The government issued contradictory messages yesterday as two agencies disagreed on whether Dolkun Isa, secretary-general of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), is welcome to visit Taiwan.
In response to a query from the Taipei Times, the Criminal Investigation Bureau said yesterday that if Isa were to enter Taiwan under his real name, he would not be breaking any laws and therefore would not be barred. The bureau has not labeled Isa a terrorist, it said.
The National Immigration Agency (NIA), however, said yesterday that Isa would not be allowed to set foot in Taiwan.
The WUC is an international organization that represents Uighurs in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) and abroad. The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Thursday that Isa doubles as the vice chairman of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization, which China lists as a terrorist group, but the UN and the US do not.
Next Magazine reported on Thursday that 15 members of the East Turkestan Liberation Organization, two of whom it said had been “red-listed” by Interpol, had made their way to Taiwan, raising security concerns ahead of the World Games, which opened last night in Kaohsiung.
The NIA said yesterday that Isa visited Taiwan in August 2006 and did not require a visa because he used a German passport. Since then, the agency had no information indicating the Uighur leader had attempted to enter the country.
Yang Wen-kai (楊文凱), the head of the International Affairs Division at the NIA, said Isa had been listed as “persona non grata” and that the East Turkestan Liberation Organization was deemed a potential terrorist group by the Taiwan government for threatening to plant bombs at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
“Given the fact there was a recent Uighur uprising in Xinjiang and there will be many Chinese athletes taking part in the games, such an individual would not be able to enter the country at this time,” he said, adding that it would be “impossible” for Isa to enter Taiwan because of his suspected links to a terrorist group.
When asked why Taiwan considers the East Turkestan Liberation Organization a terrorist organization, even though the UN and the US do not, Yang said: “We got our information from a friendly country,” but adamantly refused to name the country.
“We must prohibit anyone who has ever made a verbal threat to do harm at a large sporting event, whether or not he is recognized as a terrorist,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liu Sheng-liang (劉盛良) said when asked for comment, adding that the restriction on Isa and the East Turkestan Liberation Organization during the World Games was purely out of public security concerns and had nothing to do with the recent rioting by Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), however, said the NIA’s action would taint Taiwan’s image as a supporter of human rights and that it was an obvious move to appease China.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHELLEY HUANG