TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Dissident leader Hsu Hsin-liang, trying to return home for weekend elections after a 7-year exile in the United States, was denied entry to Taiwan today and forced to return to Manila.
Supporters vowed nationwide protests, but the several hundred demonstrators who hoped to greet Hsu at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Airport dispersed peacefully after meeting with police and military officials.
Nearly 50 people were injured at the airport Sunday when Hsu, a 45-year-old publisher, was forbidden to enter the country from Japan in time for the legislative election.
The 2-month-old Democratic Progressive Party, technically illegal under martial law, is fielding 44 candidates in Saturday's election, the first opposition challenge in the 37-year history of Nationalist Taiwan.
Scores of helmeted riot police carrying truncheons and shields patrolled the airport terminal for a fourth day today, and hundreds more guarded barbed wire barricades on roads leading to the airport.
Airport security agents said Hsu, who faces sedition charges in Taiwan, arrived on a Philippine Airlines flight at 10:50 a.m. under an assumed name and was kept aboard the aircraft until it left for Manila at 1 p.m.
Hsu arrived in Manila at 1:45 p.m. and was immediately whisked away by immigration authorities.
'They did not let me in,' Hsu told reporters at Manila International Airport. He said Taiwan 'secret police' prevented him from debarking in Taipei, but did not tell him why.
'I really don't know why they're so afraid of me,' said Hsu, who was using an expired passport and a U.S. travel document.
Taiwan security officials said a man who identifed himself as Hsu Hsin-liang was aboard the plane when it landed in Taipei, but was refused permission to leave the plane because he had no identification papers.
Witnesses earlier said several passengers were escorted from the plane by security guards and taken to an airport office. Three were identified as Japanese journalists, also reportedly refused entry and returned to Tokyo.
The deputy secretary general of the ruling Nationalist Party, Ma Ying-jeou, said before Hsu's arrival the government did not want to arrest any of several dissidents trying to return because it would make them martyrs before Saturday's legislative elections.
The dissident leader's brother, Hsu Kuo-tai, described the government as 'tyrannical' and threatened nationwide demonstrations.