Chinese political cartoonist Jiang Yefei is serving a sentence of six years and six months in prison on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” and “illegally crossing a national border.” Thai authorities extradited Jiang to China in November 2015, where he was then held in pretrial detention for two years and eight months.
Jiang was repatriated from Thailand alongside a Chinese activist, Dong Guangping, and detained by Chinese authorities on November 13, 2015, on suspicion of "assisting others to illegally cross the national border," according to the state news agency Xinhua.
In May 2016, police in Chongqing, in southwestern China, added the accusation of "inciting subversion of state power," according to the Ireland-based rights group Front Line Defenders.
Jiang, who is also an activist, fled to Thailand in 2008 after being harassed by Chinese authorities, according to Human Rights Watch. The cartoonist was detained twice that year after giving interviews to the international press in which he criticized the government’s handling of the Sichuan earthquake, according to Radio Free Asia. Jiang was granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and had been accepted for resettlement by Canada, according to Human Rights Watch and news reports.
While in Thailand, Jiang used his social media accounts and articles published on the overseas Chinese-language news website Boxun to continue to speak publicly against China’s human rights record and other policies. Jiang’s wife, Chu Ling, told CPJ that starting in 2014, Jiang published political cartoons on his Facebook and Google+ page, and in 2015, he published a series of cartoons on Boxun.
Chu told CPJ that in 2015, as her husband’s cartoons became more popular, she and Jiang received several anonymous phone calls from China demanding Jiang stop drawing. Chinese authorities also threatened Jiang’s brother in China, asking him to tell his brother to stop drawing, Chu said.
In October 2015, Jiang was arrested by Thai authorities for allegedly breaking immigration rules by helping Dong come to Thailand, according to reports. Dong had spent 10 months in a Chinese jail for participating in a commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre before being released in February 2015, according to the BBC. On November 13, 2015, the Thai government deported Jiang and Dong to China, despite objections raised by human rights organizations and the Canadian government, which had accepted their applications for asylum, according to news reports.
On November 26, 2015, Jiang appeared on the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, dressed in prison clothes, and confessed to human smuggling. He said he regretted his actions and pleaded for leniency. According to Chu, from the footage, Jiang looked as if he was in pain. "It was obvious to me that he had been beaten. A friend who was imprisoned for 13 years told me that from his experience in jail, it was clear to him that my husband was tortured," Chu told CPJ. CPJ was unable to independently verify her allegation.
In November 2017, Chu told CPJ that Jiang and Dong were secretly transferred from the No. 2 Detention Center to the Nan’an District Detention Center in Chongqing. Authorities did not tell their families about the transfer until the families tried to send money to them.
On July 13, 2018, a court in Chongqing secretly tried Jiang and sentenced him to six years and six months in prison on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” and “illegally crossing a national border,” according to news reports.
In September 2018, Chu told CPJ that Jiang’s family had not received any notice of Jiang’s sentencing, and that none of Jiang’s family members were present at the court. On September 17, Chu published an appeal urging the Canadian government, the United Nations, and international human rights organizations to pressure the Chinese government to release Jiang.
As of late 2021, Jiang was being held at the Yudu Prison in Chongqing, according to Chinese human rights website China Political Prisoner Concern. Chu told CPJ in 2019 that Jiang had been abused in prison and had lost the sight in his left eye. When CPJ messaged Chu again in 2021, she did not respond.
In September 2021, CPJ called the number listed on the Chongqing People’s Procuratorate website, but no one answered. As of September 2021, CPJ could not determine Jiang’s health or status.