Unspecified Borders: “Witnesses” and “Suspects”

Patrick Devillers, a French architect and reportedly a friend of the Bo Xilai / Gu Kailai family, has left Cambodia for China. Devillers had lived in Cambodia for five years, and was arrested by Cambodian police in June this year, reportedly at Beijing’s request, which was seeking his extradition. An extradition to China didn’t seem unlikely, as Cambodia had extradited 20 Uyghur asylum seekers to China in 2009.

According to a BBC report, Devillers boarded a plane to Shanghai on Tuesday night, of his own free will.  A spokesman for the Cambodian government had previously stated that Devillers would not be sent to China unless Beijing provided proof of some crime. He is wanted as a witness, news reports quote the Cambodian information minister.

In an unrelated case, and not as a witness, but apparently under suspicion of import tax evasion (or assistance in it), Nils Jennrich, a logistics employee from Northern Germany, is reportedly held in Beijing’s Prison Number 1, in a cell with twelve more inmates. A Chinese employee, Lydia Chu, is apparently also under arrest. Both of them were reportedly arrested on May 29. The logistics company specializes in the handling of objects of art.

The arrests were unusual, according to Der Tagesspiegel. A campaign against import tax evasion on imported works of art may be the background to the arrests. Jennrich’s German boss explained that a logistics company had to rely on the statements their customers made about the value of objects of art.

Imprisonment on remand may last up to seven months, according to Chinese law, writes Der Tagesspiegel.

In 2008, another Northern German, Harald Jürgs, was barred from leaving China – not under suspicion of an offense, but because of a business dispute. The need to stay in a country for such reasons isn’t exceptional. However, the circumstances in his case, too, appeared to be rather unusual, in that in that the prohibition to leave China had – reportedly – been issued unusally early after the civil action had been  made known to Jürgs, and in that the court which dealt with his case allegedly had no authority to deal with the case in the first place. Jürgs later managed to flee the country across an unspecified border.

German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told German daily Die Welt (Welt Kompakt) today that Jennrich’s conditions of detention didn’t correspond to international minimum standards.


2 Comments to “Unspecified Borders: “Witnesses” and “Suspects””

  1. This is SOP for resolving business disputes and/mounting hostile takeovers in the PRC and, at present about 12 Australians are in Chinese detention over biz conflicts. Of course, the gutless Australian Govt refuses to press the issue at the diplomatic level. I’m all for a bit of tit for tat….possibly rounding up a number of their industrial spies here and then doing a trade. A muscular response would get their attention, but hey, tubbyland is only a small part of the larger Australian Federation.


  2. I agree with you that politics and diplomacy are frequently spineless, KT – not just in the Australian states surrounding Tubbyland, but here, too. I’d like to add though that business people frequently want our governments to be spineless, and you can’t have it both ways. That, plus a rhetorical question: why should foreigners in China be better off than Chinese people?

    Chu and Jennrich are probably just pawns in that game, and I hope their calamities will be over soon. If the Chinese authorities were serious about combatting import tax evasion, they’d need to arrest quite different people – art collectors who know Wen Jiabao’s mobile number. But there, the snake would only bite its own tail.


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