TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Two Chinese dissidents were allowed to enter Taiwan last night (Jan. 30) after they were stuck in limbo in the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for four months as they sought asylum in the country.
While transiting through Taiwan on a return trip from Bangkok, Thailand, 44-year-old Yan Kefen (顏克芬) and 64-year-old Liu Xinglian (劉興聯) on Sept. 27 of last year claimed they had been persecuted by Chinese authorities and appealed to immigration agents to be granted political asylum. Liu is founder and secretary-general of the dissident group China Rights Observer, while Yan is a member of the New Citizens' Movement.
The two men were kept in legal limbo for the next four months as they waited in a restricted area in the airport for their case to be processed. On Jan. 24, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) announced that the two men could be allowed to enter the country through "professional exchanges."
On Jan. 25, Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元), a board member of the New School for Democracy, told CNA that he was willing to act as a guarantor for the two men based on human rights considerations. Tseng's gesture will allow the two men to enter the country on the basis of "professional exchanges" until they can be granted asylum in a third country.
In order to be allowed to enter Taiwan through these "exchanges," the men had to first fly to a third country and fly back to Taiwan. After flying to an undisclosed country, the two men arrived again at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport late last night, when they were greeted by friends and separately taken to arranged accommodations for resettlement, according to CNA.
The men were stuck in limbo because Taiwan does not yet have a mechanism in place to deal with refugee claims. The men had originally filed for asylum when they first arrived in Taiwan on the grounds of political persecution in China, but the MAC said they were not able to provide supporting evidence at the time.
While the Taiwanese government tried to sort out their case, the men were confined to a restricted area inside the airport and were closely monitored by immigration agents. In an interview with CNA, Liu said that because they only saw the light of the lounge area every day, their circadian rhythms were out of sync.
"Sometimes I didn't know if it was day or night," said Liu. He said he had many nightmares and dreams in which he was dependent on others for shelter.
Yan told CNA that their daily lives revolved entirely around the airport lounge. He said a person would deliver them three meals a day, which consisted of steamed buns with eggs and bento lunchboxes.
Yan said that because the lounge only had two deck chairs, they could not fully recline when sleeping and often felt discomfort. "I haven't slept in a real bed for a long time," said Yan.
Now that they have been taken to homes by Taiwanese friends, they are looking forward to finally having a good sleep and eating better food. The two men plan to stay in Taiwan and wait to qualify for asylum in the U.S. or Canada, according to CNA.