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Taiwan insists existing laws serve well amid call for refugee act

2019/09/04 20:48:39

CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 4 (CNA) Taiwan's legal system already adequately serves issues related to asylum seekers, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said Wednesday, following similar remarks made a day earlier by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) in response to a call for a refugee act.

Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), a Hong Kong student activist and leading figure in the months-long anti-extradition law protests in the Special Administrative Region, urged Taiwan's government in the media recently to enact such a new law to help the embattled Hong Kong protesters.

In a statement, the MOI repeated what many government officials, including the premier himself, have always contented -- that "under the existing laws, there is already a legal mechanism that serves the issue well."

"If anyone is seeking asylum, the government will handle it on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration international practice, human rights conventions and the relevant laws of the country," said the MOI.

After that, "appropriate assistance" will be given if necessary, the statement said, noting that so far, the government has never sent any asylum seeker to a country or area where he or she could be tortured or treated inhumanely.

The ministry further pointed out that accepting refugees is a serious issue that must be addressed from many points of view, from human rights, economics and society, to culture and national security.

On this subject, "a public consensus is needed as is the case in other countries that take in refugees," it said.

It also noted that the Cabinet-drafted Refugee Act bill received its first reading in the Legislative Yuan in July 2016 and the MOI respects the follow-up agenda of the Legislature regarding the bill.

Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong

The bill, however, was drawn up exclusively for foreign nationals and stateless individuals seeking asylum status, according to the MOI, and is therefore not applicable to people from China, Hong Kong and Macao.

Also Wednesday, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka repeated the fact to the press when trying to explain that offering assistance to the Hong Kong protesters and pushing through the legislation of the draft Refugee Act are two different matters.

Kolas said Taiwan has never intervened in the democratic movement in Hong Kong, neither has it reduced its concern for the people there.

Taiwan's existing laws, including the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs, and the guidelines for residence application by Hong Kong and Macao citizens, are amply sufficient for the government to answer requests for help by Hong Kongers facing political suppression by China, she said.

Asked about Wong's appeal, Su told the press that the country's relevant legal mechanism is complete and works smoothly. "We will use it well," he said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) reiterated Wednesday that under Taiwan's legal foundation, assistance will be provided to Hong Kong people if necessary.

The 22-year-old Wong, who serves as secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosistō, flew to Taiwan Tuesday along with Hong Kong lawmaker Eddie Chu (朱凱迪) and Lester Shum (岑敖暉), former deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, for a two-day visit that he said is aimed at soliciting more support from Taiwanese for the Hong Kong protesters.

During a visit to the pro-independence opposition New Power Party's caucus at the Taipei City Council Wednesday, Wong said there will be protests held in Hong Kong and different locations around the world at the end of September, before China's Oct. 1 National Day.

He called for Taiwanese people to organize a similar protest rally to show their support for Hong Kong's democracy movement.

Since June, many protests have been held, initially against the proposed extradition bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to China for trial.

As Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities refused in the ensuing months to budge on any of the protesters' demands, the protests have morphed into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms in the Special Administrative Region.

On Wednesday afternoon, embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam eventually announced a formal withdrawal of the bill that has sparked the worst political crisis there in decades, according to foreign wire reports.

"The government will fully withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," Lam said in a pre-recorded TV broadcast just before 6 p.m.

(By Elaine Hou, Ku Chuan, Liu Chien-pang and Elizabeth Hsu)
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