Written by Chan-Yuan Wong, Ker-Hsuan Chien, and Mei-Chih Hu. As the world enters the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Taiwan – previously acknowledged as a Covid-free nation – encountered a new outbreak in mid-May 2021. This wave of infection has been deemed critical, as the number of infection cases has surpassed 700, and the infectivity rate is as contagious as measles. To date, Taiwan encountered 635 death cases related to Covid-19 – of which 98% are attributed to the recent outbreak since 15 May 2021.
Written by Natalie Dai（戴淨妍）, Jessica Hsu（徐卉馨）, Sophia Lee（李昕儒）, Dennis He（何正生); Translated by Sam Robbins. In August 2020, Lin Nuo-ning signed a half-year contract with her landlord and planned to stay in this apartment during her career move. However, when Nuo-ning applied for the subsidy for a second time, she received a call from her landlord whilst at work, criticising her for applying for the subsidy without telling her landlord first. As a result, her landlord asked her to move immediately. In applying for the subsidy, Nuo-ning had unintentionally caused the national tax bureau to contact her landlord to expect her tax records.
Written by Natalie Dai（戴淨妍）, Jessica Hsu（徐卉馨）, Sophia Lee（李昕儒）, Dennis He（何正生); Translated by Sam Robbins. For recent graduates like Yi-ting, mostly all renters, rent typically takes up between one quarter and one-third of their monthly income. According to the Ministry of Labour, the average monthly salary for recent graduates in 2019 was 28,231NTD (£724; $1021). Judging by mean rental prices per region, if they are willing to move out to the suburbs of New Taipei City, they can expect to pay around 8,000NTD (£205; $289) a month for an eight ping (26 square meters; 285 square feet) apartment.
Written by Iweng Karsiwen and Ratih Kabinawa. Edited by Isabelle Cheng. A former domestic worker in Hong Kong for over ten years, Iweng Karsiwen is currently the Chair of Families of Indonesian Migrant Workers (Kabar Bumi). Initially she was recruited to work in Taiwan when the door opened for Indonesian women seeking domestic work there. However, instead of going to Taiwan, Iweng found herself arriving at a Hong Kong MTR station late one evening a year later. Knowing how the brokering industry functioned at home and abroad, after returning to Indonesia, Iweng was determined to help those who worked abroad and who faced similar challenges at various stage of their migration. She has particularly campaigned to outlaw salary reduction. This, as well as other practices mentioned by Iweng, are commonly adopted by brokers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
Written By Willian Kung. Ten years ago, Many Chinese, Malaysians, and Indonesians left their hometowns and moved to the Philippines to chase the gold rush triggered by online gambling. In recent years, the latest wave has attracted many Taiwanese. According to statistics from the Philippine Immigration Bureau, in 2018, more than 200,000 Chinese workers applied for work visas, 90% related to online casinos. There are also many Taiwanese living in the Philippines. In 2016, the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines issued a message stating “recently, there has been an increasing number of Taiwanese people going to the Philippines to work in the gambling industry, please be wary that risks often outweigh the rewards. Many have had their passports detained.”
Written by Ming-shan Lee. Although single-parent families are increasingly common in Taiwan, this family-structure generally remains under-discussed in the public discourse and – if discussed – is framed negatively. Such stigma confounds other challenges that these families already face. Through family interviews, I have been trying to understand better the experience of such pressures, stigma and challenges.
Written by Yu-lien Cheng. 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. However, the long process of fighting for marriage equality was not without objections inside the LGBTQ+ social movement. In the 2014 Taiwan Nine-in-One Election, there was a new party called “Poor Queer Political Equality Party” (貧窮同志參政團， PQPEP ) whose main goal is improving the life quality of precarious gay people. The appearance of PQPEP highlighted a paradox: there were already many precarious gay people searching for help, but in the past twenty years, there has been hardly any LGBTQ+ NGO in Taiwan that stated “class” or “precarity” as its main focus.
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 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 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.