This is the story about a German guy who went to Taiwan to make his lifetime dream come true - mastering the Chinese language.

Mittwoch, 28. März 2007

At your service...

EDITED ON 2nd OF MAY, 2007:

The original blog posting that you are about to read obviously had an effect on the people in charge at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Taiwan. Today I received a phone call from the person in charge, the boss of the VISA section at the BOCA. He had read my article, and we discussed it for quite a while. After my original article, I will briefly sum up what is BOCA's position on the accusations that I made in the following posting:

When you plan to study at Shida for more than 6 months, you will very likely come across this place:

You might think that you are at the Bureau of Consular Affairs of Taiwan, but actually you just stepped into the front court of hell.

You will have to come here to apply for a resident visa that will allow you to stay for more than 6 months. After you have studied Chinese for 4 months at Shida (or any other officially recognized Chinese Language schools) you are entitled to apply for such a visa. And believe me, those poeple at BOCA will try anything to give you a hard time and make it difficult for you to get this VISA. You are Westerner? Oh good luck for you! Makes it a whole lot easier! Still you will be treated unfriendly, but at least you will get your VISA without much trouble. In my case that was different, but I will come to that later. You come from South East Asia, let's say Indonesia, Vietnam or the Phillipines? REALLY bad luck, most likely you will be treated like a criminal, called in for face-to-face interrogations, ridiculed and laughed at. And it is really as bad as it sounds.

I made good friends with an Indonesian girl in my Chinese class and what she told me about her experiences with BOCA disgusted me. In the beginning of this week she was called by one of their officers and told that she had to come to BOCA for an interview at exactly 2 o'clock at the same day. No matter what she had to do that day, she had to come. I have never heard that this had happened to a Westerner before, and it also didn't happen to me.

Anyways, she went there and was interrogated for more than half an hour. And I use the term "interrogate" here on purpose, because as she told me, she felt like a criminal that was interrogated by the police. One of the first questions was were she came from. And once she said "Indonesia", the female officer couldn't help but laugh out loud while obviously making derogative comments to her officer friend that was also in the "interrogation room". Oh, of course the whole interrogation took place in Chinese language. And my Indonesian friend is in my class so our Chinese is around the same level. Of course our Chinese is not perfect since we are still beginners. So now what is really sad: whenever she made a mistake speaking Chinese, the officers would make fun of it and laugh at her face.

How sad is that? It is a shame for Taiwan, I have to say. There is a young girl that is interested in the Chinese language and culture and wants to learn more about it with coming to Taiwan. She is even thinking about becoming a Chinese language teacher in the future, because she wants to spread that culture in her home country. And now THIS happens, some BOCA officers treat her like a criminal and ridicule her? I can really understand that she doesn't like Taiwan anymore.

Then she was asked what she planned to do after her Chinese studies in Taiwan. She answered that she wants to become a Chinese teacher later. And what did the officers answer? "Why do all Indonesians want to become Chinese teachers?". I don't want to comment on that, it is just too stupid. Well anyways, later she had to answer questions like how much money she brought into Taiwan, and why she has so and so much money on her account and so forth, obviously trying to imply that she would work illegally here, what she does not do.

Then they asked her why she didn't attend class for 5 days last month. Well, she had to fly back to Indonesia to change her Visa because they refused to extend it, that's why she obviously couldn't attend class. She clearly explained it to the officer but now the officer told her that she couldn't understand her bad Chinese. She gave her a piece of paper and told her to write down the reason again, in *good* Chinese so she could understand it.

I have to repeat myself again, this is a shame for Taiwan.

If that happened in a German government office and it became public, the officer would have to face *severe* consequences. But here this doesn't seem to be the case. Unfortunately, this case doesn't seem to be an exception - discrimination of people from Southeast Asia seems to be the everyday routine for the BOCA.

Well, Taiwan wants to be recognized by the world as a democratic and modern country? Hm, that is not quite the way to achieve it. Especially in these days where word spreads so fast and the bloggosphere is so powerful. This has to be made public, perhaps they will change their behaviour when they find a blog entry like this being the nr. 1 search result on google when you enter "Boca Taiwan". Well, you can help by linking this article in your own blog. It is worth a try.

So now this has already been a long posting and I didn't tell you about my personal experience with BOCA and I won't do it for now. It would go beyond the scope of a single posting. I can just tell you that this was my single and only really negative Taiwan experience so far. I have come to love the country and its friendly people, so it is just sad to see that a single office can spoil some people's Taiwan experience.

P.S.: Just to mention it: I did get my Visa after a long struggle. Thank god I am German and not Indonesian or Vietnamese!

So now after you have read the original posting, here a brief summary of what the person in charge of BOCA told me in the telephone call:

  • Taiwan has a lot of problems with illegal workers especially from the South East Asian countries
  • The interviews are needed to find out about those illegal workers
  • The Indonesian girl that I mentioned in my posting did get the resident visa
  • Other countries like for example America also have very tough one-on-one interviews

When I told him that I can understand all that, but the main problem would be *how* my classmate was treated and that she was laughed at and ridiculed and that the whole attitude is not professional, but what is worse, does not respect human rights at all, there was not much of a reply. However, he did say that they want to improve and seriously consider some of the "suggestions" that I made, as he called it.

What I found negative is that the boss of the Visa section that I talked to asked me to delete my original posting since it would "hurt Taiwan". I directly told him that it is not my posting that hurts Taiwan, but more the fact how his office treats people from South East Asia and that I would not delete the article but edit it and include his standpoint, what I did. I am sure he reads this, so I would invite him to directly reply or comment on the accusations that were reported by my Indonesian classmate. He could tell us what his opinion is on the way that his officers treated that girl and if he will draw any consequences from that behaviour of his officers. My email address can be found here on the website and for sure I would put his reply here.


david on formosa hat gesagt…

This sounds really terrible. I can only suggest that your friend contacts the media or writes to the head of BOCA or the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

insomniac hat gesagt…

Hi David,

yeah that really is a terrible thing and actually I witnessed it with my own eyes when I met her there by coincidence one day.

I think complaining to the head of BOCA wouldn't help much. I think they know what is going on and what do they care about some 20 year old Indonesian language student? Also the media wouldn't likely pick up the story if she approached them as a single person.

Public awareness, public exposure and pressure...that
might change things a little. I do think it can and should go to the media, but the first step to achieve that will be the bloggosphere. Let's talk about that on our Taiwan blogs, let's make it a topic!

Ch!C hat gesagt…

Really really sorry to hear that. And hope your friend would be ok since she has been treated like that...sighed...
I feel so shame for these BOCA officers..

dj hat gesagt…

I think the whole visa situation in Taiwan sucks ass. They need to revamp it if they want to join the West.

I am going to be studying fulltime as well in September.

I had the worst time last time when I was in HK trying to get a visitor's visa on a visa run.

Frostfox hat gesagt…

That's terrible. I wish I could say that I relate to your story, but when I went there it was in-and-out for me, no troubles at all. Guess I just got lucky.

Scott hat gesagt…

Tell her (or people who might have similar troubles) to take a tape recorder next time. If it gets really bad, you can give a copy of the tape to the media. It's worth a try.

insomniac hat gesagt…

Hello everybody,

thanks for writing all the comments. I know that the Taiwanese people are really friendly, those people at BOCA don't represent them well. Anyways, I think that the recorder idea is pretty good...

Anonym hat gesagt…

ach herrje! mach dir da unten bitte keine feinde! *besorgtguck* man hört ja immer wieder dass in asien menschen spurlos verschwinden und alles vertuscht wird...


pass trotzdem auf dich auf!

free ps3 hat gesagt…

Thanks for the nice post!