Minister apologizes for ethnic bride slur after protest

Flora Wang, TAIPEI, Taiwan, Special to The China Post

Vice Education Minister Chou Tsan-de apologized last night for suggesting foreign wives should “bear fewer children” after a group of human rights advocates, Southeast Asian women and their children, staged a protest outside the Ministry of Education (MOE). Cabinet spokesman Chen Chi-mai noted that Chou’s gaffe by no means represented the government’s stance and its efforts to promote ethnic harmony and welfare for foreign and mainland spouses.

Chou, however, stressed that his remark was misinterpreted as a discrimination against foreign wives and their children. He claimed that he meant to remind cross-cultural families to pay more attention to family planning and the education and upbringing of the next generation. Earlier in the day, human rights activists yelled “stop the discrimination” before the MOE, charging Chou with racial discrimination for requesting more birth control for mainland and foreign wives. The Alliance for Human Rights Legislation for Immigrants and Migrants (AHRLIM) demanded Chou apologize for accusing the brides of having too many children and lowering the quality of Taiwan’s next generation. He made the remark at a meeting with 25 regional educational commissioners last Tuesday but received total silence in response.

“Chou’s statement was all based on his stereotype,” said Liao Yuan-hao, AHRLIM’s legal consultant and an assistant professor at the law school of Soochow University.

He offered statistics from the Ministry of the Interior, arguing that a foreign bride gives birth to 1.04 children on average, lower than that of Taiwanese women, and only 0.1 percent of their children may be retarded. “Speeches like Chou’s should not appear in Taiwan, a country proud of its human rights safeguards,” claimed the alliance. Andy Chu, who has been admitted to the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning in National Taiwan University, hung a sign on his neck which read, “I’m not retarded”. Chu, whose mother is from Indonesia, said he didn’t grow up to be less capable than other students.

“I felt inferior because of my accent when I was little, but gradually I came to accept the fact that my mother was different,” he recalled, adding that he appreciated his mother teaching him Indonesian language and culture.

Jessica Hong, a native of Indonesia, brought her 4-year-old daughter to join the demonstration. “I have no problems with teaching my girl in my own way. We communicate in Chinese, and she speaks the language very well,” said Hong.

Nguyen Thidien Hong, who came to Taiwan from Vietnam three years ago, said the children of mainland and foreign brides do not necessarily receive poor education. She also stressed that not every woman comes to Taiwan “to give birth nonstop.” “Immigrants help to enrich the Taiwanese culture. They are not trouble-makers, and their children are not retarded,” stated AHRLIM, urging MOE to reconsider its policies for immigrants’ children, including compulsory after-school tutoring and more educational subsidies for areas with more foreign brides. “Stop the discriminatory policies,” pleaded Chu. “With more and more foreign cultures blending in, Taiwan will only get better and better.” Chen Hsueh-yu, MOE’s deputy head of the Social Education Department, received the alliance’s written complaint. Chen denied that MOE discriminates against mainland and foreign brides and their children. Chou will give an “explanation” soon, she added.