On July 13, Chinese rights activist Liang Songji attempted to board a flight from Bangkok via Qatar Airways, hoping to reach Ecuador where he and his family could make the journey north to find political asylum in the United States. However, his chances were swept away after he was denied exit from the Thai capital, a decision Songji believes was influenced by Chinese communist authorities.
Liang Songji has long been pursued by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and has been apprehended in the past for his non-violent opposition to the government’s repressive rule. He intended to “walk the line” from Ecuador to Mexico, part of the “run movement” where many Chinese nationals flee the mainland to find sanctuary in another country.
“As soon as Qatar Airlines swiped my passport, they gave it straight back to me,” Liang said, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). Despite his family having the “right tickets, visas, COVID-19 test certificates and evidence of hotel reservations,” they too were rejected.
He also said that the staff would not issue a refund for all three tickets for the family.
“The staff told me that this was due to a decision made at senior levels [in their company]. When they looked into it further, they said it was the Ecuadorian government’s decision not to allow the three of us to board.”
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However, Liang doubts that the travel ban came from the Ecuadorian foreign ministry. China and Ecuador have both agreed to allow each other’s nationals to travel without a visa.
“The real question is whether this really is coming from Ecuador — I think it probably isn’t,” he said. “It’s all over the internet that there is a visa-free entrance agreement between China and Ecuador.”
Liang has been trying to meet with U.S. consular officials in Bangkok, having requested a meeting in the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, but they have turned him down.
On July 15, his Thai tourist visa expired. Liang is now trapped abroad, unable to return home or escape to the United States.
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“I really don’t know what plans I can make now,” he said. “It’s impossible for me to return to China now.”
Liang Songji was arrested in November 2018 after witnessing the horrid strip-searching and beating of Sun Shihua, a rights attorney in Guangzhou, by police. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” which is a common charge levied against dissenters across China.
An anonymous associate said Liang has been trying to leave China since 2015.
“It wouldn’t be an issue if it was just him, he could apply for a United Nations refugee card like others have done, but there are three of them to think about,” the associate said.
Beijing has often been accused of colluding with political allies to expose dissidents and have them forced back to China. Numerous governments are conducting investigations into communist-run “service stations” on their soil operated by the Fujian provincial police department, that are suspected of placing pressure on Chinese expats to return to China.