Chinese dissident Tang Yuanjun (唐元雋) departed for New York on Friday after the US agreed to offer him political asylum, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.
"The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has agreed to grant him political asylum," said MOFA spokeswoman Katharine Chang (張小月).
Tang, a 45-year-old automobile technician, told authorities that he paid a fishing boat to bring him close to Tatan islet off Kinmen before swimming to the islet on the morning of Oct. 15.
Tang immediately surrendered to soldiers on Tatan and told them he wanted to defect.
The military sent him to the Kinmen Prosecutors' Office for investigation. He has since been detained at a secret military location.
Tang's request for asylum was complicated by Taiwan's lack of an asylum law despite demands from local human rights groups for the government to handle his request on humanitarian grounds.
Tang's identity as a Tiananmen Square dissident was confirmed by other dissidents who were there, such as Wang Dan (王丹) and Feng Tsung-te (封從德), and from photographic evidence, according to human rights lawyer Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正). Lin, president of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, visited Tang in October.
Wang and Feng were student leaders of the Chinese democracy movement that was crushed in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Records show that Tang was in prison for 12 years for his involvement in the 1989 student demonstrations. After being released, Tang was thrown back in jail for organizing the Chinese Democracy Party.
Earlier this month, the Kinmen Prosecutor's Office announced that Tang would not be prosecuted for entering Taiwan illegally, paving the way for his departure for the US after he made it known to authorities he wanted to settle there.
"He will temporarily stay in New York, while Taiwan's overseas representative offices in the US will try their best to assist him in every possible way," Chang said.
"In view of humanitarian concerns and universal values of freedom and human rights, the government, respecting Mr. Tang's wish, has coordinated with various agencies before getting in touch with the AIT," a MOFA press release detailing the situation said.
"The US has given its consent and is willing to help Tang settle in the US," it added.