As next Saturday’s elections draw nearer, candidates from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are busy trying to secure additional support. They are either going around electioneering or attacking their opponents to get more media exposure. At times like these, politicians — be they pan-blue or pan-green — suddenly start paying a lot of attention to new immigrants who are voting for the first time.
Now, all three presidential candidates are saying they are “Hakka” and visiting Aboriginal villages, donning traditional Aboriginal clothing and pretending they are Aborigines — all in an attempt to gain votes. It would probably be safe to predict that when the next presidential election comes around, the candidates will all be referring to themselves as “new immigrants.” That is actually right, because the only distinction that can be made between people living in Taiwan is who got here a bit earlier and who got here a bit later. We are all immigrants in a sense. The problem is politicians do not realize this most of the time, but come election time, every presidential candidate suddenly develops an interest in “genealogy.” This is nothing but a trick to get people to vote for them.
The 450,000 spouses from China and Southeast Asia in Taiwan are in a minority, accounting for 2 percent of the population. Of these, 190,000 have already obtained citizenship and the right to vote. If they all voted for the same person, they could easily elect a legislator of their own choice. Unfortunately, there are no quotas for new immigrants and the election system distributes them across different areas, eroding their potential voting power. Like many other disadvantaged groups, they only get any attention at election time.
Tsai’s election slogan reads: “Thank you, Taiwan,” while Ma keeps talking about respecting cultural diversity. However, neither Tsai nor Ma has come up with a concrete response to the discrimination experienced by Chinese spouses and Southeast Asian women in their daily lives.
The legislative caucuses of both parties have also ignored calls to amend the fourth clause of the Nationality Act (國籍法), which makes it very hard for new immigrants who lose their spouse or foreign women who get divorced to gain citizenship, telling immigrant organizations that this is not a priority amendment and that it cannot be initiated. By letting immigrants wait in vain for such a simple amendment, how can they claim that they are concerned about their plight?
Furthermore, neither the KMT nor the DPP has responded to any of the many calls from immigrant groups that regulations requiring that interviews be held outside Taiwan for prospective immigrants from 20 different countries be abolished, that the time span for allowing Chinese spouses to obtain citizenship be the same as for other foreign spouses, that amnesty be granted to Chinese spouses who are in Taiwan illegally, and that regulations demanding that new immigrants renounce their original citizenship before they can become naturalized Taiwanese be removed.
Ma and Tsai have both made comments about implementing mother-tongue education for children, but neither has shown a willingness to include Southeast Asian languages as “local languages” alongside Hakka and Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese). All they have given is a bunch of empty promises.