Written by Annie Huang. One historical human rights progress Taiwan made happened in 2019 when the government legalised same-sex marriage. It was a rainy morning, and hundreds of LGBTI groups and activists were standing outside the Legislative Yuan waiting for results. When the president of the Legislative Yuan announced the legalisation of same-sex marriage, the rain stopped, and a rainbow appeared in the sky. People hugged and wept with joy for this historical first in Asia. However, at the same time and in the same plaza, a group of Taiwanese same-sex people burst into tears not because of happiness but because of sadness and discrimination. Transnational same-sex couples are left out of the legalisation content in the same-sex marriage bill without much reasonable reason.
Category: Human rights
Eliminating the Criminal Source of Human Trafficking in Cambodia
Written by Yi-hsiang Shih. Human trafficking is nothing new to the world, yet, the term certainly receives much more attention than ever in 2022 Taiwan. Taiwanese people generally do not see themselves as victims of human trafficking. However, the cases of human trafficking in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, suddenly received extensive attention in 2022. Many of the victims in these cases were characterized as young people in Taiwan under low wages and unstable jobs and whose economic life had been affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. To survive, these young people are easily lured by relatives and friends or false job information and become the main target for criminal groups. They are often deceived into working at the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (the scamming compounds) in Cambodia, eventually becoming “commodities” exploited by human trafficking groups.
Small Step from You, A Great Leap for Migrant Workers: Documentary, ‘Civil Society’ and ‘And Miles to Go Before I Sleep’ (2022)
Written by Hsin-Chin Evelyn Hsieh. The award for the best documentary feature at the 59th Golden Horse Awards held in November 2022 in Taipei, Taiwan, went to And Miles to Go Before I Sleep (2022), directed by Tsung-Lung Tsai. At the ceremony, film producer Kim Hong Nguyen, dressed in the Vietnamese traditional garment áo dài, read out a message from Quoc Phi Nguyen’s family expressing their grief and hopes. It was the first time a documentary on migrant workers was presented with the Golden Horse Award, thereby creating a platform for voiceless migrants and drawing attention to the related issues in mainstream society.
The Long and Unfinished Fight: The Constitutional Court’s Decision on Pingpu Recognition in Taiwan
Written by Wei-Che Tsai; Translated by Yi-Yu Lai. The case of Indigenous status for Siraya people has challenged Indigenous peoples’ composition and boundaries. Currently, around 580,000 Indigenous peoples are legally recognised in Taiwan. It is estimated that the population of the Pingpu peoples will increase the total number of Indigenous peoples to as high as 980,000 if the Act is declared unconstitutional, although this number may be inflated for political purposes by Taiwan’s Indigenous authorities. As a result, the authorities are worried about this judgement.
Cross-border Movement of Labour between Taiwan and the Philippines: A Taiwanese NGO Worker’s Perspective
Written by Yi-Yu Lai. Lennon Wong is the director of a shelter for migrant workers in Taiwan. Before joining the shelter in the early 2010s, he was already a labour activist and worked in the Chinese Federation of Labour and the First Commercial Bank Union. Although his prior work was not directly relevant to migrant workers in Taiwan, his engagement with the labour movement may have started with the issue of migrant workers from Southeast Asia. As a result, we may thus understand the cross-border movement of migrant workers between Taiwan and the Philippines through some of his observations.
Sight and Sound: Conversations on Death Penalty between Taiwan and Southeast Asia
Written by Kar-Yen Leong. In an article by Franklin Zimring and David Johnson, we are reminded of the importance of studying the death penalty in Asia as it is the site of “…at least 85 per cent and as many as 95 per cent of the world’s execution.” The authors add that the region is a key battleground as to whether this practice will continue or become a remnant of a less civilised past. This struggle is no more intense than in East and Southeast Asian states, where the death penalty is not only an indelible part of only their legal systems but also their very societies. The decision to retain or abolish the death penalty has become a matter of intense soul-searching among states such as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia, navigating landscapes replete with ghosts of colonial and authoritarian pasts. For these countries, the state’s power over life and death is a direct extension of its sovereignty. Giving up this power is to lose that sovereignty, but it also means the loss of a weapon of last resort forged to keep the forces of chaos at bay.
Fair Go for Taiwan: Perspectives from Taiwanese diaspora in Australia
Written by Mei-Fen Kuo. A recent exhibition mounted by Australia’s government office in Taiwan––“40 years, 40 stories”––highlights the importance of people-to-people ties linking Taiwan and Australia since the office opened in Taipei in 1981. These are timely stories. In an exhibition of its own, Beijing recently lobbed missiles over Taiwan’s people’s heads to show that its territorial claims to Taiwan will not be slighted. Australia does not challenge those claims, but it does maintain close relations with people in Taiwan through trade, education, technology, and cultural exchanges, which have flourished despite the lack of official recognition.
Taiwan’s Asylum Policy: A Lack of Political Will to Implement the Law?
Written by Kristina Kironska. Taiwan is considered one of the most progressive countries in Asia but has no asylum law. Although debates on the issue occasionally occurred for more than ten years, there has been no progress on the draft asylum law since its second reading in 2016. One significant point of contention is to what extent an asylum law should address not only people from “uncontroversial” foreign countries, such as the Rohingya in Bangladesh, but also people from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. As with any issue that touches on cross-strait relations, the situation is complicated: on the one hand, the government celebrates Taiwan’s status as a beacon of human rights; on the other, extending asylum to PRC citizens risks stoking tensions with Beijing.
Nearing the end of his sentence, questions remain about Lee Ming-che’s release
Written by Brian Hioe. Civil society groups demonstrated on Friday, March 18th to call for the release of imprisoned Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che in China. The demonstration took place the night prior to the fifth anniversary of Lee’s detention, which took place after he crossed into China from Macau on March 19th, 2017.
Taiwan’s Migrant Workers Versus Labour Brokerage System
Written by Huynh Tam Sang and Wen-Chin Cheng. Taiwan’s labour brokerage system has made migrant workers vulnerable to a myriad of untransparent fees. Under the current system, migrant workers must pay hefty fees, including service fees and related pre-employment fees for migrant labour agencies or brokers, adding up to the total amount ranging from NT$60,000 to NT$200,000. To make matters worse, the current system has allowed brokers to charge migrant workers a monthly recurring fee, from NT$1,500 to NT$1,800. The “service fee”, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour, is used to arrange work and daily life for migrant workers. However, brokers or agencies charge employers “very few or no fees”, shifting the disproportionate financial burden onto migrant workers.
The Politics of Hong Kong Migration in the UK and Taiwan
Written by Adrian Chiu. The National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong implemented by the Beijing government in June 2020 has triggered a new wave of emigration from Hong Kong. According to Hong Kong government’s statistics, almost 90,000 residents left the city in the 12 months since – more than four times higher than the previous year. To be fair, emigration waves in Hong Kong is not a new feature – it happened in the 1990s when the Chinese handover in Hong Kong was eminent. Indeed, Hong Kong has always been an immigrants’ city, given the many Chinese immigrants who moved to Hong Kong throughout history.
Combatting Human Trafficking during Republican China
Written by Bonny Ling. One of the most interesting chapters in the history of modern China and international law is the vibrant and dynamic engagement of the Republican Chinese government with the League of Nations, the intergovernmental precursor to the United Nations, to address the exploitation of women for prostitution, known then as the “traffic in women.” It is an overlooked prologue that provides the historical context for efforts by successive governments on both sides of the Strait to combat exploitation. This issue remains just as relevant today as it did close to a century ago.