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Greater assurance needed for Taiwanese in turmoil abroad

Publication Date : 23-05-2014

 

Over the past two weeks, the Taiwan government, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), has been under heavy fire for its somewhat slow responses in the wake of the violent demonstrations in Vietnam that have affected factories and facilities owned by Taiwanese businesses.

Many Taiwanese nationals whose properties were damaged during the latest round of anti-China riots have accused the ministry of doing little to help them leave the country in their time of need.

The Taiwanese nationals said MOFA has been slow in offering help to more than 40,000 Taiwanese in Vietnam. And when the ministry did decide to help them, it did so with some strange methods that almost turned the ministry into a laughing stock.

One of measures these people are referring to is the MOFA-prepared stickers with the slogan “I am Taiwanese,” which they gave to Taiwanese businesses in Vietnam to help them differentiate themselves from Chinese nationals.

Taiwanese in Vietnam became even angrier when they learned that Taiwan's top envoy to Vietnam, Huang Chih-peng, was not in the country days before the riots began. He went home to Taiwan and did not return until May 13, when the protests had turned into violent riots.

Amid criticisms, MOFA insisted that it has done a lot to help ROC citizens in the Southeast Asian country.

To be perfectly fair, MOFA has indeed done quite a few things.

For instance, Taiwan's representative office in Vietnam has established a dozen temporary shelters for its nationals, set up emergency hotlines and provided shuttle bus services that can carry Taiwanese nationals directly to the airport in Ho Chi Minh City if necessary.

So why aren't these efforts appreciated by Taiwanese people in Vietnam?

The truth is, at a time of crisis when they feel most uncertain and afraid, Taiwanese people only need an assurance from the government that they will be protected.

However, they could not get the assurance right after the May 13 riots.

Even though our foreign minister assured the public that its office in Hanoi would help people leave if they wished at a May 14 press conference, all we heard was that MOFA had insisted the situation in Vietnam had been stabilised and there was no immediate need to launch a full-scale evacuation or send a charter flight to Vietnam to retrieve our nationals.

Foreign Minister David Lin noted that there were plenty of seats on Taiwan's two major airlines that operate flights between the two sides, stressing that it would suffice for now to meet their needs, despite the fact that there was reportedly another round of nationwide protests later that week and many had been complaining that it was difficult to book a flight to Taipei or the fare had been raised steeply.

Only a few days later we witnessed that China sent five ships to Vietnam to speed up the evacuation of its citizens.

Beijing's move is in sharp contrast with what Taipei has done, as the former took a concrete move to help its nationals - in contrast with the soft stance of Taipei, which sounds more like it is speaking for the Vietnamese government.

It is understandable that MOFA's hesitation to use such strong wording of full evacuation may have diplomatic origins. Also, Taiwan's lack of official ties with Vietnam made the situation even more difficult for the ministry to handle.

But the ministry needs to realise what Taiwanese people in Vietnam need is a boost in confidence and a word of assurance, and what the MOFA has done, though they have done a lot, was apparently not enough, and that is why the ministry was heavily criticised.

 

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