The Legislative Yuan needs to resolve a number of issues, such as how the law defines a refugee, before it can draft a law extending refugee status to Hong Kong residents, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said on Sunday.
Lee made the remarks in reponse to Hong Kong democracy advocate Joshua Wong’s (黃之鋒) call on Saturday for Taiwan to legislate a refugee act following the arrests of several democracy advocates in the territory.
Asked about Wong’s call, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Sunday said that Taiwan has a robust democracy with sufficient laws, seemingly in reference to the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau (香港澳門關係條例), which stipulates that people from Hong Kong and Macau could apply for temporary or permanent residency in Taiwan if they meet one of 16 conditions in the act.
Photo courtesy of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights
Article 18 of the act states: “Necessary assistance shall be provided to Hong Kong or Macau residents whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened by political reasons.”
A draft refugee law was first proposed on July 14, 2016, which was intended to offer asylum to stateless people fleeing war or natural disaster.
An alternative version of the draft was also put forward by the New Power Party (NPP) in December 2017.
Both bills passed their initial readings, but were sent to review committees before discussion by legislators, Lee said, adding that this had caused problems for the proposals.
The drafts were discussed in the context of the Nationality Act (國籍法), but issues such as who qualifies as a refugee and how many should be accepted were not discussed, he said.
The Nationality Act also requires people to abandon their original citizenship to become Republic of China (ROC) citizens, he said, adding that in the past Hong Kong protesters applying for ROC citizenship were handled on a case-by-case basis, similar to how applications by people from Tibet are processed.
The challenge with helping Hong Kong protesters through a refugee act is that under the ROC Constitution, it is not clear whether Hong Kong is considered part of national territory, and treating them as People’s Republic of China citizens makes it difficult to distinguish them from any other Chinese citizens from a legal perspective, he said.
According to the Mainland Affairs Council, Hong Kong and Macau are considered as special regions of the ROC.
More discussion of the issue among lawmakers is needed, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip William Tseng (曾銘宗) said that the KMT caucus “hopes ‘all sides’ could respect Hong Kong’s freedoms and democracy,” and that it supports offering “a suitable level of assistance” to Hong Kongers.
Whether to include Hong Kong in a refugee act still has to be deliberated by the Executive Yuan and lawmakers, he said.
The highly political nature of including Hong Kong in a refugee act means the issue should be handled prudently, but handling cases individually under existing laws would not be a problem, he said.
NPP Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said that Hong Kong was not the focus of the party’s version of the draft refugee act.
The NPP had simply hoped that Taiwan would do more “preparations toward becoming a more democratic and civilized nation,” he said.
Hsu echoed the sentiments of other lawmakers that more discussion of whether to include Hong Kong in a refugee act was needed.
He urged discussion to proceed soon before circumstances in Hong Kong take a “dramatic turn” for the worse.
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