Media reports say China's National People's Congress has passed a law to allow people from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residing in China to apply for Chinese citizenship starting next year. This means the Chinese government will be able to control the numbers and activities of people from Hong Kong and Macau as well as Taiwanese residing in that country.
Whether this new measure is based on "united front" considerations is not important. What is of concern is that retired military men, civil servants and teachers from Taiwan now reside in China on a long-term basis. Under the incentive or pressure of this new measure, some of them may apply for a Chinese ID card and become a Chinese citizen, thereby gaining dual citizenship.
There should be a public debate as soon as possible on whether such people should be allowed to retain their Republic of China (ROC) citizenship and the benefits that it brings. The people of Taiwan should reach an early consensus on this issue so that future retirees will have legal precedent to follow.
The Mainland Affairs Council, Ministry of Education, Ministry of the Interior and Examination Yuan have all expressed their opinions on the matter. Most have agreed that people who obtain PRC citizenship should be viewed as having renounced their ROC citizenship and should no longer be eligible to receive government pensions. This would mean that people who plan to live in China on a long-term basis after they retire and obtain Chinese ID cards or passports will now have to take their pensions in a lump-sum payment. Such retirees would also lose their eligibility for the preferential 18 percent annual interest on savings.
People have the right to move and reside where they wish. However, given the current status of cross-strait relations, Beijing's unrelenting efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally and its military threats against this nation, it is inappropriate for Taiwanese to take the country's resources to China and spend them there. Such actions could trigger criticism that such retirees are abetting an enemy state.
According to statistics from the Veteran Affairs Commission, 6,000 veterans now live in China. The average monthly military pension is NT$13,000, which means these 6,000 people are costing the government NT$900 million a year. Given that a large number of children from low-income families can't even afford school meals, the government could do a lot better things with this money than sending it to China.
The idea that the government must pay stipends to retired servicemen who have moved to China is unbearable. If such people become Chinese citizens, then it is absurd for them to expect the country's government to use taxpayers' money to continue to support them
It would not beggar belief for the Chinese government to threaten or entice Taiwanese expatriates to accept Chinese citizenship. But this does not mean people living in Taiwan will buckle under such pressure and support unification. Beijing's actions in Hong Kong have made it very clear to the people here, as well as to the world, that maintaining "one country on each side" -- and as much distance from Beijing as possible -- is the best choice for Taiwan.