The root cause of such cases lies in Taiwan’s immigration laws, which some rights advocates say are unfriendly and discriminatory because foreigners on short stays are not allowed to participate in activities that “do not match their purpose of entry,” especially those acts deemed by the authorities as “endangering public safety, social order and national interests.”
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who was involved in Helmdach’s case, said the regulations are discriminatory, outdated, contravened global trends and must be revised.
“With the social and civil movements in Taiwan going global, it’s ironic that foreigners are not allowed to participate in assemblies when in the nation,” Hsiao said.
“For years, Taiwanese have voiced their wish for their nation to have a seat at the UN in New York, Washington and Geneva without any problems. Their freedom of speech has been respected by other countries,” she added.
Hsiao said she and other lawmakers have submitted an amendment that would legalize foreign visitors’ right to assembly.
While the majority of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators did not oppose the proposal, it has been sent to party caucus discussions and no time table has been given on when it will be screened.
Hsiao said the ministry “welcomed the proposal in general,” but had some reservations about it.
Another reason for the stalled review of the draft amendment is that lawmakers are simultaneously eyeing an ambitious overhaul of the Immigration Act, Hsiao said, adding that the proposal also aimed to legalize dual citizenship so naturalized foreigners can retain their original citizenship after becoming Taiwanese.
NIA public relations director Hsu Chien-lin (徐健麟) said the agency supported amending the act based on the universal value of freedom of speech.