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Those deemed unwelcome are simply that: unwelcome
Publication Date : 11-09-2013
Mark Chen, who openly called Singapore a mini-state resembling a piece of snot while he was foreign minister in 2004, has made another gaffe. Now a lawmaker, Chen called a press conference at the Legislative Yuan together with a couple of his Democratic Progressive Party colleagues last Wednesday to blast the Immigration Bureau for restoring efforts to screen people's political thoughts and to blacklist unwelcome visitors, denying them entry to Taiwan. He said that it hurt Taiwan's image as a democracy in the world community.
A life-long Taiwan independence activist, Chen took the Immigration Bureau to task for denying entry to a Japanese advocate for Taiwanese independence. Kenji Tanabe visited Taiwan in 2010 to take part in a demonstration in front of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan to call upon the non-existent US military government to reoccupy Taiwan on April 23 and to unfurl a banner calling for the independence of Taiwan atop Mount Morrison on May 12. On September 9, he returned to Taipei again without a visa, but was denied entry and returned to Tokyo after a forced stay overnight at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
As Japanese visitors can enter Taiwan visa-free, Tanabe made an appeal to the Ministry of the Interior which has jurisdiction over the Immigration Bureau, but the appeal was turned down on August 19 this year.
In accusing the government of screening political thoughts and blacklisting unwelcome visitors, however, Chen brought charges against it for allowing Chinese government officials to advertise Beijing's “swallowing up of Taiwan.” He was implying that the Kuomintang government is protecting the freedom of speech of the Chinese Communists, while infringing upon that of Tanabe.
His 2004 gaffe — during which he also accused the Singaporean foreign minister of “tickling testicles”, a local phrase that means currying favour with someone — was just vulgar and unbecoming of a foreign minister, and his accusation on Wednesday was just groundless and frivolous.
For one thing, any country can deny entry to an unwelcome foreign visitor. Chen studied in the United States — he founded the United Formosans for Independence at that time — and worked for the American government and must have known that Washington screens the political thoughts of visa applicants. No Communist will be granted entry. Other democracies have done exactly the same.
For a time, Canada and France even required Taiwanese press workers to sign an affidavit that they would refrain from any political activity, before granting them entry visas. Japan used to deny entrance to Lee Teng-hui for fear it might offend China.
On the other hand, freedom of speech, which is a human right, can be curtailed through legal sanctions or social disapprobation, or both. That's why democracies can legally deny any entry to foreigners out of fear that he or she may spread ideas that could endanger their security. Of course, freedom of speech guarantees that Taiwanese citizens that took part in the 2010 demonstration before the AIT Taipei Office would not be arrested or prosecuted; however, the government has every right to regard Tanabe as an unwelcome visitor who may spread ideas that may endanger Taiwan's security. The People's Republic of China has an anti-secession law that codifies an automatic invasion of Taiwan if Taipei declares independence.
Dr. Chen is obsessed by the blacklist, perhaps because he was blacklisted by the Kuomintang government while he was in the United States. That was wrong on the part of the undemocratic government of Taiwan at that time, of course. The right thing to do then would have been to let him come back and charge him with sedition, if his ideas and actions were proven to endanger the security of Taiwan. There would have been no way to charge him, however, as Taiwan and the United States have not signed an extradition agreement.
There is no such blacklist now. Neither will Taiwan have such a blacklist. Albeit an unwelcome foreign visitor, be he a Japanese or an American citizen, may not be allowed to enter Taiwan, if he or she is considered likely to spread ideas that may endanger its national security.