Attorneys have asked the Biden administration for the release of a Chinese democracy advocate from immigration custody. He could face false charges and be deported back to China, despite there not being an extradition treaty.

Human rights activists claim that this is just one of the few instances in which China used Interpol’s “red notice” system to attempt to forcibly return dissidents to the United States. A member country can request other countries to arrest or return foreign fugitives under the red notice system. This tactic may have resulted in the U.S. handing over detainees to Chinese authorities, but it’s not known how often.

The man was detained in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in June. The Associated Press withheld the name of the man because a brother still living in China reported that he was threatened with criminal charges by government agents if he did not return to China.

ICE claims it arrested the man because he had overstayed his visa. It has not commented on whether Chinese charges were the reason for his detention. However, the man’s lawyers claim that China is using the U.S. immigration system in order to avoid American efforts to combat Beijing’s targeting dissidents. The man and his immediate relatives are seeking asylum in America.

In January, a red notice was issued accusing the man of leading a conspiracy to illegally profit from a mining company and to recruit ex-prisoners to attack an alleged enemy. Advocates for the man claim that other documents from China’s legal systems show that he is being framed for crimes already linked to others.

John Sandweg, one the man’s lawyers, stated that there are “countries that abuse the Interpol red notification system, especially China.” Sandweg, a former acting Director of ICE, stated that the agency was at risk of being manipulated through red notices and becoming “a tool for continuing the persecution of law abiding activist and dissidents.”

ICE claims that the man was arrested for not having valid visa upon entering the country in September. The agency didn’t answer questions about whether the red notice led to the arrest or how it would impact his case. The agency stated that in some cases, the interest of another U.S. law enforcement agency or an international agency “may inform the analysis” as to whether someone is deported and/or released.

Interpol and China’s Embassy in Washington did not respond to our requests for comment.

His attorneys claim that the man was a village chief who helped Chinese authorities seize the home of a friend to build an industrial park. According to the man, he let villagers protest peacefully and supported his friend in protesting the central government.

According to the man, he was held for 30 days in retaliation. He then fled to Hong Kong with his family. There, he participated in protests against Beijing’s tightening of control. He was afraid he would be detained again and fled to Hong Kong with his family last year, where he said they entered the United States on a visa that granted them six months of legal permission.

According to the man’s lawyers, he was first informed of the Interpol red note against him by an ICE attorney following an immigration court hearing. According to the red notice, he was arrested last August and could face a life sentence.

“ICE doesn’t know well that (an) Interpol Red Notice from China is highly politicized and not a reliable indicator of real criminal activity,” Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch.

China is determined to repatriate those it considers enemies of the Communist Party leadership. This includes people who are living in the United States as part of what American authorities claim are extralegal harassment and stalking campaigns.

Nine people were indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged involvement in Operation Fox Hunt, which was described by the Chinese government as an attempt to find corrupt officials and foreign criminals. Operation Fox Hunt was deemed “extralegal” by the Justice Department. It alleges that nine people were involved in “Operation Fox Hunt” and “conducted surveillance” of people who Beijing wanted to force them to return to China.

In 2016, Interpol was criticised after Meng Hongwei (a top Chinese official) was elected its president. This was in response to concerns that China might be more assertive.

Meng’s four year term was cut short in 2018. He disappeared while visiting China from France with his family.

Meng eventually returned to court to plead guilty and was sentenced for 13 years. His wife, who was granted asylum in France with their children, said that she believed Meng was the victim of political persecution.