Beijing last week announced a raft of fresh measures to accord “equal treatment” to Taiwanese as Chinese citizens and even offered to issue Chinese passports as well as consular services and protection to Taiwanese when they travel overseas using their mainland-issued travel documents.
However, it was believed the new passport offer would not be a big draw.
Not many Taiwanese would be enticed to apply for Chinese passports and sign on to Beijing’s ideology of Taiwanese being Chinese, given the fact that their own Taiwanese passports, issued under the island’s official name the Republic of China (中華民國), enable them visa-free entry to or visa-upon-arrival treatment in about 146 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, including the United States.
This compares with the corresponding figure of only 70 for Chinese passport holders, according to the Henley Passport Index 2019. Hong Kong passport holders can travel to 168 countries visa-free.
Still, Taiwan has rushed to warn its nationals of the risks and crimes as serious as treason if they decide to apply for Chinese passports.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry has reminded its people that Chinese passports only enable visa-free travel to fewer than half the nations that already offer the same to Taiwanese nationals.
A Chinese passport holder can travel to none of the major powers in the West or popular destinations across the Asia-Pacific region.
Taiwanese applying for Chinese passports should think twice about privacy risks arising from handing their personal information over to the mainland side, which will also put their Taiwanese citizenship at risk, and they may also run afoul of the island’s anti-treason and national security laws, read a statement from the ministry, which concluded that the Chinese travel documents would be less useful.
The Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office has also announced consular services for Taiwanese through China’s embassies and consulates overseas, and this particular measure, however, may draw some Taiwanese expats to Beijing’s side as the latter stations far more diplomatic missions in foreign capitals and major cities than Taiwan does.
Previously, Taiwanese living or traveling in places where there were no representative offices would have nowhere to go to seek help when in need. Now Chinese diplomats are happy to offer their help, albeit with the prerequisite of applying for Chinese passports beforehand, of course.
In an emergency pullout in 2013 from Egypt amid a military coup there, Taiwanese tourists sought assistance from the Chinese embassy in Cairo, left with mainlanders on a chartered flight bound for Beijing and they then changed to another flight back to the island.
Taiwanese authorities later noted that these stranded Taiwanese had to agree to the demands from Chinese diplomats in Egypt, including providing detailed personal information and signing declarations about Taiwan being part of China, before they could get help.
Taiwanese papers also noted that those heading for Russia or some Central Asian nations may also want to get Chinese passports as Moscow and these nations do not recognize the island’s travel documents.
It’s the same when Taiwanese want to visit the headquarters and offices of the United Nations and other international bodies whose members have to be sovereign states.
The UN does not allow visitors to enter with their Taiwan-issued documents as instructed by China, one of the five permanent members of the UN’s high-powered Security Council.