The New York Times tells the story of Guo Zhiyang, a 35-year old “political researcher” from mainland China, who was reeled in by Taiwanese coast guard authorities on an outlying island after 7 hours of paddling at sea in an attempt to see Taiwan’s upcoming democratic election campaigning for himself:
Mr. Guo, who told the authorities he comes from the far west region of Xinjiang, set off from coastal Fujian Province on a flotation device made from bamboo and Styrofoam. Mr. Pu said officials had been tracking his progress by radar.
After his arrest, he told Taiwanese reporters that he was inspired to make the perilous journey by Taiwan’s presidential race, which pits the incumbent Ma Ying-jeou against two opponents. “I want to see your elections, with campaign flags flying all over the place,” he said.
The elections, which take place Jan. 14, have piqued considerable interest in China, which is led by a Communist government keen to dampen the democratic yearnings of its people. After decades of authoritarian rule, Taiwan — considered by Beijing to be a breakaway province — held its first direct presidential elections in 1996.
Taiwan held its first of three presidential debates last week as it prepares to go to the polls in January 2012, with candidates playing it safe with regards to the question of reunification or independence and focusing mostly on economic issues instead. See also additional CDT coverage of cross-Strait relations.