Written by En-Chieh Chao. Scientific epidemic prevention measures are essential and critical, but sometimes not enough. As demonstrated in Taiwan’s experience of 2020, other than an alert government, it takes a civil society and divine deities. After all, to prevent an epidemic literally requires human bodies to work together. The question is: what makes us work together? It could be democracy for some, and divination for others. Sometimes, it is both.
Written by Peijun Guo. As the rumbling from the exhaust engine ripped through the peaceful night, many youths are gathered in convenience stores and community parks of Taipei’s Wanhua district. Some smoke, some mess around, and then eventually the group moves on to the next place to hang out and waste some time. This group of youths who do not get on well at school and who wander about the city streets are part of the background murmur of parts of urban Taipei. They wander about as if they are waiting for something, whether it is to go to school, to find a job, or just for the juvenile detention center to take them in.
Written by Natasha Heller. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that the world faces. A United Nations report has cautioned that greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity are at a record high, “with no signs of slowing down.” Many nations are recording weather extremes, higher average temperatures and rising seas. Meanwhile, the first wave of increasing numbers of climate refugees points to how a changing environment will reshape human life.
Written by Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hà and Isabelle Cheng. It has been more than three decades since Southeast Asian nationals began to work and establish their families in Taiwan. Men and women from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia fill the labour shortage in construction, fishing, manufacturing, care and agricultural industries, whilst the women became members of Taiwanese society because of their marriage and family formations. This ongoing regional migration flow has enriched the socio-cultural landscape of Taiwan, where multiculturalism becomes the prevailing normative value that respects and appreciates differences. Nevertheless, this development has not been smooth or unchallenged.
Written by Linh Le. Taiwan and its migrant workers are tangled in a bitter-sweet marriage: one needs another but cannot stand the flaws of the other. Like Director Tsai Tsung-lung’s attempt to show the human side of migrant workers through his latest documentary “Nine shots,” this article shares the same sentiment by highlighting these workers’ needs for leisure, enjoyment and entertainment like any other human being. However, these needs are rarely satisfied due to many unfortunate circumstances.
Written by Ratih Kabinawa. In an attempt to raise awareness about the lives of marginalised groups in Taiwan, the Taiwan Studies Programme at the University of Nottingham, U.K., organised a movie screening and discussion – Migrant Lives Matter: ‘Nine Shots’ – that showcased the dark side of migrant labour recruitment and employment in Taiwan. The film reveals some perspectives from different stakeholders, including labour advocacy networks, in addressing problems related to Taiwan’s labour migration system. Using the movie as a prompt, this article explores various advocacy networks and migrant labour movements in Taiwan. Why and how do these networks emerge and organise themselves? What are their motivations and activities? And how do these networks advocate for policy change and work to build solidarity to empower migrant workers?
Written by Lihyun Lin and Chun-yi Lee. On November 18, 2020, the National Communications Commission (NCC) in Taiwan refused to renew the licence of CTiTV. This decision caused much protest from the opposition party, with the Kuomintang (KMT)’s high-pitch of ‘protecting press freedom.’ We found ironic how the KMT used Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) ‘s case as an example to indicate how the ruling party in Taiwan – the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – intervened in press freedom and sacrificed Taiwan’s democracy.
Written by Andreas Sierek. A migrant construction worker was enjoying himself at a river. We might have disapproved of him being drunk, drugged and naked. We even might have been incensed by his rampageous behaviour. But shooting him dead? Like a stray dog infected with rabies? Not with one bullet but with nine? Insisting that the man – while lying on the dirt, in a pool of blood, dying – must be handcuffed before medics can approach him?
Written by Isabelle Cheng. On 31 August 2017, Nguyen Quoc Phi, an undocumented Vietnamese worker, was shot dead by a policeman in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan. Public responses to Phi’s death were polarised between pro-police campaigners, who supported the police’s use of force, and human rights activists, who emphasised the plight of migrant workers who are exploited by brokers and employers and who are regulated by a hostile guest worker system. This polarisation is also evident in cyberspace. The reporting of Phi’s death in September 2017, the sentencing of the policeman in July 2019, and the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks in the U.S. in May and June 2020 prompted Taiwanese netizens to comment on PTT.
Interviewed, translated and edited by Isabelle Cheng. On 30 October 2020, the Taiwan Studies Programme hosted a webinar after the online screening of a pilot documentary Nine Shots (槍響之前) directed by Tsai Tsung-lung. This essay is an interview with Tsai about this pilot documentary, which discusses what, if not who, was responsible for the tragic death of Nguyen Quoc Phi. The latter was an undocumented Vietnamese migrant worker who was shot dead by the police, firing nine shots in 12 seconds, on 31 August 2017 in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan.
Written by Elsa Sichrovsky. Due to Taiwan’s geographically strategic position in Southeast Asia and proximity to the Golden Triangle of the heroin trade, it has had a long relationship with narcotics, dating back to opium smoking in the Qing dynasty. In the 1800s, the opium trade thrived following the Opium Wars in China, bringing in more than half of Taiwan’s revenue by 1892. During the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), the Japanese established an opium monopoly in Taiwan which benefited them economically while they maintained an appearance of opposition to opium smoking. Through sales to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies around the world, opium composed up to 46 per cent of yearly colonial income from Taiwan until 1904.
Written by Jason Chuah. Taiwan, with her economic strength in shipping, could perhaps be likened to a first-class marathon athlete running in the Olympics with flipflops unless it modernises its commercial maritime law. UNCTAD reports in its 2019 Shipping Outlook Report that Taiwan ranks 11 in terms of “ownership of world fleet ranked by dead-weight tonnage.” This is one place above the UK and only two places below the US. In terms of monetary value, it is ranked number seven in the world for ownership of bulk carriers (excluding oil tankers) and in the top 20 ship owning countries by value. Yang Ming and Evergreen are in the top 20 of terminal operators in the global league table.