TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—The possibility of Chinese dissident and human rights activist Zhang Xiangzhong (張向忠) that disappeared two days after arriving in Taiwan on April 13, 2017 are fairly slim, based on remarks made by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Katharine Chang (張小月) at a press conference held at the Legislative Yuan, Monday.
The missing 48-year-old Zhang visited Taiwan with a tour group for an eight day and seven nights visit in the country from April 12-19, 2017, but left the group and has since vanished in the nation on April 13, 2017.
He has not been in contact with Taiwanese authorities, such as MAC, National Immigration Agency (NIA) or local police officers, said Chang. Local government authorities are still trying to find out his whereabouts in the country.
The chances of Zhang applying for immediate political asylum and protection are difficult at the moment.
“Zhang violated Taiwan's regulations by leaving the tour group he was registered with," said Chang. "We are also in the initial stages of investigating and understanding his circumstances in China before making any further decisions.”
The council needs to confirm Zhang is a wanted political dissident in China, and whether the motive behind his disappearance was fueled by safety concerns or other reasons.
Chang further explained: “Under the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, Taiwan does not grant political asylum or sanctuary to Chinese dissidents.”
The only option for Chinese mavericks escaping from political prosecution in China is to apply for permanent residency with Taiwan's NIA, she explained.
According to established protocols, MAC has informed Chinese government about Zhang's disappearance, but it remains unclear whether other countries, such as U.S. would grant him political asylum as well, she added.
Asked by People First Party (親民黨) lawmaker Chen Yi-Chieh (陳怡潔) if the National Security Bureau (NSB) had a complete list of Chinese political dissidents, NSB Deputy Head Chou Mei-wu (周美伍) replied the bureau is still investigating Zhang’s role in China.
"He is known as a troublemaker in China from 2013 to 2016," said Chou.
Zhang was reportedly arrested in July 2013 and spent three years behind bars in China due to his participation in the civil rights movement.
PFP lawmaker Chen criticized MAC Minister Katharine Chang for fear of granting political asylum to protect Zhang's basic human rights that would set a precedent for Chinese people to escape to Taiwan on tourist visas, only to disappear upon arrival.
The MAC minister vehemently denied opposition party Kuomingtang (KMT) lawmaker Huang Chao-Shun (黃昭順) claims that the Chinese government had requested the release of detained Taiwanese human rights activist and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) party member Lee Ming-che (李明哲) in exchange for Chinese escapee Zhang.
The two human rights cases are being treated separately at the moment, said Chang.