Ma Ying-jeou gives preferential treatment to the Chinese in Taiwan?
Another policy that may also threaten Taiwan in the long run is the Ministry of Education’s new regulation to allow children from any previous relationship of Chinese spouses in Taiwan to enter any senior high schools near their home WITHOUT going through the formal entrance examination which every Taiwanese teenager has to take. Under this package, if they are under the age of 14 or have visited Taiwan before 14, those Chinese children can live in Taiwan indefinitely (a six month visa would be granted first but they can keep renewing their visa) and go to schools in Taiwan. Not only do they not have to take the entrance exam, they will be allowed to choose a school in their residential area. Those younger than 14 will also be put in priority for state run nurseries (much less expensive with state inspection), primary and junior high schools. When they take the university entrance exam, they will also be given a 25% preference grade premium.
This angered a lot of people because all Taiwanese children, including their Taiwanese half siblings and those whose parent(s) are from other foreign countries, have to work really hard to pass the senior high school/university entrance exam or queue for a place in a state nursery for years without the guarantee for a place. It is unfair that those Chinese children can choose schools they like. If they want to get into a top school, all they have to do is to register their residence within that catchment area.
When being questioned, the MoE argued that those children are eligible because they meet the criteria for the children of outstanding overseas scientists and academia. This is utter nonsense. Since when are all Chinese spouses automatically qualified as ‘outstanding overseas scientists and academia’? There is actually a very stringent assessment and selection process for outstanding overseas professionals under this regulation. Government agencies and Academia Sinica vet candidates carefully before giving formal approval.
If we look elsewhere, overseas students in the UK universities have to pay about three times as much as the tuition for home students because their parents had never paid taxes to the UK government which contributed to the UK education system. As far as I know, non-EU foreign students who changed their resident status through marriage or their parent’s marriage and British citizens who have not lived in the UK for a long time are not immediately eligible for home fees upon entry either. They have to reside in the UK for a number of years before they can be counted as home students by the universities. Besides, foreign students are assessed under the same criteria as the home students. No allowance or preferential treatment would be given to any foreign students. Another related example was that a friend of mine who is a qualified medical doctor in the UK gave up on the idea of moving to Australia a few years ago because the UK medical licence doesn’t count in Australia and he would have to do the training and take the exam again in Australia. It seems that most countries heavily protect certain professions and their education systems. Why would the Ma government give Chinese spouses’ (non-tax paying before going to Taiwan) children from a previous relationship before going to Taiwan preferential treatment? Why can’t they be treated like everyone else?
After being heavily criticised, the MoE changed the regulation. Those in the final year of junior high schools have to take the entrance exam without any preferential treatment. Those already in the 2nd or 3rd year of senior high in China can choose 5 schools in their area and take the transfer exam after an assessment.
I don’t know whether this is the end of it because this government has been pretty good at saying one thing in public and doing another in secrecy. So I’ll keep an eye on it for any future development. What we really have to ask is WHY Ma’s administration came up with this idea in the first place? What are they trying to achieve? Was this actually part of one of those secret deals with the Chinese, signed without the public or parliamentary scrutiny?
Some may think that the number of Chinese spouses with children from previous relationships before entering Taiwan is not large and therefore there’s no need to panic. But I just can’t be complacent about this.
First of all, however small the number may be, this regulation, if put in place, places those Chinese children (minority) above ALL Taiwanese children (majority). This creates a class system in the society, which is similar to the way the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) used to reserve the majority of the government posts, civil servants positions, military positions, teaching posts etc., especially at the managerial level, for mainlanders and place them in priority for welfare. What’s worse in this case is that those children are from a country that has never given up on their threat to Taiwan.
Furthermore, it is difficult to check up on the authenticity of records from China. If this gate is open, there is no guarantee whether some Chinese spouses would have suddenly ‘adopted’ a couple of children in China.
Finally, in a few years time, those Chinese children may well become Taiwanese citizens and have the right to vote. Over time, combined with other Chinese nationals who enter Taiwan through other means, they can become a crucial minority in any election and referendum. Besides, it is impossible to know whether some of them will be spying for China or taking on any other activities that jeopardise Taiwan’s interests.
Update: This is the link to a scanned image of the official letter sent by MoE to Tainan City Government in relation to the new regulation. Tim Maddog commented on how vague the government response was, e.g. “Chen said, adding that under the current regulations, it would be impossible for Chinese children to enter university in Taiwan unless they have a Taiwanese ID.” (OK… but are there going to be new regulations?) or “not being the law so far” (Right… is it going to become law, say, next week?)…