Published on Taipei Times

Rules on foreign spouses must change, groups say
UNFIT: Dozens of organizations argue that unless it ends the discriminatory process by which foreign spouses can obtain citizenship, Taiwan will be undeserving of the UN
By Shih Hsiu-chuan
Monday, Sep 10, 2007, Page 2
Holding a banner reading "UN for Taiwan" in front of the Executive Yuan, hundreds of foreign spouses yesterday expressed their doubts over the country's qualifications to be accepted by the world body because of its record of discrimination against immigrants.
They urged the government to scrap regulations that require foreign spouses of Taiwanese applying for naturalization to meet minimum financial requirements.
"A country without human rights is not entitled to enter the UN. Give [immigrants] back [their] basic human rights before talking about UN membership," Hsia Hsiao-chuan (夏曉鵑), an associate professor at Shih Hsin University, told protesters.
When applying for citizenship, foreign spouses must meet health examinations requirements, have been in the country for a minimum period of time, relinquish their original citizenship, meet financial qualifications and pass a Chinese-language test.
As proof of their financial status, the Immigration Law (移民法) requires that applicants prove they can earn at least double the minimum wage -- or NT$410,000 (US$12,000) a year -- or have the same amount in deposits.
"The reason to abolish financial proof is simple enough. It is discrimination and it is against human rights," said Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢), a film director.
Liao Yuan-hao (廖元豪), a law professor at National Chengchi University, slammed the rationale behind a policy that says immigrants who unable to prove their financial ability would be a financial burden to the country.
"Didn't our ancestors come to Taiwan from impoverished China without financial proof? To discriminate against new immigrants based on their financial status is to discriminate against our ancestors," Liao said.
"If the government worries immigrants cannot get by without financial proof, it should grant immigrants the right to work in the country and [provide] social relief programs," Liao said.
Liao was referring to the fact that foreign spouses are prohibited from working and are not covered by social relief programs before receiving citizenship.
Yuan Hsiao-li (袁曉麗), a Chinese national who married a Taiwanese three years ago, said she encountered limitations on so many levels while living in Taiwan.
"Taiwan is a country that often takes pride in the value of freedom and democracy, but I don't feel that the government treats us in an open and tolerant manner," she said.
The protest was organized by the Coalition against Financial Requirements for Immigrations and supported and dozens of civil organizations including the Association to Promote Marriage Across the Strait, the Hope Workers' Center and the TransAsia Sisters Association.
They also staged a protest outside the National Immigration Agency and vowed to launch a massive demonstration should the government fail to positively respond to their demands by the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 25.
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