EDITORIAL: Upholding the nation’s name

Fri, Sep 06, 2013 - Page 8

Taiwanese residing overseas are yet again being mislabeled as citizens of the People’s Republic of China, with reports emerging this week that their nationality on residency certificates issued by immigration authorities in Norway and South Korea were designated as “Kina [China]-Taiwan” and “China (Taiwan)” respectively.

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they have taken up the issue with the Norwegian and South Korean governments, but that both have refused to correct the mistakes, citing an adherence to the “one China” policy.

While such news no doubt infuriates many Taiwanese, there is perhaps a silver lining amid the frustration: Rather than growing numb to the blatant incorrectness, as some have long feared, Taiwanese are taking a stand and making their cases heard.

The case in Norway came to light after a Taiwanese student penned a letter to the op-ed page of the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister paper of the Taipei Times) voicing his “heartache” over his failed attempts requesting the Oslo government to correct the nationality on his residency card. As for South Korea, the Chinese-language Apple Daily ran a report after receiving multiple complaints from netizens over the wrong designation on their residency certificates.

Taiwan is a sovereign nation, with its own government, currency and territory. It elects its own government and negotiates its own treaties. It does not claim to represent China, although China has always sought — incorrectly — to claim Taiwan as part of its territory through incessant international campaigns.

While Taiwan has no control over how other countries choose to kowtow to Beijing, it is encouraging to see Taiwanese refusing to take such absurd notions lying down.

Self-respect gains respect. If Taiwanese do not raise their voices and demand a correction of the misunderstanding regarding their nationality, how can they expect countries, international organizations and the like to be aware that they have committed a mistake?

And even if a majority of the international community do not have the guts to stand up to China’s bullying, it does not mean that Taiwanese should act in the same spineless manner and quietly accept this continuing injustice without uttering a protest.

Silence is certainly not golden in the case of Taiwan’s plight.

While the people of Taiwan deserve applause for raising their voices on their own initiative and striving for due respect, Taiwanese officials’ ambivalence about the distinctions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are not helping the cause.

After all, how is Taiwan to demand respect from other countries and expect them to address it by its correct name when the government itself commits such errors? Witness the recent controversy over the Taipei City Government’s advertisement at MRT stations, with its reference to China as neidi (內地, “inland”), a loaded term implying that China’s borders extend overseas to Taiwan.

It is cases like this highlighting government officials’ blatant show of disrespect for their own that is sowing confusion and cultivating the misconception among members of the international community that Taiwan is part of China.

Taiwan can fight international injustice — but only when the people and officials alike can raise their collective voice in accord.