I was deeply touched by a recent news report about the difficulties that a Thai woman, Yang Hsin-mei (楊心梅), had in obtaining legal Taiwanese identity for two decades despite being married to a Taiwanese man and having a daughter here.
No government agency was willing to help her, and no one took her problem seriously from the time a broker tricked her out of her passport before her wedding 21 years ago. That all changed when she stole some cream in March and was deported from Taiwan for overstaying her visa.
Does she regret not stealing something 21 years ago? If she had, she could have bid a last farewell to her mother who died in Thailand several years ago and would not be so ill owing to various physical and psychological hardships.
The Ministry of the Interior has some 400 petitions from overseas Chinese descendants from Thailand and Myanmar living in Taiwan without residence permits. Most of the petitioners are second or third-generation descendants of soldiers in the Nationalist army who retreated to Thailand and Myanmar from China in 1949. Their fathers are in their 80s now, and they still praise Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) Three Principles of the People. They continue to love the motherland, and their loyalty remains unwavering. They still believe the government’s promise that it will bring them home, although they know in their hearts that the chances are slim. But they simply refuse to believe that the government would forget them.
Today, their children have undergone hardship and finally returned to what they feel is their homeland, thinking that their wishes have come true. Instead, they are seen as a burden passed down from history, and they are trapped by unfriendly policies and cold, rigid regulations.
When I think of this, I want to tell their old fathers that their country really has forgotten them, and that the good times are nothing but memories.
Why can’t these 400 petitioners be granted the status they so fairly deserve, both according to reason and to the law? Do they all have to steal something at a convenience store or a supermarket to turn their plight into a social issue that attracts public attention, so that their cases are taken seriously and given reasonable treatment?
Last year, Wu Shou-chung (吳守忠) committed suicide following a failed and prolonged attempt to apply for Taiwanese residence.
This year, a young outstanding overseas Chinese student at National Taiwan University jumped off an 11-story building to end his life because of financial difficulties and his stateless status.
These people shouldn’t have had to end their lives. If the government had shown some sympathy to them and given them a chance to legally live in Taiwan, they could be alive today.
After reading about Yang, I feel sympathy for her. I wonder whether or not the 400 petitioners will have to follow her example to be able to put an end to their statelessness.
These people never know how long they will have to spend trying to gain the basic recognition that is the right of every human being. Although some people may not care about their identification card, others have to spend decades trying to obtain an identity, and in vain.
How many more people are still hoping to obtain a household registration and an ID card so that they can enjoy basic human dignity?
Angela Lee is a member of the Thai-Burma Region Chinese Offspring Refugee Service Association.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG AND TED YANG
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