Chinese state media say the 16-year-old son of a detained rights lawyer was coerced into joining a plot to illegally migrate, although activists say the boy was trying to escape from house arrest within China.

Bao Mengmeng is the son of rights lawyer Wang Yu and legal activist Bao Longjun, who were detained in July in a sweeping crackdown on civil society.

The boy was returned to his grandmother's home in Inner Mongolia on Monday after he and two activists were taken away from a hotel in northern Myanmar on their way to the United States.

On Thursday, the state-run Global Times, quoting unnamed police sources, said an illegal immigration ring hostile to China arranged for Bao's escape but that the plot was thwarted by Chinese police.