Chinese Democracy Activist Says Was Mistaken About Taiwan Asylum Case

2015-08-26
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Rights activist Gong Yujian (R) and former Tiananmen student leader Wu'er Kaixi (L) meet in Taiwan in an undated photo.
Rights activist Gong Yujian (R) and former Tiananmen student leader Wu'er Kaixi (L) meet in Taiwan in an undated photo.
(Photo courtesy of Gong Yujian)

UPDATED at 2:43 P.M. EST on 27-08-2015

A Chinese dissident who had said that Taiwan had rejected his an application for asylum on the democratic island told RFA on Thursday he was mistaken about the status of his case, after Taipei authorities said they never received such a request from the activist.

Gong Yujian, who served time in a labor camp in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, failed to board his return flight across the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, citing constant harassment by the authorities under a nationwide crackdown on critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping.

In an interview with RFA on Wednesday, Gong, 38, said the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in Taiwan had rejected his application for political asylum and that he faced  imminent deportation from Taiwan. He said he was told that he was too obscure a figure to be considered for asylum and that his documents were inadequate.

The MAC, however, later denied they had received any paperwork from Gong or his supporters in a Taiwan-based human rights group.

"It is understood that the case, Mr. Gong has not yet submitted an application for permanent residence in Taiwan to the National Immigration Agency of the Ministry of Interior Service. Therefore, NIA or the council has so far not received background information on the case of Gong," the council told RFA's Mandarin Service in a statement.

"Of course it is unlikely, as a (RFA) report alleged, that the MAC rejected Gong’s application because Mr. Gong is an unknown little figure and the authenticity of his documents is in question,” the council added.

Gong later told RFA that "poor communication" between him and Taiwan Human Rights Association had led to the misunderstanding.

"On this point I want to solemnly apologize to the MAC. It is because Taiwan Human Rights Association called me, and they also clarified that these are not the MAC's stance," he said.

Gong added that he had told RFA on Wednesday "that according to the information I received, the MAC probably had explicitly rejected my application. But at that time I also emphasized that I didn't have direct contact with MAC, and it was through some enthusiastic people who have been helping me to get this message."

Continuing persecution

Gong arrived in Taiwan on a tourist visa on July 22 and decided not to board his return flight with his fellow travelers on Aug. 6, citing continuing persecution at the hands of the authorities.

It was not immediately clear what options Gong now has for avoiding repatriation to China, which is in the midst of a sweeping roundup of human rights defenders and democracy activists.

He had previously served two years' "re-education through labor" in 1994 for "counterrevolutionary crimes" after he wrote graffiti supporting the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Gong said that one of his aims in leaving China was to ensure that the military crackdown on the weeks-long student-led democracy movement in 1989 would never be forgotten.

"There must be a reappraisal of June 4,” he said. “The blood of June 4 can't have been shed in vain."

"Mainland China should definitely implement democracy, because that's the only way to really ensure its development, the only way that there is hope for world peace," he said.

Home to political refugees

Gong, who was 12 at the time of the 1989 student protests, was sent to labor camp five years later for scrawling the words "Down with Deng Xiaoping" on the windows of a truck used as part of a security cordon in his hometown during the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

His charge sheet also mentioned his leafleting activities, the blockage of a bridge with a bus, and his habit of listen to overseas radio broadcasts, Gong said.

Taiwan is currently home to some 10 political refugees from China, including former student leader Wu'er Kaixi, but has historically handled asylum requests on a case-by-case basis.

In 2006, a mainland Chinese pro-democracy activist jumped overboard from a tour boat sailing near the Taiwanese-held island of Quemoy, or Kinmen, and swam to Taiwan to request political asylum.

Yan Jun, 32, from the northern city of Xian had been jailed for two years in 2003 for criticizing the government and demanding that mainland authorities rehabilitate students purged after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Taiwan had been governed separately from mainland China during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945) and ever since the KMT nationalist regime fled to the island after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland in 1949.

Many of the democratic island's 23 million residents identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and there is broad political support for de facto self-rule, if not formal independence.

Beijing, which sees the island as a renegade province awaiting reunification, has threatened to use military force, should Taiwan seek independent statehood.

Reported by Ka Pa and Wei Ling for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Xia Xiaohua for RFA's Mandarin Srevice. Translated by Luisetta Mudie and Ping Chen.

CORRECTION: The previous version quoted Gong as saying it was certain that Taiwan had rejected his asylum request. He revised his account, and apologized to Taiwan authorities, when he learned that no formal asylum application had been submitted.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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