Tibet supporters and human rights groups yesterday urged the government to amend the Immigration Act (出入國及移民法) and pass an asylum bill to grant legal status to Tibetans and other international refugees.
“The government said that it will issue temporary residency to the Tibetans [in the group on Liberty Square in Taipei], but it’s not the final solution to their problems as temporary residency does not allow them to work,” Taiwan Friends of Tibet vice-chairman Yang Chang-chen (楊長鎮) told a press conference at Liberty Square.
More than 100 Tibetans living in Taiwan without legal status have been staging a sit-in demonstration on the square since Sept. 9, pleading with the government to grant them asylum.
Many of them had made the dangerous crossing through the Himalayas into Nepal before coming to Taiwan on forged Nepalese or Indian passports.
After a meeting with Tibetan and human rights activists on Monday, the government said it would likely issue temporary residency permits to the Tibetans and help them find shelter so that they could at least live in the country legally.
The activists, however, don’t think the government has gone far enough.
“The Tibetan pandas enjoyed a high-profile warm welcome, while the Tibetan refugees were left aside — this is not good for Taiwan’s international image,” Yang said.
China’s Wolong National Nature Reserve, the major habitat for pandas, is in a part of Sichuan Province that was traditionally a Tibetan domain and was part of an independent Tibet before the Chinese invasion in 1959.
After the activists performed a short play to reenact segments of Tibetan history, some of the Tibetan protesters presented khatas — a traditional Tibetan scarf used to show welcome or respect to someone — to an activist wearing a panda costume to show that that they hoped to live happily together in Taiwan as they once did in Wolong.
“Our first choice is to have a refugee bill so that all international refugees could benefit from it,” Yang said.
“If not, we would settle for a revised Immigration Act that adds a special clause for the Tibetans here,” Yang said.
While the Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus and some individual Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers have shown interest in helping the Tibetans, Yang said he hoped the issue could be resolved as soon as possible.