Sat, Jun 29, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Refugee law urged to give HK protesters a way out

In light of the situation activists in Hong Kong face as they fight for judicial independence under China’s ‘one country, two systems,’ Taiwan Association for China Human Rights chairman Yang Sen-hong in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Huang Tai-lin called on President Tsai Ing-wen, saying there has been no better time to pass a draft refugee act

Taipei Times (TT): President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was dubbed “la tai mei” (辣台妹, tough Taiwanese girl) after she in January refuted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) “five points” [that included a plan to explore a Taiwanese version of the “one country, two systems” formula]. However, in light of the protests in Hong Kong [against a proposed China extradition law], you have said that President Tsai would only truly live up to the nickname if she passes the draft refugee act. Why would you describe it that way?

Yang Sen-hong (楊憲宏): The reason I termed it that way is because remarks made by her are no different from those by political commentators. As president, what she should do is not a political commentator’s job, but concrete action.

Some are under the false impression that the proposed bill being pushed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must be facing opposition from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Wrong. When KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) was convener of the Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee, she was responsible for the draft passing its first reading.

We should complete legislative procedures for the draft.

Back then, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) and then-DPP lawmaker Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) supported it. Executive Yuan officials such as Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) also supported it, but he said that it has to be passed at “an appropriate time.” This was the same response I got from other DPP lawmakers.

Who is to determine when the appropriate time is? President Tsai. They all said it is her call.

I think there is no more appropriate time than now. However, despite my repeated calls, there has been no response from President Tsai, which can be infuriating.

Hence I call into question whether she is really a la tai mei. If she were, she should pass the act immediately, because young people from Hong Kong, including [democracy campaigner] Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), have expressed hope that the act could soon be passed, which would give them a safety net.

They would continue protesting in Hong Kong, but [we] have to think about the future of these young Hong Kongers. They have fought so hard, yet in Taiwan we cannot even pass an act that might shelter them.

The draft and a proposed amendment to Article 17 of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) cleared the committee three years ago. All the draft needed was to go through the second and third readings, which could be completed in a morning. All that is needed is a word from President Tsai.

I surmise that she feels that passage of the act would displease China, but that would mean la tai mei is not an appropriate name.

TT: Given that the Hong Kong government has shelved its proposed extradition bill, is there less urgency to pass the refugee act?

Yang: It is still imperative. The concern is that the people of Hong Kong would face retaliation from Beijing.

China has undermined the “one country, two systems” model [for Hong Kong], but it dares not implement “one country, one system.” Hong Kong is neither a country, nor does it have a system. Young Hong Kongers have told me that in this situation, they are thinking along the lines of independence for Hong Kong. Of the young people who took to the streets this month, 40 percent harbor the position that Hong Kong independence is the way to go, as they no longer believe in “one country, two systems,” let alone “one country, one system.”

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