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 Wei-Ting Yen. In the past few years, two political outsiders in Taiwan have quickly accumulated popularity and became serious political contenders in elections. One is Ko Wen-Je, currently the mayor of Taipei. The other one is Han Kuo-Yu, the recently impeached mayor of Kaohsiung, the second-largest city in Taiwan. Their rise has prompted the island nation to widely debate whether populism has grown its roots in Taiwan because Ko and Han share similar populist traits.
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 Isabelle Cheng. [Migrant] men can’t produce babies, but women can. We can’t allow foreigners to give birth in Taiwan and breed more foreigners […] It is indeed inhumane to repatriate a pregnant woman. However, even permitted to give birth in Taiwan, she and her child would have to be deported eventually. It is even more inhumane to break her family and separate the child from the [Taiwanese] father after they’ve developed bonds (the Legislative Yuan, 17 April 1992, Taipei).
Written by Chin-fen Chang. As an export-driven economy, Taiwanese manufacturing has suffered a sharp drop in demands overseas during the first half of this year. Local businesses in Taiwan have also been affected by a lack of foreign tourists. Moreover, Taiwanese have been self-restrained in their consumption, suffering from income loss or concerning worse financial conditions to come in the near future. Labour markets also show significant job losses along with cutting regular earnings for those fortunately still on the payroll.
Written by Mei-Hua Chen. There are nearly 9,000 people who have lost their jobs. The majority of these workers are found in the service sector. Nonetheless, after a hostess, who worked in Taipei, contracted the Coronavirus on the April 8, hostesses or sex workers who work in bars or dancing halls appear as the most vulnerable group in Taiwan. The Central Epidemic Command Centre (CCEC) of Taiwan immediately and indefinitely shut down 437 bars and dancing halls that provided hostess services across Taiwan.
Written by Hong-zen Wang, Pei-chia Lan, Yen-fen Tseng, Chia-ling Wu, Chiung-chih Chen. On 26th February 2020, Taiwan Centre for Disease Control (CDC) announced that there had been 32 confirmed cases of infection in Taiwan. Case #32 was unknowingly infected when she was employed as the caregiver for Case #27 during the latter’s hospitalisation. After the CDC disclosed her identity as an ‘illegal’ Indonesian migrant worker, public fears surged; consequently, several county governments announced that they would tighten the measures and crackdown on undocumented workers.
Written by Ying-da Wong. The government seemed to take it for granted that all citizens and foreign residents are issued with an NHI Card, and that their NHI Card is valid. As a matter of fact, as detailed below, there is a wide gap between this presumption and reality. This gap may affect people’s rights or adversely curtail the effectiveness of disease prevention. So, before I move on, a fundamental question must be asked: are migrant workers entitled to the NHI, and are they issued with an NHI Card?
Written by Francesca Congiu. The political emancipation of labour unions was followed by a progressive erosion of worker rights and has resulted in Taiwan racing to the bottom of global labour standards. Organised labour in Taiwan is characterised by its continuing low rate of unionisation, which has caused a profound void of worker representation since the beginning of democratisation.