European banned from Taiwan but did not violate any laws

    Posted on: 2013-09-01

European banned from Taiwan but did not violate any laws

Are you going to visit democratic Taiwan? If yes then you may want to know that you risk violating Taiwan’s laws if you participate in a legal demonstration. It may even happen that you are banned from Taiwan by not doing anything. Recently, the latter happened for a young European citizen.

By Michael Danielsen, chairman, Taiwan Corner

Copyright, Taiwan Corner

Are you going to visit democratic Taiwan? If yes then you may want to know that you risk violating Taiwan’s laws if you participate in a legal demonstration. It may even happen that you are banned from Taiwan by not doing anything. Recently, the latter happened for a young European citizen.

He was banned from entering Taiwan for 3 years because Taiwan’s authorities claimed that he participated in a peaceful anti-nuclear demonstration on June 11 2011 in Tainan.

With the help of Taiwanese lawyers, Taiwan’s ministry of interior finally admitted that they treated the young European citizen unjustly when they banned him from entering Taiwan for 3 years. He was denied entry to Taiwan on March 8 this year. He was banned because he, according to the authorities, had participated in an activity that was different from the purpose of his residence when he lived in Taiwan. This activity was the June 11 2011 demonstration.

He has denied any involvement in this anti-nuclear demonstration from the very beginning. After his return to Europa, he got in contact with Taiwanese lawyers who were willing to help him. They assisted him in filing an administrative petition against Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency. The ministry of interior now admits that he never participated in this demonstration and he can now visit Taiwan.

At the time of the June 11 2011 demonstration, he was a legal resident of Taiwan. He was staying one year in Taiwan before going back to study in Europe. During his stay in Taiwan, he was engaged in environmental issues translating environmental information into English. On the top of this, he participated in practical activities for instance cleaning of beaches after typhoons.
He has now been cleared for any wrongdoing and one can argue that Taiwan’s legal system is working. But there is more to this than his particular case.

His case highlights the democratic problem with Taiwan’s Immigration Act’s general prohibition of participation in “activities different from the purposes of their visits or residence” as stated in article 29.

The consequence of the act is clear. Europeans who are visiting Taiwan on short stays are not allowed to participate in legal demonstrations. The question that has to be answered is how European citizens should be notified about this as most people will take it for granted that they can participate in legal demonstrations in democratic counties. In addition, it is worth mentioning that Taiwan’s policies are violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Taiwan has been ratified by Taiwan and which took effect on December 10 2009.  The International  Covernant stipulates that foreigners within the jurisdiction of a State Party enjoy the same rights as nationals, with only limited exceptions. The right to assembly is not among these exceptions.

Taiwan’s opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is currently pushing the governing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to allow foreigners on short stays to demonstrate. However, the KMT appears so far reluctant and it will only consider a relaxation for none political assemblies and will not allow activities during election periods. This opens for an array of arbitrary policies and a heated debate about what is the definition of none-political activities. Will participation in Taiwan’s gay parade be considered as a none-political activity? Will for instance holding sign that promotes gay marriage in Taiwan constitute a political action? Probably.

Many other questions have to be answered. Where is the boundary between watching a demonstration and being seen as participating in a protest? Can Taiwan’s authorities provide a list of activities that foreigners on short stays are allowed to participate in?

Taiwan is obviously not a foreigner’s country but a foreigner should be given the right to support likeminded people and be able to share his or hers views.

Taiwan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Consequently, Taiwan has an obligation to change its laws.