‘Too good to be true’: Arrival of mainland man in rubber boat sparks suspicions on Taiwan

Published (HKT): 2021.05.04 06:45

A mainland man who arrived in Taiwan in a motorized rubber boat claiming to “embrace freedom” has raised the eyebrows of many island residents, who suspect he is part of Beijing’s scheme to test Taiwan’s coastal defenses amid the increasingly tense cross-strait relations.

Netizens and critics said the story about the mainland man, surnamed Zhou, who arrived at the Port of Taichung after nearly 11 hours of journeying from Fujian Province, sounded like a movie plot and was too good to be true.

Many questioned how Zhou could possibly have crossed the strait in a rubber boat relying on nothing but iPhone’s location services for navigation. “It is impossible to believe,” some netizens said.

Some observers related Zhou’s journey to the infiltration tactics associated with communist forces. For example, Taiwanese Major General Gao Ningsong, the former deputy commander of the Military Police Command, predicted in an essay that the mainland could effectively prepare for an invasion by infiltrating Taiwan with illegal migrants.

Gao noted that motor-powered rubber boats and fishermen’s vessels would be among the ships involved in such military ventures.

Lu Lishi, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy, said Zhou’s case had “too many coincidences.” He wondered how Zhou could have found information about the height of ocean waves and wind strengths by using nothing but basic weather reports, when such information was only available from live reports from the weather observatory.

Zhou would also need a compass or the location services of his smartphone to guide his sea journey, Lu said. But he questioned how Zhou could have left Fujian given the restrictions in place, such as having to use the local health QR code in order to travel past the mainland’s coastal area. Further, Lu added, the chances of Zhou transporting a 42 kg motorboat to the coast without drawing anyone’s attention are too slim to be credible.

The curious case of the illegal immigrant from mainland China has raised suspicions because Zhou did not have strong enough reasons to embark on such a risky journey, said veteran Hong Kong political commentator Johnny Lau. Zhou is not a political activist and has not faced any persecution from the authorities or any imminent life threats, Lau said. Although Zhou’s claim that he traveled to Taiwan illegally because he “chose freedom” is not convincing, it is also not entirely unbelievable, he added.

Another reason for suspecting Zhou’s story is that his cross-strait boat trip was “too smooth” to be true, Lau said. Reports in the mainland media about previous attempts to cross the Taiwan Strait in a motorboat showed that the voyage is much more difficult than one imagined, he said. Further, authorities on both sides would be on relatively high alert for this kind of traffic given the tense state of cross-strait relations, he added.

“Just look at those 12 Hongkongers who tried to flee Hong Kong to Taiwan by boat but were caught by mainland police. The mainland authorities know exactly when one sets off on a journey into the sea,” Lau said.

Given the poor relations between Beijing and Taipei, it is only reasonable to harbor suspicions about Zhou’s appearance – such as the theory that he was sent to test Taiwan’s coastal defences – Lau added.

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