Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Running the visa gauntlet

KMT Legislator Sun Kuo-hwa (孫國華) held a news conference on Wednesday to protest the Austrian government's requirement that Taiwanese present a financial statement as part of their application for a tourist visas. Although it turned out that Austria had abolished the requirement earlier this month, it is still worthwhile to explore the discriminatory treatment faced by Taiwanese who want to travel abroad.

Such discrimination is not really news anymore. Much of teh discrimination stems from pressures and obstructions brought by Beijing for political reasons, such as the recent controversy over China's demand that other countries not list "Taiwan" as the birthplace on the passports of their Taiwan-born nationals. While many countries, including the US and Canada, decided to ignore such a stupid request, other countries may succumb.

Moreover, foreign passport holders who list Taiwan as their place of birth have encountered problems in getting Chinese visas. Everyone is now also waiting to see whether the new Republic of China passports with the word "Taiwan" on the cover to be issued next month will cause problems for their holders.

Other types of discriminatory treatments appear to exist because the government is not powerful enough to make its protests count. For example, it has become increasingly difficult for Taiwanese to get visas to the US, Canada and some other countries. Why? There is no apparent political reason. But the large number of Taiwanese who overstay their visas and become illegal immigrants in those countries is clearly a factor, even though the number of illegal immigrants from China far outnumbers those from Taiwan. But considering every Taiwanese who applies for a visa as a potential illegal immigrant is, of course, extremely unfair to the majority of law-abiding people who enjoy a good life here and just want to go abroad for a holiday or for a specific term of study or work.

What was the reason behind the financial requirement for an Austrian visa? Illegal immigrants from Taiwan have come from all sorts of financial backgrounds -- certainly many have been rich enough to buy luxurious homes and and expensive cars in North American communities where large numbers of ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese reside.

If the intention is to make sure that Taiwanese visitors have enough money to throw around while traveling, these governments should rest assured that having that kind of money is hardly ever a problem for Taiwanese any more. Just go take a look at the Louis Vuitton stores in Paris, where Mandarin-speaking sales persons are employed fulltime to serve big spenders from Taiwan.

Requiring proof of financial capability in order to get a visa accomplishes no legitimate purpose, except to irritate and inconvenient law-abiding Taiwanese who simply want to have a good time traveling abroad and then come home. Moreover, this visa requirement seems at odd with the fundamental principal of the EU on the free movement of persons, as well as the goodwill expressed by the European Parliament through repeated passage of resolutions in support of Taiwan.

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