Taiwanese lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have warned that applying for China-issued residency cards may constitute treason, as the cards are de facto documents of Chinese citizenship.
Beijing this month began issuing residency cards to Taiwanese, Hongkongers and Macanese living and working on the mainland. These new cards, bearing largely similar identification features to those on Chinese ID cards, will enable holders to access a host of public services previously exclusive to permanent mainland residents.
The DPP concern is that despite the fact that the cards will make life more convenient for their holders, ranging from booking train tickets to checking into hotels, the new residency scheme is a plot by Beijing to assimilate Taiwanese into mainland Chinese society and make them subject to all Chinese laws.
Taiwanese, Hongkongers and Macanese used to be treated as quasi-foreigners on the mainland and were only entitled to some informal privileges.
The Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office said earlier this month that the new residency scheme was off to a good start, with more than 22,000 Taiwanese applying within its first week.
A DPP lawmaker said Beijing aimed to have more than 80% of Taiwanese currently living, studying or working on the mainland sign up for the new scheme before the end of the year.
There are varying estimates about the exact size of the Taiwanese diaspora on the mainland, ranging from 600,000 to more than 2 million.
Back in Taiwan, legislators of the DPP caucus revealed to the Taipei Times that they had been discussing countermeasures to penalize these “treasonous” Taiwanese, including denaturalization or automatic renunciation of their Taiwanese nationality.
Other proposals under discussion included denying holders of Chinese residency cards access to Taiwan’s public health care, or compiling a blacklist to bar them from running for official posts.
These punitive actions under discussion would fall within the purview of a slew of Taiwanese laws including the National Security Act, the Classified National Security Information Protection Act and legislation governing cross-Strait relations.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan is yet to roll out measures to stave off Beijing’s poaching of Taiwanese residents.
A whip of the DPP caucus told the island’s semi-official Central News Agency that President Tsai Ing-wen and her cabinet would have to discuss the issue internally before coming up with a coherent response, adding that Tsai was always open to all suggestions on how to punish those embracing Beijing.
He said Taipei’s official response to Beijing’s residency program and punitive measures would be “far more than just a rap on the knuckles.”
He also promised to pressure Tsai’s deputy, Premier William Lai, at the next Legislative Yuan inquiry session this week.
There have been rumors that Taiwan may also implement a similar residency program to woo mainland students on the island.