Last Friday a 33-year-old Chinese man named Zhou set sail on a small rubber raft he’d purchased on the internet. He arrived in Taiwan about 10 hours later and told police he came to Taiwan for “freedom and equality.”
Coast Guard officials, relaying Zhou’s account of his journey, told reporters he had traveled in a rubber raft measuring 8.8 feet by 5 feet that he bought on the Chinese e-commerce site Taobao and fitted it with an outboard motor. Zhou, who officials said was born in 1986, brought with him 23 gallons of fuel and essentially no other belongings.
Zhou was found by local dock workers who gave him a lunchbox after he said he had sailed over from China. One of the workers notified their manager, who then called authorities.
In a video confirmed by the Central Branch of the Coast Guard Administration as an interview with Zhou by the Taichung Harbor Police, Zhou can be heard saying, “Taiwan has more freedom and equality.” When a police officer asks whether life in China is so bad, Zhou says: “I believe it is all kinds of bad.”
He’s absolutely right about China being “all kinds of bad.” This Instagram post contains some stills and video of police interviewing Zhou.
View this post on Instagram
Taiwan seems a bit embarrassed by this simply because someone was able to completely bypass their coast guard and radar system and get to the island.
Mr Zhou is currently being held in a detention centre and undergoing a 14-day quarantine. He could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 90,000 New Taiwan dollars (£2,315; $3220)…
Taiwan’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said “shortcomings” in how the Taiwan Strait is policed were being investigated because of the man’s alleged journey, AFP reported.
“We will get in touch with the coastguard, we will notify each other when there is a situation, to find out the reasons and make improvements,” Chiu told reporters.
Naturally, the Chinese Communist Party won’t be happy about this and may demand his return just to make an example out of him, but I hope Taiwan doesn’t jail Zhou or, even worse, return him to China. They are investigating his story to make sure he’s not fleeing justice at home which is sensible. For all we know he could be a Chinese spy sent to test the nation’s defenses. But assuming he’s not any of those things, Taiwan should consider his story a PR win over the CCP.
Here’s an English language story on Zhou’s journey: