San Francisco Chronicle

Activists assail China’s bid to seek return of dissident

- By Nomaan Merchant Nomaan Merchant is an Associated Press writer.

WASHINGTON — Attorneys are asking the Biden administra­tion to release from immigratio­n custody a Chinese democracy advocate who could be deported to his homeland to face what they say are false charges — despite the lack of an extraditio­n treaty between the United States and China.

Human rights advocates say this is one of a handful of cases in which China has used the Interpol “red notice” system to try to force the return of dissidents from the United States. Under the red notice system, a member country of the internatio­nal police consortium can ask other countries to arrest and return fugitives living abroad. It’s not clear how often, if ever, this tactic has resulted in the U.S. turning over detainees to Chinese authoritie­s.

The man was arrested in June and is being held in a U.S. Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t detention center. The Associated Press is withholdin­g the man’s name because a sibling still living in China has reported being threatened by government agents with criminal charges unless his brother returns to the country.

ICE says it arrested the man for overstayin­g his visa and has not commented on whether the Chinese charges led to his detention. But the man’s attorneys say China is exploiting the U.S. immigratio­n system to bypass American efforts to fight Beijing’s targeting of dissidents. The man and his family are seeking asylum in the U.S.

A red notice issued in January accuses the man of being the ringleader of a conspiracy to make illegal profits through a mining business and recruit former prisoners to attack a supposed enemy. The man’s advocates say other documents from China’s legal system show he is being framed for crimes that have already been linked to others.

“There are countries that abuse the Interpol red notice system, especially including China,” said John Sandweg, one of the man’s attorneys. Sandweg, a former acting director of ICE, said the agency risked being manipulate­d by red notices and becoming “a tool to continue the persecutio­n of lawabiding activists and dissidents.”

According to his attorneys, the man served as a village chief when Chinese authoritie­s sought to seize a friend’s home for a planned industrial park. The man says he allowed villagers to protest peacefully and helped the friend protest the central government directly.

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