Religious freedom advocates protest Chinese lawyer’s detention in Laos. He faces deportation to China; 80 human rights and legal groups demand his release.
International religious freedom advocates from East Texas departed Aug. 3 bound for Laos to participate in peaceful demonstrations protesting the detention — and possible deportation — of a Chinese human rights lawyer.
Deana Brown, a former Southern Baptist missionary and founder of Tyler-based Freedom Seekers International, is leading the group, who plan to engage in a public “silent protest” to call attention to the plight of Lu Siwei.
Lu Siwei was on his way to Thailand, where he planned to fly to the United States to join his wife and daughter, when he was detained by authorities July 28. He had both a U.S. visa and Laotian visa in his possession at the time.
Two individuals working in partnership with Midland-based ChinaAid — an American and a Canadian — were with Lu at the time he was apprehended. Both subsequently were interrogated by authorities.
Earlier this year, Brown was in Thailand visiting members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church — a congregation nicknamed the “Mayflower Church” because they fled China seeking religious freedom — when they faced a deportation hearing. Brown and an associate subsequently were detained alongside members of the Mayflower Church.
Brown said she believes the detention of two Americans prompted involvement by the U.S. Department of State and helped lead to the safe resettlement of the Mayflower Church members in Texas. She expressed hope her presence in Laos “might provide a bit of an edge” for Lu.
“I will return next Thursday and would love for lawyer Lu to be on the same flight,” Brown said.
‘Time is of the essence’
In an Aug. 2 letter sent to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chunxiao Zhang — Lu Siwei’s wife, who has lived in Southern California for more than a year — stated her husband was “apprehended by Laotian police at the Laos-Thailand border for unknown reasons.”
She expressed her belief the Chinese Communist Party is urging the Laotian government to repatriate her husband and said “time is of the essence.”
“If he is sent back, it is obvious what will happen to him: he will be imprisoned or tortured, as is standard treatment of dissidents by the Chinese Communist Party,” she wrote.
“My husband has been held by the government of Laos for a week now, and the authorities there have been slow to take action, even with pressure from the international community. The CCP is waiting at the immigration office, and he is facing the prospect of being sent back to China at any moment.”
In a text message to the Baptist Standard, Chunxiao Zhang expressed appreciation for the prayers Texas Baptists and others have offered on behalf of her husband and her family.
“My husband and I are not Christians, but there were many Christians who helped us tremendously during this crisis and made us feel God’s strength,” she wrote. “This strength is the main reason why I have been able to persevere until today.”
She asked concerned Christians to “continue to pray for my husband until he comes to America safely.”
About 80 human rights organizations and legal groups — ranging from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to ChinaAid and Freedom Seekers International — issued a statement calling for Laotian authorities to release Lu.
To read full story, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Ken Camp and originally published by Baptist Standard.