Man who fled from China to S. Korea on water scooter said to be dissident

SEOUL — A Chinese man who washed up on South Korea’s west coast final week after crossing the Yellow Sea on a water scooter, is believed to be a political dissident who was as soon as imprisoned in China, a South Korean human rights activist said Wednesday.

Kwon Pyong, a 35-year-old ethnic Korean whose identify in Mandarin is Quan Ping, arrived within the port metropolis of Incheon final week, Lee Daeseon, a Korea-based human rights activist, said in a phone interview. Incheon, an hour’s drive west of the capital Seoul, is the house of the nation’s fundamental airport.

Lee said Kwon had traveled greater than 300 kilometers, or about 200 miles, on the non-public watercraft from China’s Shandong province to attain South Korea, the place a few of his relations stay. Lee, who has identified Kwon since 2019, said he confirmed the person’s id after being allowed a go to Tuesday to a coast guard facility the place Kwon was being held. A detailed relative in South Korea additionally confirmed that the person is Kwon, in accordance to Lee, who said he had spoken to that relative.

Kwon is searching for political asylum outdoors China, ideally within the United States, Britain or Canada, Lee said. “Kwon is in good health and good spirits,” he said. Kwon beforehand studied as a university pupil in Iowa, Lee said.

The Korean coast guard said in a information launch Sunday that a person on a 1,800-cc crimson water scooter — carrying greater than 200 liters, or greater than 50 gallons, of gas — had beached on Incheon’s wetlands and was detained for crossing the border illegally. It said the individual had visited Korea beforehand however didn’t disclose the person’s identify and refused to remark additional, citing privateness issues.

The coast guard’s particulars of how the person was discovered urged he had ready for the journey completely: He was sporting a life jacket and a helmet and carrying binoculars and a compass. He had dumped empty gas canisters into the ocean after refueling alongside the way in which.

In 2017, Kwon was jailed for 18 months in China for “inciting subversion of state power” after he posted speeches, photographs and movies on social media vital of the Chinese authorities. In one photograph, Kwon wore a white T-shirt that likened China’s high chief, Xi Jinping, to Hitler. A Chinese courtroom said Kwon had insulted the “state authority and the socialist system,” in accordance to Front Line Defenders, an advocacy group that has adopted his case.

This dissident makes use of Chinese-owned TikTok to criticize China’s authorities

Since being launched from jail, Kwon has been topic to an exit ban stopping him from departing China legally, Lee said. He tried to depart China and enter Korea by submitting a political asylum utility in 2019, however the course of was finally canceled due to the journey ban. Under Xi, China is more and more utilizing exit bans to preserve critics of the regime — residents and foreigners alike — within the nation, the place they will be extra simply surveilled and silenced.

The Chinese Embassy in Seoul refused to remark, saying it has no related details about the case.

After returning from Iowa, Kwon labored for a household enterprise in his hometown of Yanbian, a commerce hub on the China-North Korea border. On social media platforms that at the moment are banned in China, he posted criticism of the federal government’s censorship and political controls and help for dissidents and protests, his former attorneys said online and to the media in 2019. All of his Facebook and Twitter posts have since been deleted.

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