Chinese dissident and Xi Jinping critic flees China to South Korea by jetski

A Chinese dissident previously jailed for criticising Xi Jinping has fled to South Korea by jetski, towing barrels of fuel behind him to ensure he completed the long journey.

The man identified by Chinese activist groups as Kwon Pyong, 35, was arrested last Wednesday night after he got stuck in mud flats near Incheon.

South Korea’s coastguard said Kwon had travelled by jetski from Shandong province, a distance of about 186 miles (300km). It said the Incheon coastguard had been contacted by the military about an “unidentified vessel” it had been tracking that evening for about 90 minutes, which appeared to have become stranded on tidal flats near the Incheon Port cruise terminal. Separately, the coastguard was contacted by emergency services, which had received a call from the man asking for assistance.

The coastguard statement, accompanied by “#thisisthetruth”, appeared to be in response to media reports suggesting it had not detected the man’s arrival.

The man was picked up shortly after 10.30pm. The coastguard said he was wearing a lifejacket and helmet and towing several barrels of petrol that he used to refuel along his journey, ditching the empty barrels on the way.

The coastguard did not identify the man arrested, but Lee Dae-seon, from the non-profit organisation Dialogue China, told AFP it was Kwon. Kwon was arrested in October 2016 for “subverting state power” by “insulting state authority and the socialist system”. Prosecutors cited social media posts and clothing worn by Kwon that criticised Xi. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and released in March 2018, according to the NGO Front Line Defenders.

In the years prior to his arrest Kwon had actively campaigned against human rights abuses and persecutions by Chinese authorities, participated in actions supporting jailed human rights lawyers, openly criticised the Tiananmen Square massacre, and travelled to Hong Kong for the 2014 Occupy Central protests.

Under Xi’s rule, Chinese authorities have increasingly cracked down on dissidents, political activists and human rights workers and lawyers. Those targeted are often subject to exit bans by Chinese authorities that prevent them leaving China via normal routes. Lee told AFP Kwon had made the risky journey after years of surveillance and political persecution by Chinese authorities.

Lee said: “He is now weighing whether to apply for refugee status in South Korea or choose a third country.”

Additional research by Chi Hui Lin


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.