Hijacker demands asylum in China

Taipei - A jobless journalist doused himself with petrol in a Taiwan airliner and hijacked it to China, where he complained of political repression by Taiwan and requested asylum.

The latest of 13 Taiwan Strait hijackings in the Nineties was the first in which an aircraft was forced to fly to the Communist Chinese mainland, not from it.

The Far East Air Transport Boeing 757 was bound for Taipei with 150 passengers and eight crew when it was diverted. Liu Shan-chung, 45, was arrested after landing at China's south-eastern port of Xiamen. Air piracy is a capital offence on the Chinese mainland.

Taiwan swiftly demanded Liu's extradition. "The mainland authorities should return the hijacker immediately," Justice Minister Liao Cheng-hao said.

In the only other similar incident, a Taiwan captain was hailed as a hero in 1986 after piloting a Taiwan cargo aircraft to Guangzhou and defecting. If China treated the latest hijacker as a legitimate refugee it could risk being seen as endorsing political violence just days after bombings blamed on Muslim separatists in Xinjiang region and a bus bombing in Peking.