Taipei (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who fights against forced abortions and sterilizations in China, arrived this morning in Taiwan for a "journey for freedom and human rights." The choice to visit the island - which Beijing considers a "renegade province" that needs to be brought back to the motherland - adds tension to an increasingly complicated diplomatic situation.
After 4 years in prison for his democratic struggles, in fact, on April 18, 2012 Chen fled from house arrest and, after a reckless journey, took refuge in the American Embassy in Beijing. Following threats of reprisals against his family, he agreed to leave the embassy and be hospitalized to treat a foot, injured during the escape.
Joined by his wife and his two sons, he asked to leave China and visit the United States "for a specified period of time." After a long stalemate, the Chinese government proposed a solution: Chen - declared a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - may apply to go abroad to study "like all Chinese citizens." Since then he has spent a year at New York University, but in recent days his doctorate ended and the university asked him to leave.
Upon arriving at the International Airport in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, Chen said he was "delighted" to be able to visit the island. Yang Sen-hong, president of the Chinese Association for Human Rights, added that "at least one university would be happy to have him as a visiting student. It is a journey made in the name of democracy and human rights."
Although Beijing has so far remained silent on this situation, it is likely to express a formal protest. However, relations with Taipei have much improved since nationalist president Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008: He has in fact launched a campaign to thaw ties across the Strait which led to the signing of several agreements - trade and diplomatic relations - between the two countries.