Chinese activist prevented from boarding a flight to Ecuador, planned to continue to the U.S.

Jul 19, 2023 | 1 comment

A prominent rights activist from the southern Chinese province of Guangzhou has been prevented from boarding a Qatar Airways flight from Bangkok to Ecuador, where he had hoped to take his family to claim political asylum in the United States.
Liang Songji, who has been repeatedly jailed by the Chinese authorities for his criticism of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said he had planned to take the July 13 flight to Ecuador but was prevented from checking in by airline staff.

“As soon as Qatar Airlines swiped my passport, they gave it straight back to me,” Liang said, adding that staff refused to check the family in, although they had the right tickets, visas, Covid-19 test certificates and evidence of hotel reservations for all three family members.

“The staff told me that this was due to a decision made at senior levels at Qatar. When they looked into it further, they said it was the Ecuadorian government’s decision not to allow the three of us to board.”

Liang said he is skeptical about the claim that his apparent travel ban came from the Ecuadorian foreign ministry, and has tried to meet with U.S. consular officials in Bangkok, given that he plans to claim political asylum in that country.

He said he had planned to “walk the line” from Ecuador northwards to Mexico overland, a route taken by a growing number of Chinese nationals fleeing their home country in what has been dubbed the “run” movement.

“Ecuador is a very hot route [for Chinese fleeing China] right now, because everyone travels north from there to get to the United States and Canada,” Liang said. “I’d figured that even if I ran out of money, we could stay in Ecuador.”

“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 said airline staff had refused to issue a refund for his family’s three tickets.

On Friday, he presented himself at the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, requesting an emergency meeting with a diplomat.
“They rejected my request,” said Liang, who arrived in Thailand last month, and whose Thai tourist visa expired on Saturday.

“I really don’t know what plans I can make now,” he said. “It’s impossible for me to return to China now.”

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