(World Magazine) — When Chinese democracy activist Yan Peng felt the ship under him turning away from the Taiwan-owned island of Dadan, he knew his attempt to flee China on a tourist boat had been discovered and that his chance for freedom was slipping away. So he took the only logical course of action. He jumped overboard and started swimming to shore.
The ship tried to ram him, so he dove deep to avoid the ship’s churning propeller. The water became darker and darker until he couldn’t see his breath any longer, and then he surfaced for air, just missing the boat. He started swimming to shore, as Chinese coast guards in boats fired at him from 30 meters away. Miraculously, the bullets missed, and he crawled onto shore, crying out for God to save him.
Once on land, 10 Taiwanese soldiers surrounded him with M16 rifles pointed at his head. But thankfully, another dozen soldiers surrounded the Chinese coast guards who had pursued Yan to shore, keeping Yan safe at least for the time being. The Taiwanese government sentenced him to life imprisonment for trespassing on a military base, but 197 human rights advocates petitioned then-President Chen Shui-bian, and Yan ended up spending 8½ months in a detention center. Afterward, he was free to stay in Taiwan, albeit without citizenship or a visa.