MAC to put political asylum law to vote

By Dimitri Bruyas, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The government will put a political asylum bill to vote before the new legislative assembly when it convenes in February, Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Min-tong said yesterday. Chen made the remark during a year-end press conference aimed at presenting MAC’s top priorities for 2008. He cited the recent case of a Chinese asylum-seeker to support his argument. The MAC agreed Jan. 2 to extend the period of stay of Wu Yalin, a Chinese tourist, who requested the status of political refugee to the Republic of China government two days earlier. Wu arrived in Taiwan as a member of a Chinese tourist group Dec. 27. He claimed that he is wanted by the Chinese public security authorities for his alleged distribution of a Falun Gong book titled “Judging the Chinese Communists for the Ninth Time.” MAC officials said that day the council has decided to grant Wu “a longer period” of stay in Taiwan as a “special case” based on humanitarian considerations. “It is an absolute necessity (to pass a political asylum bill),” said Chen, who noted that foreigners and Chinese nationals alike could benefit from the new regulation, even though Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations. In a surprising case, dubbed the “China Airlines Cargo Incident,” that took place amid much publicity in May 1986, Taiwan-based pilot Wang Hsi-jue flew his cargo flight from Taipei to Guangzhou in mainland China, instead of Hong Kong, and refused to come back. In the context of Taiwan’s previous “three noes” policy of no contact, no compromise, and no dialogue with its archrival China, the then minister of transportation — and later vice president — Lien Chan rose to the occasion and agreed on the fact that in case of future hijackings, the perpetrators would be repatriated to their country of origin straight after. Between September and November 1990, the Red Cross societies from both sides of the Taiwan Strait conducted another round of negotiations during the so-called “Jin-men talks” that eventually established the new norm for repatriating illegal immigrants, asylum-seekers and criminal offenders across the strait. Those regulations are still applied today. Meanwhile, Chen Min-tong also said that morning that the Chinese spouses of Taiwan nationals could be allowed to work in the same way as other immigrant nationals in the near future.

Chen, however, declined to comment on the exact modifications to be applied to current regulations, as he noted the MAC was still assessing the issue for the time being.