A Chinese national who fled his home country after supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong has arrived in the Netherlands to claim political asylum after a harrowing escape from agents of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spanning the Middle East and eastern Europe.
Wang and his fiancee Wu Huan arrived safely in the Netherlands, where they have applied for political asylum, the U.S.-based ChinaAid Association said in a statement on its website.
Their arrival follows a harrowing ordeal in which the pair were snatched from flights and hotels, illegally detained, and mistreated, all the while under the constant threat of repatriation to China.
Wang Jingyu, 19, who holds permanent residency in the United States, was arrested by United Arab Emirates police on April 5, transiting the airport en route between Istanbul and New York.
He sent a message on May 20 calling on the international community for help, and his case was highlighted by the U.S. State Department as "a human rights concern."
After U.S.-based activists made representations to U.S. officials in a bid to stave off his forcible repatriation to China, Wang was freed and dumped aboard an onward flight to Istanbul in a single outfit of clothing and flip-flops, holding nothing but his phone and a passport,
Wu, who flew out to Dubai to help Wang, was herself kidnapped on May 27 by Dubai officials in the Bur Dubai Police Station Detention Center, where she was held for three days. She was handed over to the Chinese consulate and illegally held by them until June 8, when she escaped and managed to board a flight to Ukraine.
"[Thanks to a] direct rescue effort organized by ChinaAid and Freedom Seekers International, both Wang and Wu safely arrived in the Netherlands on July 19, 2021 where they have applied for asylum," ChinaAid said.
"They arrived in the Netherlands at around 5:15 p.m. on July 19," ChinaAid president Bob Fu told RFA.
"At around 6.00 p.m., the Dutch border police told them that their passports had been cancelled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)."
Long arm of the CCP
Fu also warned in a statement on the ChinaAid website that "the world should wake up to the reality of the long arm of the CCP and its total disregard to the rule of law, and ruthless persecution of innocent citizens."
"ChinaAid calls upon the governments of the Netherlands and United States to take immediate actions to make sure ... Mr. Wang and Ms. Wu are protected from being further harmed by granting their asylum request," Fu said.
Wang said in a separate statement issued by the couple that his U.S. green card had been illegally confiscated by Chinese agents in Dubai.
"The Chinese government's persecution of me has spread overseas in the UAE, Turkey, and Ukraine using various methods to persecute me," Wang said. "At the same time, my father and mother have been illegally imprisoned by the Chinese government."
He said he first ran afoul of the authorities in his home city of Chongqing after he posted comments and videos supporting the 2019 Hong Kong democracy movement on the video-sharing site Douyin. He was expelled from his high school, the Chongqing Foreign Language School, and harrassed by the authorities.
"I was forced to flee China and live overseas ... when I was only 17 years old," he said.
But the persecution didn't stop there. Wang's parents were arrested in February 2021 after he questioned the official account of casualties in the Sino-Indian border conflict, and his personal information was posted online, unleashing a torrent of threatening phone calls and other abuse.
Detained in Dubai
On May 21, Wu Huan used Wang's Twitter account to ask the media and human rights organizations for help. Six days later, she was detained by Dubai police and Chinese consular officials and held illegally. At one point, she was handcuffed with cable ties by Chinese consular staff, the statement said.
"Wu Huan was illegally detained by the UAE and handed over to China," Fu told RFA. "There are some details that we will reveal at a later date."
Wu was only released after she refused all food and water, it said. She was eventually rescued from Dubai with the help of ChinaAid, it said.
Even after Wang arrived in Istanbul, his troubles weren't over
"The Chinese consulate hired someone to steal my passport in the hotel ... Finally after the intervention of the Wall Street Journal reporter, the hotel felt pressured and contacted me privately to return my passport," the statement said.
Wang later flew to Ukraine to join Wu, only to receive more phone calls and emails from Chinese police threatening to extradite Wang.
"The Chinese police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are capable, confident, and have plans to extradite you back to China any time now," the last email Wang received before leaving Ukraine read.
"The relevant departments are fully aware of your current location ... and have prepared countermeasures to prevent you from escaping again, so you had better give up your illusions and return to [China]," it said.
The CCP's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection reported in November 2020 that China has concluded 169 extradition treaties, judicial assistance treaties, asset return and sharing agreements with 81 countries, and signed financial intelligence exchange cooperation agreements with 56 countries and regions.
Qiu Jiajun, of the overseas-based group Democracy China Media, who was part of the rescue operation, said 50 of those extradition agreements are official.
But he said Beijing relies on an extensive network of agents and spies, foreign allies, and CCP supporters to be its eyes and eyes overseas.
"They have a long reach, and carry out monitoring of anti-communist activities to countries all around the world," Qiu said. "In all of the countries [Wang and Wu] were detained in, the police all had connections with the CCP, and were pretty corrupt."
"But the Netherlands is a free and democratic country, almost like the U.S., so it's a whole new world [for them]," Qiu said.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.