Lone 'Chinese dissident' rides hundreds of miles to South Korea on jet ski

A man riding a jet ski (escapee not pictured - image for illustrative purposes). Credit: AP

A lone jet ski rider arrested in South Korea after riding hundreds of miles across the Yellow Sea to escape China is thought to be a prominent political dissident.

The man, in his 30s, was detained on August 16 near the city of Incheon, on South Korea's west coast, close to the capital, Seoul.

He is thought to have travelled roughly 250 miles (400 kilometres) from China's eastern Shandong province, according to the Incheon Coast Guard.

All he had with him was a helmet, binoculars and a compass, authorities said, adding that he tied five 25-litre (6.6 gallon) fuel tanks to the jet ski.

The rider's exact route is not known, but he was said to have got stuck on a muddy shore before calling for help. Credit: Google Maps

Upon his arrival, he got stuck on the muddy shore and had to call an emergency line for help.

He was subsequently detained, and his case was sent to Incheon prosecutors on Tuesday, CNN reports.

South Korean authorities are yet to identify the man, but activist group Dialogue China has named him as Kwon Pyong, a prominent critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mr Kwon, 35, has campaigned against state censorship and for the rights of detained lawyers in the People's Republic.

Among other things, he also participated in the "Occupy Hong Kong" movement of 2014, according to NGO Frontline Defenders.

Mr Kwon, an ethnic Korean who studied in the US was arrested in October 2016 for “subverting state power” by “insulting state authority and the socialist system”.

His lawyers were dismissed by Chinese authorities days before his trial began, according to Freedom House.

Prosecutors referred to his social media posts, including a photo of him wearing a t-shirt comparing Xi to Hitler. He was jailed for 18 months in February 2017.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has intensified censorship in the People's Republic. Credit: AP

Lee Dae-seon, a Dialogue China activist based in Korea, says the escapee called him on August 16 shortly after his arrest.

He says he went to see him in custody, adding that Mr Kwon wanted to move on to a third, English-speaking country.

“It was his fault for violating the immigration law but he had no choice but to make a desperate one due to the Chinese authorities’ political investigation, unfair trial process, and surveillance,” he added.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the country’s internet via a complex, multi-layered censorship operation that blocks access to almost all foreign news and social media.

It also blocks topics and keywords considered politically sensitive or obscene. The People's Republic has gradually intensified its censorship under Xi, who has secured a historic third term as premier.

After a draconian zero-Covid policy with some of the strictest lockdowns in the world was met with mass protests, Xi's regime responded with a sweeping crackdown, arresting more protesters and ramping up surveillance.

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