Wed, May 09, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Chinese spouses demand equal rights

DISCRIMINATED AGAINST:One demonstrator said Chinese spouses are living lives ‘unimaginable to others’ because of the many social and legal barriers they face

Staff writer, with CNA

Chinese spouses hold a protest in front of the legislature in Taipei yesterday, asking to be made eligible for Republic of China citizenship after four years of marriage, like other foreign spouses, instead of six years.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

More than 50 Chinese spouses of Taiwanese protested in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday, calling on the government to give them the same rights as other foreign spouses and shorten the time required for them to obtain a Republic of China (ROC) citizenship.

The protesters presented a written appeal to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-jen (吳育仁) and announced a signature drive to petition for a revision of the law that would make spouses from China eligible for an ROC ID card after living in the country for four years.

“We are all foreign spouses, but why does it take only four years for spouses from Southeast Asia and other countries to obtain an ID, while it takes six years for Chinese spouses to do so?” asked Zhan Xiuying (湛秀英), director of a new immigrant social development association in Greater Kaohsiung.

Zhan said Chinese spouses suffer from many forms of unfair treatment, such as legal and social discrimination, and many are living lives that are “unimaginable to others.”

The long wait is particularly problematic for the spouses and their children, Zhan said, because if a divorce were to occur during that period, the spouses would be forced to leave Taiwan and be separated from their children, without having any guardianship rights.

“We hope that society will not discriminate against us and will treat us fairly and change the waiting period for an ID from six to four years,” said Zhan, who received her ROC ID in 2008, eight years after getting married to a Taiwanese.

An amendment passed in 2009 relaxed restrictions on Chinese spouses’ right to work and shortened the time needed to get an ID card from eight to six years, but that is still two years longer than the waiting period for other foreign spouses.

To drive home their point, the protesters staged a skit in which a woman dressed in a traditional Chinese wedding dress was shown carrying a “dowry chest” on her back that had inscriptions reading “discrimination” and “six years to obtain an ID.”

They also voiced their discontent over discrimination in the workplace, degree certification and the right to join organizations.

Chinese spouses are currently barred from assuming any government jobs until 10 years after obtaining their ROC ID, unlike other foreign spouses, who can assume certain government positions immediately after being naturalized.

They are also prohibited from becoming members of or holding positions in juristic organizations or institutions unless permitted by authorities.

Taiwan also recognizes degrees from only 41 Chinese higher education institutes, making it hard for them to seek jobs, they said.

Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said last month that the government would aim to revise the law so that Chinese spouses can enjoy the same rights as other foreign spouses.

Government statistics show that there are more than 260,000 Chinese spouses living in Taiwan.

The government imposes stricter regulations on Chinese spouses to protect its national security, fearing that some Chinese may engage in false marriages and that giving them the right to vote, which comes with citizenship, would hurt national interests.

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