Chinese Asylum Seekers Enter Taiwan After 125 Days Stranded in Taoyuan Airport

Chinese Asylum Seekers Enter Taiwan After 125 Days Stranded in Taoyuan Airport
Credit: CNA
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The two asylum seekers entered Taiwan late last night for 'professional exchanges.'

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This story has been updated to reflect statements made on Thursday afternoon by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.

Chinese asylum seekers Yan Bojun, 44, and Liu Xinglian, 64, entered Taiwan last night after spending 125 days stranded in a restricted area of Taoyuan International Airport.

The two men have entered Taiwan for “professional exchanges,” according to CNA. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) arranged for them to fly to Singapore earlier yesterday before returning to Taiwan late last night, where they were allowed entry after spending over four months in limbo.

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Credit: Yan Bojun / Facebook
Liu Xinglian (L) and Yan Bojun.

The two men, who say they are fleeing persecution by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), were picked up by Taiwanese friends and driven separately to arranged residences.

The MAC said on Thursday the two men had been granted humanitarian visas which will need to be renewed each month. CNA reports they are expected to eventually be transferred to a third country.

The case mirrors that of Huang Yan, a Chinese asylum seeker who entered Taiwan in May 2018. She eventually gained political asylum in the United States and arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 25 after departing Taiwan one day earlier.

Taiwan has not passed a formal refugee law, likely out of a fear of angering Beijing. The MAC emphasized on Thursday that the decision to let the two men into Taiwan did not reflect any change in policy towards admitting asylum seekers.

Taiwan risks potential repercussions should it openly admit Chinese asylum seekers. Many Taiwanese citizens live or work in China and observers have noted they could be subject to arbitrary detention, similar to the fate of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor after Canada detained Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in December.

On Jan. 24, MAC Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said Yan Bojun and Liu Xinglian may be able to enter Taiwan for “professional exchanges,” although he downplayed his comments one day later. The two men nevertheless expected to enter Taiwan on Jan. 26, only to be told they could not yet enter, according to CNA.

The two Chinese nationals arrived in Taiwan from Bangkok on Sept. 27, 2018 after leaving Thailand due to fears of arrest.

According to Storm Media, Liu Xinglian was arrested in Wuhan, China in June 2015 on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power. After being released on bail, he fled to Thailand in 2017 to seek medical treatment.

Yan Bojun is a member of the banned Chinese Democracy Party (CDP) and participated in the civil rights activist movement of prominent activist Xu Zhiyong, according to Radio Free Asia. He was detained in May 2014 before being released one month later, after which he fled to Thailand in November 2014.

After arriving in Taiwan, the two skipped a scheduled flight to Beijing and claimed asylum in Taiwan on the grounds of facing political persecution.

The MAC said at the time it could not find evidence that the two faced political persecution. However, immigration officers later found that the two men were holding refugee certificates issued in Thailand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Credit: CNA
For 125 days, the two men called this airport lounge home.

The two men had stayed in an airport lounge where three meals were delivered to them every day and they slept on reclining chairs. They spoke of the psychological toll of not spending time in the outside world.

However, just days before Spring Festival, their long period of waiting in limbo has come to an end.

Read Next: Chinese Human Rights Defender Huang Yan Claims Asylum in Taiwan

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