Taiwanese with mainland residence permits may be banned from public office

Fines for those who don’t declare their status also being considered under proposal aimed at discouraging people from living across the strait

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 6:31pm

Taipei is considering barring Taiwanese with mainland residence permits from running for public office, one of two measures it may take to deter people from going to live across the strait, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Mainland China began issuing the permits to Taiwanese in September, a move President Tsai Ing-wen’s government has said was politically orchestrated by Beijing to create the impression of cross-strait unification.

But Beijing says the permits were introduced for convenience, and that the proposal would only hurt Taiwanese.

“The government is looking at ways to counter the impact [of Taiwanese obtaining the permits] and removing that civil right is one of the options that is in line with the results of our recent public opinion survey,” said Chiu Chui-cheng, vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan, which handles cross-strait policy.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a part of the mainland that must be reunified, by force if necessary. It has suspended talks with the island since Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, became president in 2016 and refused to accept the “one China” principle, which Beijing sees as the basis for official exchanges to resume.

The mainland residence permits have been viewed by Taipei as a means of enticing Taiwanese to support cross-strait unification in the future – an idea the self-ruled island has long rejected.

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Chiu said the government was also considering requiring people who obtained the permits to declare their residency status to the Taiwanese authorities, with fines applicable for those who failed to do so.

Under the draft plan, Taiwanese could be fined up to NT$100,000 (US$3,200) for failing to declare their mainland residency permit.

Chiu said the Mainland Affairs Council would send the proposal to the legislature for review and debate.

A recent survey conducted by the council found 75 per cent of respondents supported the idea of removing the right of any Taiwanese with a mainland residence permit to run for public office, on the grounds that they were not living in Taiwan.

The pro-independence New Power Party has called for similar treatment for those who obtain the mainland permits.

Taipei has said mainland authorities have not been clear about what the permits are for, and that requirements – such as having lived on the mainland for six months – had been eased to encourage more Taiwanese to apply for them.

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But Beijing said the permits were designed to give Taiwanese access to local benefits and to make their lives more convenient.

“We issue these permits to meet the needs of our Taiwanese compatriots and to facilitate their studies, work and daily lives on the mainland,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office under Beijing’s cabinet, said on Wednesday.

He said the permits had nothing to do with politics and that the authorities had never demanded that Taiwanese based on the mainland apply for them.

“Unfortunately, the DPP authorities are doing all they can to wreck this [system],” Ma said, adding that the government’s proposal would only hurt Taiwanese people.

Taiwanese businesspeople on the mainland have also criticised the proposal, saying it is unfair to them since they are just doing business across the strait and are not involved in politics.