Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Taiwan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Taiwan, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1f4.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
TAIWAN

 

Taiwan has a constitutional system headed by President Lee Teng-hui, who was elected by the National Assembly (NA) in 1990. Lee, who is also the chairman of the Nationalist Party (KMT), appoints the Executive Yuan (EY), or Cabinet, which has been headed since February 1993 by Premier Lien Chan. The Legislative Yuan (LY) approves the selection of the Premier. LY members were elected in a free and fair election in December. While the KMT remains the country's dominant political force, two opposition parties play important roles in the LY, which vigorously exercises its constitutional prerogatives. The Judicial Yuan (JY) is constitutionally independent of the other branches of the political system, but corruption and political influence remain serious problems.

Taiwan is close to completing its transition to a democratic, multiparty political system. This process began with the lifting of martial law in 1987 and has included the holding of generally free and fair popular elections for the NA and LY in 1991, 1992, and 1995, and the passage of constitutional amendments that provide for the direct election of both the President and Vice President. The first direct presidential and vice presidential election is scheduled for March 1996.

The National Police Administration (NPA) of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the NPA's Criminal Investigation Bureau, and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Investigation Bureau are responsible for law enforcement relating to internal security. The National Security Bureau and Ministry of National Defense military police units also play limited law enforcement roles. These police and security agencies are under effective civilian control. There were occasional reports that members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.

Taiwan has a dynamic, export-oriented, free market economy, but state-owned and party-run enterprises still dominate some major sectors, including finance, transportation, utilities, shipbuilding, steel, telecommunications, and petrochemicals. As the economy has evolved, services and capital and technology-intensive industries have become the most important sectors, and major exports include computers, electronic equipment, machinery, and textiles. Citizens generally enjoy a high standard of living.

The Taiwan authorities generally respect the human rights of citizens; however, occasional problems remain in some areas. Principal abuses include police abuse of detainees; physical abuse of military personnel; some restrictions on freedom of press, assembly, and association; discrimination and violence against women; child prostitution and abuse; restrictions on workers' freedom of association; and limitations on workers' freedom to strike.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings. The 1994 case of a prisoner in the city of Tainan was still unresolved at the end of 1995. Five policemen found guilty of the crime by a district court have appealed the verdict, and the High Court had not made a decision on the appeal by the end of the year. In September the authorities announced the indictment of nine jailers charged with the beating death of a prisoner in Chia-i County.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Taiwan's Constitution does not directly address the issues of torture and punishment. The Code of Criminal Conduct, however, stipulates that no violence, threat, inducement, fraud, or other improper means shall be used against accused persons. There were credible reports that police occasionally physically abused persons in their custody. The law allows suspects to have attorneys present during interrogations, primarily to ensure that abuse does not take place (see also Section 1.d.). The MOJ says that each interrogation is recorded and that all allegations of mistreatment are investigated. Lawyers and legal scholars note that abuses most often occur in local police stations where interrogations are not recorded and when attorneys are generally not present. Detainees who are physically abused have the right to sue the police for torture, and confessions obtained through torture are inadmissible in court proceedings. There were no such suits reported during the year.

The authorities made efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials responsible for torture and other mistreatment. Although the basic responsibility for investigating mistreatment lies with prosecutors, the Control Yuan (CY), a coequal branch of the political system which investigates official misconduct, also investigates such cases. Women's and children's rights groups monitor police and judicial performance and periodically mount campaigns to correct abuses.

Although corporal punishment is forbidden under military law, there continued to be reports of physical abuse of military personnel. Following the beating death of a marine recruit in September, the CY began no-notice inspections of military facilities to question young servicemen regarding conditions of service in the military and allegations of abuse. The authorities also established a national telephone hot line for the reporting of alleged abuses within the military. Plans to set up centers within the military to hear complaints were not implemented in 1995. Some 100 families have petitioned the the authorities for compensation for the alleged wrongful deaths of their sons during military duty.

Prison overcrowding at Taiwan's 43 detention centers remained a problem despite some expansion of existing facilities and amendment of the Criminal Code in 1994 to allow prisoners to be paroled after serving one-third, rather than one-half, of their sentences. The more than 50,000 inmates in detention substantially exceed the facilities' planned capacity by 15,000. According to the MOJ, the number of prisoners has grown rapidly in recent years because of increased arrests of narcotics law violators. These violators now make up more than 70 percent of the overall inmate population. It is not clear whether the jump from 30 percent in 1994 to 70 percent in 1995 was due to a surge in drug-related arrests or whether it partly stemmed from a wider definition of "drug-related offenses." The MOJ has set up drug treatment facilities to reduce the number of addicts in the prison population. Poor conditions exist in illegal immigrant detention centers (see Section 2.d.). The authorities permit visits to prisons by human rights monitors, and the China Human Rights Association has made prison visits. According to the authorities, there were no requests from international human rights organizations to make prison visits in 1995.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the authorities generally observe this prohibition. Police may legally arrest without a warrant anyone they suspect of committing a crime for which the punishment would be imprisonment of 5 years or more and may question persons without a formal summons. However, the authorities must, within 24 hours after detention, give written notice to the detainee or a designated relative or friend, stating the reason for the arrest or questioning. Indicted persons may be released on bail at judicial discretion.

The Criminal Procedure Code specifies that the authorities may detain a suspect for up to 2 months during the investigative phase before filing a formal indictment. The prosecutor's office may extend the investigative detention for an additional 2-month period. A suspect may be held for up to 3 months during trial proceedings, and the court may extend the trial detention for two additional 3-month periods. The authorities generally have followed these procedures, and trials usually take place within 3 months of indictment.

The authorities generally respect a detainee's request to have a lawyer present during the investigation phase, but defense lawyers continue to complain that people often are not advised of their right to have legal representation during police interrogation. While there is no legal requirement that the police advise suspects of their right to counsel, arresting officers' checklists do provide for such notification. However, there is no legal requirement that indigent people be provided with counsel during police interrogation, although such counsel is provided during trials.

The "Antihoodlum" Law of 1985 was a departure from international standards of due process in that it included a secret witness system which allowed police to conduct "sweeps" of suspected "hoodlums" and to use the testimony of unidentified informants in detaining the suspects. Lawyers for the alleged hoodlums have not been permitted to cross-examine these informants. While defense lawyers have been given the right to examine documentary evidence, critics charge that evidence in these cases is often weak or fabricated. Although the testimony of the secret witnesses is included under the criminal statutes for perjury, critics claim that the detainees often lack the means to prove perjury. In July, however, the Council of Grand Justices declared unconstitutional the administrative procedures which had been used to sentence "hoodlums" to reformatory education. If the authorities fail to draft administrative procedures in conformity with the Constitution by mid-1996, the entire law will automatically become invalid.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and for equality before the law. Some in the past characterized the judiciary as not fully independent and as susceptible to political and personal pressure, especially from the ruling KMT. There is still public dissatisfaction with the considerable influence exerted by political and business figures over the court system, but this influence is reflected more in terms of personnel appointments and general operations than the fairness of the judgments, which many observers believe are usually arrived at in a fair, independent and impartial manner. Dissatisfaction exists among judges and others about the slowness of the judiciary to work towards strengthening the rule of law. Corruption within the judiciary remains a problem.

A number of Taiwan judges have called for significant reforms, the most important of which would be the election of a chief judge in each district court by the other judges rather than appointment by the Judicial Yuan. These judges have also called for an end to the process of automatic review by senior judges of decisions by junior judges. In addition, as the result of a Council of Grand Justices ruling, judges will have the sole authority, once implementing legislation has been passed by the Legislative Yuan, to order pretrial detention of suspects, a power once shared by prosecutors.

The Judicial Yuan (JY) is one of the five coequal branches of Taiwan's political system. It consists of a President, a Vice President, and a 16-member Council of Grand Justices. It interprets the Constitution as well as laws and ordinances. Subordinate JY organs include the Supreme Court, High Courts, district courts, the Administrative Court, and the Committee on the Discipline of Public Functionaries.

The law provides for the right of fair public trial, and this is generally respected in practice. Judges, rather than juries, decide trials, and all judges are appointed by, and responsible to, the JY. In a typical court case, parties and witnesses are interrogated by a single judge but not directly by a defense attorney or prosecutor. The judge may decline to hear witnesses or to consider evidence a party wishes to submit if the judge considers it irrelevant; refusal to hear evidence may be a factor in an appeal. Trials are public, but attendance at trials involving juveniles or potentially sensitive issues which might attract crowds may require court permission.

Organized crime figures have attempted to use violence to influence the judicial process. In Kaohsiung, members of a criminal gang shot a public prosecutor in the legs in an attempt to intimidate local legal authorities.

A defendant has the right to an attorney. If the defendant is suspected of committing a crime for which the penalty is 3 or more years' imprisonment, or if the defendant is disabled or elderly, the judge may assign an attorney. Criminal law specifically provides the defendant with protection from self-incrimination. Persons convicted in cases in which the sentence exceeds 3 years have the right to appeal to a high court and to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court automatically reviews life imprisonment and death sentences.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution and sections of the Criminal and Civil Codes contain provisions protecting privacy. A warrant, issued by a prosecutor or a judge, must be obtained before a search, except when "incidental to arrest." Critics, however, claim that the incidental to arrest provision is not only unconstitutional but often interpreted broadly by police to justify searches of locations other than actual arrest sites. Moreover, police continue to search cars routinely at roadblocks. According to the National Police Administration, warrantless searches are allowed only in specialized circumstances, such as to arrest an escapee or if facts indicate a person is in the process of committing a crime. In any such case, the police must file a report with the prosecutor or court within 24 hours. Evidence collected without a warrant is not excluded from introduction during a trial; however, a policeman who carries out an illegal search may be sued for illegal entry and sentenced to up to 1 year's imprisonment. According to Executive Yuan regulations, judicial and security authorities may file a written request to a prosecutor's office to monitor telephone calls to collect evidence against a suspect involved in a major crime.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the authorities generally respect these rights in practice. However, political influence does exist over the electronic media, particularly televisions stations, as the KMT, the Taiwan provincial government, and the military continue to operate three island-wide broadcast television stations and to be their largest shareholders. The Government Information Office (GIO) claims these stations are really civilian businesses with their programming guided by the marketplace, but critics have claimed that coverage has been biased in favor of the KMT and against opposition parties.

In 1995 considerable progress was made toward loosening control of the broadcast media. In July a screening committee awarded a license for the fourth island-wide broadcast television station to a Kaohsiung-based company associated with the largest opposition party (DPP). This step, which will eliminate the KMT's monopoly on Taiwan's broadcast television, represents a significant move toward more complete media independence. Experts have estimated, however, that it will take 1 to 2 years for this new network to begin operation. If this estimate is accurate, broadcasting will not begin until well after the March 1996 presidential election. However, the proliferation of cable television stations, some of which carry programming openly hostile to the ruling party, has diminished the importance of KMT control over the three established island-wide broadcast stations. Sixty-five percent of households receive cable television.

Although controls over radio stations have been more limited than those over television stations, until recently more than three-fourths of Taiwan's 33 radio frequencies were held by the authorities, the KMT, and other noncommercial entities. Past refusals to approve new television and radio stations led to the establishment in recent years of a number of "underground" cable television and radio operations. In 1995 authorities continued a multiyear process, started in 1993, to loosen controls using a five-stage licensing process. The GIO received 136 applications for the 53 available community radio stations; it expects to complete its screening process in the spring of 1996. Critics have charged that the limited broadcast ranges of the new television and radio stations do not constitute a counterweight to the authorities' monopoly on island-wide broadcasting.

Two highly visible underground stations remain unlicensed. One is the "Voice of Taiwan" station run by Hsu Jung-Chi. Hsu was convicted on two charges of incitement to riot and violation of the Parade and Assemby Law for organizing an August 1994 demonstration in support of underground radio stations. One charge of incitement to riot had not been heard by the competent district court by the end of the year. Hsu, who had left Taiwan in 1994 to escape prosecution, returned to the island in September, and has appealed his two convictions. At the end of 1995, he had not been detained by the authorities. The other station is the "TNT Voice of Formosa," which broadcasts in the Hakka dialect. Although some station personnel claim that the decision not to grant a license to the station reflects continuing anti-Hakka discrimination by the authorities, the available evidence does not support this claim.

In 1992 the authorities revised sedition statutes to limit the purview of the Sedition Law and the National Security Law (NSL) to remove prohibitions on "actions against the Constitution." However, the NSL – and related statutes such as the Civic Organizations Law and the Parade and Assembly Law – still retains prohibitions against advocating communism or espousing the division of national territory.

Taiwan has a vigorous and active free press despite the Publications Law which empowers the police to seize or ban printed material that is seditious, treasonous, sacrilegious, interferes with the lawful exercise of public functions, or violates public order or morals. There were no reports of censorship of the print media during the year nor were there any seizures of materials on political grounds, although the police sometimes conduct raids to seize pornographic materials. Organized crime elements have sought to use violence to intimidate the press. In particular, criminals assaulted two print journalists in Taichung in October.

In 1994 the GIO reiterated that any publications imported from mainland China should be sent to the GIO publications department for screening before sale or publication in Taiwan. The GIO still seeks to ban the importation of publications which advocate communism or the establishment of United Front organizations, endanger public order or good morals, or violate regulations or laws. However, few local publishing companies observe this regulation. According to GIO figures, 1,344,237 volumes of mainland origin had been legally imported into Taiwan as of November. Moreover, cable television systems broadcast uncensored television channels from mainland China.

Among other restrictions regulating the media are those precluding people previously convicted of sedition from owning, managing, or working in television and radio stations. However, major opposition leaders, many of whom were convicted of sedition after the December 1979 Kaohsiung incident, are not affected because their rights were restored through presidential amnesties. The authorities lifted controls on the percentage of time television and radio stations could broadcast in dialects in 1993. Although Taiwanese is the mother tongue of most of the island's inhabitants, the authorities had previously required that 80 percent of broadcasting be in Mandarin. Broadcasting is now done in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka (television and radio), and in several aboriginal languages (radio only).

There are few restrictions on academic freedom. The expression of dissenting political views is common. However, school authorities still sometimes pressure schoolteachers to discourage students from joining demonstrations.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, but the authorities restrict these rights somewhat in practice. The Civic Organization Law requires all civic organizations to register; however, the authorities have refused to approve registration of some groups – such as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), the Taiwan Association of University Professors, and the Taiwan Environmental Protection Alliance – which use the word "Taiwan" in their titles (a usage which is regarded by the authorities as promoting Taiwan independence). These groups continue to be active, though the lack of registration entails some inconvenience to their operations. For example, these organizations may not solicit donations from the public and contributors may not take income tax deductions for their contributions. Nonetheless, these organizations operate freely and effectively.

A 1992 revision of the Civic Organization Law removed from the Executive Yuan the power to disolve political parties. This power now resides in the Constitutional Court. Grounds for dissolution include objectives or actions which are deemed to jeopardize the existence of the "Republic of China." The Constitutional Court heard no cases under this Law in 1995.

The Parade and Assembly (P&A) Law permits peaceful demonstrations as long as they do not promote communism or advocate Taiwan's separation from mainland China and are approved in advance by the authorities. In practice, however, the authorities disperse such gatherings rather than prosecute peaceful P&A violators. Two Aborigine demonstrators were prosecuted under the P&A Law in 1995, and prosecution continues of four senior leaders of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party for incidents in 1992.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities respect this right in practice. There is no established or favored religion.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The authorities do not restrict freedom of internal travel except for a few military and other restricted areas. Foreign travel by Taiwan passport holders resident on the island requires an exit permit. Nonresident Taiwan passport holders are usually issued "overseas Chinese" passports and require entry permits to travel to Taiwan. According to 1992 revisions to the National Security Law (NSL), entry permits may be refused only if there are facts sufficient to create a strong suspicion that a person is engaged in terrorism or violence. Reasons for entry and exit refusals must be given, and appeals may be made to a special board. No exit or entry permit refusals were reported during 1995.

Since 1988 Taiwan has substantially relaxed strictures against travel by Taiwan residents to the Chinese mainland. From January to November Taiwan citizens made 1,150,000 trips to the mainland according to the Ministry of the Interior.

In 1993 new measures guaranteed that holders of Taiwan passports who normally reside abroad may return and regain their household registration, a document required for participation as a candidate in an election. Relatively tight restrictions on the entry of Chinese from the mainland remain in force.

Taiwan has no law under which noncitizens may ask for asylum. However, the authorities have been reluctant to return to the mainland those who might suffer political persecution there. In 1994 the authorities resettled abroad five detainees, including student activist Xu Lifang, who had entered Taiwan in 1991 on a counterfeit Salvadoran passport, as well as four others who had claimed in 1993 that they had left the mainland for political reasons. In general, however, Taiwan does deport to the mainland, under provisions of the Mainland Relations Act, those mainlanders who illegally enter the island.

Conditions at detention camps for illegal immigrants (most from mainland China) continued to be poor. The Entry and Exit Bureau admitted that the three detention camps are overcrowded but blamed mainland Chinese authorities, who insist on extensive background checks, for delays in accepting the timely repatriation of illegal immigrants.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

During the year, Taiwan came closer to completing its transition to a democratic, multiparty political system. The second direct election of all Legislative Yuan (LY) members took place in December and the first-ever direct, popular Presidential election is scheduled for March 1996. Previously, the President and Vice President have been indirectly elected by the National Assembly (NA), which stands for popular election every 4 years.

The KMT remains the largest political party, with 2 million members, although voters gave it only a slim majority in the December elections for the LY. As of the end of 1995, the KMT had 85 seats in the 164-member LY. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which advocates independence for Taiwan, held 54 seats. The DPP also held seven of 25 mayor and county magistrate posts, including mayor of Taipei, and had an estimated 70,000 members. The Chinese New Party, established in 1993 by younger KMT members who opposed the party's domination by "mainstream" ethnic Taiwanese supporters of Chairman Lee Teng-hui, held 21 seats in the LY and claimed a membership of 86,000.

The KMT benefits from its ownership of the major television channels, from ownership of enterprises and business holdings estimated to be worth in excess of 6 billion dollars, and from the fact that its members still hold most key positions in the political system, sometimes concurrently with important party positions. In recent years, opposition parties have grown rapidly, however, and freely contest elections, criticize the authorities, and influence national policy through the legislative process. The largest city, Taipei, elected an opposition party member as mayor in 1994.

The Constitution provides for equal rights for women, but their role in politics, while increasing, remains limited. Nevertheless, a number of women hold senior administrative and KMT positions, including Minister without Portfolio and KMT Central Standing Committee (CSC) member Shirley Kuo (a former finance minister), KMT Deputy Secretary General and former CSC member Jeanne Tchong-Kwei Li, National Health Administration Director General Dr. Chang Po-Yu, and one major general in the armed forces. In addition, 23 of 164 LY members, 42 of 325 NA members, 13 of 77 provincial assembly members, 2 of 24 Control Yuan members, and 255 of 1,300 judges are women.

Aborigine representatives participate in most levels of the political system, partially through six reserved seats in the national and legislative assemblies and two seats in the provincial assembly – half of each elected by the plains Aborigines and half by mountain Aborigines. An Aborigine was appointed Chief of the Ministry of Interior's Aborigine Affairs Section.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The principal human rights organizations are the establishment-oriented Chinese Association of Human Rights (CAHR) and the opposition-aligned Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR). Coordination between the two bodies is limited. Despite the authorities' refusal to register it (see Section 2.b.), TAHR continues to operate. Both organizations investigate human rights complaints, many of which come to public attention through the media and statements by lawmakers from all political parties. The authorities permit representatives of international human rights organizations to visit Taiwan and meet with citizens freely.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equality of citizens before the law "irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation." Other laws provide for the rights of disabled persons. While the authorities are committed to protecting these rights, some areas of discrimination continue to exist.

Women

Domestic violence, especially wife beating, is a serious problem. According to a survey by the Taiwan Provincial Social Affairs Department in 1994, 17.8 percent of married women had been beaten by their husbands. The DPP Women's Development Committee said other statistics showed 35 percent of married women were victims of spouse abuse. According to the law, a prosecutor may not investigate domestic violence cases until a spouse files a formal lawsuit. Although some cases are prosecuted, strong social pressure discourages abused women from reporting incidents to the police in order to avoid disgracing their families.

Rape also remains a serious problem, and its victims are socially stigmatized. One expert believes that only 10 percent of the estimated 7,000 rapes occurring annually are reported to the police. Under the law, the authorities may not prosecute for rape without the victim's complaint. The Criminal Code establishes the punishment for rape as not less than 5 years' imprisonment, and those convicted are usually sentenced to from 5 to 10 years in prison. Because rape trials are public, women have been reluctant to prosecute their attackers – although support from feminist and social welfare organizations has made victims more willing to come forward and press charges.

Prostitution, including coerced prostitution and child prostitution, is also a problem in Taiwan although there is little public concern about the adult prostitution issue. When the police discover illegal prostitution, the cases are prosecuted according to the Criminal Code. However, under the "prostitute management regulations," prostitution is legal in registered houses of prostitution in specified urban areas, mainly in Taipei and Kaohsiung.

The law prohibits sex discrimination, and the Legislative Yuan has in recent years begun a systematic review and revision of those portions of the Legal Code relating to divorce, property, and child custody. As a result, recent legislation has eliminated many discriminatory sections of the Code. In 1994 the Council of Grand Justices (CGJ) declared unconstitutional a Civil Code provision dating back to the 1930's which gave fathers priority in child custody disputes. The CGJ ruling invalidating this provision will take effect in 1996.

Taiwan does not have an equal employment rights law, and enforcement of existing sex discrimination laws remains a problem. Labor laws provide for maternity leave, but employers do not always grant it. Women have also complained of being forced to quit jobs upon marriage or because of age or pregnancy. Women often complain of less frequent promotions and lower salaries than their male counterparts. According to the Council on Labor Affairs, salaries for women average 85 percent of those of men.

In the past, many Taiwan women married to foreigners claimed that their husbands had a more difficult time obtaining residency in Taiwan than the foreign wives of Taiwan citizens. They also complained that their children were not allowed to enter public schools. During the year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a relaxation of the regulations governing foreign husbands' residence permits that allows the foreign husbands of citizens to remain in Taiwan for 6 months at a time rather than the shorter periods granted previously. The LY also passed new legislation permitting the children of foreign fathers to attend public schools. However, the Citizenship Law continues to stipulate that the transmission of Taiwan citizenship occurs exclusively through the father. A Taiwan mother with a foreign husband thus cannot apply for a Taiwan passport for her child.

Children

The Constitution has provisions to protect children's rights, and the authorities are committed to supporting them. Education for children between 6 and 15 years of age is compulsory and enforced. The Constitution provides that spending on education shall be no less than 15 percent of the central budget, 25 percent of the provincial and special municipality budgets, and 35 percent of the county and city budgets.

Child abuse is a significant problem. The 1993 revision of the Child Welfare Act mandates that any persons discovering cases of child abuse or neglect must notify the police, social welfare, or child welfare authorities, that child welfare specialists must do so within 24 hours, and that the authorities involved must issue an investigation report within 24 hours. Both the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Social Affairs Department and private organization specialists assert that these requirements are being followed. The Child Welfare Foundation, which operates 21 telephone hot line centers around Taiwan, reported 1,005 cases where telephone counseling was sufficient to resolve the problem and 951 cases that required direct intervention by a case worker.

Child prostitution is a serious problem involving between 40,000 and 60,000 children, an estimated 20 percent of them Aboriginal children. Most child prostitutes range from 12 through 16 years of age. The Juvenile Welfare Law enables juvenile welfare bodies, prosecutors, and victims to apply to courts for termination of guardianship of parents and the appointment of qualified guardians if parents have forced their children into prostitution. If children are engaged in prostitution of their own free will, and the parents are incapable of providing safe custody, the courts may order competent authorities to provide counseling education for not less than 6 months and not more than 2 years. However, legal loopholes and cultural barriers remain obstacles to prosecution. For example, if both parents have sold a child into prostitution, a problem associated mostly with Aborigine families, the current law requires the child to lodge a complaint before prosecution is undertaken. In many cases, the child is reluctant or afraid to do so.

According to some reports, violence, drug addiction, and other forms of coercion are used by brothel owners to prevent child prostitutes from escaping. During the year, the LY passed new legislation providing for as much as 2-years' incarceration for customers of any prostitute who is under the age of 18. The legislation also requires the publishing of the names of violators in newspapers.

People with Disabilities

The Disabled Welfare Law was revised and strengthened in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against the disabled and sets minimum fines at approximately $2,400 for violators. Under the new revisions, new public buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment must be accessible to the disabled, while existing public buildings were to be brought into conformity by 1995. Although new buildings appear to meet many accessibility requirements, there does not as yet appear to be much effort aimed at refitting older buildings to accommodate disabled people.

A leading expert in the field estimates that the number of disabled is between 400,000 and 500,000 – possibly as high as 700,000. One-third of the total are severely disabled and receive shelter or nursing care from the authorities. The Disabled Welfare Law requires large public and private organizations to hire disabled persons, 2 and 1 percent of their work forces respectively. Organizations failing to do so must pay, for each disabled person not hired, the basic monthly salary (approximately $540) into the Disabled Welfare Fund, which supports institutions involved in welfare for the disabled. However, many organizations complain that it is difficult to find qualified disabled workers and appear to prefer to pay the fines involved. The authorities have noted the impact of a traditional belief that the disabled lack the ability to do real work.

Indigenous People

Taiwan's only non-Chinese minority group consists of the Aboriginal descendants of Malayo-Polynesians already established in Taiwan when the first Chinese settlers arrived. According to MOI statistics, there were 357,000 Aborigines in Taiwan. More than 70 percent are Christian.

The civil and political rights of Aborigines are fully protected under law. The National Assembly amended the Constitution in 1992 to upgrade the status of Aboriginal people, protect their right of political participation, and ensure cultural, educational, and business development. In addition, the authorities have instituted social programs to help them assimilate into the dominant Chinese society. As part of its efforts to preserve ethnic identities, the Ministry of Education now includes some Aboriginal-language classes in primary schools.

Although they face no official discrimination, Aborigines have had little impact over the years on major decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the allocation of their natural resources. In addition, they complain that they are prevented from owning ancestral lands in mountain areas under the authorities' control, some of which have been designated as national parks. According to MOI statistics, only 52 percent receive elementary educations. Researchers have found alcoholism to be a significant problem among the Aborigines, with alcohol addiction rates exceeding 40 percent among members of three of the nine major tribes. In the past, Aborigines were not allowed to use non-Chinese personal names on legal documents, but this was changed by recently passed legislation.

The sale of Aboriginal girls by their parents into prostitution is a serious social problem (see Children above). However, recent reports have indicated that in the period from June 1994 to July 1995, the percentage of arrested child prostitutes of aboriginal origin dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

In February the Judicial Yuan decided that organizing trade unions is a right protected by Taiwan's Constitution. But, until new legislation implementing this decision is passed, teachers, civil servants, and defense industry workers are still not permitted to form labor unions.

Even with this ruling, there are a number of laws and regulations limiting the right of association. Labor unions may draw up their own rules and constitutions, but they must submit these to the authorities for review. Unions may be dissolved if they do not meet certification requirements or if their activities disturb public order. In 1995 there were no instances of the authorities disolving local labor groups or denying new unions certification.

The Labor Union Law requires that union leaders be elected regularly by secret ballot, and, in recent years, workers have sometimes rejected KMT or management-endorsed union slates. Some workers have established independent unions and federations under other names, such as "friendship organizations" and "brotherhood alliances." These groups may register with the MOI as legal civic organizations but not as labor unions; thus they are not protected by the Labor Union Law and do not have the right to bargain with their members' employers. According to Taiwan's Labor Front, an independent labor organization, the number of independent trade unions or quasi-labor unions is declining.

Unions may form confederations, but no administrative district, including a city, county, or province, can have competing labor confederations. There is only one Taiwan-wide labor federation, the Chinese Federation of Labor (CFL) which is closely associated with the ruling KMT. A standing member of the CFL's board of directors is a member of the KMT's Central Standing Committee. The restriction on island-wide unions was challenged in 1994 when 12 unions from state-run enterprises announced that they would withdraw from the CFL and establish a new national federation of labor unions of state-run enterprises. The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) turned down their application. The case is now being appealed within the CLA. (The CLA carries out the functions of a labor ministry but lacks cabinet rank.) In the meantime, the trade unions have retained their seats in the CFL. In general, the drive for independent labor unions has lost momentum in recent years due to higher wages, the shift from manufacturing to service industries, the small scale and poor organization of most unions, and prosecution of labor activists by the authorities in the past. No labor activists were charged during 1995.

The law governing labor disputes recognizes the right of unions to strike but imposes restrictions that make legal strikes difficult and seriously weaken collective bargaining. For example, the authorities require involuntary mediation of labor/management disputes when they deem the disputes to be sufficiently serious or to involve "unfair practices." The law forbids both labor and management from disrupting the "working order" when either mediation or arbitration is in progress. The law mandates stiff penalties for violations of no-strike/no-retaliation clauses, but employers have sometimes ignored the law and dismissed or locked out workers without any legal action being taken against them. According to a press report, the CLA said that from 1990 to August 1995, there were 31 strikes, of which 22 involved workers at bus companies asking for increased pay and reduced hours. There were only two strikes recorded in 1995, one in March and another in May.

Taiwan is not a member of the International Labor Organization. The CFL is affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Except for the categories of workers noted in Section 6.a., the Labor Union Law and the Settlement of Labor Disputes Law give workers the right to organize and bargain collectively. As of March, some 3.3 million workers, approximately 36 percent of Taiwan's 9-million person labor force, belonged to 3,740 registered labor unions.

Under the Labor Union Law, employers may not refuse employment to, dismiss, or otherwise unfairly treat workers because they are union members. In practice, however, union leaders have sometimes been dismissed without reasonable cause by employers, and observers point out that the law sets no specific penalties for violations. According to the National Federation of Independent Trade Unionists, about 400 trade unionists and supporters have been fired since Taiwan's labor movement began to expand after the 1987 lifting of martial law. There were no reports in 1995 of employers intentionally firing trade unionists, but some trade unionists were laid off as a result of factory closures.

The Collective Agreements Law provides for collective bargaining but does not make it mandatory. Since such agreements are made only in large-scale enterprises, and less than 5 percent of Taiwan's enterprises fall into this category, the proportion of workers covered remains small. Employers set wages generally in accordance with market conditions.

Firms in export processing zones are subject to the same laws regarding treatment of labor unions as other firms and follow normal practices including collective bargaining agreements with their unions.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Standards Law prohibits forced or compulsory labor. There were no reports of these practices.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Standards Law stipulates age 15, after compulsory education required by law ends, as the minimum age for employment. County and city labor bureaus enforce minimum age laws.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Standards Law (LSL) mandates labor standards. According to the CLA, the law covers 3.6 million of Taiwan's 6.3 million salaried workers. The law is not well enforced in areas such as overtime work and pay or retirement payments.

In August the minimum wage was raised by 6.2 percent to about $540 ($NT14,800) per month. This is less than what is needed to assure a decent standard of living for a worker and family. However, the average manufacturing wage is more than double the legal minimum wage, and the average for service industry employees is even higher. The law limits the workweek to 48 hours (8 hours per day, 6 days per week) and requires 1 day off in every 7 days.

The 1991 revised Occupational Safety and Health Law enlarged coverage to include workers in agriculture, fishing, and forestry industries and appeared to strengthen penalties for safety violations; however, it still provides only minimal standards for working conditions and health and safety precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Law gives workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. Some critics, however, see the law as a step backward; they note, for example, that general contractors are not responsible for the safety of those working for subcontractors under the revised law.

The 1993 Labor Inspection Law was designed to strengthen the enforcement of labor standards and health and safety regulations. It increased the number of enterprises and types of safety issues to be inspected; gave inspectors quasi-judicial rights; required preexamination of dangerous working places such as naphtha-cracking plants, pesticide factories, and firecracker factories; and raised penalties for violations. Critics allege that the CLA does not effectively enforce workplace laws and regulations because it employs too few inspectors. There are slightly over 200 inspectors for the approximately 300,000 enterprises covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Law. Because the new Law expanded coverage to include more enterprises, the inspection rate actually declined. Since many enterprises are small, family owned operations employing relatives unlikely to report violations, actual adherence to the hours, wage, and safety sections of various labor laws is hard to document but is thought to be minimal in the smaller enterprises. Reports have alleged that Taiwan has one of the world's highest workplace accident rates.

Because of Taiwan's acute labor shortage, there has been a legal influx of foreign workers in the last several years. The law stipulates that foreign workers who are employed legally receive the same protection as local workers. However, authorities say that in many cases illegal foreign workers, many from Thailand and the Philippines, receive board and lodging from their employers, but no medical coverage, accident insurance, or other benefits enjoyed by citizens. In addition, observers say that conditions in many small and medium-sized factories which employ illegal foreign labor are dangerous, due to old and poorly maintained equipment. Illegal foreign workers remain vulnerable to exploitation, including confiscation of passports, imposition of involuntary deductions from wages, and extension of working hours without overtime pay. There are also occasional reports of mistreatment of legal foreign workers. According to available statistics, there are 130,000 workers from Thailand and 55,000 workers from the Philippines in Taiwan.

The authorities, in response to criticism that their inflexibility led to the death by drowning of mainland workers when their "floating hotel" (a ship used as a dormitory for mainland Chinese who may not land on Taiwan legally) was caught in a typhoon in 1994, have agreed that such "floating hotels" may temporarily be brought into harbors in emergencies.

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