Chinese activist leaves tour group, whereabouts unknown

Taipei--Chinese activist Zhang Xiangzhong(???), left the hotel his tour group was staying on Thursday and his whereabouts are currently unknown, the Tourism Bureau said Saturday.

The bureau said Zhang was part of a tour group on an eight-day tour to Taiwan and arrived in the country on April 12, hosted by Chieh Li Travel Service Co. (?????).

Zhang left the group the following day without telling anyone. Chieh Li immediately informed the Tourism Bureau, which in turn contacted the National Immigration Agency.

The Tourism Bureau said it has asked Chieh Li to look for Zhang. Under regulations governing people from mainland China coming to Taiwan for the purpose of tourism, Chinese tourists can stay for up to 15 days. If they overstay, the travel agency which serves as their guarantor, can be fined up to NT$100,000 (US$3,290).

Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia has reported that Zhang was inspired by the wife of Lee Ming-che (???) in deciding to leave the tour group and plans to ask for political asylum.

Lee, a former Democratic Progressive Party worker who is currently a staff member at Wenshan Community College in Taipei and a volunteer at local NGO Covenants Watch, was detained by China after entering the city of Zhuhai via Macau on March 19.

Lee's wife, Lee Ching-yu (???), had planned to travel to Beijing on April 10 to meet with Chinese authorities and seek clarification about her husband's situation, but was turned away at the airport after being informed that her travel permit to China had been revoked.

Zhang, 48, is from Shandong province and in an interview with Radio Free Asia on Friday, said he was jailed for three years after taking part in the New Citizens Movement, a group that calls for a civic spirit based on freedom, justice and love.

Since being released in July 2016, Zhang said he has been under constant surveillance.

When he arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday, Zhang was reportedly so moved by Lee Ching-yu that he decided to leave the group and is set to ask Taiwan's government for political asylum.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel