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

1 August 2023

August 1, 2023,

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.

Joint Statement-NGOs Call on Governments & Lao Authorities to Ensure the Immediate Release

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. 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

[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.

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