The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Taiwan has said that it is helping a group of Taiwanese students planning to sue the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board for labelling them as being from China. MOFA is in talks with the Norwegian government on the issue, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported on Thursday.

Photo: TaiwanMyNameMyRight via Facebook.

According to the group, led by an international human rights law student named Joseph, Norwegian immigration used the term “Kina” on their residency cards – which, in Norwegian, means “China.” The students filed a petition against the board in March last year, saying that the term was a diminution of their identity and contravened measures to protect “personal identity” in the Norwegian constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

A student representative told HKFP that MOFA has kept in touch with them through its representative office in Sweden.

Photo: Zeczec screenshot.

Marlén Hansen, acting Head of the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board, told HKFP that the denomination was in line with its commitments to global partners: “All decisions must be in accordance with Norwegian law and Norway’s international obligations.”

“Norway does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, that is why the Norwegian Immigration authorities register persons from Taiwan as citizens of China.”

Norway does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, it does have formal relations with China, who do not recognise any nation that has diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Beijing temporarily cut ties with Oslo in 2010, after it awarded jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu died of liver cancer last year.

Last Wednesday, the students launched an online crowdfunding campaign to cover the legal costs of filing a lawsuit. It has since raised TW$1,558,432 (HK$394,680).

The group told HKFP: “At the time, we did not receive a positive response from the Norwegian government through the diplomatic channel, so we decided to take legal action. For us, it is normal to defend our rights and interests by exercising litigation in a country with democracy and the rule of law.”

HKFP has contacted MOFA for comment.

Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.