The EU countries are strong supporters of democracy and human rights internationally. The abolition of capital punishment is one particular issue on which they make strong statements. Taiwan felt the EU’s strong reaction when the current Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government decided to end the moratorium on capital punishment. This reaction contrasts the silence when it comes to the 18 Europeans who are barred from Taiwan. Moreover, the European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei claims unawareness of the cases.
The office can hardly be unaware of the most publicized case, in which Daniel Helmdach of Germany publicly told his story of being barred from Taiwan. Helmdach said the authorities claimed that he had participated in an anti-nuclear demonstration. He had never been at the demonstration and he is now declared innocent. This came only after he had lawyers fight his case against the National Immigration Agency.
It is worrying that Taiwan’s authorities do not consider it wrong to bar a foreigner from participating a peaceful and legal demonstration. The authorities only said that it was not Helmdach who participated in the demonstration. So who was it?
The case is a rare one that reveals a systemic problem in how Taiwan handles the democratic rights of foreigners. There is no reason to wait for a trend in this arena: The barred foreigners may be unaware of their status, as they are not notified; thus we will never see a trend.
The case highlights the democratic problem with the Immigration Act’s (入出國移民法) general prohibition of participation in “activities different from the purposes of their visits or residence,” in article 29. The article violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Taiwan has ratified. It took effect on Dec. 10, 2009, with President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) signature. It means that Taiwan’s laws are under the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The EU is the largest investor in Taiwan and should have a strong interest in protecting its citizens, considering the many Europeans who visit.
The European countries’ silence on the matter is worrying because many Europeans are not aware that they are not allowed to participate in political activities during a short stay in Taiwan.
Most Europeans consider Taiwan to be a full democracy and should be warned about backward Taiwanese laws.
European nations must demand an explanation as to why the 18 Europeans have been barred. We know that they are barred in relation to the category addressing endangering the national interest, public safety or social order.
This can lead to a prohibition on entry for three to five years. The indivuduals include one from Portugal, two from France, two from Romania and five from the Netherlands, with the rest from unidentified countries.
Considering the German case, it is obvious that Taiwan is not following international standards and the democratic legislation that Ma signed. This warrants clear answers regarding the 18 Europeans who are banned. The European Economic and Trade office has no jurisdiction regarding Europeans: This is the responsibility of individual EU member states. These nations must act.
Taiwan’s legislature is working on improving the laws on the human rights of foreigners on short stays at the Democratic Progressive Party’s behest. Apparently, the KMT is not as enthusiastic about the law as the opposition. However, no matter the progress on this law, European nations must support their citizens and get appropriate answers regarding the barred Europeans.
Michael Danielsen is the chairman of the Copenhagen-based Taiwan Corner.
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