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

A Chinese dissident who was stuck inside a Taiwanese airport transit area after he refused to fly on to China says he has arrived in Canada after being granted asylum.

Chen Siming arrived in Taipei on 22 September, after travelling through Thailand and Laos. When he landed at Taipei’s international airport he refused to reboard, requesting assistance to resettle in a third country.

He spent almost two weeks living in the transit area and immigration office of the airport, where he said he was looked after by authorities. There was concern over how long he would be there, after a similar case in late 2018 saw two dissidents spend four months at the airport.

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Chen told the Guardian on Sunday that he arrived in Vancouver on Saturday. “I was able to successfully obtain political asylum in Canada,” he said, crediting the international attention on his case and various human rights groups, as well as the governments of Taiwan and Canada and the United Nations refugee agency. “The three parties handled my case quickly in the spirit of humanitarian care,” he said.

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

Chen is a known activist in China who regularly commemorated the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989 and has been repeatedly detained around the anniversary. He fled China for Laos in late July, but after the arrest and deportation of human rights lawyer Lu Siwei, Chen was advised to leave the country. He arrived in Thailand where he said he was granted interim asylum status by the UNHCR, before booking a flight to Guangzhou, China, but which transited in Taiwan.


— 陈思明 (@csm8964) October 8, 2023

Fellow dissident and political commentator, Baoshen Guo, who had been assisting Chen, said Chen was “very lucky” to have been transferred so quickly. In late 2018 Yan Bojun and Liu Xinglian spent about 100 days in the airport before Taiwan authorities decided they could enter, but only after they flew to Singapore and then returned on short-term humanitarian visas.

Taiwan does not have a formal refugee pathway, and tensions between Taipei and Beijing – which has vowed to annex Taiwan – make the topic of Chinese asylum seekers a politically sensitive and complicated issue.

Taiwan’s mainland affairs council, which was handling Chen’s case, has been contacted for comment.