A man believed to be a Chinese human rights activist has been apprehended in South Korea following an unusual attempt to flee the country using a jet ski.
South Korea’s Coast Guard reported that the individual had traversed around 300 kilometers (approximately 186 miles) across the Yellow Sea, relying on binoculars and a compass. However, he encountered difficulties and became stranded.
Local sources identified him as Kwon Pyong, someone critical of President Xi Jinping, although confirmation of his identity is pending.
The Chinese embassy in Seoul has chosen not to provide any comments regarding the incident.
In recent times, Beijing has increasingly imposed exit bans at airports and other border crossings to prevent activists from leaving Chinese territory legally.
Nonetheless, this escape attempt stands out as particularly audacious, illustrating the extraordinary measures dissidents are compelled to take in order to depart the country.
According to the Coast Guard, the man, adorned with a life jacket and helmet, was towing five barrels of fuel from Shandong province behind his 1800cc machine.
During his journey, he refueled the jet ski and disposed of the empty barrels in the sea. His difficulties arose near a cruise terminal close to the western port of Incheon, prompting him to request assistance.
While the Coast Guard did not disclose the individual’s identity, they confirmed his detention last Wednesday for attempting to “smuggle himself into” the city. There is no suspicion of espionage.
An activist named Lee Dae-seon, affiliated with the NGO Dialogue China and based in South Korea, informed the AFP news agency on Tuesday that the escapee is indeed Mr. Kwon, aged 35.
Mr. Kwon had previously been incarcerated in China due to his public criticisms of President Xi.
It is highly likely that he would have faced obstacles in attempting to exit the country through conventional means to seek asylum.
Lee stated, “Although Mr. Kwon’s unconventional entry into South Korea was against the law, his crossing was driven by Chinese authorities’ surveillance and political persecution since 2016.”
He further revealed that Mr. Kwon is contemplating whether to apply for refugee status in South Korea, a country that grants only a limited number of such requests annually, or to explore options in a third country.