An American-born lawyer who gave up his U.S. passport and gained Taiwanese citizenship has become what he said is the first white to run for the island's parliament, vying for a seat that until last month belonged to a Taiwanese who resigned over allegations she holds U.S. citizenship.Winkler, driven and intelligent, will make a fine addition to the legislature. Don't know how useful he'll be in its fistfights, though....
Robin Winkler's candidacy, announced this week, for the legislative seat of a key district in capital Taipei is the latest ironic twist to the island's rough-and-tumble politics.
But Winkler's bid to represent Da-an District, where residents lean toward conservative Chinese values, also highlights Taiwan's shifting identity politics in the era of globalization, as a flood of immigrants and an ethnic divide figure prominently in the island's political narrative.
And in many ways, Winkler, 54, is the opposite of the ex-lawmaker he seeks to replace: Diane Lee, formerly of the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT). Lee, 50, last month quit her seat amid a storm of controversy over whether she holds U.S. citizenship and thus broke a law prohibiting dual citizenship for lawmakers.
By contrast, Winkler, to all appearances, is a foreigner. In 2003, however, he renounced his U.S. citizenship and became a naturalized Taiwanese, partly to avoid deportation for his legal practice and activism, he said. Fluent in Mandarin, he runs Winkler Partners, a Taipei-based law firm he founded in 1993, and the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the environment.
''We're going to run a very international campaign,'' Winkler told Kyodo News by phone Wednesday, referring to his bid to become the island's first naturalized citizen to hold a parliamentary seat. ''Ours will be a platform of global values.''
Winkler seeks the nomination of the Green Party, a global political party advocating environmental conservation and non-violence. The party's Taiwan chapter, he said, will likely choose its nominee this week, with that candidate running against candidates from the KMT and DPP. Winkler said he would focus on environmental issues and social justice in his campaign.
Winkler's bid comes amid a small but growing shift in demographics, as the island transitions to what its National Immigration Agency calls an ''immigrant country.''