Lin’s Taiwan passport to make him ‘domestic’ athlete in China

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — Under rules announced by the Chinese government last year, former NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin’s recent acquisition of a Taiwan passport means he will have the status of a “domestic” athlete in his current league, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

Last November, the Chinese government introduced its “26 Measures,” which it said is aimed at offering Taiwanese equal treatment to that of Chinese nationals.

The 26th measure, specifically, states that Taiwanese athletes competing in Chinese professional sports leagues can qualify as “domestic” players.

In Lin’s case, the rule is significant, because the CBA has limits on the use of foreign players in order to provide an incentive in the development of local talent.

In the league, only two foreign players can be on a team’s roster for each game and only one of them can be on the court at a time.

Some in the media have pointed out that Lin’s current team, the Beijing Ducks, will benefit by having him reclassified as a domestic player and have speculated that this may have contributed to his decision to apply for a Taiwanese passport.

Lin has yet to make any public statement on the matter.

The issue came to light after independent Taipei City Councilor Chung Hsiao-ping (鍾小平) revealed on Wednesday that Lin had recently obtained a Taiwanese passport.

According to media reports, Lin and his younger brother Joseph Lin (林書緯), a professional basketball player for Taiwan’s Fubon Braves in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), applied for their passports together and received them at the end of July.

The brothers, who are aged 31 and 28, respectively, were born in the U.S., but were eligible to apply for Taiwanese passports because their parents were born and raised in Taiwan.

Under Taiwanese law, parents automatically pass citizenship rights to their children. Lin’s move to obtain a passport was therefore slightly different from naturalization, since he was already legally recognized as a Taiwanese citizen.

Among the other issues raised by the news was the question of whether Lin will have to do his mandatory military service and whether he will be eligible to represent Taiwan in international sporting events.

In terms of the former, all male citizens in Taiwan between the ages of 18 and 36 are typically required to undergo a period of military service, with few exceptions.

Late on Wednesday, however, the National Conscription Agency issued a statement saying that while Lin is recognized as a Taiwanese citizen, he has not registered an address in the nationwide household registration system.

Only citizens who have had a registered address for at least a year are eligible for conscription, the agency said, citing the Conscription Regulations for Naturalized Aliens & Returning Overseas Chinese.

Meanwhile, according to the rules of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), which organizes the basketball event in the summer Olympics, only one naturalized player — defined as those who obtain their passport after the age of 16 — is allowed to be on the roster of a national team per game.

A previous example of this in Taiwan is Quincy Jones, who renounced his U.S. citizenship and was naturalized as a citizen of Taiwan in 2013, in order to play for Chinese Taipei in international basketball competitions.

Lin, who rose to fame in 2012 with the New York Knicks, became the first American of Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. He was also the first Asian American to win an NBA championship, doing so with the Toronto Raptors in 2019.

In the 2019-2020 season, he joined the CBA’s Beijing Ducks, where he averaged 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.