Mere weeks ago, the Swedish migration board decided to put the deportation to China of an Inner Mongolian human rights defender on hold. They also ordered a new hearing to take an in-depth look into recent developments in Inner Mongolia and the wave of mass detentions and increased repression in the “autonomous” region since last year.
It was just a few years ago that the same body decided to offer extended protection to Uyghurs after an investigation concluded that being a Uyghur was enough to place a person at high risk of human rights violations if returned to China. Several other countries followed suit, expanding available safe havens for Uyghurs who, against all odds, manage to flee China. The situation for Tibetans has long been similar.
With each of these developments, China’s ability to exert influence over these key groups abroad diminishes, in direct contravention of the central government’s concerted effort to significantly expand its power over Chinese nationals, dissidents, and ethnic minority groups abroad.
Over the last few years, in the shadow of the Beijing-imposed Hong Kong National Security Law, which includes extraterritorial rights, i.e., the right to police and punish anyone, anywhere, China has made changes to their own laws to provide itself with similar legal tools. The changes, with more to come, simply mirror the reality on the ground: the Chinese police thinks it has the right to investigate and mete out punishment for any actions or uttered words, even when such things occur outside of China. Just look at the case of teenage dissident Wang Jinyu, who, while traveling from his home in Turkey to the United States, was detained at Dubai airport and nearly deported back to China for merely writing some criticism regarding the PLA (People’s Liberation Army or Chinese military) while living in Europe. He escaped deportation and certain imprisonment only because of international media attention and U.S. diplomatic intervention.
At the same time, China has greatly expanded its operations to have “criminals” returned to the mainland through a myriad of ways. Extraditions are what comes to mind, but they are very rare and difficult to achieve for China due to its politically controlled legal system and institutionalized use of torture. Instead, most of those returned are via so-called voluntary returns: targets are approached by Chinese agents in their new homeland and intimidated to return, or local police in China harass, detain, or intimidate family members or loved ones back in China for the same purpose.
The moratorium on deporting Uyghurs, and before that Tibetans, by Sweden and other countries, represented significant setbacks to China’s policy of increasing control over such groups and ultimately, their ability to force their return. Now the hearing on Inner Mongolia and the successful case of a lone man in his mid-30s can lead to another such setback.
Baolige Wurina came to Sweden over 10 years ago. He met a Mongolian, settled down, got married, and had two children. With the deterioration of the situation in Inner Mongolia, his longstanding activism became more vocal and public, including leading demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy in Stockholm, holding speeches at protest rallies, and often appearing in solidarity at protests for Tibetans or Uyghurs. Despite Sweden’s famously open immigration policy, he was denied asylum and his subsequent appeal was rejected. When Safeguard Defenders (SafeguardDefenders.com), the NGO I run and that works extensively on these issues, last reported on the case, his deportation was imminent.
Since his initial rejection, more and more evidence has been forthcoming about the clampdown in Inner Mongolia and the thousands of people detained. Many of them are not activists, but regular people who simply want their kids to learn their own language in school. The protests that followed led to further deterioration. In some cases, not only are those who refuse to send their kids to school as a form of protest detained, the lawyers hired to represent them are also detained.
The situation does not yet appear to be as bad as the treatment the Uyghurs or Tibetans suffer, but the developments bear many similarities, and continued resistance against this attempt to wipe out Mongolian culture and language in the supposedly autonomous region of Inner Mongolia could lead to further repression.
It is against this backdrop and Baolige’s ever more public role as a leader in the small Swedish Inner Mongolian diaspora, that the Swedish migration board will start a new review of his case. As the decision says, the extensive reporting, internationally, as well as in key Swedish media, and his resistance to returning to China via “voluntary return” because Chinese police have already tried to have him returned by threatening his family back home, puts him in potentially significant danger. His case has even been raised in the Swedish parliament.
With a new hearing and in-depth review of the developments in Inner Mongolia, another group may be one step closer to gaining safe haven, thus throwing yet another wrench into the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) attempt to police, monitor, and forcibly return another group the CCP considers dangerous.
Peter Dahlin is the founder of the NGO Safeguard Defenders and the co-founder of the Beijing-based Chinese NGO China Action (2007–2016). He is the author of “Trial By Media,” and contributor to “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared.” He lived in Beijing from 2007, until detained and placed in a secret jail in 2016, subsequently deported and banned. Prior to living in China, he worked for the Swedish government with gender equality issues, and now lives in Madrid, Spain.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.