Chinese dissident Wuer Kaixi is a man who is as good as his word.
On Monday last week, he flew to the Hong Kong International Airport to turn himself in to the authorities, hoping that the Hong Kong government could deliver him to Chinese authorities to end his 24-year exile.
By doing so, he could be punished for the crimes of “conspiracy to overthrow the government” and “agitating anti-revolution” during the 1989 democracy movement. As expected, Hong Kong sent him back to Taiwan on the same plane.
Wuer Kaixi, who married a Taiwanese woman and took up residence here, has repeatedly said that he intends to return to China to give himself up to the police.
In October, I invited him to give a speech, entitled “Gazing at Freedom” (凝視自由), at National Chung Hsing University where I teach.
In his speech, he talked about how his generation, which was longing for liberalism, reacted to the unprecedented changes that were taking place in China at the time, the carrot-and-stick approach of the Chinese Communist Party, the enthusiastic support from Beijing residents, the ruthless military crackdown and massacre and his years in exile.
When asked about his plans, he said without hesitation that he would try to return to China to turn himself in — on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre next year or perhaps even earlier.
Hong Kong offered support and assistance to the student protesters during the 1989 democracy movement, and some Hong Kongers launched “Operation Yellowbird” (黃雀行動) following the massacre to secretly help Chinese dissidents flee China.
Furthermore, every year on June 4 Hong Kongers organize memorial events at Victoria Park to mark the 1989 massacre.
However, the territory, or rather its government, is becoming increasingly conservative.
When the Hong Kong government sent Wuer Kaixi back to Taiwan, I was reminded of my own experiences in the territory.
Invited by the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute, I boarded the Peace Boat with my Taiwanese passport and departed from Yokohama in Japan for Hong Kong.
When the more than 700 passengers arrived, I was the only one who was detained by the customs officials.
My foreign friends then realized that Taiwanese need a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents (台胞證) to enter Hong Kong and they kept asking me if I had another passport.
Since customs officers could not issue visas at the port, they delivered me to the airport and sent me back to Taiwan.
I could only laugh to myself and say that I would lose one day of shopping, but I was unable to answer my curious friends’ question about why the Hong Kong government did not treat travelers with Taiwanese passports fairly.
Wuer Kaixi is a pacifist, and he does not recognize the violent means adopted by the pro-Xinjiang independence forces.
As a student at Beijing Normal University, he stepped up to the student speaker podium at a significant moment in time and somehow became the leader of the student movement.
Now he wants to return to China to turn himself in to the authorities.
What reason can Beijing give for keeping this middle-aged Uighur from going home after 24 years in exile?
Chen Chien-fu is the coordinator of Monitoring Internet Video on Demand for Citizen’s Congress Watch.
Translated by Eddy Chang