With an estimated 219,000 Chinese spouses in Taiwan expected to obtain the right to vote, some academics have expressed concerns over China’s influence on Taiwan’s combined presidential and legislative elections next year.
Lawmakers in 2009 amended the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), shortening the period a Chinese spouse must wait before acquiring the right to vote from eight to six years.
The Executive Yuan then lobbied for the limit to be further shortened from six to four years, in line with the period spouses of other nationalities are required to wait before being allowed to vote.
A draft bill on the proposed amendment is currently under review by legislators.
A census conducted by the National Immigration Agency, published in February, showed that with the exception of those from Hong Kong and Macau, the number of Chinese spouses stood at about 324,000 — twice the combined number of all other expatriates who arrived in the nation through marriage — of which 108,000 hold entry-and-exit permits, while 112,000 have been granted permanent residency.
By law, Chinese spouses must be married to a citizen of the Republic of China (ROC) for at least four years and live in the nation for at least six years before they can obtain a Taiwanese identification card, a criterion that has been met by 112,000 people and which about 107,000 people will soon fulfill, putting the estimated total at 219,000, the census showed.
The number of Chinese spouses eligible to vote next year will also be twice that of spouses from other nations, which will be about 112,000.
Furthermore, the number of Chinese spouses who were allowed to vote in 2008 and in 2012 was 50,000 and 90,000 respectively, indicating a trend in which the size of the demographic roughly doubles every four years.
Calling the rising prominence of Chinese spouses an obvious tactic devised by Beijing to achieve its “united front,” National Dong Hwa University professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said the phenomenon could be worrisome in a scenario in which the outcome of an election is decided by a narrow margin of voters, as the Chinese spouses could be the determining factor.
Nanhua University professor Tung Li-wen (董立文) said he has met some Chinese spouses who expressed a great interest in politics, some of whom even formed a political party with similar political beliefs to Beijing.
Although the particular group he mentioned does not represent all Chinese spouses, local political parties must not overlook the potential threat posed by such groups, he said.
The government should be cautious when espousing shortening the term for Chinese spouses to become naturalized ROC citizens, since Taiwan and China have a special relationship.
Kaohsiung New Citizen Development Association director-general Chan Hsiu-ing (湛秀英) said the difference in the time Chinese spouses are made to wait before being granted the ROC identification card is disproportionate compared with that for those from other nations.
Chinese spouses, like everyone else, are members of families and of society, she said, adding that they do not all lean toward one political view.
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