Taiwan officials have given assurances that the authorities won’t forcibly repatriate two Chinese dissidents who are currently camped out in its international airport awaiting a decision on their asylum applications, according to a prominent democracy advocate.
Wang Min, chairman of the U.S. branch of the China Democracy Party (CDP), flew to the democratic island on Oct. 6 to give evidence in support of Yan Kefen (also known as Yan Bojun) and Liu Xinglian, who have been stranded in a lounge at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport since Sept. 27.
“As a representative of the China Democracy Party (CDP), I confirmed to the Taiwan government that these two people are members of the CDP,” Wang told RFA. “I also said that they would both be in danger, and would be persecuted, if they were sent back to mainland China.”
Chen Ming, an official with Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), told Wang that Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has a policy of not forcibly repatriating Chinese asylum claimants, regardless of whether their applications are successful.
“The approach would be to make sure that they have a place to stay and food to eat in the confines of the airport, and the main thing is to ensure their safety,” Wang said after the meeting on Friday.
He said the government has taken “protective measures” to ensure that Yan and Liu can’t be reached by people who have no business with them.
“President Tsai Ing-wen has an overall policy not to allow people who have suffered persecution to be sent to a persecutory environment,” he said.
Wang said overseas Chinese democracy groups are currently liaising with the Canadian government to see if Yan and Liu might be accepted for resettlement there.
Yan said he and Liu are currently camped out near the VIP lounge in the airport, and are confined to a lounge area and a corridor.
“There isn’t an awful lot of room to move around here, and so we would like to request that we be escorted out to get some sunlight, if there is any,” Yan said.
“We would also like to be allowed to go online, to find out what is happening in the outside world, and to make contact with other people, and to access support from the international community and human rights groups,” he said.
A MAC official told journalists that Liu and Yan currently hold valid Chinese passports, and had arrived as transit passengers on a flight from Thailand to Beijing, making their asylum request during the transit process.
MAC and immigration department officers have visited the pair several times to interview them, and to understand their needs and requirements, the official said.
The MAC said the government will guarantee the two men’s safety during the transit period, and will consider international treaties, human rights protections, legal precedents and relevant laws and regulations in Taiwan in handling their case.
Tortured for nine months
Liu said he was secretly arrested and held in solitary confinement and tortured for about nine months by authorities in China, and fears similar treatment if he is forced to return there.
Liu has also suffered from heart disease, high blood sugar, memory loss, physical and mental exhaustion, and high blood pressure since his ordeal, he said.
Liu’s torture claims are consistent with an earlier disappearance while in police custody.
RFA reported in May 2016 that Liu had gone missing from a detention center where he had been held since June 2015 on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.”
His “disappearance” was discovered on March 11 after two supporters tried to take money to him in the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center, only to be told he was no longer there.
Liu is a founder member and secretary-general of the often-targeted dissident group China Rights Observer, while Yan is a member of the New Citizens’ Movement to hold officials to greater democratic accountability, whose founder Xu Zhiyong served a four-year jail term for his activism.
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