Written by Adina Zemanek and Lara Momesso. Since the early 2000s, immigrants from mainland China and Southeast Asia have been an increasingly visible component of Taiwan’s social and public landscape. As such, they have received growing recognition both in terms of legal provisions and in the public discourse. An example of this acknowledgement is the December 2019 issue of Taiwan Panorama, a promotional magazine issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Half of this issue is dedicated to highlighting migrants’ presence in Taiwan. One of the articles calls for listening to their unique life stories, which would have the transformative effect of understanding the world from a new perspective and dismantling preconceptions about Southeast Asian cultures.
Written by Chen Jie (陈杰). There are remaining concerns urging the government of democratised Taiwan to support democratic causes and human rights in China. In fact, for the Tsai Ing-wen administration, these issues have strengthened. Despite their disdain for the one China project, politicians of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) share the sentiment that Taiwan’s own democratisation inspires China. This is echoed internationally. The former US Vice President Mike Pence spoke positively about Taiwan’s “embrace of democracy” and the example it had set for “all the Chinese people.”
Written by Yi-Yu Lai. As an anthropologist who studies Indigenous movements in the Philippine highlands, my experiences of beauty pageants’ are not rare. The beauty pageant has been culturally entrenched in the Philippines and its diasporic communities for many decades. Because these contests are very popular with Filipinos, some Indigenous youth advocates use them as an instrument for cultural activism, empowering participants and attracting those who were previously indifferent to political issues. Nevertheless, the Filipino beauty pageants of Taiwan are quite different from those I previously experienced.
Written by Chia-Ching Tsou. Around 2016, following the Tasi government’s New Southbound Policy, the government suddenly focused on a particular group of Taiwanese — the so-called “the new second generation.” The new second-generation refers to a group of young Taiwanese, some of whose parents are immigrants from Southeast Asian countries following the era of cross-border marriages. The government saw “the new second-generation” as human capital with the advantage of dual culture and language. Thus, it was well-positioned to serve as the vanguard for the New Southbound Policy. However, the government’s framing of the new second-generation ignores and overlooks the new second generation’s life experience and perspective.
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 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 Bonny Ling. Since late-July 2020, a diplomatic row has embroiled the governments of Indonesia and Taiwan over who in principle should pay the cost of recruitment for low-skilled workers seeking jobs abroad. To date, the industry norm is that low-skilled migrant workers pay these fees of recruitment or placement to labour brokers in their home country, months before they begin their work and see their first pay. In order to secure a job abroad, many borrow heavily to pay for these recruitment costs upfront.
Written by Kyoung M. Shin and Chan-Yuan Wong. As the initial shockwave ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to subsiding, it is imperative to start a more nuanced discussion about pertinent public policies. Even in countries such as Taiwan, who have thus far proven to be relatively more successful in stemming the tide, the government is still emphasising economic re-opening. It is often touted across the globe that Taiwan has been one of the more, if not the most, successful countries in combating COVID-19—and rightfully so. As of October 1, 2020, there has been a total of only 514 documented cases in Taiwan, most of which have been “imported.” While most countries around the world are still struggling to cope with the coronavirus, there has been no report of domestically contracted case in Taiwan since mid-April.