Sun, Nov 20, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Student rails against ‘stateless’ ID

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

An Icelandic residence permit belonging to Taiwanese student Lee Wan-chien, who studies in Iceland, lists the holder as “stateless” in an undated photograph that has some details blurred.

Photo provided by Lee

A Taiwanese exchange student in Iceland yesterday reported that the nationality on her residency permit had been changed to “stateless” after she appealed against being classified as “Chinese.”

“Even though I’m only on a half-year exchange, having ‘Chinese’ written on my ID card made me uncomfortable, because I identify with Taiwan as my country of citizenship,” a female student studying at the Reykjavik University, identified only by her surname Lee (李), wrote on “台灣人在歐洲 Taiwanese in Europe” Facebook group.

The 23-year-old School of Law student said she carried her passport to avoid using the permit.

A series of e-mails to Iceland’s immigration agency explaining the difference between Taiwan (Republic of China) and China (People’s Republic of China) elicited no reply, she said, adding that she only started to receive responses after she brought up the issue when she applied in person for a work permit.

“The woman at the window looked at me apologetically and said she was surprised that there would be this kind of problem, but her supervisor had said that because Taiwan was not a recognized country, there was nothing he could do,” Lee said.

However, after three months of contacting different government bureaus and the Taipei Representative Office in Denmark, she finally received a new ID card, which listed her nationality as “stateless.”

“At that moment, I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or cry,” Lee said, adding that her place of birth on the card was changed from “Kaohsiung” to “Taiwan.”

“This probably barely counts as half of a success, because ‘stateless’ at least shows that they acknowledge my statement that Taiwan isn’t Chinese territory,” she said.

Lee said her experience should be a warning about the nation’s weakening international status, adding that she was tired of having to apologize for not being “Chinese.”

“Why do I always have to say sorry?” she said.

“I’m not sorry that I’m not Chinese and I would like to never see any Taiwanese apologizing for being Taiwanese ever again,” she said.

“While Taiwan may think of itself as a normally operating country, as soon as we go abroad, who pays attention to us? No one recognizes us, our overseas representatives don’t have the standing to speak up, and no one listens,” she said.

“People who have not gone abroad don’t have to face this and might not realize the importance of the nation’s official name, and the reality that we’re becoming more and more disadvantaged internationally. Dragging out the ‘maintenance of the status quo isn’t really a good thing,” Lee wrote.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that as the nation does not have a representative office in Iceland, all affairs there are handled by the Taipei Representative Office in Denmark, which has been instructed to offer assistance to the student.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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