The Taiwanese coast guard Monday arrested a Chinese man who swam to Taiwan from China in an attempt to seek political asylum, officers said. The man, identified as Jai Wei, 40, told the coast guard he spent eight hours swimming from the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen to Lesser Kinmen, a tiny islet of Taiwan's offshore island of Kinmen, they said.
"He said he came from Xinjiang, and swam here with the help of two inflatable buoyant balloons," said Chin Kuang-hui, director of the Kinmen Coastal Patrol.
The coast guard later found that the man is not a Xinjiang native, but a Chinese soldier posted at a military barrack based in Xinjiang, Chin said.
Jia told the coast guard he and his entire family were persecuted by the Chinese Communists and he hoped President Ma Ying-jeou would grant his asylum request.
Police and the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top China policy planning body, said they were checking the identity and background of the man, currently held by Kinmen Prosecutors Office for investigation.
Council officials said even if Jia was found to have suffered from political persecution from China, what Taiwan could do at this stage is to help him find a third country willing to accept him.
They said the island's legislature has yet to review the political refugee protection bill, which would provide the legal basis for Taiwan to accept asylum seekers.