Taipei ready to review China activist's request for asylum

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

Local media reported that Mr Zhang Xiangzhong, whose whereabouts remain unknown, has said he will make an asylum request today with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's China policymaking body.

"If he submits a political asylum request, we're ready to review it," MAC chairman Chang Hsiao-yueh told legislators in a Parliament session. "It is too early to say if we will allow it... We're looking for him. He has not contacted any government agencies."

Mr Zhang, 48, is from Shandong province and was jailed for three years for participating in the New Citizens' Movement in China, reports said. He was released last year.

China 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.

Ms Chang said Taiwan does not offer political asylum to Chinese, but that it can offer "long-term stay", providing a visa to remain in Taiwan without officially calling it "asylum". She said the government will review any request with the immigration authorities.

Mr Zhang has said that a source of inspiration for his asylum request was the wife of Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-che, local media reported.

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

Mr Lee's detention and Mr Zhang's potential defection could further exacerbate Taiwan-China tensions. Relations have been strained since Ms Tsai Ing-wen, whose party has advocated independence for Taiwan, took office as President last year.

China deems Taiwan a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Taipei ready to review China activist's request for asylum'. Print Edition | Subscribe