A U.S.-based activist from a banned pro-democracy party has flown out to Taiwan to assist authorities in assessing the political asylum application of two Chinese nationals stranded in an airport on the democratic island after fleeing Beijing's influence in Thailand.
Yan Kefen (also known as Yan Bojun) and Liu Xinglian were placed in an airside hotel in Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport last week pending their application, but were later evicted after being unable to pay for their rooms. They are now camped out in a passenger lounge sleeping in reclining chairs and eating simple takeout meals.
"We are still awaiting a decision on our immigration status from various quarters," Yan told RFA on Tuesday. "Now that we have fled here, we would like to either gain political asylum or to be accepted for resettlement by a third country."
"We would also like to express our huge gratitude to the Taiwanese for finding us this temporary accommodation," Yan said.
Wang Min, chairman of the banned Chinese Democracy Party (CDP) in the U.S. flew in on Oct. 6 to confirm their credentials after the authorities said there was too little evidence to prove their claim.
He told reporters the two would likely face further persecution at the hands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party if they were forcibly repatriated to China.
"Given they have both suffered persecution in mainland China, and their participation in the China Democracy Party (CDP) and human rights activism, hey will be arrested and otherwise persecuted if they are sent back there," Wang said.
He confirmed that Yan is a CDP member with whom he has had a number of conversations online.
"It is clear to me beyond doubt that Yan Bojun participated in the civil rights activist movement of Dr. Xu Zhiyong," Wang said. "In addition, after Yan Bojun arrived in Thailand, he served as the deputy secretary-general of the CDP in Thailand."
Yang Sen-hong, president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, said his organization agreed that there is scant evidence to support Liu and Yan's claim.
Yang said his group, which sponsored an emergency humanitarian visa for mainland activist Huang Yan earlier this year, hasn't yet been asked to contribute in their case.
"Although we have a lot of information coming in, it's not enough for us to feel that our view would be different from that of the government right now," he said. "We will wait and see, because neither the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) nor any other department have asked for our assistance."
Wang called on the Taiwan government to help Liu and Yan out of humanitarian considerations, even where evidence supporting their asylum claim may not be immediately available.
He said efforts are under way in Canada to find other ways to rescue them before they are forcibly repatriated.
Taiwan lacks legislation on the status of refugees, and its government says it deals with applications for political asylum from mainland Chinese on a case-by-case basis.
However, many applicants are unable to furnish the required evidence because they were forced to leave China in a clandestine manner and lack access to documents detailing their case.
Meanwhile, two Chinese political asylum seekers are facing trial for immigration offenses in Thailand, and fear they may be sent back to China.
Wu Yuhua and Yang Chong, who face charges of violating Thai immigration law despite holding United Nations documents describing them as refugees, are currently out on bail in the Thai capital.
Wu, who is also known by her nickname Ai Wu, was detained by police in Bangkok with her husband on Aug. 29 and locked up in an immigration detention center.
An appeals court in Bangkok ruled Monday their trial will begin on Nov. 7 at the Pathumwan Municipal Court in Thailand.
Each side will call and examine four witnesses, according to attorneys who participated in Monday’s pre-trial hearing.
Yang was released on bail on Oct. 2 after friends and supporters collected 300,000 baht (U.S. $9,096) to secure his release, lawyers representing the couple told a BenarNews reporter who was at the courthouse.
Yang and Wu were initially targeted by Chinese police after taking part in the press freedom protests in the southern city of Guangzhou in January 2013.
They fled the country in February 2015 and made their way to Thailand after Wu started a support group for disappeared rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. In Thailand, they eked out an existence without papers in the country's Pattaya region.
They were approved as political refugees by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok in 2017, but had yet to be accepted for resettlement in a third country amid a global tightening of national immigration policies.
Thailand has sent refugees from China back home in the past.
In July, authorities in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing jailed rights activist Dong Guangping and political cartoonist Jiang Yefei after they were sent home from Thailand as they were awaiting resettlement as political refugees, prompting an international outcry.
Reported by Hwang Chun-mei for RFA's Mandarin Service, by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service, with additional reporting by BenarNews. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.