TAIWAN (Taiwan News) — The Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan (HRNTT) relaunched its monthly panel on Wednesday (Nov. 11) after the disruptions of COVID-19 to discuss the difficulty couples with Tibetan ancestry face when settling in Taiwan.
One of the cases discussed on the panel was that of Taiwanese documentary filmmaker Tsai Yung-ching (蔡詠晴) and her Tibetan husband Lhundup Tsering (龍珠慈仁). He moved to Taiwan in 2011 and it has taken him seven years to acquire Taiwanese nationality.
In 2008, the two met in India's Dharamshala, where the Tibetan Government in Exile is located. After getting married and deciding to move back to Taiwan, they had to pass an interview at Taiwan's representative office in India, which is intended to prevent "fake marriages."
"In our first interview, we were separated and asked questions like when we had our first date, the color of our clothes on that day, and even when we had sex for the first time," Tsai recalls with a wry smile. The couple failed their first interview and were asked for their criminal records, the results of an HIV examination, and marriage certificates from the municipal to state level.
According to Tsai, government officials want to weed out those who marry Taiwanese only to get Taiwanese nationality. These kind of interviews are only mandated for nationals from 21 countries* — excluding developed countries but including countries where the government believes crime rates are high.
Assuming these less-developed countries have higher crime rates is a subjective impression that has no supporting data, said Wang Xi (王曦), head of the law department at Taiwan Association for Human Rights. Under current regulations, a Taiwan national can marry a Japanese national in Taiwan without even registering their marriages in Japan first, a smooth process not possible for, say, a Taiwanese-Vietnamese couple.
Also, in Tsering's case, he was only given an Identity Certificate, issued to Tibetan refugees by the Indian government for the purposes of international travel, which created an extra hurdle in applying for a residence certificate in Taiwan. During his first few years in the country, he had neither the right to work nor public health insurance.
"While advocating for my husband's rights, a government official once approached me, implying he could help if all my protests were just for a residence certificate for my husband," Tsai said. She refused the offer because she wanted to open the door to all Taiwanese who wish to marry Tibetans or other refugees, and whose basic rights are not covered by the current Taiwan law.
Thanks to Tsai's efforts, beginning in 2017, all Tibetan spouses can now follow the same process to become Taiwanese as those from the 21 countries shown below.*
Tsering's case sheds light on Taiwan's inability to comprehensively handle refugee issues, said Wang Bin-ying (王斌英). A refugee bill is still being discussed in the legislature despite years of advocacy from human rights groups for fear on the part of the public that its passage will attract a huge influx of refugees.
Taiwanese need to open their minds about refugees, said Wang, whose husband is also Tibetan. She said refugees aren't just those in the news, such as Africans fleeing to Europe or the Rohingya persecuted in Myanmar.
"Anyone who loses their passport in a foreign country and has no way to renew it can immediately become a refugee in that country," Wang said.
According to Lin Xin-yi (林欣怡), the director of HRNTT, a refugee law will not merely attract refugees to stable countries. It will, more importantly, offer a system to work with when large numbers of refugees arrive on their front doors — a real scenario that Taiwan faces as Hongkongers flee their city and migrate to Taiwan.
* Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon
HRNTT holds monthly events focusing on human rights issues.