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 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 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 Milo Hsieh. To what degree is race-based discrimination an issue in Taiwan? The answer may differ depending on those asked. To the World Health Organization Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus—who was made into an effigy by anonymous Taiwanese comic artists in April over the WHO’s continued exclusion of Taiwan—yes, Taiwan’s government allegedly sponsored racist attacks against him. One the other hand, to the group of Taiwanese influencers—who came under attack later in June after wearing blackface to imitate the dancing coffins viral video—no, as clearly many in Taiwan overreacted.
Written by Ratih Kabinawa. In a time of crisis, such as during pandemic, temporary migrants are typically subject to discriminatory policies and are considered society’s second-class members. The government will likely prioritise the health and safety of its citizens instead of temporary migrants, who stay for a short time either for studying or working. In Australia, for example, the prime minister, as well as the premiers of each state, have mentioned several times in their public statements on COVID-19, the need to give top priority to Australian citizens and permanent residents. Taiwan has taken a different approach.
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.