A Chinese dissident has taken refuge at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport amid growing fears of persecution from Chinese authorities.
Desperate escape: Chen Siming, known for commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre at his home each year, felt compelled to flee his homeland after reportedly being harassed by local authorities and receiving a chilling call from them on July 21 urging him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
After spending several hours at the police station, the 60-year-old activist traveled across China, crossing the southern border into the Laos mountains. He crossed the Mekong River and by early August, reached Thailand, where he registered as a refugee with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
About the Tiananmen Square massacre:
The event, which involved the violent crackdown by the Chinese government on pro-democracy protesters, remains a taboo subject in China primarily because of the political threat it poses to the Chinese Communist Party
‘s narrative and control. Chen has reportedly been detained repeatedly whenever the anniversary approaches.
Stranded in Taiwan: Chen’s perilous journey ultimately led him to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, where he arrived from Thailand on Sept. 22. He was on a layover to Guangzhou but refused to board the second flight and declined requests to return to Thailand. He is committed to staying at the airport until he secures asylum in the United States or Canada.
“To avoid the political oppression of the Chinese Communist Party, I have now come to Taiwan,” said in a video uploaded to X on Sept. 22, according to CNN. “I hope to receive political asylum from the US or Canada. I ask friends to call on the Taiwanese government to not send me back to China.”
“I am forced to be illegally stranded here,” he added in the caption.
Taiwan’s refugee policy challenge: Taiwan, while a self-governing democracy, lacks a formal refugee policy, posing a challenge in Chen’s pursuit of asylum there. According to the U.S. State Department, Taiwan’s unique political status prevents it from becoming a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
According to Chen, Taiwan’s immigration authorities and the Mainland Affairs Council briefly held him for questioning following his post. The council released a statement to CNN noting that the government is “currently working on it, and is not able to share relevant details.”