Sunday, January 16, 2022

A Taiwanese Cyclist: I Vow to Never Visit China Again

Tsao Yao-wen is a long-distance cyclist from Taiwan who was looking forward to his trip to China for an epic cycling adventure across the Mongolian grasslands. But after he was detained by the Chinese police, Tsao is determined to never go back to the country ever again.

Caught in China

“It was on the road to the Arhash border crossing, where I had already submitted to checks that were concluded with no problems… I then rode out onto the grasslands, and the PLA showed up as I was having a break… They confiscated my cell phone, which they took away so I couldn’t see it, and they scanned it for certain content without my consent… I was very unhappy about that, as they looked through all of my private conversations, photos, and social media platforms,” Tsao said to Radio Free Asia.

The interrogators then took him to the police station for further questioning. They accused Tsao of being a Taiwanese spy and threatened that he could be put in prison for life. They detained him in a small, square room. Tsao had his hands tied to the back of a baby chair. As identification, Tsao only had a paper copy of a document that identified him as a “Taiwan compatriot.” The island nation had issued a smart card for all its citizens, which he did not possess. As such, the Chinese authorities concluded that Tsao might be a spy with forged documents.

Mongolian grasslands.
Tsao was in China to cycle across the Mongolian grasslands. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Even officials from the central government came to visit Tsao under the impression that he was a Taiwanese spy. They demanded that he divulge the location of Taiwan’s intelligence agency where a few Chinese spies were being detained. Authorities demanded that he give up his code name and reveal the agency he was working under. Tsao kept refuting their allegations. In the end, the officials seem to have realized that he was a simple tourist and nothing more.

Before being released, Tsao was made to sign a few disclaimers and a statement that declared that he had cooperated with the investigation out of his own will. Four days after being arrested, Tsao was free. He continued his cycling trip and came back to Taiwan, furiously noting in a Facebook post: “I’m never going back to China as long as I live.” While in detainment, Tsao was also questioned about his political views and whether he wanted Taiwan to be formally independent.

Chinese spies in Taiwan

Taiwan recently detained two executives from a company based in Hong Kong on the accusation that they are acting on behalf of the Chinese government to undermine democracy in the island nation. Both individuals have apparently agreed to cooperate with the authorities. If they are charged, the two might spend up to five years in jail. 

“China’s ability to influence Taiwan’s election will only increase, it’s not going to decrease… China will do whatever it takes to take down the presidential candidate they detest. Are you ready? Are you ready to protect democracy together and stand up to Chinese meddling?” President Tsai Ing-wen said in a rally (The New York Times).

Tsai was elected in 2016 and is a front runner in the 2020 elections. Her opposition is Han Kuo-yu from the Kuomintang party who is known to have a pro-Beijing stance. He is under investigation after a Chinese spy defector alleged that Beijing had funneled money to support him.

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Max Lu
Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.

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