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New alliance urges easing of rules on revocation of Taiwan citizenship

2017/09/13 23:07:22

Taipei, Sept. 13 (CNA) A number of legal experts and civic groups said Wednesday that they have formed an alliance to push for amendments to the regulations that allow the government to strip an immigrant of Taiwan citizenship.

The "Yi Chiu Meng" ("One Nine Alliance") includes members of the Legal Aid Foundation, Plain Law Movement, the Alliance for Human Rights Legislation of Immigrants and Migrants, TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan (TASAT), Labor Rights Association and Taiwan How Young Development Association.

Taiwan passed an amendment to the Nationality Act last December to ease restrictions governing the naturalization of foreign spouses married to Taiwanese citizens, but members of the alliance argued Wednesday that the revised Article 19 of the Act is problematic and creates more uncertainties for naturalized citizens.

According to the amended Article 19, the naturalization, loss, or restoration of Taiwan nationality may be revoked by the Ministry of the Interior within two years if any circumstances are discovered that are not in conformity with the Act. However, the clause does not apply in cases where the person has been a citizen of Taiwan for at least five years.

On the other hand, if a naturalized citizen is found by the court to have engaged in fraudulent marriage or adoption, their Taiwan citizenship can be revoked at any time, regardless of how long they have held it.

Prior to the amendment, Article 19 stated only that the naturalization, loss, or restoration of Taiwan nationality may be revoked within five years of discovering any violations to the Act.

"New immigrants could live in fear their whole lives due to the amended Article 19 of the Nationality Act," Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍), head of the Labor Rights Association, said at a press conference.

People are emotional beings and relationships can go wrong, Wang said. Under the current law, immigrants will live in fear that their spouses or friends might betray them one day and report their authentic marriages as fake marriages, which would result in a loss of citizenship, she said.

Lee Pei-hsiang (李佩香), executive secretary of TASAT which assists immigrants from Southeast Asia, said her organization has heard of instances where spouses have threatened to report their authentic marriages to immigrants as fake marriages, following hostile breakups.

The Cambodian-Taiwanese said most immigrants from Southeast Asia want to obtain Taiwan citizenship because without it they might not be able to remain in Taiwan with their children or qualify for social welfare.

Bruce Liao (廖元豪), associate professor of law at National Chengchi University, said the problem with Article 19, before or after the amendment, is that it can render an immigrant stateless because Taiwan's law requires immigrants to renounce their original citizenship in order to obtain Taiwan citizenship.

"It is a law that should not exist," Liao said, referring to Article 19.

"(A natural born citizen) who breaks the law or makes a mistake can be fined, jailed or even executed under the Criminal Code of the Republic of China, but not one of them will have their citizenship revoked," he said.

Liao questioned whether an administrative violation or minor offense by an immigrant was "more severe than murder or robbery."

He said there are already laws, including the Human Trafficking Prevention Act and the Criminal Code, which can be used to punish law-breakers for violations such as engaging in fake marriages and forging documents, and there is no need to revoke a person's citizenship for those offenses.

The ideal situation would be to get rid of the laws that allow revocation of citizenship, Liao said.

However, the alliance would also accept setting a reasonable time limit for such action, he said.

Frank Wu (吳富凱), an attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation, told CNA that the new alliance is hoping to shorten the time limit to two or five years in cases of fake marriage and to no more than two years in cases of administrative violations such as giving incorrect information when applying for citizenship and ID cards.

However, the alliance will ask that the government allow immigrants to reclaim their original citizenship before revoking their Taiwan citizenship, Wu said.

The members of the alliance said they will hold a public hearing on the issue at the Legislative Yuan on Sept. 26 to discuss proposals to amend the Nationality Act, and will finalize a draft proposal after reaching a consensus.

(By Christie Chen)