TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Thousands of police ringed the airport Sunday with orders to expel two political exiles arriving from the United States, and the government imposed a curfew to prevent supporters from giving the dissidents a triumphant welcome home.
The dissidents, Hsu Hsin-liang and Hsieh Tsung-min, who have been living in exile in the United States for seven years, were expected on one of several flights from Tokyo Sunday.
Hsu said at a news conference during a stopover in Tokyo Saturday night that former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and an American human rights lawyer, Leonard Weinglass, would accompany them to Taipei to ensure their safety.
Hsu and Hsieh are supporters of the dissident Democratic Progressive Party trying to overthrow the Nationalist Chinese Government of President Chiang Ching-kuo.
The Nationalists have been ruling under martial law since their arrival from mainland China in 1949.
Airport officials estimated the security force in and around Chiang Kai-shek International Airport was 'at least 3,000 strong,' and all access roads to the airport were blocked to everyone but those carrying airplane tickets.
Witnesses at the airport reported hundreds of riot police, carrying nightsticks and some with tear-gas launchers, were awaiting their arrival. None was seen carrying guns.
Supporters of the dissidents have said they would try to greet the three men en masse in order to force officials to let them enter the country. By 8 p.m. EST, 250 supporters heading to the airport had been turned back under a special government-ordered curfew around the airport.
Hsu, 45, a journalist who is leading the group, is wanted in Taiwan on a sedition charge for his anti-government activities before he left Taiwan for the United States in 1979. Conviction for sedition can carry the death penalty.
Hsu said in Tokyo Saturday night that a third politician expected to travel with his party, Lin Sui-chuan, was returning to the United States. Hsu said Lin arrived in Tokyo without a Taiwan passport and was refused entry to Japan.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman Chyne Chiu told a news conference that the dissidents and any foreigners accompanying them on the trip to Taiwan will be denied entry.
Security officials at the airport said police were ordered to refuse entry to the dissidents and expel them on the plane they arrive on.
Security sources said they believe the group was arriving on Cathay Pacific Airlines Flight 451, due at 5:40 a.m. EST, but airlines sources said the group booked seats on other flights too.
A senior government official said Friday the government would deny entry to Hsu, although he added authorities would 'try everything possible' to avoid arresting him.
The official said authorities did not want the opposition leaders' presence to stir emotions before parliamentary elections next Saturday. Government sources said authorities would rather turn away Hsu than arrest him and the legal proceedings could cause even more strife than his admission.
'We are determined to go back to our homeland,' Hsu said during the Tokyo stopover. 'We don't want confrontation -- we don't want conflict. We just want to get in peacefully.'
Hsueh, also returning after seven years in exile in the United States, spent nearly 11 years in prison for writing a declaration calling for an end to martial law, imposed by the Nationalists since 1949.
Lin, 49, was sentenced in 1964 to 15 years in prison on political charges, but was released early in 1977. He went into exile in the United States four years ago.
The Democrats are the first alternate party recognized by the ruling Kuomintang Party since the Nationalists retreated to the island.