Taiwan has a frequently acrimonious relationship with the government of China, but the country’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak has almost entirely steered clear of the discrimination toward Chinese nationals seen in countries throughout the world.
Taiwan’s government has also shied away from politicizing the virus, focusing mainly on a successful domestic containment strategy and calling on the international community to back its inclusion in the World Health Organization (WHO). A Taiwanese presence at the WHO is supported by many countries but staunchly opposed by Beijing.
This week, however, there was a domestic uproar over a controversial decision by Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) not to allow the children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples to be repatriated to Taiwan from China.
The decision, made on Wednesday and defended by prominent figures in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), reversed a decision made one day earlier by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees cross-strait affairs.
The MAC decision to repatriate the children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples – who are Chinese nationals, as the People’s Republic of China does not allow dual citizenship – had also drawn harsh criticism among those believing Taiwan nationals should be repatriated first.
DPP chairman Cho Jung-tai told reporters Wednesday that “the public believes that the government must prioritize protection of its citizens, and that their welfare must come first.”
The CECC justified its decision to bar those children from being evacuated to Taiwan by saying it could place a greater burden on Taiwan’s domestic resources to fight the coronavirus.
The spat over the children of Taiwanese-Chinese couples, however, became a political debate and drew criticism from a vocal minority insisting that the children should be considered Taiwanese nationals, despite not holding Taiwanese nationality.
Taiwanese people have criticized the parents of the children for not previously ensuring they would be considered Taiwan nationals. But this is easier said than done in China, and the parents surely did not anticipate having an urgent need to evacuate to Taiwan.
Taiwanese people hold disdainful views toward the Chinese Communist Party, but generally do not have animosity toward the people of China. Taiwan’s government has said it would allow Chinese nationals currently in Taiwan to stay beyond the expiration dates of their travel permits as the outbreak continues.
Taiwan’s public attitude in the days and weeks to come will indicate whether the virus becomes a political issue, or whether politics are sidelined in favor of empathy for the people of Wuhan.
Full article by Nick Aspinwall: