Mainland spouses support tolerant Ma for re-election
Most of the 300,000 mainland-born spouses in Taiwan hoped President Ma Ying-jeou would win yesterday's presidential election.
They long for a more lenient policy that could help remove the discriminatory treatment they face on the island.
And Ma's policy of gradually loosening decades-old controls on their settlement on the island is a major reason for supporting him.
'We don't want to go on living in conditions where we are second-class citizens, constantly discriminated against by the locals,' said Gao Yumei, 50, from Hunan, who has lived in Taiwan for 15 years.
When disgraced leader Chen Shui-bian, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, was Taiwan's president between 2000 and 2008, mainland spouses - mostly wives - were treated as either shameless women who married for money or potential infiltrators who would raise children who would take over the island.
Gao, who has secured her Taiwanese identity card and was able to vote in a presidential election for the first time yesterday, said Ma had loosened restrictions on mainland spouses, allowing them to get local identity cards after living in Taiwan for six years and allowing them to work as soon as they arrived.
Previously, it took mainland spouses at least eight years to get identity cards and only those with them were allowed to work.
'We hope to enjoy the same rights as foreign spouses, like those from Vietnam and Indonesia, who are able to get their identity cards after living here for four years,' said Liu Guiying, 65, from Henan, who has lived in Taiwan for five years.
Liu, who faces deportation because she does not live with her 70-year-old Taiwanese husband, called for further loosening of the mainland spouse policy.
She said that while Taiwanese people were free to visit the mainland to look for spouses, mainland people were deprived of the chance to do the same. She said many mainland spouses, after settling in Taiwan, were disappointed to discover that living conditions on the island were far from what they had been told.
'He told me he had a steady job, receiving a monthly income of NT$30,000 (HK$7,770) and even showed me pictures of a nice apartment he claimed to own,' Liu said. 'But three months after I was in Taiwan, a landlady came and asked my husband to pay the rent he had owed for several months, and only then did I realise that my husband did not even have a steady job, let alone own the apartment.'
Liu now works as a care helper in a Taipei hospital. Her husband, who lives in Chungli in northern Taiwan and who recently received medical treatment for intestinal cancer, complained to the immigration authorities, saying she ran away and refused to return home to take care of him.
The authorities told Liu she had to leave Taiwan, but she is appealing against that ruling, with assistance from rights groups.
Asked if she regretted marrying and moving to Taiwan, she said: 'What can I do but stay? What would my children or relatives on the mainland think if I moved back?'
Liu, who was encouraged by her three adult sons to find a Taiwanese spouse, said that given her age, it was unthinkable to return, despite the marked improvement in the living and financial conditions in her hometown due to the mainland's economic ascent.
'I visited my hometown last year and could hardly recognise many places because of all the new roads and buildings,' Liu said, adding that made it even harder for her to tell her relatives about the problems she was having in Taiwan.
Chung Ching-ming, chairman of the Marriage Association of the Two Sides of China, said most mainland spouses regretted marrying Taiwanese people, especially with the great improvement of the mainland's economy. But because they were concerned about 'losing face', most chose to remain in Taiwan.
'This is why we are helping them to fight for further relaxation of the mainland spouse policy, especially the right to allow them to come to Taiwan for a short period to find out the living conditions and financial status of their future spouses here,' Chung said.
Even so, a number of mainland spouses are willing to stay. 'The atmosphere here is relatively free compared with the mainland, and also we don't want to leave the children we have given birth to here,' said Liu Xuefeng, 48, from Zhejiang, who has lived in Taiwan for 11 years.