Chinese dissidents allowed into the country after spending 125 days in airport

Two Chinese men who sought political asylum, but were denied entry in September last year, have been allowed to enter Taiwan after spending 125 days living in Taipei Taoyuan International Airport.

The two asylum seekers, Liu Xinglian, 64, and Yan Kefen, 44, were granted entry late last night, January 30, after flying to an un-named third destination and being granted a visa based on “professional exchange.” The professional exchange visas allow the two to stay in Taiwan for up to two months, and were granted on the basis that they had been invited to Taiwan to speak to civil society and human rights groups.

Liu and Yan flew from Bangkok to Taipei September 27 on a transit flight to Beijing. However, the men failed to board the flight to Beijing, and instead claimed asylum status in Taiwan.

However, Taiwan has no law pertaining to refugees, and no legal mechanism for dealing with asylum seekers. As Taiwan is not a member of the UN, the UN’s refugee agency does not operate in the country.

Earlier this month, South China Morning Post reported that “Liu and Yan are hostages of Taiwan’s international status and its domestic politics.”

Liu and Yan held Chinese passports but had no legal documents for entering Taiwan. However, they claimed to have a UN refugee certificate. Immigration officers reported to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) for assistance, and placed the men in the transit lounge of the airport.

During their 125 day stay, the longest in the airport’s history, the men were interviewed by media on occasion. Liu told reporters that living in a lighted environment for 24 hours a day played havoc with his biological clock, and sometimes he didn’t know if it was day or night.

Liu and Yan claimed that they had long been concerned about human rights and had participated in democratic and human rights activities in China. This caused them to be listed as dissidents by the communist party.

After entering the country last night, the men were taken separately to arranged accommodation, and said they were happy to gather with friends, and looking forward to spending the Lunar New Year holiday together.

Sources: Up Media, South China Morning Post.

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