Sat, Nov 03, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Descendants of KMT soldiers living in limbo

ON THE MARGINS The offspring of former KMT soldiers who fled China are finding that while they are welcome to study in Taiwan, they may not be able to reside here

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

"Stateless" descendants of former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops stationed in northern Myanmar and Thailand yesterday pleaded with the government to naturalize them.

Tens of thousands of KMT troops retreated across the Chinese border and stationed themselves in northern Myanmar and Thailand following the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) Nationalist forces by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War.

As the push to retake China never took place, many of the soldiers and their families were stranded in the region.

Since these people entered Myanmar and Thailand illegally, they are not recognized by the two countries. Their descendants have thus been denied citizenship, although many of them were born and raised in these countries.

Some of these stateless people faced a new challenge after coming to Taiwan to attend college.

Chen Chai-yi (陳彩怡), from northern Myanmar, told her story during a press conference held at the legislature yesterday.

"I passed the college entrance exam held by Taiwan's Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission [OCAC] and was accepted by a university in Taiwan in 2003," Chen said.

However, since she had no citizenship from either country, Chen purchased a forged Burmese passport to travel with, she said.

It was only once Chen arrived in the country that she discovered she would be required to prove her status before receiving Taiwanese citizenship.

"I wasn't aware of this and the OCAC didn't tell me when I took the exam [in Myanmar]," Chen said.

"I cannot return to Myanmar because I will be imprisoned for life for holding a forged passport, but my stay in Taiwan will also become illegal once I graduate from college," Chen said. "I'm basically stuck."

Liu Hsiao-hua (劉小華), chief executive of the Thai-Myanmar Region Chinese Offspring Refugee Service Association, estimated that more than 1,000 students from the region are in a similar situation.

Lee Lin-feng (李臨鳳), an Immigration Bureau official, said that there are difficulties involved in granting these people citizenship.

"What has blocked these people from obtaining Taiwanese citizenship is that neither they nor the Ministry of National Defense have any proof that they are descendants of former soldiers," Lee said. "Even when some had proof, they were unable to submit a certificate renouncing their original nationality."

Lee said she would seek a solution at the next Ministry of the Interior meeting, "considering the special circumstances."

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