The ethnic Tibetans, former residents of India and Nepal, refugees from China and their children, may stay in Taiwan indefinitely for lack of any other legal place to go, an official with the local Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission said.
The ethnic Tibetans reached relatively well-off Taiwan on work, travel or religious mission visas issued throughout Asia as early as 2001, then overstayed and said they had lost their passports, said commission secretary general Chien Shi-ying.
“If we wanted to send them back some place, there wouldn’t be anywhere to send them,” Chien said. “They’re illegal but we can’t send them out. There’s nothing we can do.”
Most of the Tibetans work in factories in northern Taiwan.
Thousands of people fled Tibet, a region of southwest China, after a failed uprising in 1959 against what they describe as repressive Chinese rule.
About 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal and an estimated 150,000, including Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, live in India. China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.