Chinese activist returns voluntarily says Taiwan

Access to the comments Comments
By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Chinese activist returns voluntarily says Taiwan

Taiwan says a Chinese activist has voluntarily flown back to China, averting a potential diplomatic tussle.

Taiwanese authorities say that Zhang Xiangzhong met immigration officials reviewing his case and decided it would be the “best solution” to return to China on Wednesday.

What happened?

Taiwan’s immigration authorities say Zhang was picked up on the street on Monday evening.

His whereabouts had been unknown since he left his tour group last week, according to National Immigration Agency officials.

Did he make a formal request?

Officials have not said.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council says they are open to any request.

“He left his group without notice. From the perspective of our tourism regulation, the immigration authorities absolutely have the authority to apprehend him,” MAC vice-chairman Chiu Chui-cheng told reporters.

“If he intentionally overstays in Taiwan, the immigration authorities can deport him after an investigation.”

“We can send him back, according to the tourism agreement between both sides.”

Wary of provoking Beijing’s anger, Taiwan does not officially offer asylum to Chinese nationals, but it occasionally allows “long term” stays for political refugees.

There are currently ten such cases in Taiwan.

Who is Zhang Xiangzhong?

According to media reports, he was released from prison in 2016 after a three-year sentence related to his involvement in the New Citizens’ Movement in China.

The group advocates working within the system to press for change and clean up corruption.

Zhang, from Shandong province, says the source of inspiration for his asylum request is the wife of Taiwanese activist Li Ming-che.

She has been attempting to free her husband who is currently held by China on suspicion of activities harmful to national security.

Are defections a common occurrence?

No. Defections from China to Taiwan are fairly infrequent.

Beijing keeps a tight control on dissidents leaving the country and few would risk a crossing by sea over the heavily-patrolled strait dividing the mainland from the island.

China and Taiwan – what’s the story?

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists.

China regards Taiwan as a wayward province. Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island back under its control.

Proudly-democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

However, cross-straits investment has flourished since a thaw began in the 1980s.

Relations ran into problems last year after the Democratic Progressive Party was elected – it espouses formal independence from China.