Chinese Defector: I'll Wait 'Months' in Airport If I Have to

Tiananmen Square critic Chen Siming says he feels safe in Taiwan, though he wants to go to US
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2023 8:53 AM CDT
Chinese Defector: I'll Wait 'Months' in Airport If I Have to
Chinese dissident Chen Siming speaks during an interview at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday.   (TVBS via AP)

A Chinese dissident known for his commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is currently holed up in a Taiwan airport, pleading for asylum from the United States, or Canada if the US won't take him. Chen Siming has been hunkered down since Friday at Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei, after fleeing Thailand out of fear that country would deport him back to China. He tells the AP that, since 2017, police in China had detained him for his activism over the Tiananmen Square killings, sometimes for weeks at a time. In July, feeling "increasing pressure and scrutiny from authorities," Chen finally fled China, heading first to Laos, then crossing over into Thailand in August, per CNN.

But Chen didn't feel safe there, either—CNN notes Thailand's "often friendly links with Beijing" and the fact that dissidents there have ended up detained before—and so he made his way to Taiwan last week. "The Chinese police's ... methods directed towards me were becoming more and more cruel and crazy," he said in a video posted on the X social media platform, per the AP. "They detained me at will without following legal procedures ... I can no longer continue to accept the ravaging of my personal dignity, the trampling of my honor, and the threat to my body."

The Taipei Times notes that post has since been deleted. As for returning to China, "given the current political climate ... there is no space for me to operate there," Chen tells CNN. The AP notes that what happens next to Chen may be "complicated." Taiwan doesn't have an official program for handling refugees, though it has decriminalized migrants arriving in search of political asylum, notes the Guardian. Chen says he's "willing to wait for months" in the airport. "Taiwan has democracy and liberty as its shelter, so Taiwan is safe for me personally," he says from his temporary home in the airport's transit lounge. "But security is not my first option in where I settle; I have a lot of work to do in the US."

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Human rights advocates are asking Taiwan to help grant Chen's wish. "If Chen Siming is returned to China, he faces an almost certain risk of detention, torture, and other ill treatment, and an unfair trial," a spokesperson for the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group tells the AP. Thailand's Mainland Affairs Council tells CNN, "With regard to the matter of Chinese dissident Chen Siming being stranded at the Taoyuan International Airport, the government is currently working on it, and is not able to share relevant details." (More Chinese dissidents stories.)

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