Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration not to let populism and discrimination dictate its governance, following a government decision on Wednesday not to allow Chinese children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples to enter Taiwan, reversing a measure announced a day earlier by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).
The ban contravenes the spirit of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ma said, adding that existing regulations impose more stringent requirements on such children to acquire Republic of China (ROC) nationality compared with people from other countries.
“It is not that they did not choose Taiwan; it is that even if they had chosen, they must wait a long time,” Ma said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
The council’s initial announcement was correct and humane, he said.
“We cannot just let children who have lived in Taiwan for so many years roam the streets,” he added.
While people should support the government’s disease-prevention efforts, Ma said he believes that under a consistent and thorough system, it is possible to adopt a more humane approach that takes the rights of others into consideration.
“President Tsai once said that ‘migrant spouses and workers are all a part of Taiwan.’ As such, these ‘children of Taiwan,’ even without their parents at their side, should be considered our fellow citizens,” Ma said.
“Let them come home and be united with their families, President Tsai. Do not let populism trample on human rights and discrimination trump humanity,” Ma added.
Separately, former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said on Facebook that the “citizens first” mindset should not include separating families.
“Our customs policy should not pander to populist sentiments and promote discrimination,” he said.
In response, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that to save others, one must save oneself first.
There must not be any breaches in disease-prevention efforts, because “everyone would die if the ship sinks, which would defeat the purpose of saving others,” Su said. “And so we must act within our power.”
The policy reversal came on the heels of a firestorm of criticism on social media over the MAC’s announcement.
MAC Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said that the announcement was not designed to open Taiwan’s borders to relatives of Chinese spouses in contravention of a temporary ban on the entry of Chinese nationals to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Later that day, at a news briefing held by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Chen added new stipulations, saying that only minor Chinese children who do not have relatives to look after them in China would be allowed to enter Taiwan.
Hours later, with public anger still running high, the MAC listed a third condition, saying only if both a child’s parents are currently in Taiwan would the child be allowed entry.
The news triggered another round of heated discussion on social media, prompting Minister of Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, on Wednesday to announce a policy U-turn.
Chinese children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples who hold residence or visitor permits, but not ROC passports, would not be allowed into the country, he said.
While such children have equal rights to healthcare in Taiwan, priority must be given to ROC citizens in the face of a fast-spreading epidemic, he said.
“They must shoulder the consequences of not choosing to apply for Taiwanese citizenship for their children,” Chen said.
Additional reporting by Sean Lin
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