The wife of a Chinese editor who recently went missing was summoned by Chinese officials for questioning Tuesday, just minutes before she was scheduled to discuss her husband's case live on international television.
He Fangmei said Friday that she last spoke to her husband, Li Xin, former opinion editor for the liberal-leaning Southern Metropolis Daily, on January 11 when he was riding a train in Thailand.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Li told international media last November that he fled China after being forced to work for years as an informant for the State Security Department on the activities of intellectuals, nongovernmental organizations and rights activists.
His wife said Li was planning to seek asylum in Thailand, where, she feared, the journalist was abducted by Chinese security forces. According toThe New York Times, "acceleration of deportations to China from Thailand began" in 2015 as Bangkok officials sought economic and political support from Beijing.
Li's supporters say he is just the latest defiant Chinese citizen to be clandestinely transported across the border.
On Tuesday, Ms. He told VOA's Mandarin service that her husband had left her with a cellphone containing the contact numbers of two security agents who often gave her husband orders, but they never answered her phone calls or responded to messages.
“They may have feared that I would reveal their names and phone numbers and other information concerning their identity,” Ms. He said just after agreeing to discuss Li’s disappearance live on VOA Mandarin service television.
Less than an hour before her scheduled air time, she was summoned to a local police station. According to Spanish news service EFE, Ms. He's personal cellphone was confiscated during the detention.
After being released by Chinese officials, He contacted VOA by email to apologize for her inability to be available for the televised interview.
Thai probe urged
Ms. He had said earlier that Thai police refused to discuss her husband's disappearance and asked her to contact the Chinese Embassy in Thailand.
“Thailand and China are kicking the ball back and forth,” she told VOA’s Mandarin service. “I had hoped that Thai police will tell me what had happened. But they refused to help, saying I should ask the Chinese Embassy for help.”
The United States has called on Thai authorities to look into Li's case and that of other missing Chinese nationals.
“We urge Thai authorities to investigate this disappearance and provide any information they may have of Mr. Li's whereabouts to his family,” a U.S. State Department official who asked not to be named told VOA on Tuesday, echoing officials who have expressed concern about reports that Chinese journalists are under pressure from authorities.
"We will not be silent when human rights are violated," Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, said last week.
The Chinese government insists it protects the rights of Chinese citizens and respects media freedom.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA Mandarin service correspondent Shen Hua and VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching.