TAIPEI (Reuters) - A Chinese political dissident who supported Tiananmen Square protesters after the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists is seeking asylum in Taiwan after arriving last month as a tourist and overstaying his permit, he said on Thursday.
Gong Yujian, 38, said threats and harassment against him by Chinese authorities had been building in the decades since he observed the protests as a middle-school student and made and distributed posters supporting the movement.
“I was so young at the time, I didn’t know what the consequences would be,” he told Reuters by phone from a temporary residence in Taipei.
He said he was subjected to reeducation through labor in the mid-1990s for over a year for his activism and has been detained temporarily numerous times since.
Activists in touch with Gong said they were assisting him in applying for asylum, though he had not formally made contact with authorities.
Wu‘er Kaixi, a former Tiananmen Square student leader who lives in Taiwan, said he had called Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which deals with the status of Chinese political refugees on the island, about Gong, but had not received a response.
Mei-Hung Wu, spokeswoman for the council, said that it had not received a formal application.
China views self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control. In recent months a crackdown on human rights advocates in China has intensified, prompting statements of concern from Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou.
Taiwan currently hosts around 10 political refugees from China, though it has no codified law for dealing with such claims, said Bo Tedards, director of Amnesty International’s Taiwan branch.
“They are dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” Tedards said.
Gong entered Taiwan in late July as part of a tour group and has already overstayed his entry permit. He said if he were to be detained, he would rather face prison on the island than be sent back to China.
Reporting by Michael Gold; Editing by Nick Macfie