My name is Eric Lier and I am an American in Taiwan. My family first began manufacturing shoes here in 1980, and three generations of my family have been living here as temporary residents since that time. I am writing as one who is becoming very concerned about events relating to all Americans who live in Taiwan.
A group of US congressmen recently introduced legislation sponsored by representatives Robert Andrews and Ed Royce urging US President George W. Bush to give preference to Taiwan when considering potential free-trade agreements.
Free trade is one of the US' most effective tools for promoting democracy and human rights, and a free trade agreement with Taiwan would have great benefits for both sides.
What many in Taiwan and the US fail to recognize publicly is that human rights in Taiwan have stalled for well over half a million inhabitants, including Americans like my family, who do not hold citizenship. All too often legal immigrants and migrants face strong government-mandated discrimination as well as human and civil rights abuses at the hands of the Taiwanese government.
A free-trade agreement between the US and Taiwan would provide recognition of Taiwan's status as a free and democratic nation and would further enhance Taiwan's democracy. However, there is still vast room for progress in this country's respect for human rights, as well as the few civil rights that are legislated but often ignored for over a half million non-Republic of China (ROC) citizens legally residing in Taiwan. Equally important should be the interest of Americans in terms of reciprocation of rights, freedom and market access in Taiwan when negotiating preferential free-trade agreements.
The current status of Americans in Taiwan continues to be out of balance with that of ROC citizens in the US. The policy of refusing permanent residency and denying rights to Americans in Taiwan has been the official policy of the Taiwanese governing authority for the past 50 years, and must be rectified.
Many of us in Taiwan are pleading with the US Congress in urging US President George W. Bush to support not just Taiwanese or US corporations when negotiating free trade but also American citizens and the ever-growing number of legal immigrants and migrants who continue to suffer here.