Chen Siming, 60, commemorates the Tiananmen massacre in Hunan every year and has already been arrested for it. Threatened with internment in a psychiatric hospital in July, he escaped clandestinely to Laos and then to Thailand, countries that are no longer safe for Chinese dissidents. He applied for protection during a stopover in Taipei with a plane ticket to Guangzhou. Taiwan does not have a refugee law, more likely to accept the request from a third country.
Taiwan (AsiaNews) - The Chinese activist Chen Siming (陈思明) has arrived at Taiwan airport to ask for political asylum. Taiwanese authorities have contacted him and he is located in the transit travelers terminal at the airport.
Chen was detained by police for years for commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre. In July he fled to Laos and then to Thailand.
Upon arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Chen posted a video on Twitter, asking friends and activists to pay attention to his case, announcing his intention to seek asylum in the United States or Canada. He also urged Taiwanese authorities not to deport him.
Born in 1963, Chen is a veteran of human rights campaigns in Zhuzhou, Hunan province. Every year he commemorates the Tiananmen massacre. At the end of May this year he was arrested by the police for publishing an open letter about the June 4, 1989 massacre.
Shortly after he was released, the police threatened to identify him as a psychiatric patient. After police interrogation, he immediately took a flight to the southwestern province of Yunnan and entered Laos illegally.
Interning dissidents and petitioners in psychiatric hospitals is a common practice in China. Dong Yaoqiong, a lady also born in Zhuzhou, who smeared a poster of Xi Jinping in Shanghai with ink, was detained in a psychiatric hospital in Zhuzhou, and her father Dong Jianbiao died in prison in September of last year.
Southeast Asian countries are not safe havens under China's influence. There have been increasing instances this year of Beijing flexing its muscles in this region, where Chinese authorities are involved in direct actions to bring dissidents back to China.
Yang Zewei (杨泽伟), also known by his pseudonym Qiao Additionally, Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei (卢思位) was deported to China by the Laotian government this month. Lu was arrested by Laotian police in July before leaving for Thailand.
Chen Siming decided to move to Thailand after hearing the news from lawyer Lu Siwei. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok soon granted Chen refugee status.
However, Chen was told that his UN refugee status does not guarantee that he will not be arrested by Thai police and that there is still a risk of being sent back to immigration. Chen also told the media that his bank account in China was frozen after the Chinese authorities learned of his escape to Laos and that the "snakehead" - the gang that organizes illegal immigration - told him said that the Chinese police wanted to take him back.
Thai media also reported that some dissidents and Uyghurs were deported to China, despite facing torture and abuse. That's why Chen said he stayed indoors while he was in Thailand, out of fear of the police. Finally, on September 21 he purchased a ticket to Guangzhou from Bangkok via Taipei and requested asylum upon his arrival in Taipei.
Taiwan has no refugee law and only a few people have been accepted by Taiwanese authorities as special cases. Most asylum seekers have to wait to be accepted by a third country.