A Chinese exchange student who criticized President Xi Jinping in a Twitter livestream is now facing an uncertain future after losing contact with his parents and his access to money.
Li Jiabao, 21, a native of Shandong province, is currently in Taiwan on a short-term program at Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science, located in Tainan.
On a March 11 livestream titled “I Oppose,” Li criticized Xi’s removal of the two-year presidential term, arguing that the move brings China back to autocratic empires. He also claimed that the Chinese Communist Party “will soon come to an end.”
“China today is like one of those absurd and deplorable worlds British author George Orwell wrote about in his novels,” Li said. “In China, it is darker now than before the Xinhai Revolution.”
In an interview with Taiwan’s Central News Agency last week, Li revealed that he has not been in contact with his parents since his comments. The last message he received from his father was on March 14, in which he was asked to delete all “dissenting” posts and return to China immediately.
Additionally, Li has received a number of death threats, including one from a man named Chen Yun who allegedly wrote, “I am waiting to kill you piece of trash with my hands.” A screenshot shows Yun is a sales director from Jiangyin, Jiangsu province.
Li, who believes that his parents have been put under house arrest, managed to speak to a relative, who informed him that Chinese authorities had already opened a case against him. He was told that multiple agencies are handling the case, including intelligence, police and education, The Epoch Times reported.
Aside from losing contact with his parents, Li also found himself in financial trouble. Friends who reportedly attempted to wire him money were unable to do so as his Chinese mobile number was canceled.
“Money deposited by Li Jiabao in a Taiwan bank will only last until late April,” said Kuan An-lu, spokeswoman at the Straits Exchange Foundation in Taipei. She added that the organization will provide assistance when he needs it, according to Focus Taiwan.
Li has since expressed his desire to apply for asylum but Taiwan has no laws to process such a request from Chinese nationals. The 21-year-old’s case is also the first since Beijing allowed mainland students to study in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, an agency responsible for issues concerning China, said that it respects Li’s freedom of speech as the self-governing island is a democratic society. It also asked Beijing to stop intimidating his family members.
Unfortunately, Li’s future remains unclear. Fearing charges upon his return, he told CNA, “I don’t know what I am going to do.”