Chinese refugees in legal limbo

According to Taiwan’s legal framework, the Republic of China’s sovereign territory is defined as the “Taiwan Area” and the “Mainland Area.” Immigration controls for people entering and leaving the “Taiwan Area” from the “Mainland Area” are governed by the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法).

Under it is the Act on Permission for Entrance of People of the Mainland Area into the Taiwan Area (大陸地區人民進入台灣地區許可辦法), enacted by the Ministry of the Interior, which sets out specific rules for “mainland Chinese” entering Taiwan.

Article 5 of that second act stipulates that “Residents from the Mainland Area applying to enter the Taiwan Area must carry a Mainland Area passport or certification valid for a least six months, a Mainland Area identification card or a photocopy of other documentation that can serve as valid proof of their status.”

Political refugees from China, exiled Tibetans and refugees from Southern Mongolia and East Turkestan who have had their passport revoked by the Chinese government because they are opposed to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), applying for permission to enter Taiwan should, according to these rules, be able to show photocopies of “documentation that can serve as valid proof of their status.”

However, after Guo Baosheng (郭寶勝) and Tang Boqiao (唐柏橋), who both took part in China’s democracy movement, openly complained of the difficulty in obtaining Taiwanese visas, it was revealed that former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had issued an order that immigration officials should only accept valid PRC passports or identity cards from Chinese traveling to Taiwan.

Refugees were in reviewed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account political considerations.

The Democratic Progressive Party government proposed a draft refugee act while in opposition, but that bill does not recognize Chinese as having refugee status.

Additionally, the government has yet to amend 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) to include a clause on Chinese refugees. As a result, the problem of how to deal with refugees from China remains unresolved.

The way to resolve this issue lies not in drafting new legislation, but in the administrative process, partly by first recognizing proof of refugee status issued by the UN and other major nations, and second by establishing an impartial and transparent vetting procedure that invites representatives from human rights organizations or experts to assist in the decisionmaking process.

To ask that Chinese refugees carry valid PRC identification documents is putting refugees in a difficult position.

Furthermore, it is a contradiction for the government to, on the one hand, maintain that refugees from China are residents of the “Mainland Area,” while on the other recognize them as citizens of the PRC.

The government cannot continue to remain indifferent and aloof to the plight of Chinese refugees — will it be able to find a solution?

Tseng Chien-yuan is an associate professor in Chung Hua University’s Department of Public Administration.

Translated by Edward Jones


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