Taiwanese in Norway take nationality case to European Court of Human Rights

Taiwanese living in Norway are eager to correct their nationality after filing a lawsuit in May against the Norwegian government for labeling them as “Chinese” on their residency permits.

The Taiwanese in Norway Nationality Rectification Campaign attempted to address this mislabeling by suing their host government in the Nordic country’s Supreme Court last November.

However, the court ruled that “the appeal cannot proceed,” with no further explanation given. It also ignored the group’s request to appear in court and their right to a fair hearing.

Joseph, leader of the Taiwanese in Norway Nationality Rectification Campaign, speaking with his lawyer. (Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association photo) 

As a result, the campaign’s leader, who goes by the name Joseph (約瑟夫), decided to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and sue Norway for human rights violations.

According to ECHR procedures, the plaintiff may appeal to the court only after it has exhausted all “domestic remedies.” Plaintiffs must submit an application to the court within six months of a decision from the Supreme Court of the relevant country.

“By requesting the Norwegian government to correctly register our nationality as Taiwanese, we have no intention to challenge its diplomatic prerogative to decide whether to recognize Taiwan as a State or to hamper the pursuit of its best national interests,” a Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association (TDDA) press release quoted Joseph as saying.

He added, “Our only hope is that our right to be treated and recognized as nationals of Taiwan could be respected by the state of residence like our Taiwanese compatriots residing in many other European countries.”

Joseph noted that many European countries accept “Taiwanese” as a nationality on residency documentation without having recognized Taiwan diplomatically. In fact, Norway used to do the same before 2010.

If this lawsuit is successful, it will be the first time the ECHR rules on a national identity issue, the TDDA said. Since the ECHR’s ruling is legally binding in all 47 member states that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, this would mean that none of these countries can register Taiwanese citizens as “Chinese.”

“Through this lawsuit, I hope the international community can discuss the issue of Taiwanese identity more,” Joseph said, adding that he hopes “more Taiwanese voices can be heard by the world.”