The forced deportation of asylum seeker Wei Lin was halted by passengers on a commercial airline in Sydney, Australia, on 19 December.
Protester Stephanie O’Donnell told Socialist Worker, “We were just seven ordinary people, but little things can make a difference.
“People in situations like that need to realise they can do something.
“I didn’t know anything about the deportation until we were checking in our bags and were given a flyer by the Refugee Action Coalition.”
Wei had applied for asylum in Australia and was being deported after he was turned down. He was accompanied by four guards from international security firm Serco.
Stephanie explained what happened on the plane. “We were getting settled when Wei ran down the aisle with two security guards chasing him.
“As they dragged him back to where they were sitting in the back row he held up his hands to show he was handcuffed.”
Wei had also been masked but had moved it down to be around his neck. Stephanie said, “Wei said, ‘This is how they treat people’.
“Quite a few passengers stood up and talked to the Air China staff. I said I didn’t want to be on a plane where someone was being deported forcibly.
“Someone from the government got on to try and reassure us. But then she got off and the doors were secured and the plane started to taxi to the runway.
“One by one people sat down. But seven of us kept on standing and saying we weren’t happy.
Eventually the pilot decided to return to the gate. We were told that if we weren’t happy we could get off the plane.
“But then they announced that it was Wei who was getting off. As the guards dragged him off he shouted his thanks.”
Wei is now going through a new set of legal moves to win asylum.