Amendments to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) passed last month that relaxed several restrictions on Chinese immigrant spouses do not go far enough, immigrant rights activists said yesterday.
The activists gave the revised law a failing grade, saying that immigrant spouses from China and other countries still do not receive equal treatment as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised.
“We’re aware that the newly revised law made some progress in protecting the basic rights of Chinese spouses, but [on a scale of zero to 100] the progress was only from a score of zero to 50,” said Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍), chairwoman of the New Immigrant Labor Rights Association, at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
“Immigrant spouses from China are still not treated equally to those from other countries,” she said.
Key changes in the revised law — which came into effect yesterday — include allowing Chinese immigrant spouses to work if they enter the country legally, trimming the naturalization process for Chinese immigrant spouses from 8 years to 6 years, removing the cap on inheriting property in Taiwan and abolishing the NT$420,000 (US$12,760) financial requirement to acquire Taiwanese citizenship.
However, activists are not satisfied with the changes.
“There should be a set of unified human rights standards for immigrant spouses from China and those from other countries, otherwise it’s not fair to the Chinese,” said Chiu Ya-ching (邱雅青), executive secretary of the TransAsia Sisters Association Taiwan. Chiu, a naturalized Taiwanese citizen, is an immigrant spouse who originally came from Thailand.
“For example, though time required for the naturalization process for Chinese immigrant spouses has been reduced from 8 years to 6 years, it still takes longer for them because the process only takes three years for us,” she said.
On the other hand, Cross-Strait Marriage Harmony Promotion Association chairman Chung Chin-ming (鍾錦明), voiced his concern that, despite the revised law, employers in Taiwan would still be reluctant to hire Chinese immigrant spouses with national ID cards.
“If the law now allows Chinese spouses to work before getting citizenship, the government should tell the public about it,” Chung said, also urging the government to grant immigrant spouses the right to assemble.
The activists said that equal treatment between immigrant spouses from China and other countries was just the first step in their campaign. Their objective is to ask the government to treat all immigrant spouses the same as Taiwanese citizens.
“Some people may say that immigrant spouses are foreigners and it’s reasonable to not grant them as many rights as Taiwanese,” Awakening Foundation secretary-general Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛) said. “But if you really think about it — immigrant spouses are different from foreigners who came to Taiwan to work, do business or just to visit, because once they’re married to Taiwanese, they’re part of Taiwanese families.”