The Mainland Affairs Council yesterday said its priority is ascertaining the truth behind Chinese dissident Zhang Xiangzhong’s (張向忠) defection to Taiwan before considering how to process his possible request for political asylum.
On the sidelines of a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee in Taipei, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Katharine Chang (張小月) said so far she has only seen news reports about Zhang’s alleged intention to seek political asylum in Taiwan, but he has yet to make contact with any government agencies.
“As the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) does not cover political asylum requests, we normally grant the status of ‘special case of long-term residency’ to Chinese citizens with different political stances,” Chang said.
Should Zhang file a formal request for political asylum with the Ministry of the Interior’s National Immigration Agency, the government would place Zhang under the care of non-governmental organizations while it seeks to ascertain the truth and discuss the issue with concerned agencies, Chang said.
However, Chang said that it is early to say if Zhang would receive “special case of long-term residency” status.
Zhang’s case drew public attention after Radio Free Asia on Friday published an interview with him on its Web site.
The 48-year-old resident of China’s Shandong Province said he was jailed for three years for participating in a movement calling for civic spirit.
Zhang said he decided to abandon an eight-day tour of Taiwan last week after being inspired by Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), who has exhausted all efforts to secure the release of her husband, Taiwanese rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲).
Lee Ming-che was detained after he entered China on March 19 over “activities that threaten China’s national security.”
Due to the suspicious timing of Zhang’s defection, several lawmakers yesterday voiced concerns over his case.
People First Party Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) asked if a conspiracy might be involved given that tensions across the Taiwan Strait have increased since Lee Ming-che’s detention.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said it is “bizarre and suspicious” that Beijing would allow a Chinese dissident who has served time in jail to travel to Taiwan, particularly at such a “sensitive time.”
Chao said since Zhang has not contacted any government agencies, he might have been sent by the Chinese government to disrupt Taiwan’s efforts to rescue Lee Ming-che.
Chang said the council would separate the two cases, adding that it has notified Beijing about Zhang’s violation of regulations governing tourist visits, in accordance with a 2008 cross-strait agreement.