The Original Sin Of Li Jiabao A young Chinese exchange student in Taiwan with no history of activism posts a video criticizing China's president Xi Jinping on Twitter, then asks for asylum. His request for protection fuels a larger discussion about Taiwan's role as a haven for Chinese dissidents, and also raises questions about who he is as an individual and his motivations. Who is he, and can he be trusted?
NPR logo

The Original Sin Of Li Jiabao

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/808926965/809727127" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Original Sin Of Li Jiabao

The Original Sin Of Li Jiabao

The Original Sin Of Li Jiabao

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/808926965/809727127" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Chinese exchange Student Li Jiabao (李家宝 aka 李家寶). Li is seeking asylum in Taiwan after posting a video that went viral on Twitter criticizing the Chinese president and Communist Party. NPR's Emily Feng hide caption

toggle caption
NPR's Emily Feng

Chinese exchange Student Li Jiabao (李家宝 aka 李家寶). Li is seeking asylum in Taiwan after posting a video that went viral on Twitter criticizing the Chinese president and Communist Party.

NPR's Emily Feng

In March 2019, a masked Chinese exchange student in Taiwan live-streamed a video on Twitter passionately criticizing China's president Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. Soon after, he posted again, this time with his face revealed and openly stated his name: Li Jiabao (李家宝 aka 李家寶).

Within hours, the video went viral. Li received threatening messages asking for his location and identity. Hours later, he was blocked from both his Chinese social media accounts.

Fearing imprisonment - or worse - if he returns to China, Li has extended his student status for almost a year. But the democratic island of Taiwan has no formal asylum law, and is wary of openly welcoming Chinese "mainlanders."

Li's situation has fueled larger discussions about Taiwan's role as a haven for Chinese dissidents, as well as questions about who he is as an individual and his motivations.

In this episode, NPR Beijing correspondent Emily Feng speaks with Rough Translation's host Gregory Warner about how and why a 20-year-old nursing student with no previous history of activism suddenly decided to make such a rash decision. Is Li a conscientious activist, a brazen opportunist, or perhaps, a Communist spy?

You can find more episodes of Rough Translation on our homepage, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Further Context: