Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Nations shut door to dissidents

IN LIMBO Two Chinese dissidents are waiting in Taiwan to be granted asylum in a third country. The government here, meanwhile, will only grant them temporary visas

BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yan Peng, a well-known democracy activist from Shandong Province, escaped from China last year.

PHOTO: SHIH HSIU-CHUAN, TAIPEI TIMES

Two pro-democracy Chinese dissidents who smuggled themselves into Taiwan early last year still look to the future with hope, even though they've been waiting for over a year so far to be granted asylum from one of several democratic countries they've applied to, including the US, the UK and Taiwan.

Their stories challenge the rhetoric of democratic countries that they will assist China in building a democracy. They also shine a harsh light on Taiwan's failure to show itself to be a nation built on the principle of human rights, experts said.

Chen Rongli (陳榮利), 36, fled to Taiwan last January after serving an eight-year prison sentence for helping form the China Democracy Party in Jiangsu Province, China.

Forty-two-year-old Yan Peng (燕鵬), a well-known dissident from Shandong Province, escaped China in June last year after being sentenced to 18 months in prison for participating in the democracy movement and giving financial aid to activists.

Despite investigations into their backgrounds that confirmed the two men were political activists in China, the government has only granted them temporary visas.

The nation's top official responsible for relations with China, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), was quoted by the BBC as saying that "Our legal system is not yet complete. We have no refugee law and no law for political asylum."

Following the precedent of the case of Tang Yuanjun (唐元雋), a Chinese democracy activist who was sent to the US two months after swimming from a fishing boat to Taiwanese shores to claim asylum in 2002, the government's solution to Chen and Yan's appeals for political asylum has been to search for third countries to accept them.

Over the past year, third countries contacted include the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and France. None has given a positive response to date.

In view of this, some religious workers recently registered the two men as international refugees at the UN, in a bid to speed up the review of their asylum applications through this channel.

Speaking of the experience of waiting for a response to his asylum application, Yan told the Taipei Times that he often feels like a beggar.

"I really appreciate my many Taiwanese friends. Some religious workers are providing me with board and lodging, and the MAC gives me NT$5,000 per month [which was raised to NT$10,000 per month starting this month], but the feeling of uncertainty toward my future has been torture. I don't know how to face the spiritual pressure," Yan said.

Unable to get a job with his temporary visa, which has to be renewed every three months, Yan said that the only thing he can do every day is to walk the streets.

Yan said that the international community's view of China has changed in recent years, with concern over the country's political reform taking a back seat to economic interests.

"There seem to be signs of fear of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], which makes democratic countries tend to ignore the situation of Chinese pro-democracy dissidents," he said.

Despite this, Yan still believes that external forces can help remove the obstacles blocking China's democratization. He hopes that a third country will accept him and his family members, who are facing police harassment in China.

Chen's experience proves Yan's point about the fear of the CCP.

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