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ICC NOTE: For many in China, especially Christians, the opportunity to live freely and express ones beliefs without fear of retaliation is a dream which many will not experience. Some however are able to escape to locations that do not threaten their very lives. Yan Peng was one such person as he fled the country on a tourist boat hoping to reach Taiwan. Even as he made his way to the shores of the Island nation, he would continue to face issues due to a long standing agreement which did not allow Chinese dissidents to gain residency status in Taiwan. after 8 months in detention for arriving at a military base, it was not until last year when he was given residency status; 11 years after he arrived. He currently pastors a small congregation as the first ordained pastor in Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

11/30/2015 Taiwan (World Magazine) – When Chinese democracy activist Yan Peng felt the ship under him turning away from the Taiwan-owned island of Dadan, he knew his attempt to flee China on a tourist boat had been discovered and that his chance for freedom was slipping away. So he took the only logical course of action. He jumped overboard and started swimming to shore.

The ship tried to ram him, so he dove deep to avoid the ship’s churning propeller. The water became darker and darker until he couldn’t see his breath any longer, and then he surfaced for air, just missing the boat. He started swimming to shore, as Chinese coast guards in boats fired at him from 30 meters away. Miraculously, the bullets missed, and he crawled onto shore, crying out for God to save him.

Once on land, 10 Taiwanese soldiers surrounded him with M16 rifles pointed at his head. But thankfully, another dozen soldiers surrounded the Chinese coast guards who had pursued Yan to shore, keeping Yan safe at least for the time being. The Taiwanese government sentenced him to life imprisonment for trespassing on a military base, but 197 human rights advocates petitioned then-President Chen Shui-bian, and Yan ended up spending 8½ months in a detention center. Afterward, he was free to stay in Taiwan, albeit without citizenship or a visa.

It’s been 11 years since Yan, now 51, touched the shores of Taiwan. The government only gave him a long-term residency visa last year, finally allowing him the freedom to work in Taiwan and travel. Last year Yan also became the first ordained pastor in Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), shepherding a small congregation in Taoyuan, and yet he dreams of being reunited with his wife in China.

Yan’s long ordeal is typical of the logistical maze asylum seekers from the PRC face in Taiwan, as the island has no law protecting refugees and is not a member of the United Nations. While in the past few years Taiwan’s government has offered certain refugee groups a pathway toward long-term visas, it deals with Chinese dissidents who escape to Taiwan on a case-by-case basis. As the Chinese government increases its persecution of human rights lawyers, democracy advocates, and pastors, human rights groups in Taiwan are urging passage of a refugee law that would make Taiwan a safe haven for dissidents.

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