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1 August 2023

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

Download the Lao translation here.

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.[1] 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. ALTSEAN-Burma 
  2. Amnesty International 
  3. ARTICLE 19 
  4. Asia Democracy Network (ADN) 
  5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) 
  6. Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales 
  7. Bytes For All, Pakistan 
  8. Campaign For Uyghurs 
  9. Chicago Solidarity with Hong Kong
  10. ChinaAid 
  11. China Change 
  12. Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) 
  13. Civic Initiatives 
  14. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
  15. Comité pour la Liberté à Hong-Kong
  16. Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation 
  17. Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) 
  18. CSW 
  19. Defense without Borders-Solidarity Lawyers (DSF-AS)  
  20. Exile Hub, Thailand, Myanmar 
  21. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders 
  22. Focus on the Global South 
  23. Foundation for Media Alternatives 
  24. Free Expression Myanmar 
  25. Freedom Seekers International
  26. Freiheit für Hongkong e.V. 
  27. Fresh Eyes, United Kingdom 
  28. Front Line Defenders 
  29. Georgetown Center for Asian Law 
  30. Gill H. Boehringer, Professor, Chair, Australian Branch, IAPL 
  31. Girl Up Southeast Asia
  32. Hong Kong Aid
  33. Hong Kong Democracy Council
  34. Hong Kong Watch
  35. Hongkonger in Deutschland e.V. 
  36. Humanitarian China 
  37. Human Rights in China 
  38. Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH) 
  39. Human Rights Watch
  40. HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement 
  41. ILGA Asia 
  42. Indonesia Save Uyghur 
  43. Innovation for Change
  44. Innovation for Change-East Asia 
  45. Innovation for Change South Asia 
  46. International Association of People's Lawyers (IAPL) Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers 
  47. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
  48. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 
  49. International Society for Human Rights 
  50. International Tibet Network Secretariat 
  51. Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan 
  52. Japan Hong Kong Democracy Alliance (JHKDA)
  53. Judicial Reform Foundation 
  54. Lady Liberty Hong Kong (LLHK)
  55. Lamp of Liberty
  56. Lawyers for Lawyers 
  57. Manushya Foundation 
  58. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
  59. New School for Democracy Association 
  60. New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong (NY4HK)
  61. Open Net (Korea) 
  63. PEN America 
  64. Public Virtue Research Institute 
  65. Safeguard Defenders 
  66. Saskatchewan stands with Hong Kong 
  67. Social Innovations Advisory 
  68. Society of Young Social Innovators (SYSI) 
  69. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) 
  70. Taipei Bar Association Human Rights Committee 
  71. Taiwan Bar Association Human Rights Protection Committee 
  72. Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network 
  73. Texans Supporting Hong Kong (TX4HK)
  74. The Rights Practice
  75. Tibet Initiative Deutschland e.V. 
  76. Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy 
  77. 29 Principles 
  78. Uyghur Human Rights Project 
  79. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation 
  80. Wang Dan, Dialogue China 
  81. We The Hongkongers 
  82. Winnipeg Hong Kong Concern
  83. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders 
  84. Young Leadership for Social Change Network 
  85. Re-water CIC

[1]  E/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.