'I fear the worst': Canada says missing father may be in Chinese custody for speaking out

OTTAWA - The missing daughter of a Chinese human rights defender pleaded with the Vietnamese and Chinese governments to reveal the whereabouts of her father and allow her to travel to Canada.

Dong Guangping, an activist who previously spoke out against China's efforts to erase the bloody results of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests, has "disappeared", according to his daughter.

Dong, a 64-year-old activist, was arrested on August 24 in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, where he had fled after being released from prison in China.

His daughter, Katherine Dong, is a Toronto university student and became a Canadian citizen last summer. The 22-year-old student has not heard from his father in more than 80 days and fears his father may have been turned over to Chinese authorities.

"He didn't want me to live in a country without human rights...He loved his family and he was a brave survivor," Katherine said Thursday at a news conference in Ottawa.

"I want to hold on to hope, but I fear the worst."

With him at the event were representatives from the Toronto Association for Democracy in China and the Federation for a Democratic China, as well as Alex Neve, former secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

The Association for Democracy said Dong Guangping had been granted asylum in Canada, but Ottawa was unable to persuade Vietnamese officials to allow him to leave the country.

Dong had been hiding in Vietnam for 31 months while trying to gain freedom.

According to Neve, the family had been informed that Dong's case had been raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly at recent international meetings with Southeast Asian leaders in Cambodia and at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

In a statement to CTV News, Global Affairs Canada said it is “deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr. Dong and has raised our concerns to the highest level. Officials are working to ensure its existence, including through diplomatic engagements with Vietnam and China."

Tensions between China and Canada flared up on camera during an interaction between the Prime Minister and Premier Xi Jinping, when the Chinese leader criticized Trudeau for allegedly "leaking" information about their discussions.


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

He was later jailed for three years on charges of "inciting subversion of state power."

“Dong Guangping, like other courageous activists in China, has refused to be quiet around Tiananmen. The Chinese government brutally suppressed any attempts, including those by relatives of murdered students to hold a memorial service for their deaths – let alone a more forceful campaign that insists the truth must be told,” said Neve, who is now a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa.


Dong fled to Thailand in 2015 with his wife and daughter, who were transferred to Canada as refugees, but he couldn't get out. Despite being designated a refugee by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Thailand sent Dong back to China where he was imprisoned for another three and a half years.

In 2019, Dong tried to escape again by swimming from China's east coast to an island under Taiwan control.

His daughter, Katherine, said her father swam for 12 hours before "he couldn't take it anymore" and was rescued by a Chinese fishing trawler.

In January 2020, the human rights activist fled a third time, and managed to cross the border into northern Vietnam. Katherine said while hiding in Hanoi, her father was moved from one safe house to another while the Canadian government worked behind the scenes to secure travel documents for him.

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