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Chinese spouses demand equal rights at protest

2012/05/08 16:40:50

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) More than 50 Chinese spouses of Taiwanese citizens protested in front of the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday, calling on the government to give them the same rights as other foreign spouses and shorten the time needed for them to obtain a Taiwan ID card.

The protesters presented a written appeal to ruling Kuomintang Legislator Wu Yu-jen and announced a signature drive to petition for a revision of the law that would make spouses from China eligible for a Taiwan 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 a Taiwan ID, while it takes six years for Chinese spouses to do so?" asked Zhan Xiuying, director of a new immigrant social development association in Kaohsiung.

Zhan said Chinese spouses in Taiwan 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 Taiwan ID in 2008, eight years after getting married to a Taiwanese national.

An amendment was passed in 2009 that relaxed restrictions on Chinese spouses' right to work and shortened the time needed to get a Taiwan 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 Taiwan 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 in Taiwan unless permitted by authorities.

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

"I hope the Taiwanese government can hear our voices," said a mother of two from Hunan Province, surnamed Deng.

Deng received her Taiwan ID last year, but she said she came to the rally to vie for better rights for other Chinese spouses in Taiwan.

Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said last month that the government will aim to revise existing laws so that Chinese spouses can enjoy the same rights as other foreign spouses.

Government statistics show that there are over 260,000 Chinese spouses currently living in Taiwan.

Taiwan imposed stricter regulations on Chinese spouses to protect its national security, fearing that some Chinese may engage in false marriages to come to Taiwan and that giving them the right to vote, which comes with an ID card, would hurt national interests.

(By Christie Chen)
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