Chinese Dissident Flees Country on Jet Ski

Kwon Pyong, towing spare cans of fuel, traveled nearly 200 miles to South Korea
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2023 2:30 PM CDT
Man Flees China in 186-Mile Jet Ski Journey
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Anastasia Gapeeva)

As a human rights activist with a history of criticizing Xi Jinping, it's highly unlikely that Kwon Pyong would have been allowed to leave China through normal channels. Instead, fellow activists say, he fled the country in a very unusual way, riding a jet ski for almost 200 miles across the Yellow Sea from Shandong province to the South Korean port of Incheon, CBS reports. Korean authorities say the 35-year-old was arrested and accused of trying to "smuggle himself" into the country after he got stuck in mud flats near Incheon's cruise terminal and called for help.

South Korea's coast guard says Kwon used a compass and binoculars to navigate the 1800-cc jet ski on the 186-mile journey. The coast guard says he set off with five barrels of fuel tied to the jet ski. Lee Dae-son, a South Korea-based activist with the Dialogue China group, tells AFP that Kwon was desperate to get out of China. "While his means of entry into South Korea in violation of the law was wrong, surveillance of the Chinese authorities and political persecution of Kwon since 2016 are behind his life-risking crossing into South Korea," Lee says.

Rights groups say Kwon spoke out against human rights abuses in China, criticized the regime online, and traveled to Hong Kong for pro-democracy protests in 2014. He was arrested in 2016 for "subverting state power" by "insulting state authority and the socialist system" and served 18 months in prison, the Guardian reports. Kwon doesn't plan to stay in South Korea, which only grants asylum to a handful of people every year, Lee says. "He wants to go to a third country. He went to Iowa State University so he speaks English. He wants to go to an English-speaking country," Lee tells CNN.

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