Chinese dissident disappears in Taiwan

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Originally published by Taiwan News on April 15, 2017

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A Chinese activist once detained in his country for “causing social disorder” disappeared the day after he arrived in Taiwan with a tour group, reports said Saturday.

Zhang Xiangzhong (張向忠), 48, had registered for a tour of eight days and seven nights around Taiwan from April 12 through April 19, according to media reports.

However, on April 13, he left his tour group, with the Tourism Bureau unable to contact him after learning of the incident.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA), Zhang claimed he had applied for political asylum with the government in Taiwan in a reaction to the detention in China of human rights activists Lee Ming-che (李明哲). The former Democratic Progressive Party worker disappeared in China on March 19, with the authorities there only admitting later they had detained him, supposedly on suspicion of activities detrimental to national security.

The Chinese man reportedly told the media that he planned to visit the Mainland Affairs Council next Tuesday to hand in his formal application, but before that he would also meet with a human rights organization.

The MAC said Saturday evening that no request for political asylum had been received, and that the relevant authorities were still looking for Zhang’s whereabouts. If he showed up, the National Immigration Agency would deal with his case, the MAC said.

Zhang was reportedly arrested in July 2013 and spent three years in prison in China due to his participation in the civil rights movement. After he arrived in Taiwan, he learned about the attempt by Lee’s wife to travel to Beijing to help her husband, and her actions moved him so much he decided to leave his tour and request asylum, Zhang told RFA.

According to the website Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Zhang was sentenced on a trumped-up charge of credit card fraud. He was a member of the New Citizens’ Movement, a group working for more democracy, government transparency and rule of law in China.

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