Taiwan yesterday denied it had imprisoned two mainland dissidents, saying that on the contrary, it was helping to arrange political asylum for them in a third country. 'We have respected the wishes of the two in seeking political asylum and have been contacting Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain, as well as other democratic countries, over their settlement,' said Mainland Affairs Council vice-chairman Chiu Tai-san. His comment came after 70 Chinese dissidents jointly wrote to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian asking him to free Yan Peng and Chen Rongli , both of whom swam from the mainland to nearby Quemoy, Yan in June last year and Chen this January. The two have been kept at a special detention centre for illegal mainland immigrants in the northeastern county of Ilan, but their detention is seen by fellow dissidents as imprisonment and a violation of human rights for democracy fighters. Mr Chiu said the two had illegally entered Taiwan and that under its law, should be detained while awaiting repatriation to the mainland. He said that because of concern that they were pro-democracy activists, the government had no plans to send them back to the mainland and was helping them to find political asylum elsewhere. The vice-chairman also said that although the pair were being kept at the centre, they were free to communicate with anyone, including Taiwan's human rights organisations and mainland relatives.