China Tiananmen critic stuck in Taiwan transit lounge granted asylum in Canada

A Chinese dissident living out of a suitcase at a Taiwan airport has been granted refuge in Canada.

“I was able to successfully obtain political asylum in Canada,” Chen Siming, who has been stuck inside Taoyuan International Airport since 22 September, told the Guardian after arriving in Vancouver on Saturday.

Appreciating the efforts by the United Nations refugee agency, Taiwan and Canada, he said: “The three parties handled my case quickly in the spirit of humanitarian care.

“This kindness will be remembered forever, I would like to express my sincere gratitude.”

Chen is known in his home country for the annual commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre – a taboo subject there – and his social media posts about the massacre have previously irked Beijing’s authorities.

Police harassment was not new to him either, and he says he has been detained many times in the past. But in recent years, he has noticed a significant crackdown on dissent. On 21 July this year, Chen packed his clothes. He had decided to run.

He first chose Thailand – a country considered a friend of China that has in the past turned in other dissidents to Chinese authorities. The activist travelled from Hunan province down to the southern border with Laos – a distance of almost 1,400km, his bagful of clothes in tow, arriving there in August.

However, he did not feel any sense of ease and feared deportation by Thailand’s immigration authorities, subsequently flying to Taiwan. The island, unlike Thailand, shares an icy relationship with China and continues to assert its status as a self-governing democracy. There, he pleaded for help, saying his situation was “dangerous and urgent”.

“To avoid the political oppression of the Chinese Communist Party, I have now come to Taiwan.

“I hope to receive political asylum from the US or Canada. I ask friends to call on the Taiwanese government to not send me back to China,” he urged at the time.

On Sunday, he took to X/Twitter, posting pictures of him from Vancouver.

“I arrived in Vancouver, Canada on October 5th,” he wrote, as he thanked the rights bodies and international entities for their support. “This kindness will be unforgettable forever! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart! Thanks!”

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