South Korea's coast guard said Tuesday it had arrested a Chinese national who tried to enter the country after traveling by jet ski from China — a journey of nearly 200 miles.
Wearing a life vest and helmet, the man crossed the Yellow Sea on a 1800-cc jet ski from Shandong province, using binoculars and a compass to navigate and towing five barrels of fuel, officials said.
"He refilled the petrol on the ride and dumped the empty barrels into the sea," the coast guard said in a news release.
When his jet ski got stuck in tidal flats near the western port city of Incheon's cruise terminal, he called for rescue.
The coast guard said the man, who they did not identify, was arrested after he "attempted to smuggle himself into" Incheon.
Authorities said they found no sign that the man was a spy.
The jet-ski escapee is Chinese rights activist Kwon Pyong, according to South Korea-based campaigner Lee Dae-seon of NGO Dialogue China.
Kwon, 35, had posted pictures on social media mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping, and spent time in jail in China for subversion, Lee told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.
"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 said.
Kwon has been a vocal critic of authoritarian rule in China and in 2014, he participated in pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, according to human rights organization Freedom House.
Lee told CNN that he went to see Kwon after the activist called him on Tuesday.
"He wants to go to a third country," Lee told CNN on Wednesday. "He went to Iowa State University so he speaks English. He wants to go to an English-speaking country."
South Korea only grants a handful of refugees asylum each year.
In recent years, Beijing has increased its use of exit bans at airports and other legal border crossings in order to block activists from leaving Chinese territory, BBC News reported.
Last month, Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei was captured in Laos and returned to China before he was able to join his wife and children in the U.S.
The Chinese Embassy in Seoul declined to comment about Kwon when contacted by AFP.
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