Three U.N. Refugees Go Into Hiding Fearing Chinese Embassy in Cambodia
Chinese Government Threatens Tibetan Buddhist and Two Catholics for Assisting Falun Gong Refugees
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (FDI) – Three Chinese citizens holding official United Nations refugee protection cards have gone into hiding fearing the Chinese Embassy might kidnap or even kill them.
“These things have already happened here many times,” says Mr. Kan Lykuy, 35. “The Chinese government is so domineering. We are running from place to place and with no money; this is no way to live.”
Since last week, Ms. Jiang, Mr. Gao, and Mr. Kan have been receiving threatening phone calls and have reported being followed by spies. They are being chased not only for their beliefs in religions that are not recognized by the Chinese government, but also for supporting practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice severely persecuted in China.
The three did not know each other initially, but say that the Chinese embassy has grouped them together because the embassy suspects they each have helped expose the Embassy’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in Cambodia.
Mr. Gao says he received a death threat from someone he says works for the Chinese government. “You helped the Falun Gong practitioners, you should watch out for your life,” Mr. Gao said the caller told him.
Ms. Jiang also received a threatening call. “I cannot sleep at night,” she says in tears. “I ran from one place to another, but within a few days I was being followed again.”
Mr. Kan says that the Chinese Embassy has already tried to deport him back to China, where he could be killed.
Representatives of several human rights organizations based in Cambodia say that the three are in real danger. “The Chinese government does these kinds of thing all the time,” says one human rights worker.
On August 2, 2002, the Chinese Embassy kidnapped two Falun Gong practitioners living in Phnom Penh. Mr. Li Guojun and Ms. Zhang Xinyi had escaped from China after then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin started persecuting Falun Gong in 1999. They received certificates from the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizing them as official “persons of concern.”
According to media reports, embassy agents found out about the two and, with help from Cambodian police, kidnapped them. (news) On August 9 they were deported back to China and sent to a labor camp.
The two have not been heard from since. (news)
The abducted couple were close friends of Ms. Jiang, an ethnic Chinese from Liaoning Province. She practices Tibetan Buddhism, which she says the Chinese Government does not allow outside of Tibet.
Her elder brother, Mr. Jiang Linzhong, and his wife are also Falun Gong practitioners. Following the abduction of the first couple they were similarly chased by Chinese Embassy personnel in August 2002. Their full story was exposed in the media, and the UNHCR staff was able to get them out of the country and relocate them in Europe.
The remaining refugees, however, feel they have no one to protect them. “It is so easy for the Chinese government to kill people in Cambodia,” says Mr. Gao. He says he knows several Chinese people in Cambodia who have been murdered recently.
“I told the UNHCR office that if they cannot protect me I might as well just walk into the [Chinese] Embassy’s front door and surrender,” he says. “I would rather die in China than die here were no one will even know about it.”
Mr. Gao, 39, is a member of the underground Catholic Church that is being persecuted in China. He escaped from China after his chapter’s pastor and several Church members were arrested and persecuted.
“When the Chinese government started persecuting Falun Gong they went after others as well in the ‘Strike-hard’ campaign,” says Mr. Gao. “They also labeled our Catholic Church an ‘illegal evil cult.’”
Also a persecuted Catholic, Mr. Kan says that the Chinese regime is not afraid of violating United Nations’ rules. He believes he is not safe in Cambodia since the Chinese and Cambodian governments are very close, and so the Chinese regime does whatever it wants in the country.
Mr. Kan had tried escaping to another country before, but was arrested at the Cambodian-Thai border. He was sent to a detention center near the Phnom Penh airport, where Chinese Embassy officials recorded his personal information and tried to deport him to China, he says.
“What good will investigating this case be after we are arrested?” Asks Mr. Kan. “By then I will be in China and killed.”
The three are seeking protection from the United Nations and relocation to a safer country. They say they do not care where they end up as long as they are safe from what they feel is a day-to-day threat of being abducted or killed.