Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Regarding Chinese spouses

By Bo Tedards

Regarding the status of Chinese spouses in Taiwan, it is unclear whether Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is ill-informed or ill-intentioned ("Ma urges equality for Chinese wives," Jan. 18, page 3.)

Activists for the rights of Chinese spouses always chant the slogan of "equality," claiming that they are "discriminated against" compared with other foreign spouses in the length of time it takes to get identification cards. The discourse on this issue usually treats the possession of such cards as a matter of convenience. For some reason, they prefer to avoid the fact that these cards are physical symbols of Republic of China (ROC) nationality. ROC passports indicate such nationality when overseas, and identification cards do so at home, for example for purposes of voting.

According to Taiwan's nationality laws, foreign spouses -- whether from Vietnam or the US or anywhere else besides China -- are required to renounce their original nationality in order to acquire that of the ROC, and only after they have been successfully naturalized as ROC citizens can they receive identification cards. Until they decide to do this, they have to use Alien Residence Certificates (ARCs).

Chinese spouses, on the other hand, are not required to give up their PRC nationality. Instead they can just get identification cards directly, while still holding their PRC passports, merely by living for a certain number of years in Taiwan.

This is a cavernous loophole that circumvents the entire logic of the naturalization system. Rather than complaining about it, Chinese spouses should regard the current system as a special favor for which they should be grateful.

However, since they (or their advocates) have raised the issue of equality, the government should give it to them: if they officially renounce their PRC nationality, they can get the same treatment as other foreign spouses. If they choose not to renounce it, they can keep their ARCs or equivalent indefinitely like the rest of the people in this category.

And people like Ma should ask themselves whether they are really upholding the dignity of the ROC by saying that certain people should be able to get ROC nationality without going through all the proper procedures.

Bo Tedards

Taipei

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