Monday, May 27, 2013

Been there, Done that - Taiwan vs. ROC vs. PRC

A few days ago, I received the following message from the Taiwanese Student Association (TSA)  from my Alma Mater:

收到新生來信說 I-20 上國籍被植為 China,他向 ISS 反應但 ISS 的回復不願意更改為 Taiwan。因此在這邊向各位尋求解決之道,傾各位提供意見」。

Translation: "Hello everyone, we received a letter from a new student stating his nationality has been listed as "China" in his I-20 visa, and the International Student Services (ISS) refused to correct his nationality after he complained.  We are requesting suggestions from [TSA] members to resolve this problem".  

The answer from the ISS was something that makes one go "Huh?" but was also infuriating to the Taiwanese students.  The response reads: 
"Since your passport states your nationality as Republic of China and your place of birth at Tainan City, your I-20 must match your passport.  If your passport is incorrect, please obtain a new passport and send us a copy so that we may update your I-20".

Does it even sound logical to the ISS employee who wrote the email that a country would issue an incorrect passport to its own citizens?

The incident was not the first time employees at the university tolerated and made the mistake of not differentiating Taiwan from China.  When I was a student, I received a complaint from the exchange students from the National Taiwan University (NTU), claiming the school was allowing international students from China to advertise NTU as one of China's universities at the Study Abroad Fair.  Upon receiving complaints from the NTU students, the Study Abroad's Office refused to admit they've made a mistake.  The answer to the NTU students merely stated, "We know Taiwan and China long had problems with each other…"  

It wasn't until I phoned and called a meeting between the university employee who was responsible for handling matters for international students from Asia, the Director of the Study Abroad's Office and the NTU students, that an apology was offered and correction was made.

I much prefer Taiwan to be just labeled as Taiwan, not as the Republic of China, even just for convenience and to avoid mistakes.  I'll leave the political debate of whether Taiwan is (or isn't) the Republic of China for another day.  Unfortunately, Taiwanese students studying abroad must constantly deal with similar situations.  

After further explanation from the new student from Taiwan with the assistance of the TSA president, the employee at ISS wrote back, 

"After doing some research, I found that you are correct. The Republic of China is not the same as the People’s Republic of China. Your country of citizenship should be listed as Taiwan. I will prepare a corrected I-20 for you. Thank you for your patience and understanding".

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