s attention.
Chinese officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment to the foreign ministry, Chongqing police and the Chinese embassy in Washington.
The US State Department declined to comment on Tuesday. It acknowledged Wang’s arrest in Dubai and told the AP it was “concerned by human rights violations and abuses in China.”
The case raises growing fears of outside access from China, especially with concerns that Hong Kong’s national security law, passed last year, could also apply to people of any nationality outside Hong Kong.
Jerome Cohen, an assistant senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on Chinese law, said formal extradition requests are far from the only tool China uses to exercise control over its citizens abroad. More common are informal efforts, also used by the US, that rely on deportations by foreign countries that are rarely made public and are much harder to track, he said.
Wang has been on the run from Chinese police and traveling abroad with Wu since July 2019, after posting comments in support of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong on a Chinese social media website. His parents sent him abroad to wait out any possible trouble.
In February this year, China announced that it had lost four soldiers months earlier in brutal fighting between Chinese and Indian forces over a border dispute in the Karakoram mountains. Wang questioned why the Chinese government waited so long to announce the death toll and became a target of state media.
According to a report in the state-owned Global Times in February based on statements from local police, six others were detained by police for their remarks about the Sino-India border conflict this year. Wang was the only and unreachable of the seven abroad. Chongqing police then said in a public statement that they were looking for him for a broad allegation of “raising quarrels and inciting trouble”, which was often against political goals.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, started a hashtag on social media platform Weibo saying “persons living abroad who condemned marginal heroes are now being hunted online”. It has since been viewed 280 million times, and Wang said he has received threatening calls.
He said that following Wang’s comments in February, his parents were detained by Chongqing police. He interviewed Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Deutsche Welle in Chinese to publicize what was happening to him.
Since then he has not been able to reach his parents independently. Chongqing police sent him a recording of his father warning him not to conduct interviews with US media outlets, the AP heard.
Authorities in Dubai did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. The Dubai Public Prosecution chargesheet obtained by the AP after his arrest described Wang as facing an investigation for allegedly “insulting one of the monotheistic religions”, a charge usually referring to insulting Islam. does. When the chargesheet was shown, the Dubai Media Office said the charges were dropped and Wang was freed.
Wu went to Dubai in April, soon after her fiancée was arrested. She hired a lawyer, posting on social media and giving interviews to raise awareness about her case.
The couple said that on May 27, Wu was kidnapped from his hotel in Dubai. Guo Baosheng, a Chinese dissident who also runs a YouTube channel and publicized Wang’s detention by UAE authorities, said he urged Wu to get out of the hotel just before he disappeared.
Wu said he was brought to the Dubai Police Station and interviewed by Chinese consulate officials. According to the couple, she was then taken into the custody of the Chinese authorities. He said that she went on hunger strike for several days and her mental condition was close to worsening, so she was released on 8 June.
“It’s a particularly painful memory,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of political perspectives. I really, really love China. … I never thought I would experience this injustice in the UAE.
Meanwhile, Wang is still posting criticism of the Chinese government on Twitter. He said he would continue to speak either way.
“I want to make my voice heard within the firewall in every way possible,” he said. “I still think the country will have hope when the real Chinese people inside the firewall wake up.”