Sat, Aug 04, 2012 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: German activist detained by China on way to Taiwan

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Taiwanese students studying in the UK hold up their phones with Tiawan’s national flag at Heathrow Airport to welcome Taiwan’s olympics.

Although President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has repeatedly stated that his cross-strait policies have led to better Taiwan-China ties, a German activist for the Tibetan cause has observed that it is not being done on an equal basis and is instead eroding Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Despite Ma’s policies, such as declaring a “diplomatic ceasefire” and the handling of cross-strait relations according to the so-called “1992 consensus,” Beijing never seems to stop violating Taiwan’s sovereignty said David Demes, a German student who has been active in the Free Tibet movement.

The “1992 consensus” refers to an alleged consensus reached between Chinese and Taiwanese negotiators during talks in Hong Kong in 1992 that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) affirms the “1992 consensus,” while the Democratic Progressive Party denies its existence.

Last week, Taiwanese were upset after China pressured London’s Regent Street Association to take down the Taiwanese flag hanging in the busy city-center location among the flags of all the other nations taking part in the Olympic Games. The flag was replaced with the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee flag.

Just about the same time, Demes, was deported after he made a brief stop at Beijing Capital International Airport on his way from Frankfurt to Taipei. A Chinese immigration officer told him he would be deported because Taiwan was a province of China and he was not permitted to set foot on Chinese soil.

“I took language lessons in Taiwan years ago, I liked it here a lot and have always wanted to come back,” Demes said in an interview with the Taipei Times in Taipei yesterday — partly in English and partly in Mandarin.

“I took an Air China flight from Frankfurt to Taipei, with a stop in Beijing, because it’s the cheapest flight available,” he said.

He said when he arrived in Beijing on July 22, he expected to be questioned because he was deported once from China after taking part in a pro-Tibet demonstration in Tiananmen Square in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, but he had not expected such drama, especially since he was only making a transfer and did not intend to enter China.

“When I was in line, waiting to pass through immigration, a Chinese immigration officer came to me, asked for my passport, looked through it, gave it back to me and then returned to the inspection desk,” Demes said.

When it was time for him to pass through immigration, he was taken to a separate room and officers searched his belongings, he said.

Demes said he was kept in the tiny, windowless room for eight hours. During that time, he asked to call the German embassy in Beijing, but the Chinese officer rejected his request, telling him the embassy would only confirm whether he was humanely treated and whether he was provided with food and water, but would not intervene, so there was no need to call.

“I was very frustrated because I wanted to come to Taiwan so badly,” he said.

Finally, a female immigration officer who spoke German arrived and provided him with two options.

“She said: ‘We can send you back to Frankfurt on the same flight, or any other flight that goes close to Hamburg or Paris,’” Demes said. “I kept arguing, asking her: ‘Why can’t you send me to Taipei? What’s the difference if you put me on a flight to Frankfurt or to Taipei?’”

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