The Mainland Affairs Council defended its handling of two Chinese political refugees being held at a detention center in Ilan yesterday, saying the two men were not being detained and had been given appropriate housing while their asylum applications are pending.
Yan Peng (
Their plight hit the headlines again recently after the publication of a letter to the government signed by 70 well-known Chinese political dissidents, including Wang Dan (
But council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (
"They each have rooms that are 20 ping in size. This is completely different from the accommodations accorded illegal immigrants or criminals. They can read the newspapers if they want, and are free to see anyone they want," he said.
"The Mainland Affairs Council has provided them with telephone lines and Internet access ? in terms of living conditions, we've made sure they are very comfortable," Chiu said.
He said the government's treatment of Yan and Chen was in accordance with international norms.
"Drawing on international practice and the 1951 [international] convention on refugees, the government can restrict the movement of those illegally arriving in the country. Due to security considerations, there is nothing inappropriate about temporarily accommodating Yan and Chen in Ilan," Chiu said.
The council also called for patience, saying arrangements to secure political asylum are often a matter of timing.
"They wrote a letter to the president of France seeking asylum, but France is trying to strengthen ties with China right now. How could they possibly take in these refugees at this time?" Chiu said.
Wang Dan told the Taipei Times yesterday that the dissidents who signed the letter to the government were simply trying to speed up the handling of the men's cases.
"We didn't mean the letter to be a criticism of the government, but we hope that the handling of this case can be expedited," he said. "Right now, everyone is busy with the [legislative] elections, so it seems that no attention is being paid to these human rights issues."
"Living accommodations are a consideration, but freedom is more important. Even if they were detained in five-star hotels it would not be enough," Wang said.
Taiwan Association for Human Rights representative Chang Fei-lan (
"The release of these two people will not lead to a security problem. It's not going to cause any changes in cross-strait relations," Chang said.
"It's pretty unreasonable to detain them on the basis of their Chinese nationality. This is a form of discrimination," Chang said.
Chang said that in addition to arranging for a third country to grant Yan and Chen asylum, the government could consider letting them live here.
Yan was involved in the democracy movement in China. In 2001 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his activities.
Chinese authorities arrested Chen for trying to establish a political party and continued to harass him after his release from jail last year.