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🇱🇦#JusticeForQiao: Chinese Digital Rights Activist Qiao Xinxin Abducted by Chinese Police in Laos

Another case of Transnational Repression

🚨 #JusticeForQiao: Advocating against digital dictatorship is a risky and courageous endeavor that can result in severe political persecution, even for exiled activists. One such case involves Qiao Xinxin, a 37-year-old former special correspondent for Radio Free Asia in Southeast Asia. Owing to his activism, Qiao fled China and sought refuge in Laos. According to reports from witnesses, he was seen taken by two Laotian and six Chinese police officers from his residence in Vientiane, Laos around May 31, 2023. His whereabouts remain unknown since.

Who is Qiao Xinxin and what was his digital rights advocacy?

Qiao, whose birth name is Yang Zewe, was born in August 1986 in Hunan Province, China and is the founder of a global online campaign called “Ban Great Firewall” also known as “BanGFW”. The movement is aimed at breaking down the cyber wall that prevents Chinese netizens from accessing free and independent information while also advocating for China to end its censorship.

The initiative was launched on March 8, 2023 and is supported by other fellow Chinese digital rights activists, lawyers and journalists such as Sheng Xue and Wang Qingpeng.

Since its creation, « Ban Great Firewall » engaged in a series of powerful activities, including the publishing of open letters and staging a street protest outside the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.

Why did Qiao become a target of Transnational Repression by Chinese police in Laos?

While being based in Laos, Qiao has been tirelessly inviting netizens all around the world to join the movement by raising placards calling for the « Great Firewall » to be torn down, to contact different governments and to get in touch with the media. He added that joining the movement is quite easy as people just need to display the #banGFW sign or to post it on the web.

The activist also published a handbook called « Handbook of Ban GFW Movement » on April 5, 2023 to help netizens better understand the goal of the movement and to share practices on how to spread the campaign further.

The movement quickly drew the Chinese regime’s attention and according to Qiao, a Chinese secret police initiated a special month-long battle against the movement.

What were China’s transnational repression measures against Qiao Xinxin?

Transnational repression measures from governments can take various forms, ranging from digital threats to the threat or harassment of friends and family of activists back home.

In April 2023, Qiao posted a screenshot of messages sent to him by his brother to tell him that Chinese authorities were harassing and threatening their family back in China.

"The Internet police of the Ministry of Public Security of the Communist Party of China have threatened my family and asked me to delete comments that are harmful to China. Otherwise, I will be arrested. Of course, I don't care about them, they are a violator", Qiao Xinxin said in a statement to VOA Chinese on April 2023.

Qiao was well aware that even in exile in Laos, he was still not safe. For that reason, on April 20, 2023 he published a “Declaration to not commit suicide” where he stated that he still loves this world and it’s impossible for him to commit suicide in his 30s. He also calls on his supporters to protest in front of Chinese Communist Party’s embassies should he ever disappear for more than 48 hours online.

Ultimately, his abduction was ill-fated and discovered by his friends; this insidious initiative by the authorities occurred before June 4, 2023, which was the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Qiao's story is yet another case raising concerns about the safety of individuals seeking refuge from political persecution.

More details on what exactly hapenned?

  • On May 28, Qiao visited Chinatown in Vientiane to fulfill some tasks required for the activities of his movement. The following day, he discovered that his phone number was nonfunctional, prompting him to notify others via a message that he intended to procure a fresh SIM card.

  • On June 2, Qiao's friends finally noticed that it had been 48 hours since he last posted on Twitter or messaged them on Telegram, or in any of their different chat groups. According to Wang Qingpeng, the last time anyone saw Yang online was at 17:56 on May 31st.

  • On June 3, Qiao's group assigned a volunteer, named Ziyang (a pseudonym), to search for Qiao. When Ziyang arrived at Yang's place, he discovered that the door was locked. Ziyang communicated with Qiao's Laotian neighbors and learned the distressing truth. The neighbor had witnessed two Laotian and six Chinese police officers arriving at Qiao's residence, and taking him away a few days prior, confirming their worst fears.

According to Feng Ye, a fellow activist who often partook in movements with Qiao, there is unverified information from the Hunan Chamber of Commerce in Laos suggesting that an individual within the circle of overseas Chinese leaders of the Chamber of Commerce discreetly collaborated with the Chinese police to abduct Qiao Xinxin. This collaboration involved providing the Chinese authorities with detailed information about Qiao Xinxin's whereabouts in Vientiane, including his address, lifestyle patterns, and daily habits.

Based on latest news reports, Qiao was taken to an undisclosed location, leaving the question whether he was already deported back to China or if he’s still somewhere in Laos entirely unanswered.

China’s notorious practice of TNR against exiled activists. Activist group member Lin, also known as 'James' Shengliang, contacted the police in Lingguan Town, Hunan Province, Qiao's hometown in China, for three consecutive days from June 6 to June 8 to inquire about his arrest.

After Lin persistently questioned the Lingguan police, officers eventually admitted they were not in charge of dealing with Qiao’s case but that a special taskforce was. According to Wang Nan, a fellow activist in the #BanGFW movement, it is frequent for Chinese police to engage “in cross-border law enforcement” activities in Thailand and Laos.

In November 2022, a Chinese citizen of Mongolian ethnicity, who fled the country following his participation in protests in 2020 against the ban on Mongolian-medium teaching in schools, reported being detained by Chinese state security police in Bangkok.

In most cases, translational repression cases involve the cooperation of a host country. For Qiao’s case, attempts by supporters to reach out to the Lao government, the Lao embassy in Washington DC, and its permanent mission to the UN in Geneva have yielded no response.

Our Call to Action

✊🏻 Manushya Foundation calls on the international community to stand in solidarity with Chinese Human Rights Defender Qiao Xinxin following his deeply concerning abduction, thus closely keeping both the Chinese government and Lao government in check and accountable for the disappearance!

✊🏻 We urge the Lao Government as well as the Chinese Government to stop perpetuating Transnational Repression against human rights defenders under the name of ‘national security’, ‘stability’ and ‘development’!

✊🏼 Manushya Foundation urges both the Lao and Chinese governments to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate his disappearance! His friends and family need an answer to a very simple question: “Where is Qiao Xinxin ?” !

#WeAreManushyan ♾ Equal Human Beings


While you are here…

➡️ All you need to know about Manushya Foundation’s previous work on Laos, the Attapeu dam collapse and our campaign to #FreeMuay from jail as well as #JusticeForJack:


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