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Kaohsiung fugitive uses basketball in attempt to swim to China: officials

The China Post news staff--A Coast Guard Administration (CGA) patrol boat yesterday picked up a Taiwanese resident and confiscated his life preserver and a basketball which he attempted to use in an escape to mainland China to avoid imprisonment in southern Kaohsiung City.

CGA officials said Chang Ching-yang was sentenced to a prison term after being convicted of fraud. He was prohibited by Kaohsiung prosecutors from leaving the nation on April 27, prior to reporting to a local jail to begin serving his sentence.

But Chang managed to flee to Leiyu, an islet of Taiwan's offshore Kinmen County, and arranged for a fishing boat from China's Fujian province to smuggle him to the mainland.

He first disguised himself as a tourist having fun at the beach before jumping into the sea in the early morning to meet the Fujian boat. Chang had with him a rubber life ring left by the Kinmen County Government on the beach and his own basketball.

Chang, swimming by himself and in danger of triggering mines laid in the seashore area, caught the attention of a soldier standing guard on the islet who called the CGA to dispatch a patrol boat and pick Chang up from the sea.

Following questioning, Chang admitted that he attempted to swim farther into the sea to meet a mainland Chinese fishing boat that was supposed to take him to the mainland so that he could avoid serving a sentence in Taiwan.

In recent decades it has become rare for escapees in Taiwan to use life rings and basketballs as floating devices in attempt to make it to the mainland.

But decades ago, basketballs and rubber life rings were frequently used by mainland Chinese refugees to escape to Hong Kong or Taiwan's offshore islands to seek freedom and better living conditions.

Chang will be taken back to Kaohsiung to serve his jail term, the CGA officials said.

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