A Taiwanese woman living in Iceland who wanted her nationality to be listed as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese” on her residence permit, has instead been classified as “Stateless”
The 23-year-old woman, Lee Wan-chien, posted a picture of her new residence permit onto the Facebook group “Taiwanese in Europe” last Friday, counting it as a troubling warning sign for Taiwan’s status around the world.
Lee, who is currently in Iceland on a six-month student exchange program, has been trying to obtain a residence permit with a “Taiwanese” nationality for the past three months. She first shared her efforts on the Facebook group on November 1st, writing about how she had sent three emails to The Directorate of Immigration in Iceland, requesting they change her nationality listed on the permit from “Chinese” to “Taiwanese,” without any response.
So, Lee decided to go to the immigration office in person, where an official told her that since Iceland does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country, her permit could not be changed.
Undeterred, Lee went back to the immigration office the very next day and spoke with another official who repeated that it was impossible for her nationality to be registered as “Taiwanese”; however, the official did suggest an alternative — she could be classified as “Stateless.” Lee decided to just go with that.
While she was waiting for her new residence permit, Lee also contacted the Taipei Representative Office in Denmark where the representative told her that Iceland had been issuing permits with “Taiwanese” nationalities just last year.
Finally, on November 18th, Lee received her new permit. As promised, her nationality had been changed from “Chinese” to “Stateless,” while her birthplace had been altered from “Kaohsiung” to “Taiwan.”
“At that moment, I really didn’t know whether to cry or be happy,” she wrote. “But, this means that I was halfway successful. At least ‘stateless’ means they agree with me that ‘Taiwan is not a part of China.’”
Lee writes that her experience is a warning that Taiwan’s status is weakening around the world.
“While Taiwan may think of itself as a normally operating country, as soon as we go abroad, who pays attention to us? No one recognizes us, our overseas representatives don’t have the standing to speak up, and no one listens,” she said.
She added that she was tired of having to “apologize’ for not being “Chinese.”
“Why do I always have to say sorry?” she wrote. “I’m not sorry that I’m not Chinese and I would like to never see any Taiwanese apologizing for being Taiwanese ever again.”
Taiwanese Facebook users have praised Lee for her tenacity and congratulated her on her new “stateless” status. Meanwhile, other Taiwanese living in Europe posted pictures of their own residence permits, showing how countries like Denmark and Sweden, which do not recognize Taiwan as a nation, still use “Taiwanese” as a nationality.
Only 22 countries around the world maintain formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, most of those nations are located in Central America like Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras. The only European state to do so is the Vatican.
[Images via Facebook // h/t The News Lens International]