The government’s entry ban on a Japanese man who has voiced support for Taiwanese independence is a violation of freedom of speech and ironic given the number of Chinese officials advocating unification who are allowed to visit, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday.
Kenji Tanabe, 38, was refused entry and deported in September 2010, four months after he raised a banner in support of Taiwanese independence on the peak of Yushan during an earlier visit, DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) told a news conference in Taipei.
“The ban is inexplicable, because the freedom of speech for foreigners should also be protected, let alone considering that Tanabe expressed his views only because he loves Taiwan,” Chen said.
Tanabe has been barred from entering the country for five years for “jeopardizing public safety, social order and national interests by his public advocacy of Taiwanese independence,” according to the National Immigration Agency (NIA), which said he had engaged in political activities as a tourist.
The Ministry of the Interior’s Petition and Appeal Committee rejected Tanabe’s appeal on Aug. 16, Chen said.
Chen, who served as foreign minister during the former DPP administration, said Taiwanese independence is now receiving widespread support and the immigration agency will have to explain why supporting mainstream public opinion jeopardizes Taiwan’s national interests.
DPP lawmakers said Tanabe’s case was a reminder of the White Terror era and the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian regime, when the government considered foreigners’ entry applications on the basis of their political ideology.
Lu Chun-hui (呂俊輝), who represented Tanabe in his appeal of the deportation in 2010, said Tanabe was not informed at the time why he was being deported, and he did not regret raising the banner.
Political views in favor of independence or unification should both be accepted if Taiwan is to be a full and a true democracy, DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said.
However, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) refused to meet Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) when he visited earlier this year and refused to grant a visa to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, while Chinese officials who support annexing Taiwan by force if necessary are allowed to visit, Huang said.
NIA Deputy Director Ho Jung-tsun (何榮村) said Tanabe should have only done what a tourist is supposed to do under the Immigration Act (移民法) — sightsee and visit friends or relatives — and he was deported for engaging in extra activities.
“It was that simple,” Ho said.
He said visits of Chinese officials were governed by 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), not the Immigration Act.
Chinese officials are required to submit their itineraries before they visit and would be monitored by the Mainland Affairs Council, Ho said.
However, the agency could also deport Chinese officials if they engaged in “extra activities,” he said,