Should Americans be influencing local politics?

Original Title: “do people with US passports have a right to try to influence”

I do not believe people (Taiwanese or non-Taiwanese) have a right to try to influence the political situation in Taiwan if they have a foreign passport(one exception down a ways). They should not try to change public opinion in Taiwan and they should not try to protest to the government. People who want to change the political climate of Taiwan should so this through communicating with the government of their non-Taiwan passport. So, if you have a Swedish passport and you do not like the human rights situation in Taiwan, you complain to the Swedish government and the Swedish government can use such tools as trade sanctions to influence Taiwan. Why do I feel this way? Because if you successfully advocate something that down the road has very dangerous consequences, you can just skip on the nearest airplane out of Taiwan while the people who only have Taiwan citizenship are left with the consequences. I know that probably most government officials have more than one passport, but what I’m saying especially applies to them. One exception to what I am saying is the good work that Mr. Hartzell is doing on behalf of foreigners in Taiwan. I am an American citizen and I used to be involved in the environmental movement in Taiwan via the DPP’s Environmental Protection Union. I contributed to a bilingual newsletter on Taiwan’s environement. Although I believe what I had to say criticizing KMT enterprises such as China Petroleum Corporation was correct, later after some relfection (especially in light of the Tian an men incident in which many foreign journalists and foreigners in general in Beijing at the time encouraged the student protest), I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to influence environmental protection in Taiwan, I should do it by, say, protesting the sale of nuclear reactors by Westinghouse to Taiwan and making my feelings known to US Senators. Any thoughts?-v

Well I have a foreign passport, and in about 5 years I might have have a Taiwanese passport. Whether I have 2 or not is probably of little interest to my government. It is allowed. Job done.

However local long term resident foreigners would disappointed to find that it is frowned upon to campaign for a change in the current Taiwan law (must relinqish your other citizenship to obtain Taiwanese citizenship).

As for more local issues - we breath the air, pay taxes - why not have our say.

Do foreigners really understand a Taiwanese person or history? Its definitely not the same as the foreigner’s past and experiences. Does the foreinger, when trying to change the local laws or customs however good it might be, really understand how this change will impact the Taiwanese? People from different experiences react to change quite differently.

Also, just because I breathe American air for doesn’t mean I can change the American policies. I am not American, do you think I could influence the American government to reconsider its decision on the Kyoto Protocol?

If everyone would care to step back a moment and consider some fundamental issues, here is a good question for discussion:

Are foreigners entitled to Constitutional protection under the Constitution of the country in which they reside?

If some consensus of opinion can be reached on this issue, then perhaps we can come back and discuss whether or not foreigners should enjoy “freedom of speech” (similar to that enjoyed by local citizens), and by extension whether foreigners have a right to try to influence the political situation (or any social situation) in the country in which they live.

V wrote some things and then asked:

quote[quote]Any thoughts?[/quote] Since you asked: You're mixing up different things and treating them inconsistently. You start out saying "I do not believe people (Taiwanese or non-Taiwanese) have a right to try to influence the political situation in Taiwan if they have a foreign passport...." But a moment later you give advice on how to "change the political climate of Taiwan." Going through your home country's representatives is still trying to influence Taiwan. You gain no particular moral high ground in most circumstances by that approach.

The question you raise, however, of what is the most effective way for foreigners to influence government policies is interesting.

If you’re talking about people who push for Taiwan independence at any price (as long as they don’t have to be the ones who might have to pay it), yes, there can be problems. But to extend that to every situation in Taiwan – which is home to many foreigners and many Taiwanese dual-passport holders – doesn’t work. Would you argue, for example, that ROC passport holders in the States (even if they also have US citizenship) do not have the right to speak out to the US populace or the US government, but must direct their concerns through Taipei?

As for RH’s question (“Are foreigners entitled to Constitutional protection under the Constitution of the country in which they reside?”), my answer would be yes, of course.

Are foreigners entitled to Constitutional protection under the Constitution of the country in which they reside?

Ah - foreigner - we can keep you in jail for ever - or at least until you confess!

Chilling thought, but in many countries even the citizens are not protected by the constitution, in practice.

spoiled “first world” brats.
“should I join Amnesty International?”

My god, I’m so lucky.

I think that if the issue is relevant to foreigners’ Taiwan situation, then foreigners have a right to express themselves. But, remember, foreigners don’t have the right to vote here. If you’re not a citizen, then you can only go so far.

You have to give up a certain amount of control when you live here, and that won’t change any time in the forseeable future. But, I don’t think that foreigners can be too picky about every little thing, after all, we are VERY LUCKY that this country even wants us to be here anyway, most foreign countries don’t want long term foreign residents. So, just the fact you’re allowed to live here on a continual basis with residency is a better situation than most places.

Ok, of course comparing other places doesn’t make an excuse for the shortcomings of living in Taiwan…but I’m just saying you can’t expect everything to be the way you want it…it’s impossible. The best thing to hope for is “fairness”.

I’m against multi-citizenship. Everyone should only have one passport. You should be loyal to one country and work to improve that country, not have a spare getaway country when things get dangerous. People who really care enough to go public with their views on the political situation in Taiwan should try to become Taiwan citizens. I’m not talking about private discussions of politics. I’m talking about organized acitivism (such as I used to be involved in ) or writing to Taiwan newspapers. I had the oppurtunity to become a Taiwan citizen since I am married to a Taiwanese citizen, but it would have required me to give up my American citizenship. I did not care enough about Taiwan to risk only having a Taiwan passport. And with Mainland China always threatening Taiwan, only having a Taiwan passport is much riskier than only having an American passport or having more than one passport. Even if you believe in freedom of speech for foreigners in Taiwan, you should exercise self-restraint when it comes to volatile issues such as Taiwan independence. There are plenty of Taiwan citizens without foreign passports who can speak up for themselves on this issue. Having said all that, I am still somewhat torn on the issue of involvement by Americans living in Taiwan on behalf of the Taiwanese vis a vis Human Rights. Linda Arrigo was an American who used to live in Taiwan and who was once married to Shi Ming Deh of the DPP (is he still in the DPP?) Her marriage, I believe, was a ‘political’ one. She thought being married to an American citizen could help protect him in his fight for democratizing Taiwan. He was in jail for I don’t know how many years and Linda left Taiwan for many years, I think she was forced out by the KMT. Did her involvement have a positive impact on the democracy movement? I don’t know her whole story, although years ago I heard she was writing an autobiography. In any case, Taiwan now is more democratic now thanks to such people as Shi Ming Deh, and maybe also thanks to one American- Linda Arrigo. So, perhaps there is room for activism on the part of foreigners and multipassport holders (having multipassports seemed to have been a protection for many dang3 wai4 members), I’m not sure. Anyone with more info on Linda Arrigo, please post it here.-v

I feel that a lot of the preceding discussion still hinges on a determination of whether foreigners are entitled to Constitutional protection under the Constitution of the country in which they reside.

If foreigners are entitled to “equal rights” in that regard, then we have a solid basis for discussion, and can avoid a lot of argument.

Let’s consider this. Taiwan law follows German law. In the German Basic Law (Constitution) the following articles are notable. (I provide the relevant excerpts below):

Article 1 [Human Dignity]
(1) Human dignity is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority.

Article 2 [Liberty]
(1) Everyone has the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or against morality.

Article 3 [Equality]
(1) All humans are equal before the law.

Article 5 [Freedom of Expression]
(1) Everyone has the right to freely express and disseminate his opinion in speech, writing, and pictures and to freely inform himself from generally accessible sources.

I asked my German friends: “Suppose there is a national election, and I go to a rally in Berlin, and I want to express my opinion. If I get the opportunity, as a foreigner, to stand on the podium and state my views about the candidates, would that be a problem?”

They replied: “Of course not. You have the right to free speech.”

I said: “But I am a foreigner.”

They stated: “It makes no difference in Germany. The Constitution protects German citizens and foreigners alike. The specific constitutional rights which are exclusively applicable to German nationals are things like the right and freedom to have a profession, to become a government employee, to found a company, to vote, etc. etc. The rights of foreigners in these areas are defined and limited in specific legislation. The other constitutional guarantees apply to everyone within the jurisdiction of the country.”

Here I am in Taiwan, married to a local citizen and residing with an ARC based on marriage. In order to clarify my position, in early 2001 I wrote a letter to the National Police Administration asking if I could participate in rallies, seminars, speeches, etc. for the upcoming elections in December 2001. As far as I can determine, there is no specific law in Taiwan which prohibits a foreigner from doing so.

The NPA replied that if I did participate in such activities, I would be deported, because such activity is “inconsistent” with my purpose of residency.

However, as stated above, in Germany such activities by foreigners would be protected by the constitutional guarantees on free speech. In the USA, similar free speech guarantees would apply.

Your comments?

Hey V,
I disagree. I think people should be able to have two passports, or at least full rights in two countries. I’m not thinking of people who want getaways, but of peopel whospend a lot of time in two countries. Maybe one is their ‘home’, but they work and live most of the time in the other. Or even more importantly what about mixed couples who are nto yet sure where they want to live for the rest of their lives. Maybe they would like to live in both countries. Wahta bout their children? Actually I don’t believe in passports at all. Open up the borders and let people live whereever they like I say?

If you want to publically espouse Taiwan independence you should take the consequences and stay in Taiwan along with all the other people who only have Taiwan citizenship if Mainland China should attack. Does anybody get what I am saying? Do you agree with me or not?-v

seems extreme to say you shouldn’t campaign against things you dislike in another country.

Rainforest destruction, death penalty for retarded people, dumping of toxic waste in rivers – all seem worth shouting about wherever they occur.

If you’re from a different place, locals – the people who most likely face the costs and benefits of what you might advocate – will surely bear in mind your nationality when considering what you say. As long as you are only voicing an opinion but leaving the decision to the people at ground zero, what’s the problem?

Maybe you’re an expert on international environmental law and can bring something special to bear on the issue. Maybe you just feel passionately about it. Whatever, standing up on a platform or writing to a newspaper could be a constructive contribution to debate.

Whether tax-paying long-term residents or dual nationals should be allowed to vote on any decisions and so meddle directly is a separate issue.

V’s suggestion that pro-independence activists should stay here if a declaration of independence lead to a Chinese attack is again extreme.

If independence advocates, foreign-born or Taiwanese, give up all other residency rights or passports or give some other commitment to stay here, their message will be heard differently from the words of a foreign national. If the issue is ever debated on a national stage such details will matter.

I think, for instance, that the close link of many politicians and military oficials in Taiwan to the US – rights of residency, property there – invites a degree of scepticism about their devotion to Taiwan.

But the independence issue isn’t likely to be the only factor in someone’s life. You’d hope so anyway. People will also consider their family (e.g. the environment they want children to grow up and be educated in) and non-political aspirations when deciding which passport to hold and which country to live in.

So yes, if you want to make a big splash, give up your foreign passport or vow to stay in Taiwan come what may. But you shouldn’t have to do that just to campaign for what you believe in.

RE Linda Arrigo: she’s still active here, is on the cover of today’s Independence Evening Post, has been talking to the media a lot recently.

Well. I gave it my best shot. Nobody here sees the independence issue to be as volatile as I do. I can envision these people telling the Tian An Men protesters- jia you!! Then they would be scrambling for plane tickets when the shooting broke out. I supported what the Tian An Men protesters were trying to do, but I wouldn’t have publically encouraged them. I wonder if Linda Arrigo has given up her American citizenship? Probably not. Her level of commitment to Taiwan would lead me to make her an exception, though. Then again, Taiwanese citizens worried about a Mainland China attack might be happier if she would shut her American mouth (she is pro-independence and advocates for it publically).

I’d like to address two questions which have been raised:

1 - The participation of resident foreigners in Taiwanese political life / advocacy of political or social change

2 - Dual citizenship

1 - If what v is saying is that resident foreigners should be responsible and remember that (some (most?) - but not all) have somewhere else to go in the event of a serious crisis, then I agree. It would be wrong to be an “agent provacateur”. “Power” exercised without responsibility is always ugly.

But if it is being said that resident foreigners have no RIGHT to participate to the fullest extent of their abilities and convictions in Taiwanese society then I disagree strongly.

It is the possibility of open political debate that sets Taiwan apart from China. I am completing a Masters degree in East Asian Law and will move to live, study (and look for work in due course) in Taiwan in September. Why am I not going to China? After all, it’s the economic and political giant in the region whose power increases daily. The reason is that I value the academic and personal freedom I enjoy in Taiwan. That’s important to me about Taiwan. I’m going there to make a life, not just to make money. And part of that, in my small way, is the ability to share my perspectives and participate in the social discourse of the country.

In any case, I think that Taiwanese society is canny enough to know how to regard foreigners in this respect. It’s patronising to suggest otherwise. For a foreigner to get a hearing he or she must know what they are talking about. If they speak sense they deserve a hearing, foreigner or not… it’s a simple as that.

2 - Dual Citizenship
Some have suggested that dual citizenship is somehow “wrong”. I suggest that having dual nationality sometimes just reflects the reality of people’s lives. Many individuals have genuine and ongoing links with more than one state and it’s not inappropriate that this is expressed in being a citizen of more than one state. The particular difficulties of the Taiwan situation should not obscure this general principle.

Dual citizenship isn’t just about rights but also about duties. And it isn’t always a benefit. It can be a mixed blessing. For example, I have been since birth a citizen of Ireland, and also of the UK. The point is made in the notes printed in my passports.

The Irish one says:
“Irish citizens who posess a second citizenship cannot avail themselves in the country of their other citizenship of Irish diplomatic and consular protection.”

The British on puts it this way:
“British nationals who are also nationals of another country cannot be protected by Her Majesty’s Representatives against the authorities of that country. If, under the law of that country, they are liable for any obligation (such as military service), the fact that they are British nationals does not exempt them from it.”

Of course, Irish and UK dual nationality doesn’t have much in the way of practical benefit or disadvantage but it’s easy to see how it might work in other situations.

Maybe any ethical assessment depends on how you got the “second” nationality and with what intention. In Ireland when you become a naturalised citizen (quite simple after 5 years residence) you must declare an intention to continue living there. Of course, that declaration is not “policed”, nor should it be.

I cannot understand why long-term foreign residents who want to undertake the duties of citizenship in Taiwan are not facilitated by the government. If they are prepared to identify with the country to that degree and give up the “protection” of their “mother country” while in Taiwan in exchange for the rights of citizenship, why (subject to law) shouldn’t it be allowed without loss of the “other nationality”? Who cares if they are Americans, or Germans, or Indians in the rest of the world? In Taiwan they would just be ROC citizens like everyone else. And if the Chinese blockaded they’d be stuck in Taiwan like everyone else. And perhaps even be like the holders of HK British passports - British (after a fashion) everywhere else but in HK just Chinese Citizens and SAR residents pure and simple.

quote[quote]I cannot understand why long-term foreign residents who want to undertake the duties of citizenship in Taiwan are not facilitated by the government. If they are prepared to identify with the country to that degree and give up the "protection" of their "mother country" while in Taiwan in exchange for the rights of citizenship, why (subject to law) shouldn't it be allowed without loss of the "other nationality"? Who cares if they are Americans, or Germans, or Indians in the rest of the world? In Taiwan they would just be ROC citizens like everyone else. [/quote]

I am continually working to make dual nationality for foreigners in Taiwan a reality. At this point it appears that a petition to the Supreme Court will be necessary, and I am moving forward with the necessary legal procedures.

I just want to say Jiayou Jiayou Richard. I would love to be able to live in Taiwan with proper rights without surrendering my original nationality. I wish you the best of luck for early success with all related efforts.

I’ve thought a bit more about this thread…

after a few pints of Guinness the answer to the original question became clear:

US Passports…? No! But any other passport is okay!

(It’s a joke guys…! Oh! No! Not another Mormon thread! )

Sure we shouldn’t be allowed to influence.
However the trick is that they aren’t giving
out Taiwan Passports at this time. See more details on my homepage.

Logic dictates that if the reasoning is valid that a Taiwanese citizen holding a foreign passport who lives in Taiwan should not be allowed to influence Taiwanese affairs, then an American citizen holding a foreign passport living in America should, by the same token, not be allowed to influence American domestic policy. Therefore, no matter which of his two countries the dual national lives in he should not have any influence in either. This person is therefore without civil rights in both countries.

I believe that a person should have a say in the running of the country where he lives and pays his taxes insofar as it affects him personally or as part of a group to which he belongs, and the denial of his basic human rights is a matter which he should be able to bring to the attention of the government of his country of residence as well as the government of his country of citizenship. Do I win the Long Sentence Award ?