Stateless Malaysian woman returns to country of birth

By Lee Li-fa  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Mar 13, 2014 - Page 5

“Although I feel more pain than happiness, my heart is full of gratitude,” Kao Su-chen (高素貞), a stateless Malaysian woman, said before leaving Taiwan and heading back to her country of birth late last month with help from the National Immigration Agency’s Kaohsiung Service Center and the Hsinche Buddhist Temple (信徹禪寺).

Kao thanked all “the noble Taiwanese who helped [her] through the lowest point in her life.”

Kao, 61, lost her parents at an early age and lived with her elder sister in Penang before she relocated to Taiwan after marrying a Taiwanese man surnamed Pan (潘) in 1995.

However, before she could become a naturalized Taiwanese citizen, her husband committed suicide in 1996 by lying on railway tracks.

After becoming stateless, Kao was helped by a friend of her husband, surnamed Chang (張), who provided her with a place to live.

Kao said she has no relatives in Taiwan and wanted to report her situation to the immigration agency at times, but Chang, who often took care of her, had been diagnosed with severe lung disease three years ago and moved from Pingtung County to Greater Kaohsiung for treatment, so she thought she should take care of him to repay his kindness.

Chang, 67, lived alone in Pingtung County’s Jhutian Township (竹田) and did not earn much money working as a security guard, but still provided Kao with material assistance, she said, adding that Chang lost contact with his children for unknown reasons, so he would not be taken care of if she was put in jail or repatriated.

As Chang’s physical condition worsened, his doctors advised Kao to face up to the law and solve her problem, so Kao said she “gathered her courage and reported herself” to the immigration agency.

Kaohsiung Service Center Director Yu Kuang-Tsan (游光燦) said Kao had no money and was in a pitiful condition, but because she had stayed in Taiwan for 18 years, the Malaysian Friendship and Trade Center in Taipei would not issue her a new passport.

Kao could not gain Taiwanese or Malaysian citizenship, and was temporarily settled at the Hsinche Buddhist Temple while her case was being handled, Yu said.

Buddhist masters Shih Tien-ying (釋天瀅) and Shih Yi-ching (釋一靜) said they sympathized with Kao and knew she was worried about Chang’s condition, so they searched for Chang’s son and persuaded him to take care of his father.

Kao felt relieved and thanked the Buddhist masters by becoming a volunteer worker at the temple last year and finally gained the documents she needed from the immigration agency that allowed her to return home to her sister in Malaysia late last month.