Beijing wants Taipei to relax rules for mainlanders who marry Taiwanese

Cross-strait affairs chief wants Taipei to remove discriminatory restrictions on mainlanders and islanders who marry

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2012, 5:41am

Who is to blame for preventing the free flow of people and culture across the Taiwan Strait - Beijing, Taipei or both?

Top officials from both sides of the divide have pointed fingers at each other in recent days for impeding cultural exchanges, despite the improved business and diplomatic relations between the two military rivals.

Wang Yi, director of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, stepped into the debate yesterday as he called on the island's government to loosen restrictions on marriages between mainlanders and Taiwanese.

Speaking at the Cross-Straits Marriage and Family Association in Beijing, Wang said that Taipei's efforts to restrict political exchanges with the mainland had led to discriminatory practices that have caused hardships for thousands of mainlanders as they struggle to secure resident status, find work opportunities and raise their living standards.

"Marriage is not politics, relax," Taiwan's government-funded Central News Agency quoted Wang as saying.

Wang's remarks came in response to a speech last week by the Taiwanese culture minister, Lung Ying-tai, in which she complained that there were still too many cross-strait barriers to cultural exchanges.

For example, Lung said, Taiwanese cultural documents bearing the word "national" are blocked from entering the mainland because Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province incapable of having a national government.

However, many works produced by cultural institutions in Taiwan contain the forbidden word in their titles, itineraries and programmes, Lung said. As a result, their use on the mainland is barred.

Lung said that "culture is not a weapon", and urged mainland officials to remove such barriers in order to improve cross-strait cultural exchanges. Soon after her speech, Taiwanese media reported that her name appeared to have been blocked by internet search engines on the mainland.

"If Lung Ying-tai said culture is not politics and [Beijing] should remove [its barrier], what I want to say is, marriage is not politics, and relax," Wang said.

Wang said that more and more people are crossing the strait to get married as thawing relations allow for easier travel. Mainland statistics show that more than 320,000 mainlanders have tied the knot with Taiwanese spouses since 1987, with between 10,000 and 20,000 registering for marriage every year.

However, Wang said, mainlanders face discriminatory restrictions when attempting to live with their Taiwanese spouses. For instance, they are barred from receiving residency until they have spent at least six years in Taiwan, against four years for spouses from other countries.