Citizenship for Saints---only ?

The non-democratic, non-transparent, thorny issue of dual nationality


(Photo by Light McCandless)

I hail from a country with a history of immigration, where full nationality with voting rights, right to apply for phone, internet and credit card are given on fulfillment of clear regulations to Taiwanese who emigrate there. My knee-jerk wail when I read that Taiwan nationality has been conferred on yet another foreign missionary without their being forced to renounce their original nationality, is "but that's not fair, I'm not a saint, I'll never be eligible for Taiwan nationality.  


"It’s almost like they are handing out Nobel Peace prizes at these honorary citizenship ceremonies, isn’t it? The government came up with these guidelines that only people with the 'highest' qualifications would be considered for citizenship. It’s like their plan for trying to attract top talent from overseas spilled over into their plan for granting dual citizenship."

In view of the fact that a large number of Taiwanese hold US, Canadian, UK, NZ, South African and Australian nationality, by merely working, paying taxes and not breaking any laws, this particularly rankles.  An analogy would be a Taiwanese living in the US rust belt for 50 years, disseminating and implementing Confucian principles of feudal patriarchy and monarchic rule, then being rewarded with citizenship. (Although, arguably, that's been managed in recent months without any outside help).


"Tax paying, law abiding, parents of Taiwanese citizen children who have spent many years of their lives employing, teaching, mentoring and giving back to Taiwan society through non-religious means have been totally ignored. It's a snub." 

A trawl of other countries' official government sites reveals some interesting details. By and large European countries, the US and Canada allow dual nationality. However, both the Netherlands and Germany prefer that those from outside the EU renounce their other nationality. Denmark made dual nationality for both Danes and foreigners legal as recently as  2014. Norway is currently the only Nordic country that does not allow dual citizenship, although in March this year the major coalition party voted in favor of allowing it. Since 1994, new Australian citizens are no longer required to renounce foreign allegiances during citizenship ceremonies, instead declaring their loyalty to Australia.


"The Australian move allowed thousands of people who had been living in limbo  to identify with their new home, and relation a kinship with their past, like a married woman choosing to hyphenate her name. It's a choice, that brings a sense of belonging and ultimately a deeper patriotism." 

Many Asian countries, including those targeted in the Tsai administration's 'new southbound policy' such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, do not allow dual nationality for their citizens or for foreigners taking their nationality. This may be another positive aspect of the southbound policy for Taiwan, as it can attract investment and people from these countries to work in Taiwan without having any burden of granting them any say in the country they are contributing to. Will there ever be a critical mass of white collar Indonesian workers who find they enjoy living in a liberal, secular society and want their kids to grow up here? That's when push may come to shove on citizenship, as they are part of a government plan, whereas other disenfranchised foreigners here are running businesses, paying taxes and bringing up Taiwanese children voluntarily.


"Financial and working conditions in Taiwan industries, are not attractive by international standards. It is the government"s  responsibility to redress this, by means within its power. Why not dual citizenship?"

Successful, immigrant-seeking, though undemocratic, Singapore, allows neither foreigners nor its own citizens, dual citizenship. That's at least fair. Vietnam changed its rules from 2009, so that overseas Vietnamese with foreign nationalities could apply for Vietnam citizenship. This was also in response to UNHRC concern to resolve the issue of Vietnamese women who were left stateless in countries including Taiwan, where they were forced to give up nationality on entering marriages, which later turned out to be abusive.  Interestingly, Vietnam has a similarly nebulous concept to Taiwan, allowing foreigners to have Vietnamese citizenship if they 'make a notable contribution to the State,' but they still have to give up their original nationality. 


"As for the 'special' category, i don't think many would have 50 years to dedicate to a country that is not appreciative of their non 'high-level' contributions (to protecting animal rights, or to promoting Taiwan's martial arts, for example). Most people would have starved before they were even qualified to be considered."

Taiwan has worked hard to bring many of its standards, whether industrial or legal, into line with various international bodies. This is an area in which Taiwan, ever-clamouring that it should be allowed various types of international status, could do better than the playground bully which prevents it. 

The divisive and non-democratic principles beautifully manifested in the decision to allow dual citizenship, for what is basically a lifestyle choice, raises many hackles by its subjective nature.


"The fact that I live in a country which will never accept me as one of their own, unless I begin to pontificate about a 2,000 year old religion for a minimum of 60 years is ridiculous!"

The Taiwan government, (past and present) media and political pundits love to talk about the rule of law, democracy and justice. However, the concept often seems only applicable to Taiwanese.


"Taiwan is big into reciprocity—for example, if one country offers visa-free entry to Taiwanese citizens, Taiwan reciprocates—but when it comes to dual citizenship, it chooses to stick to these arcane regulations and does not reciprocate.Taiwan still seems to think it's  fine to exclude the majority of foreign residents from participating in all aspects of society the way other democratic countries do."

When a privileged few gain dual citizenship, on non-transparent and subjective grounds, the constant phrases about democracy,  justice, transparency and rule of law that fill both ruling and opposition mouths ring hollow. Many Taiwanese have Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian passports. In those countries and in Europe, it is enough to enter legally, reside a certain number of years, pay taxes and break no laws, to gain citizenship. 

If reciprocity was suddenly introduced and Taiwanese had to have made outstanding humanitarian or academic contributions to these countries to gain their citizenship, how many Taiwanese would qualify?