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Supporters of missing human-rights defender say he is being detained in China

A statement says that Dong Guangping is being held in the Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Centre
A Chinese flag, flanked by Canadian flags, is illuminated by sunshine in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Sept. 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Family and supporters of a missing Chinese human-rights defender with ties to Canada say they have credible word he has been imprisoned in China since October.

They said in a statement that Dong Guangping is being held by Chinese authorities in the Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Centre in Henan province, apparently without charge or pending trial.

The Toronto Association for Democracy in China and the Federation for a Democratic China are urging Chinese authorities to release Dong immediately and allow him to travel to Canada to be reunited with his family.

Until now, there had been no information about Dong’s fate since he was arrested last August by Vietnamese police.

Dong’s daughter Katherine, who lives in Toronto with her mother, said in November she feared her father had been handed over to Chinese authorities.

In the latest statement, she implored Chinese officials “to relent in their cruel pursuit of my father simply because he stands strong for human rights. I beg them to free him and allow him to join us here in Canada.”

Dong’s supporters say he was likely returned to China sometime in October.

“The circumstances of how that transpired remain unknown,” the statement said. “He has subsequently been held in China for over seven months without any acknowledgment by Chinese officials. He has had no access to family visits or communication and has had no contact with a lawyer.”

The Chinese Embassy had no immediate response Tuesday to questions about Dong.

Global Affairs Canada said in November that the federal government was deeply worried about Dong’s safety and well-being, and had been raising its concerns at the highest levels. It had no immediate comment on the latest development.

The association for democracy says Dong has been accepted for resettlement to Canada as a government-assisted refugee, but Ottawa was not able to persuade Vietnamese officials to allow him to travel to Canada.

He had been in hiding in Vietnam for 31 months while trying to make it to freedom.

Dong’s supporters say he was fired from his job as a police officer in China in 1999 because he signed a public letter related to the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

He was later imprisoned for three years on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Dong fled to Thailand in 2015 with his wife and daughter, who were resettled to Canada as refugees.

However, Thailand sent Dong back to China. After another stint in prison, he tried again to leave, finally making it to Vietnam in January 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press