Tue, Apr 29, 2014 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Foreigners kept at bay

A local newspaper recently recalled the story of Father Brendan O’Connell, a US citizen who has lived more than 50 years in Taiwan and founded the Institute for Developmentally Impaired Children.

O’Connell cannot obtain Republic of China (ROC) citizenship because of Article 9 of the Nationality Law (國籍法), which requires that the applicant must renounce his existing citizenship. ROC citizens wishing to apply for US citizenship are not subjected to such a sacrifice and Taiwan recognizes dual nationality for its citizens.

“Legislators are planning to table bills that would expand the clause for honorary obtainment of citizenship,” the report said.

Eventually the restriction could be lifted for candidates who have made “outstanding contributions to the country or are needed specialists.”

In other words, if this law is amended, only a few hand-picked brilliant and valuable foreigners could obtain an ROC citizenship without renunciation of their home country.

The ROC naturalization rules tinged with racial segregation appear as aberrant and grotesque as they are ironical as they are dictated by institutions whose head holds a US resident card and who has a daughter who has become a US citizen.

Prejudices and discrimination commonly practiced here forbid other foreigners from obtaining a simple resident status, whereas any Taiwanese in the same situation would probably be granted a resident visa in most Western democracies.

It reveals Taiwan’s persistent, biased considerations and double standards for foreigners. Consequently, not all [foreigners] are lulled by the embroidered cliches about the island or regard it as the hospitable and friendly place shown in picture postcards issued in pamphlets for tourists.

If generous Western countries had applied such stringent, absurd and unfair rules as a mere reciprocity, some rare Taiwanese would have qualified to enjoy the unparalleled privileges of being a naturalized American, Australian, Canadian or European.

Thousands of Taiwanese who are neither “needed specialists,” nor outstanding contributors to their respective host country, have obtained naturalization with all the prerogatives offered accordingly. They take for granted the immense chance to benefit from the identical advantages of other nationals, but naturally do not find it relevant to grant the reciprocity for a foreigner living, working and paying taxes on their island.

Taiwan dreams of recognition and more significance on the international stage, but excels in keeping foreigners at bay, with exceptions made for tourists and expatriates who bring money. Taiwan maintains a blatant favoritism for its nationals or Chinese-ethnicity immigrants and encourages protectionism.

This is in complete contradiction to the norms of globalization, which lift barriers and open borders to different people.

If Taiwan intends to embrace the future with credibility, it should start being an outstanding model in terms of multiethnicity, lead by example and make outstanding uninterested contributions to the world beyond its diplomatic friends. Mostly, Taiwan should be aware that any democracy worthy of the name extends basic human rights, generosity, respect, tolerance and fairness to anyone without distinction of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

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