The Nation: Why Taiwan Won’t Welcome China’s Dissidents

In 2016, a refugee law passed the first of three required floor readings in Taiwan’s legislature with support from both major parties. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, which only recognizes the People’s Republic of China, and has not signed the Refugee Convention; the law was seen as a step toward bolstering Taiwan’s global human rights credentials. But it was stopped in its tracks, and its advocates are puzzled as to why. “Each political party would throw responsibility to the other one,” said Chiu E-ling, secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Many suspect Tsai is wary of angering China, still Taiwan’s largest trade partner; over 1 million Taiwanese reportedly live and work across the Taiwan Strait. Because of Taiwan’s unique geopolitical status, three different laws would be needed to process refugees from China, Hong Kong and Macau, and other countries. Some Taiwanese are wary of an influx of Chinese spies, which a vetting process would theoretically prevent; some are simply frosty toward outsiders. But accepting refugees might just be new to Taiwan’s bureaucrats. “No one really knows how to do this,” Chiu said.

Taiwan handles refugees on a case-by-case basis with an implicit aim of quickly shuttling them to third countries. In recent years, several Chinese dissidents have been granted asylum in the United States and Canada. Those without a clear path to a third country are sometimes not let into Taiwan.

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