Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Tibetans protest against `discriminatory' visa rules

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

On the second day of their protest in Taipei, a group of Tibetans yesterday called on the government to revoke discriminatory measures that hinder family reunions.

Chanting "We want justice" and "Don't tear our families apart," the the group, led by the Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association, staged a sit-in protest outside the building in which the Bureau of Consular Affairs is located on the second floor.

The protesters all hold Tai-wanese citizenship, but they couldn't obtain permission for their Tibetan family members living in India or in Nepal to come and stay with them in Taiwan.

Sitting next to a banner that read "Tibetans in Taiwan Protest against Discrimination of Our Basic Right," Tsering Lhamo told the Taipei Times that she didn't understand why the government was unfair to Tibetans.

"Look at the news. Have you heard of Tibetans in Taiwan breaking the law or committing crimes like robbery or murder?" she said.

A protester named Tamding said he had spent a year applying for a visa for his wife but was rejected for no reason.

"I submitted my wife's Indian passport, her identity certificate issued by the Central Tibetan Administration and our marriage certificate to [the bureau], but they [bureau officials] suspected our marriage might be fake," he said.

"There are no fake marriages for Tibetans. Added to this, they didn't tell me how they concluded that the documents and my marriage were false," he said.

The Central Tibetan Administration helps Tibetans acquire identity certificates from India or Nepal, and all countries except China accept the IC and are willing to issue visas to Tibetans, Chime Gyaltsen said.

He rebutted a report by the China Post quoting Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman David Wang (王建業) as saying that "Tibetans in India are not exactly international refugees ... some of the Tibetans visiting Taiwan were smuggled in by snakeheads."

"What Wang said was a groundless accusation," he said.

Meanwhile, Wang said yesterday that although the ministry sympathized with the protesters' demands, as a rule, it doesn't issue long-term visas to identity certificate holders.

Wang said that Tibetan exiles in India and Nepal "are allowed to come to Taiwan to visit," but added that "the documentation problems posed by the [IC] make it difficult for us to issue them long-term visas or Alien Resident Certificates."

Additional reporting by Max Hirsch

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