Taiwanese bike tour visitor detained for no reason in China

He was released only after praising China's political system and providing access to his social media and bank accounts

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Tsao Yao-wen in Inner Mongolia (Tsao Yao-wen photo)

Tsao Yao-wen in Inner Mongolia (Tsao Yao-wen photo)

TAPEI (Taiwan News) — A young Taiwanese bicyclist on a tour of China was arrested earlier this year on his way to Mongolia because of his nationality and forced to provide his social media and bank accounts to Chinese authorities in order to assure them he was "not a threat."

Tsao Yao-wen (曹耀文), who has visited China four times, told Taiwan News that as a seasoned traveler, he knew the country's culture and regulations fairly well. He emphasized that he had not displayed Taiwan's national flag in China, nor had he expressed his political views, but he was nevertheless targeted and detained on May 31.

Tsao described this experience on his Facebook page, providing details of a strip search and seized personal belongings. This included being forced to provide personal information from his bank and social media accounts, and contact numbers for family and friends.

To get away safely, the experienced traveler described himself as a young happy man who loved the "motherland," celebrated cross-strait reunification and the "one China principle." He also agreed to say there was only one Chinese leader, Xi Jinping (習近平), in front of the Chinese People's Armed Police and assorted Chinese officials.

During his detention, Tsao said the police told him to provide personal data to assure them what he said was true and he did not pose a national security threat. This included giving his account details and passwords for Line, Wechat, Facebook, IG, Twitter, Google mail, Yahoo mail, and even his banking records.

A history of his conversations on all of his social media accounts was read without his permission. In addition, data and pictures on his mobile phone and camera were also checked.

Tsao was released after an interrogation, during which he faced threats of harm and prison. Five months later, he published on Facebook a post recalling the awful encounter, with a reminder that in Taiwan, which has democracy, freedoms are precious.