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 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 Leo Chang and Alan H. Yang. Taiwan’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing number of countries to support Taiwan’s membership in the World Health Organization (WHO).
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.
Written by Bonny Ling. Taiwan continues to be dogged by cases of extrajudicial killing, violating the fundamental human right to life, liberty, and security of person. A recent prominent case is the killing of a young Vietnamese migrant worker, Nguyen Quoc Phi, in August 2017 by a novice police officer in Hsinchu. The killing of Nguyen, immortalised in the two Taiwanese documentaries of the same name “Nine Shots” by Su Che-hsien and Tsai Tsung-lung, was marked by police brutality. The title is a reference to the number of bullets fired by the police officer in mere 12 seconds, killing an unarmed and unclothed Nguyen.
Written by Hsin-Chi Lee. In the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election held in January, Taiwan’s first female president Tsai Ing-wen won her second term. At the same time female representation reached a record high- 42% of legislators are now women, which is top rate in Asia.
Written by Frédéric Krumbein. As the only Chinese democracy that has ever existed, Taiwan shows that Chinese culture, authentic democracy and respect for human rights can coexist. It is thus pertinent to ask – to what extent is Taiwan a bastion of democracy and human rights? How has Taiwan gone about promoting these values in the region, and how will it continue to do so moving forward?
Written by Brian Hoie. Caution seems necessary for Taiwanese traveling to China going forward, then. There are at least three cases of Taiwanese held in China—if not more—on charges of endangering the state security of the Chinese government. At this point, whether pro-independence or pro-unification, it seems that simply being Taiwanese could possibly be sufficient cause for arbitrary detention by the Chinese government.
Written by Kevin Lin. In mid-August 2018, over 250 labour activists from more than a dozen countries across Asia spent three days in Taipei at the first Labour Notes regional conference. The gathering was meant to highlight the serious labour organising in Asia and discuss the ways forward. It was a unique occasion in many ways.