Chinese dissident Li Jiabao. Photo: Twitter

A 20-year-old Chinese exchange student in Taiwan who last month spoke out against President Xi Jinping’s one-man rule is now appealing to the island’s leader Tsai Ing-wen for empathy when vetting his application for political asylum.

Li Jiabao, who hails from China’s Shandong province, filed his application for asylum status and long-term residency with Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency and Mainland Affairs Council this week, as his non-immigrant visa will expire in July and he may face persecution if he returns to the mainland.

He told reporters that he “will definitely be subject to criminal charges of state subversion and inciting others to commit treason”, upon his return to the Communist country.

However the young dissident may face a legal conundrum as Taiwan has no asylum or refugee laws or relevant processing mechanisms in place.

Li is currently enrolled in a short-term program at Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science in Tainan, in southern Taiwan.

Xi Jinping has become “China’s president for life” after a clause restricting presidential terms was removed from the Chinese constitution. Photo: AP
Xi is the target of an anti-China protest in Taipei. Photo: Twitter

He blasted Xi as “China’s president for life and a modern day Chinese emperor” in a Twitter live stream last month.

The backdrop of Li’s plainspoken comment is that Chinese lawmakers, apparently at Xi’s behest, hastily rubber-stamped a legal amendment to remove a 10-year presidential term limit from the Chinese constitution. This brought the conditions on the position as the head of state in line with another top post that Xi holds – the General Secretary of the Communist Party – which has no specific term limit.

Li said in a volley of Twitter posts that with Xi’s retrograde move, Chinese politics under his rule since 2012 have further degenerated into complete autocracy in a what-one-man-says-goes regime. He also said he believed that Xi’s ultimate downfall and the demise of the party would come sooner or later.

Li revealed that he could no longer receive money wired by his relatives in Shandong as his mainland bank had canceled all transactions.

He is appealing to Taiwan’s leader Tsai and the island’s Legislative Yuan to consider passing a refugee law so that people “under similar circumstances” could seek political asylum.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council noted that though the island did not have a comprehensive refugee law, the government would handle Li’s case properly, taking into consideration precedents as well as the protection of human rights.

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