At a public hearing of the Legislative Yuan, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) yesterday said she would propose amendments to remove the requirement for foreign nationals to renounce their original citizenship before being granted Republic of China (ROC) citizenship, as two former Pakistani nationals recounted how became stateless when they were denied Taiwanese citizenship after giving up Pakistani citizenship.
“If there’s any reason why I cannot be granted Taiwanese citizenship, you can tell me, so that I can keep my Pakistani citizenship, and live here as a foreign resident,” Syed Noor Alam, a former Pakistani, said at a public hearing at the legislature.
Having lived in Taiwan for more than 20 years, Syed decided to become a naturalized Taiwanese citizen after marrying a Taiwanese woman.
He was given a Certificate of ROC Naturalization Candidacy after submitting the required documents, including a certificate from the police showing that he had no criminal record in Taiwan.
With the candidacy certificate in hand, Syed flew to Pakistan to officially renounce his Pakistani citizenship. However, upon arrival in Taiwan, he found that bad news awaited him.
“When I came back to Taiwan, I received another police document saying that I had a criminal record, and so my naturalization application was turned down,” Syed said.
Admitting that he was ruled guilty in a theft case, Syed said it was unacceptable to him that the government made a mistake in the first place and is now not trying to help him.
“I couldn’t attend my father’s funeral when he passed away. Now my mother is severely ill and I still cannot be by her side,” Syed said. “My mother calls me all the time, asking me when would I be back — but I don’t know the answer.”
“Don’t you [government officials] have mothers as well?” he said.
Another former Pakistani citizen, Jawal Shakoor, faced a similar dilemma. Jawal was granted Taiwanese citizenship in 2004, but he was only a Taiwanese citizen for about eight months, as his citizenship was revoked by the Ministry of the Interior after he was discovered to have a criminal record.
“Prior to giving up my Pakistani citizenship, the police issued me a certificate proving that I had no criminal record. After granting me a Taiwanese ID card and a Taiwanese passport, they discovered otherwise and decided to take them away, without telling me what I can do next,” Jawal said.
Hsiao said she had also been stateless for a few days after she gave up her US citizenship before she received ROC citizenship.
“I waited for a few days, but some immigrants may have to wait more than a few days or even a few months. I was fortunate enough to receive my Taiwanese citizenship, but what if something went wrong during the pending period?” Hsiao said.
“I think it’s not reasonable to ask an immigrant to give up citizenship of his or her country of origin before getting Taiwanese citizenship,” she said.
Hsiao added that it is not justified to allow naturalized citizens to run for public office only 10 years after their naturalization.
“When someone becomes a naturalized citizen, he or she becomes one of us, and should be granted the same rights in political participation,” she said.
Hsiao proposed an amendment to the Nationality Act (國籍法) and the Election and Recall Act for Public Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法) to address the issue.
Chai Lan-ping (翟蘭萍), an official from the Interior Ministery’s Department of Household Registration, said the ministry is neutral on the proposals.
“As long as the laws are amended by the legislature, we would act in accordance with the amended laws,” he said.
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