Chinese dissident Zhang Xiangzhong (張向忠) on Friday said that he would seek political asylum in Taiwan.
Zhang was part of a tour group on an eight-day tour of Taiwan that arrived on Wednesday.
The Tourism Bureau yesterday said that it was told by the travel agency hosting the group that on Thursday Zhang left the hotel it booked for them and his whereabouts were unknown.
Zhang, 48, from Shandong Province, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia that he was jailed for three years after taking part in the “New Citizens’ Movement,” a group that calls for civic spirit based on freedom, justice and love.
Since being released in July last year, he has been under constant surveillance, Zhang said.
Zhang said he was inspired by Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), the wife of Taiwanese rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), when considering leaving the tour group and is to ask the government for political asylum.
Lee Ming-che, a former Democratic Progressive Party worker who is a staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei and a volunteer at non-governmental organization Covenants Watch, was detained in China after entering the city of Zhuhai from Macau on March 19.
Lee Ching-yu issued a public letter after the Chinese government annulled her “Taiwan Compatriot Travel Document” on Monday that prevented her from visiting China to search for her husband.
Zhang said he has been moved by Lee Ching-yu’s indomitable spirit and unwillingness to bow to Beijing.
Zhang later yesterday was quoted by the Central News Agency as saying that he has yet to receive word from the government, adding that he plans to visit the Mainland Affairs Council on Tuesday to seek political asylum.
Zhang said he has acquaintances in Taiwan to assist with arranging temporary living quarters and other affairs.
Meanwhile, the council yesterday said that Zhang’s whereabouts were not known, while the National Police Administration and the National Immigration Administration have been informed of Zhang’s actions.
The Tourism Bureau said that it has asked the travel agency to search for Zhang.
Travel agencies — which act as guarantors for visitors using their services — could face a fine of NT$100,000 if a Chinese tourist stays beyond their allotted time.
The Regulations Governing the Approval of People of the Mainland Area Visiting Taiwan for Purposes of Tourism (大陸地區人民來台從事觀光活動許可辦法) states that Chinese tourists can stay in Taiwan for a maximum of 15 days.