Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 4 News List

MAC mute on asylum incident

POLITICAL ASYLUM The government played dumb over a report that four Chinese officials had been refused asylum because they were not senior enough

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday refused to confirm or deny that the government had rejected appeals for political asylum by four Chinese judicial officials and policemen earlier this week.

The United Daily News reported that because the asylum seekers were low-ranking officials and the documents they offered as intelligence were of little value, the government decided to return the four to Macau with the same sightseeing group with which they had been traveling.

MAC Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) was tight-lipped about the matter at a press conference yesterday.

"We cannot confirm the report, so we have no comment on it," he said.

Declining to say whether the council had any knowledge about the matter, Chen said the nation does not have a political asylum law.

Asked whether the council would investigate the report, Chen said it was the business of the United Daily News to verify the claims it made in its story.

The purported asylum seekers from Guangxi Province were part of a tour group that arrived on Dec. 14. They left the group during a visit to Taipei's National Palace Museum the next day, the report said.

One of the asylum seekers went to a Taipei police station and told police that he and his companions, having suffered oppression at the hands of their superiors, hoped the government could grant them political asylum, the report said.

The police station then allegedly transferred the three men and a woman, reportedly carrying "significant documents," to the Ministry of Justice's Bureau of Investigation.

After two days of interrogation, investigators and officials from the MAC, National Security Bureau and Tourism Bureau told the group on Dec. 17 that they would not be granted asylum, the report said.

The paper said the asylum seekers were "astonished" after being told their appeal had been turned down.

They were said to have questioned Taiwan's respect for human rights and said they should at least be sent to a safe country.

The report said the group had threatened to contact media outlets during their interrogation to draw attention to their situation.

Chen said the government evaluated asylum applications on a case-by-case basis.

Chinese nationals were eligible to apply for residence or temporary stays in Taiwan if they met certain conditions, Chen said.

These conditions included contributions to Taiwan's defense and security, international image or domestic stability, or providing information that assisted authorities in better understanding Chinese affairs, he said.

Leaders of democratic movements, people directly threatened with persecution and influential political or religious figures were also eligible to apply for asylum, Chen said.

Chen cited Wuer Kaixi (吾爾開希), one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement, as one of only a few Chinese nationals who had successfully applied for political asylum.

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