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Appeal for Mainland Asylum Seekers Languishing in Detention in Taiwan

November 30, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Han Dongfang, Wang Dan and other dissidents overseas and in China have signed a joint letter requesting that Taiwanese authorities release two democracy activists, Yan Peng and Chen Rongli, who have been detained in Taiwan since fleeing from the mainland.

The letter requests that the Taiwanese government under President Chen Shuibian act in accordance with its stated human rights principles in handling the case of Yan and Chen, and release them from their indefinite detention. (The letter is appended to HRIC’s Chinese press release).

Yan Peng is a well-known dissident from Qingdao, Shandong Province. Because of his participation in the democracy movement, and in particular his financial assistance to activists in difficulty, Yan was detained in 2001 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Following his release, Yan was subjected to constant harassment and control, and was unable to earn a living. For that reason, in June of this year Yan crossed the straits to Taiwan and requested political asylum in a third country. However, the Taiwan government treated him as an economic refugee, and he has been detained ever since in the Ching Lu Detention Center for mainlanders in Taiwan’s Ilan County.

Chen Rongli fled to Taiwan in late January after serving an eight-year prison sentence for attempting to establish a political party in China. Like Yan, he was harassed constantly following his release in 2003. He has also requested asylum in a third country, and is detained at the Ching Lu Detention Center.

A number of dissidents in China and overseas have communicated through various channels with the Taiwan authorities, and some Taiwanese human rights activists have also taken up Yan Peng’s cause. Taiwan’s public prosecutor’s office has decided not to take criminal action again Yan and Chen, but this has not resulted in any change in their situation while their asylum applications are pending. They remain in the detention center, where they have no telephone contact with the outside world, and are not allowed to listen to the radio or watch television.

Yan Peng and Chen Rongli appealed to the Taiwanese authorities to end their detention, but on November 18, Taiwan’s Ilan District Court rejected the appeal application on the grounds that their detention was a matter of international practice. On that same day, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights issued a press release protesting the treatment of Chen and Yan, saying their prolonged detention failed to comply with international norms and Taiwan’s domestic law. (The TAHR’s press release is appended to HRIC’s Chinese press release).

HRIC supports these appeals to the Taiwan government to release Yan and Chen. “Taiwan has joined the ranks of the world’s democratic community,” said HRIC President Liu Qing. “Detaining democracy activists who are fleeing persecution on the mainland is hardly consistent with the Chen Shuibian government’s professed emphasis on human rights. In addition, to say that locking up people who are requesting political asylum is in conformity with international practice is simply not true. We’re aware of many countries, such as the U.S. and Thailand, which routinely allow political refugees to live in freedom while their applications for asylum are being processed. We would like to see the Taiwanese government apply this same practice to Yan and Chen and other people who are requesting political asylum.”