Activist from China escapes to South Korea on a jet ski

Activist from China escapes to South Korea on a jet ski
Bas van den Eijkhof on Unsplash (representational only)
Michelle De Pacina
August 22, 2023
Chinese rights activist Kwon Pyong was arrested in South Korea while attempting to escape across the Yellow Sea on a jet ski.  
Kwon’s escape: Kwon, 35, fled from Shandong province, China, on an 1800-cc jet ski towing five barrels of fuel, marking one of the more extreme escape attempts seen in modern times. Kwon had traveled about 186 miles using binoculars and a compass to navigate before encountering difficulties. According to South Korea’s coast guard, Kwon called for help after his jet ski got stuck in tidal flats near the western port city of Incheon’s cruise terminal. 
“He refilled the petrol on the ride and dumped the empty barrels into the sea,” the coast guard explained, according to BBC.
The activist was detained last Wednesday for attempting to “smuggle himself” into the city. Authorities said they found no sign that Kwon could be a spy.
About Kwon: Kwon, a critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping, had spent time in jail for subversion. His escape attempt reflects increased Chinese efforts to prevent activists from leaving through exit bans. Many Southeast Asia countries also no longer harbor asylum seekers, making it harder for dissidents to flee. 
Refugee status: According to Lee Dae-seon, a South Korea-based campaigner of NGO Dialogue China, Kwon is considering whether to apply for refugee status in South Korea, which only grants a handful of refugees asylum each year.
“While his means of entry into South Korea in violation of the law was wrong, surveillance of the Chinese authorities and political persecution of Kwon since 2016 are behind his life-risking crossing into South Korea,” Lee said. “He is now weighing whether to apply for refugee status in South Korea or choose a third country.”
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