Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Illegal immigrants repatriated to China

BACK AND FORTH As the first repatriation ship since March left for China yesterday, the authorities in Beijing deported five Taiwanese fugitives

By Joy Su and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH CNA

A group of 178 illegal Chinese immigrants wait to go home at Fuao Harbor on the outlying island of Matsu yesterday morning. This was the first repatriation since China suspended the practice after Taiwan's March 20 presidential election.

PHOTO: WANG TI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

A group of 178 illegal Chinese immigrants were returned home yesterday in the first such instance since China stopped taking back these people when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was re-elected in March.

"Of the 178 illegal immigrants, 95 were women and 83 men. The next repatriation ship is scheduled for Sept. 10," Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday.

All repatriated individuals had been staying at a detention center on the outlying island of Matsu before being repatriated.

Representatives from the Red Cross on both sides have acted as go-betweens since the two sides signed a repatriation agreement in 1991.

Despite the resumption of repatriations, Wu yesterday called for a more formal arrangement.

"Because of cross-strait relations, we cannot conduct formal negotiations ... but there are so many issues that need to be discussed. In particular, we hope that negotiations can be resumed over non-political issues such as these," Wu said

Detention centers in Matsu and elsewhere have become over-whelmed with illegal immigrants in numbers far surpassing the capacity of the facilities.

According to the MAC's records, 2,634 illegal Chinese immigrants are still being detained following yesterday's repatriations.

"This is still a large number and is a burden on the police and on the budget," Wu said.

The council exhausted the NT$34.2 million allocated for the housing of illegal immigrants in June.

Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), secretary-general of the local Red Cross Society, who was in Matsu to witness the operations along with his Chinese counterpart, said he was happy that cross-strait cooperation helped to bring about the operation.

Hau said that China sent its last repatriation ship on March 12, and that no others had been sent since because of inclement weather and the fact that the ship used for the purpose was undergoing annual maintenance.

Due to humanitarian concerns, the local Red Cross Society had contacted its Chinese counterpart two months ago to request assistance in the resumption of repatriations and was happy to learn last week that Beijing had agreed, Hau said.

He expressed the hope that both sides can return to three repatriation trips every two months, and that the trips could take place more frequently before the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional family reunion day for Chinese that falls on Sept. 28 this year.

"This will allow the illegal immigrants to reunite with their families, and also ease the burden on the detention centers" Hau said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese police and the Red Cross Society of China yesterday deported five suspected criminals to Matzu. Taiwanese police officers escorted them back to Taiwan around noon yesterday.

The suspects are Ko Chin-kun (柯錦坤), 30, Chen Hsi-tsung (陳錫宗), 45, Hsu Mao-hsin (許貿新), 33, Hsieh Kuo-dong (謝國棟), 29 and Fan Chi-kai (范植凱), 26. They were wanted on various charges: Ko and Chen Hsi-tsung on suspicion of drug dealing; Hsu on suspicion of extortion and gambling; while Hsieh and Fan were listed on the "national hoodlum list."

Police officers are authorized to list people on the "national hoodlum list" if they have a reputation of constant mafia activities.

According to the Anti-Hoodlum Law (檢肅流氓條例), people on the list must report to the court whenever judges or prosecutors summon them. Those who ignore summonses more than three times are listed as wanted fugitives.

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