A Chinese man seeking “freedom and equality” has said he traveled undetected to Taiwan by boat through the heavily patrolled Taiwan Strait, according to authorities.
Taichung port police officers detained the man, surnamed Zhou, after receiving reports of a man behaving suspiciously near the docks. A police spokesman said Zhou told officers that he had traveled from Quanzhou in Fujian province, in a 2.6-meter-long rubber boat that he had bought online, powered by an outboard motor.
The 180-kilometer journey took about 10 hours, they said, through the highly militarized Taiwan Strait, which is patrolled by Taiwanese and Chinese authorities.
In a video of the arrest posted online, police officers can be heard asking Zhou “did you come for freedom?” Zhou replies, “Yes, I came by boat.”
“Taiwan has more freedom and equality,” he said.
When asked if life in China is bad, Zhou said he believed that life in China “is very bad.” Zhou told officials that he had not committed any crime in China.
Taiwan does not have a formal process for asylum seekers, but deals with people on a case-by-case basis. The lack of specific refugee laws amid Taiwan’s tangle of visa rules is a growing concern among local human rights groups, particularly as people seek to break out of authoritarian repression in nearby Hong Kong. A resettlement assistance program for Hong Kong residents legally traveling to Taiwan has raised concerns about uneven access and a lack of transparency or oversight.
Taiwan has amended laws to decriminalize the act of arriving illegally to seek political asylum, but it does not have a dedicated refugee program, case review process, or streamlined support service in Taiwan. Amnesty International has described other asylum seekers caught in the trap 22, unable to work without official status but unable to obtain official status without employment.
Opposition political parties have pushed through various proposals for a specific refugee law, but the issue has been clouded by concerns about the possibility of Chinese infiltrators exploiting any programs.
Taiwan is an autonomous democracy, but it is increasingly threatened by the People’s Republic of China. The ruling Communist Party of China has never ruled Taiwan, but claims it as a province and has not ruled out “unification” by force.
The military build-up along the coast of the Taiwan Strait and the increase in drills and air force incursions by the PLA into the Taiwan Air Identification Zone and across the unofficial “middle line” of the strait they have increased the likelihood of confrontation. Taiwan has increased its arms purchases from the United States and lobbied for greater international assistance to protect itself from the threat.
Defense leaders were quick to dismiss concerns that Zhou’s trip would reveal holes in national security and suggested that the ship was likely too small to be detected by military radars.
“The maritime patrol agency radars could see it, but shore-mounted naval radars cannot see that target,” said Vice Admiral Chiang Cheng-kuo, who also expressed some doubts about the man’s story because of the fuel. limitations.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the “deficiencies” could “be remedied.”
Cai Shiying, a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, told local media that conditions in the strait are milder in spring and autumn and that vessels less than three meters in length are generally “filtered as general noise” by surveillance. Cai added that there were some contradictions in the man’s story, but did not elaborate.
Taichung police said Zhou was examined by disease control units for a fever, before they transferred him to investigators on suspicion of violating national security and immigration laws, which could bring jail time. and deportation back to China. He was under a 14-day quarantine and was in good health, the coast guard said.
Crossings from China to Taiwan are a rare event.
Last year, 12 Hong Kong activists were intercepted less than 100 kilometers from Hong Kong Island by the Chinese coast guard. The group, most of whom faced charges related to the protests, were attempting to flee to Taiwan, but were arrested in China and convicted of illegally crossing borders.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism