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Taiwan: Rules Relaxed for Rendering of Foreign Names in Chinese for Official Purposes

(Dec. 24, 2015) Under a recent amendment to the Detailed Rules of Enforcement of the Name Act, foreigners will now be permitted to use a phonetic translation of their names in applying for Republic of China (ROC) citizenship or in registering their marriage to a Taiwan national. (Jake Chung, Foreign Name Rules Relaxed for IDs, TAIPEI TIMES (Nov. 14, 2015).) Article 2, paragraph 3, of the Rules now states that for Chinese names needed for those purposes, the person can use either an original name in Chinese or a foreign-language transliteration.  (Detailed Rules of Enforcement of the Name Act (June 20, 1953, as last amended Nov. 18, 2015), LAWS & REGULATIONS DATABASE OF THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA (in Chinese).)

According to the Ministry of Interior, which drafted the changes in the Rules, “the changes made are meant as tokens of respect for the multicultural society Taiwan is becoming while taking into consideration Taiwanese practices.” (Chung, supra.)  The Ministry noted that the rules on names of foreigners had first been amended in 2012, when foreigners or stateless persons were permitted to have their names transliterated into Chinese.  (Id.)

The Name Act on which the Rules are based was revised effective May 20, 2015. (Name Act (Mar. 7, 1953, as amended May 20, 2015), LAWS & REGULATIONS DATABASE OF THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA (toggle for Chinese text); for a discussion of some provisions of the Act, see Laney Zhang, In Taiwan, “Unflattering” Names Can Be Changed, But No More Than Three Times in a Lifetime, IN CUSTODIA LEGIS (Oct. 1, 2015).)

New Provisions in the Rules

The amendment also adds three new provisions to the Rules. A new article 5 provides that if the sources for words mentioned in the Name Act (art. 2) – e.g., the Tz’u Yuan, Tz’u Hai, Kang Hsi, and other commonly used dictionaries, or the Kuo-yu tz’u-tian compiled by the Ministry of Education – have not been used for the Chinese names of ROC nationals, foreigners, or stateless persons as required under the Act, or if the given characters are variant Chinese characters listed in the Ministry of Education’s variant character dictionary, the parties must apply to correct them with commonly used characters or traditional characters listed in the abovenamed sources.  Characters not found in the above dictionaries or other Standard Mandarin dictionaries may not be used.  (Detailed Rules of Enforcement of the Name Act, art. 5.)

A new article 6 is comprised of the former article 4’s paragraphs 2 and 3, with a few changes in wording. Most notably, in paragraph 2, the new version includes the phrase highlighted as follows in italics:  “[t]he romanization of indigenous peoples’ and other ethnic minorities’ traditional names is based on that of the applicants themselves; the romanization system of the indigenous people is provided by the Aboriginal Affairs Commission” (under the Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s Cabinet).  (Id. art. 6.)

The new article 14 provides for the role of the Household Registration Office in making name changes in the household register for persons who applied to make a name change before the issuance and implementation of the revised Name Act. (Id. art. 14.)