Chinese man crosses Taiwan Strait in rubber dinghy

In search of "freedom and democracy", a Chinese man (currently referred to only by his surname, Zhou) crossed the highly-militarized Taiwan Strait in a small rubber dinghy. Zhou was spotted off of China's eastern coast late on April 30 after crossing the nearly-50-mile span from Fujian province. His dinghy was fitted with an outboard motor and carried 90 liters of fuel.

Zhou is currently being held in quarantine while police investigate his story and ensure he's not a fugitive from the law. Police also say that Zhou is being investigated for potentially violating Taiwanese national security and immigration laws.

Patrolled by both Chinese and Taiwanese navies, the Taiwan Strait is one of the most militarized strips of water in the world. In a recent assessment by the US Defense Department, China alone hosts more than 255 Coast Guard ships along with dozens of other heavily-armed naval vessels.

Taiwan isn't a member of the United Nations, and therefore isn't bound by the Refugee Convention, meaning the island doesn't allow people to officially claim asylum, and those who enter the country illegally could face up to 3 years in prison and a fine of 90,000 New Taiwan dollars (or about $3,200).

Tensions have been growing between mainland China and Taiwan, with China stepping up naval and air drills around the island.

In an interview last week, Taiwan's foreign minister, Joseph Wu said:

… China was "preparing for its final military assault" on the island, vowing to "defend ourselves to the very end."

"Taiwan happens to be on the frontline of China's expansion of its authoritarian order," Wu said. "And if Taiwan is taken by China, I think the consequences will be global."

via CNN