Mainland asylum seeker Zhang Xiangzhong agrees to return home from Taiwan

Taipei says that as Zhang was free to leave and enter mainland, he did not qualify for long term residence on the island

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2017, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2017, 11:40pm

Taiwan said yesterday that a mainland activist who tried to seek political asylum on the island had voluntarily returned home, ending a dilemma for Taiwanese authorities over how to deal with the case.

Zhang Xiangzhong, 48, from Shandong province, was released last year after spending three years in jail on the mainland for his involvement in the New Citizens’ Movement.

Chinese asylum seeker detained in Taiwan

He left the island yesterday morning along with the tour group he had joined, Taiwanese authorities said.

“After we talked with Zhang and explained to him about the situation, he fully understood what we had told him and agreed to leave Taiwan along with his tour group at the end of their trip in line with the regulations stipulated by the cross-strait travel agreement,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said.

The council, which is responsible for cross-strait matters, said that after carefully reviewing his case it determined Zhang did not meet the requirements for long-term residency in Taiwan.

Zhang arrived in Taiwan on April 12 as part of a tour group on an eight-day visit but left the group the next day. He was apprehended at a friend’s place in New Taipei City by immigration officials on Monday night. He then applied for political asylum in Taiwan, according to the island’s National Immigration Agency.

The agency said there was no political asylum law in Taiwan and political refugees from the mainland could not be granted sanctuary on the island. But Taiwan may still grant “long-term residence to some mainland people on a case-by-case basis, it said.

On the same day as Zhang was apprehended, another mainland citizen, identified as Xu Dahui, a member of the Chicago-based Chinese-American Alliance for China’s Peaceful Reunification, took his wife and two children to the council to try to seek asylum in Taiwan, according to council leader Katharine Chang.

“Xu and his family have American residence status and are free to go anywhere,” Chang said, adding Xu had travelled to Taiwan several times before and thus his case was rejected immediately.

Wife of detained Taiwanese activist barred from boarding flight to mainland China

Zhang’s case came weeks after Taiwanese human rights activist Li Ming-che was detained on national security grounds when he visited Zhuhai in Guangdong province on March 19. Li’s whereabouts remain unknown.