Taiwan ready to review mainland China activist’s asylum request

Activist has not been seen since leaving his tour group last week

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 10:17pm

Taiwan said on Monday it was prepared to review a petition for asylum from a mainland Chinese activist who left his tour group in Taiwan without notice last week.

Local media reported on Sunday that Zhang Xiangzhong, whose whereabouts remain unknown, said he would make an asylum request on Tuesday with the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s cross-strait policy-making body.

“If he submits a political asylum request, we’re ready to review it,” council chairwoman Chang Hsiao-yueh told legislators in a parliamentary session.

“It is too early to say if we will allow it ... We’re looking for him. He has not contacted any government agencies.”

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Zhang, 48, is from Shandong province and was jailed for three years for participating in the New Citizens’ Movement on the mainland, the reports said. He was released in 2016.

Beijing has jailed several people for involvement in the group, which advocates working within the system to press for change, including urging officials to reveal their assets.

Chang said Taiwan does not offer political asylum to mainlanders, but that Taiwan can offer “long-term stay”, providing a visa to remain in Taiwan without officially calling it “asylum”. Chang said the government would review any request with the immigration authorities.

Zhang has said that a source of inspiration for his asylum request was the wife of Taiwanese activist Li Ming-che, local media reported. She has been attempting to free her husband who is currently being detained on the mainland on suspicion of activities harmful to national security.

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Li’s detention and Zhang’s potential defection could further exacerbate tensions between Taiwan and the mainland. Relations have been strained since Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan, which it deems a breakaway province, under its control.