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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Taiwan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Taiwan, 30 January 1994, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
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.

In 1993 Taiwan continued its rapid progress toward a pluralistic system truly representing the island's population. Open political debate and a freewheeling print media contributed to a vigorous democratic environment. The new Legislative Yuan (LY) took an increasingly active role. In November local mayor and county magistrate elections were freely, fairly, and energetically contested, marking a new stage in competitive party politics in Taiwan. The disproportionate role of Chinese mainlanders who had dominated both politics and government in Taiwan since 1945 through the Nationalist Party (KMT), already sharply reduced by the National Assembly (NA) (1991) and LY (1992) elections, was further curtailed at the KMT's 14th Congress in August. Factions led by Taiwan-born Chairman (and regime President) Lee Teng-Hui won 80 percent of the seats on the Central and Central Standing Committees. Senior military officers were discouraged from seeking high KMT positions, thereby enhancing the political neutrality of the military. Following the lifting of martial law in 1987 and the disbanding of the Taiwan Garrison General Headquarters in 1992, most law enforcement functions are handled by civilian police agencies.

Taiwan's basically free market economy has major sectors dominated by state- and party-run enterprises – including finance, transportation, utilities, telecommunications, shipbuilding, steel, and petrochemicals. Because of opposition and media pressure, the KMT has promised to make public information about its enterprises. Taiwan's economy continued to shift toward the service sector and capital- and technology-intensive industries. Shortages of unskilled labor and high labor costs resulted in the exodus of many labor-intensive manufacturers as well as the continued importation of foreign workers.

Political rights made further advances with the ending of restrictions on dissidents returning to Taiwan. A new cable television law and steps to open new radio and television frequencies have begun to end the long-term monopoly of broadcast media by the authorities and the KMT. New legislation brought significantly improved protection for the rights of juveniles and children. Administrative changes raised the level of offices dealing with aboriginal affairs to give more attention to the needs of this group.

Despite a much improved human rights environment, human rights abuses continued. There continued to be credible reports of police and military abuse of detainees. A pattern of restrictions on workers' rights of association and to strike continues to be a significant problem. Some "antihoodlum" regulations, including a "secret witness" system, violate internationally accepted standards of due process. Child prostitution, including the sale of aboriginal children, and discrimination and violence against women remained significant problems.


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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Five police officers in Taichung City were indicted for beating to death a rape suspect in August. The death of World United Formosans for Independence Secretary-General Wang Kang-Lu in an October Taipei car crash was branded a "political assassination" by his family and supporters although though no evidence was found by year's end proving that the death was politically motivated.

There were no other reports or claims of political or other extrajudicial killings directed by the authorities in 1993. However, there was the shooting of a county council member and his secretary in Yunlin county, reportedly by gangsters, and of a Chiayi county opposition leader investigating the collection of illegal fees from fishermen by his fishermen's association may have had political motives. Also, long-time oppositionist Peng Ming-Min alleged in August that a security official had suggested murdering him to curb the "rising voice of Taiwan independence." Since Peng did not file charges, the authorities did not investigate the allegation.

Although corporal punishment is forbidden under military law, physical abuse of military personnel continues. At a public hearing in July on human rights abuses in the military, the deputy military police commander admitted there were problems with the management of the armed forces and apologized to family members of people who died while serving in the military. These included two detainees beaten to death at separate military reformatories during the past 2 years.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of persons being abducted or secretly arrested by the authorities.

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

Credible reports of physical abuse of persons in police custody continued. Five police officers in Tainan City were indicted in January for torturing two robbery suspects, and three more policemen were indicted in June for torturing another robbery suspect. Taiwan law allows suspects to have attorneys present during interrogations, primarily to ensure that abuse does not take place.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) claims 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.

Prison overcrowding is an increasing problem. According to reports, MOJ statistics show more than 50,000 inmates in the 43 detention facilities in Taiwan, at least 15,000 more than the facilities' maximum capacity. To reduce the overcrowding, the MOJ is studying reduction of the amount of time prisoners must serve before applying for parole from one-half to one-third of their sentences.

Conditions at detention camps for illegal immigrants are reportedly poor. More than 2,000 illegal immigrants from mainland China are in custody, and some of them mounted hunger strikes and other protest actions at detention centers. Among those people detained are four who claim to have left the mainland for political reasons but whose cases have not been reviewed for more than a year. There have also been reports of harsh treatment and lengthy detentions of illegal foreign laborers and Vietnamese boat people in the San Hsia holding center. The Chinese Association for Human Rights (CAHR) and the U.S.-based Asia Watch are following the case of one San Hsia detainee, Xu Li-Fang, a mainland student activist who entered Taiwan in 1991 on a counterfeit Salvadoran passport and claimed political persecution, but who is facing possible forced repatriation to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Police may legally arrest without a warrant anyone they suspect of committing a crime for which the punishment would be 5 years or more in prison and may question persons without a formal summons. 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 (CPC) specifies that the authorities may detain a suspect for up to 2 months during the investigation phase before filing a formal indictment. The prosecutor's office may extend the investigative detention for one 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.

In March the Judicial Yuan (JY) released its draft of revisions to the CPC, including provisions which may increase protections for the accused. These include giving suspects the right to remain silent when arrested, reducing the time allowed for initial interrogations, and shortening the 4-month period that suspects may be held without charges. The JY has sent the draft revisions to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) of the Executive Yuan (EY) where they were still under review at year's end.

The request of a suspect to have a lawyer present during the investigation phase is generally respected, but defense lawyers complain that persons often are not advised of their right to have legal representation during police interrogation, and there is no legal requirement that indigent persons be provided with counsel during police interrogation.

A continuing departure from international standards of due process is the secret witness system under the "Antihoodlum Law." This system allows police to conduct "sweeps" of suspected "hoodlums" – 81 were reportedly picked up in the seventh island-wide sweep in September – and use the testimony of unidentified informants in detaining the suspects. Counsel for the alleged hoodlums are not permitted to cross-examine the informants. While defense attorneys recently have been given the right to examine documentary evidence, critics charge that evidence in these cases is often weak or fabricated. In 1992 the Antihoodlum Law was revised to bring secret witnesses under the criminal statutes for perjury, but critics say this is not sufficient because the detainees often lack the means to prove perjury.

According to the JY, the secret witness system is not used in normal criminal procedures; "antihoodlum" punishments are "administrative procedures." Based on evidence provided by the police, a specialized court determines whether or not an accused hoodlum should receive reformatory education. This decision may be appealed by the accused to a higher court. Critics say that courts simply rubberstamp police decisions, and, while most detainees appeal their sentences, most remain unchanged. Courts do not determine the length of reformatory education; reformatory authorities make this decision based on the behavior of the detainee. The usual term is 3 to 6 months for a first offense, and detention of repeat offenders may be extended for up to 3 years.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The right of fair public trial is provided for by law and generally respected in practice. Taiwan's legal system does not provide for trial by jury. 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. All judges are appointed by, and responsible to, the JY. Although observers in the past have characterized the judiciary as not fully independent and as susceptible to political and personal pressure, there was little such criticism in 1993. Nonetheless, press reports indicate a group of judges at the Taichung district court asked the Judicial Yuan to allow judges themselves to decide on their annual projects and assignments rather than have their court presidents decide for them.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court in March overturned, because of lack of evidence, Taiwan independence activist George Chang's 1992 conviction for violent sedition, including attempted murder, in connection with a 1976 letter-bomb plot. Defense attorneys had appealed the prosecution's reliance on evidence obtained from a prisoner during a 1977 military tribunal, which the witness publicly recanted during Chang's trial.

Trials are public, but attendance at trials involving juveniles or politically sensitive issues may require court permission. 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 handicapped 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 a right to appeal to the High Court and to the Supreme Court. Those sentenced to 3 years or less can appeal only to the High Court. Life imprisonment and death sentences are automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court.

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

Warrantless searches, common before the lifting of martial law, are unusual now. An exception is car searches, which are routinely conducted at roadblocks. Otherwise, a warrant, issued by a prosecutor or a judge, must be obtained before a search, except when incidental to arrest. However, critics claim that the "incidental to arrest" provision is often interpreted broadly by police to justify searches of locations other than actual sites of arrests.

There continue to be reports, which many observers find credible, that police and security agencies interfere with the right to privacy, including allegations of surveillance and interception of correspondence and telephone calls. In March legislators complained about National Security Bureau (NSB)

tapping the phones of mainlander KMT politicians and of DPP members, a charge the NSB denied. An Australian scholar complained in June that he had been closely watched and followed since his arrival in Taipei a short time earlier. According to EY 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. The authorities claim they do not monitor the telephones of opposition figures.

A major improvement in the right to privacy occurred in 1992 when the "second personnel offices," maintained by the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau to monitor civil servants' political and ideological loyalties, were replaced by politically neutral "government ethics departments" charged with anticorruption duties and the security of government agencies. The MOJ claims, and most critics agree, that it has kept its promise to destroy "second personnel office" dossiers relating to the political loyalties of civil servants and employees of state-run corporations.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

In May 1992, Taiwan revised sedition statutes to eliminate provisions outlawing "conspiracy" to commit sedition and to limit the purview of the sedition law to cases involving violence or threats. After the revision, the authorities released all prisoners convicted on sedition charges and dropped pending sedition cases. According to a prominent lawyer, no new sedition charges were filed during 1993.

A 1992 revision of the National Security Law (NSL) removed 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 retain prohibitions against advocating Communism or espousing the division of national territory. No prosecutions for violations of these provisions were undertaken in 1993.

Censorship of the print media (more than 70 newspapers publish regularly) is rare, but the Publications Law 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. No seizures of materials on political grounds occurred in 1993, although there were several raids to seize pornographic materials. The Government Information Office (GIO) decided that the September publication in Taipei of the biography of mainland leader Deng Xiaoping written by his daughter did not violate the Publications Law or any other concerned regulations.

Four professors were found guilty in July of libel for leading a boycott against a newspaper they alleged slanted its reporting in favor of the PRC and against Taiwan; they have appealed their sentences. In September the Taipei district court convicted a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator of interference with a public function for insulting a vice justice minister at an LY Judiciary Committee meeting. The court ruled that execution of the sentence, 50 days of forced labor and a fine of about $24 (NT 600), be delayed for a 1-year probationary period. The legislator has ignored the entire case on the grounds of LY immunity and plans no appeal.

In contrast with the relatively open and highly competitive environment in which the print media now operate, television and radio remained tightly controlled. The KMT, the Taiwan provincial government, and the military are the largest shareholders of and operate the three broadcast television stations. The GIO argues that these stations are really civilian businesses since government agencies control less than half of their stock shares, that their programming is guided by the market rather than by the GIO or the KMT, and that they rely on revenues from commercials and services rather than government funds. Critics claim that television coverage has been slanted to favor the KMT viewpoint and that reports on sensitive subjects, such as opposition demonstrations, have been similarly biased. A television journalist, cited as best news anchor in March, was quoted as saying that the award had actually been given to the "best puppet" because of political interference in television news reporting.

Authorities have claimed only 12 of 33 radio stations have been owned by military and civil authorities, but they have counted among ostensibly "private" stations such entities as the KMT-controlled Broadcasting Corporation of China. More than three-fourths of Taiwan's radio frequencies have been held by government, party, and other noncommercial entities.

Although there are a number of unregistered cable television networks, no requests to open new radio and television stations had been approved from 1969 until 1993. The GIO accepted applications in May for the use of 28 FM frequencies and announced in December that 13 new radio stations, including a radio station run by an opposition DPP LY member which had been operating illegally, would be given FM channels. In May the Minister of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) announced that 2 VHF frequencies would be made available by the end of the year and new stations could start operation as early as 1996. In June the MOTC announced that in addition 4 UHF frequencies, 2 more FM frequencies and 34 AM frequencies would be made available in 1994. In July the LY passed a new cable television law, dividing the island up into over 50 districts, each of which is allowed up to 5 local cable television companies. By December, more than 600 previously illegal cable TV operations had registered with the GIO to legalize their operations under interim cable television regulations which apply until the cable television law takes full effect. The authorities are also setting up a new public television network to begin operation in 1995.

Critics charge that the limited broadcast ranges of new radio and television stations do not constitute a counterweight to the authorities' monopoly on island-wide broadcasting. Moreover, some critics are concerned that the KMT, with its vast economic resources, or large corporations will try to control these new "investment arenas." Also regulations restrict the rights of those previously convicted of sedition to station ownership or management, although major opposition leaders are not affected because their rights have been restored through presidential amnesty. Persons who have been convicted of sedition continue to be banned from working in television or radio stations.

The authorities lifted controls on the percentage of time television and radio stations could broadcast in dialects in July. Although the Taiwanese dialect is the mother tongue of most of the island's inhabitants, 80 percent of broadcasting in the past had to be done in Mandarin. Now broadcasting is done in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka (television and radio), and aboriginal dialects (radio only).

Restrictions on academic freedom have continued to diminish, and expression of dissenting political views is common. Teachers are sometimes pressured to discourage students from demonstrating and risk being disciplined if they express unorthodox views. No tenure system exists to protect teachers. However, the trend has been to disregard political loyalty when considering the factors affecting professional advancement. In December the LY revised existing law to prohibit political parties from establishing party branches at universities, as well as in court and military areas.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of assembly and association is provided for in the Constitution but is somewhat restricted in practice. The Civic Organization Law requires all civic organizations to register, but authorities have refused to approve registration of some groups, such as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), that use the word "Taiwan" in their titles. The TAHR, however, continues to operate. According to the Parade and Assembly Law, as amended in 1992, peaceful demonstrations are permitted if approved in advance by the authorities and if they do not advocate Communism or advocate Taiwan's separation from China. The new law also reduced from 7 to 6 the number of days before a demonstration that an application must be filed. Penalties for violating orders to disperse, however, were increased.

Opposition leaders who organized demonstrations have been prosecuted and fined in the past for alleged harm to public order, interference with public functionaries (usually the police), assembly without a permit, or for diverging from officially authorized routes. Demonstrators are also liable for "insults or slander" of public officials. Prosecutors deny that politics has played a part in decisions to bring charges under the Parade and Assembly Law, but the authorities have not asserted that those being prosecuted personally advocated or engaged in violence. Observers say that there were few prosecutions under the Parade and Assembly Law in 1993. However, several people were indicted after the anti-KMT alliance riots in Kaohsiung in March, and their cases are pending.

The July 1992 revision of the Civic Organization Law removed from the EY the power to dissolve political parties. This power now resides in a Constitutional Court composed of members of the judiciary's Council of Grand Justices, which was inaugurated in October. Grounds for such dissolution include objectives or actions that are deemed to jeopardize the existence of the Republic of China. No cases were heard by the Constitutional Court during 1993.

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitutional provision for freedom to practice religion is generally observed in practice. Most Taiwan inhabitants adhere to Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, animism, or a combination of these beliefs. Other religions include Christianity and Islam. There is no established or favored religion.

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

The Legislature revised the NSL in 1992, easing restrictions on overseas Taiwanese and others entering Taiwan. Restrictions on the entry of PRC citizens were also eased somewhat by the revision of the NSL in 1992 but remain strong. Former Taiwan residents still require permission to enter the island, but entry restrictions were revised to cover only those about whom there are facts sufficient to create a strong suspicion of engaging in terrorism or violence. The NSL revision was followed by a Ministry of Interior (MOI) announcement that the list of excluded overseas dissidents had been reduced from 282 to fewer than 5.

The reversal of policy was symbolized by New York Law School Professor Chen Lung-Chih who had been blacklisted for years for serving as "foreign minister" for World United Formosans for Independence, a Taiwan independence group. Chen returned to Taipei twice in 1993, the second time as the opening speaker at a conference on Taiwan's bid to enter the United Nations organized by the opposition DPP and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In September 1993, the deputy director of the MOI's Entrance and Exit Bureau announced that the "blacklist problem" no longer existed. In October a former Taiwan legislator, who went to the mainland a decade ago and served as a member of the Standing Committee of the PRC's National Congress (PNC), returned to Taiwan after his retirement from that organization. Also in October, the last of the major dissident leaders, Shih Ming, returned to Taiwan after more than 40 years' exile in Japan. Shih, who has refused to accept the legitimacy of the KMT-led regime – including its right to regulate his entrance to Taiwan – was released on bail pending hearings on illegal entry and sedition charges. After Shih's release on bail, the prosecutor for the High Court formally dropped the arrest order against him, marking the end of Taiwan's four-decade-long "wanted list" of sedition suspects. The High Court prosecutor held an investigative hearing December 2 to determine whether Shih violated sedition laws by advocating overthrowing the government by means of violence or threats. The prosecutor's investigation was continuing at year's end. Charges involving illegal entry as well as document forgery (for falsifying a passport) were also still pending at the district court against independence activist George Chang. In addition, the entrance of a number of foreign supporters of the Taiwan opposition remains restricted.

Except for military and other restricted areas, there is general freedom of internal travel. An exit permit is required for travel abroad and may be refused for a number of reasons, including failure to complete compulsory military service. Entry permits for Taiwan passport holders residing overseas may also be refused. Reasons for entry and exit refusals must be given, however, and appeals may be made to a special board. In September new measures guaranteed that Taiwan passport holders who normally reside abroad may return and regain their household registrations, which are required if they wish to be candidates in elections. Nonresident Taiwan citizens, however, are usually issued "overseas Chinese" passports and require entry permits to travel to Taiwan.

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

Taiwan has made fundamental, rapid progress in moving away from its authoritarian political system to a more pluralistic one. The KMT, which established itself in Taiwan after the Japanese surrender in 1945, remains the ruling party but has become increasingly factionalized. A group of KMT legislators split off in August to set up a new opposition party, the Chinese New Party (CNP). In addition, the DPP, having won one-third of the seats in the 1992 LY elections, became a stronger opposition power.

Reflecting their constitutional claim to be the government of all of China, the authorities maintain not only provincial and local government systems but also an array of central-level political bodies generally identical to those found on the mainland before 1949. In the past, centers of power on Taiwan have been the Presidency, the EY, the military and security apparatus, and the KMT Central Standing Committee. Currently, the Presidency, the EY, and the LY appear to have the most power.

Both the President and Vice-President have been elected by the National Assembly (NA), although a movement toward direct election is under way. The Premier is appointed by the President with the approval of the LY. The NA has jurisdiction over constitutional revisions and meets in regular session only once every 4 years, although it holds extraordinary sessions in most years. The elections of a new NA and LY in 1991 and 1992, respectively, created institutions broadly representative of the island's population. There had been no general elections to these two bodies since before the 1949 KMT retreat to Taiwan.

The LY elected in December 1992 underwent some changes in makeup. With the establishment of the CNP and other changes, the KMT holds 94 seats, the DPP 52, the CNP 7, and the independents and the Chinese Socialist Democratic Party the remaining 7. The 1992 LY election was considered generally free and fair, and cases involving vote-buying and other irregularities in those elections were resolved in 1993. By March 31, district prosecutors had processed 417 suspected vote-buying cases, completed the investigations of 345 of them, and brought formal charges in 18. After the 1991 NA elections, the prosecutors investigated 250 cases and brought formal charges in 50.

In November local mayor/magistrate elections were conducted in a generally free and competitive atmosphere, although opposition members and observers reiterated claims of bias by the broadcast media (see section 2.A.). There were some claims of election irregularities, but prosecutors found insufficient evidence to invalidate any of the results.

Originally composed overwhelmingly of mainlanders, the KMT's membership of over 2 million is now more than 70 percent Taiwanese. (Taiwanese comprise an estimated 85 percent of Taiwan's population, with post-1949 Chinese mainlanders and their offspring comprising most of the remainder.) During the KMT's 14th party congress in August, Taiwanese Chairman Lee Teng Hui's supporters captured control of 80 percent of the leadership positions. The benefits the KMT enjoys from its ownership of enterprises, access to public funds, and assistance from administrative and security agencies give it a significant advantage, and the line between government and party interests has often been blurred in practice. For example, the Finance Minister concurrently heads the KMT's special party branch for financial affairs, and the Chairman of the Vocational Assistance Commission for Retired Servicemen concurrently heads the KMT's party branch for retired servicemen. However, this party-state structure has come under increasing opposition and media criticism.

Passage of the civic organizations law in 1989 legalized the formation of additional political parties. At present, there are 74 registered parties. The major opposition party, the DPP, was formed in 1986 in defiance of martial law; it registered as a political party in April 1989. The DPP claimed a membership of 50,000 in September. The newly-formed Chinese

New Party claimed a membership of 30,000 the same month. Other opposition parties are much smaller.

Although women in Taiwan are guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution, their role in politics remains limited. At an international conference on women in December in Taipei, attended by 360 women leaders from 24 countries, one leading Taiwanese woman lawyer said that there were social, traditional, and family barriers against women entering politics, but not legal ones. Senior regime women leaders include Minister Without Portfolio and KMT Central Standing Committee (CSC) member Shirley Kuo (a former finance minister), KMT Deputy Secretary-General and CSC member Jeanne Tchong-Kwei Li, as well as the Director-General of the National Health Administration, 15 of 161 LY members, 42 of 325 NA members, 13 of 77 Provincial Assembly members, 3 of 29 Control Yuan members, 205 of 1,221 judges, and one major general in the armed forces.

The opposition parties have faced several disadvantages, among them the authorities' virtual monopoly of television and radio, although this is beginning to change (see also Section 2.a.). With the exception of those whose rights were restored by presidential amnesty, persons convicted of sedition also lost their rights to vote, hold public office, and work in, manage, or own television or radio stations.

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

Taiwan's two 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, TAHR continues to operate. As noted in Section 2.b., 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 most international human rights organizations to visit Taiwan and meet citizens freely.

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


The law prohibits sex discrimination, and most discriminatory sections of the Legal Code relating to divorce, property, and child custody have been eliminated in recent years. Taiwan's laws now provide for equitable distribution of conjugal property in divorce cases, although husbands are given management of any postdivorce joint properties.

Enforcement of other sex discrimination laws remains a problem. While labor laws provide for maternity leave, employers do not always grant it. Women have also complained of being forced to quit jobs because of age or childbearing restrictions, and restrictive quotas reportedly exist within certain ministries. Women often receive less frequent promotions and lower salaries than their male counterparts. A women's rights movement is active and growing, however, and women's rights groups formed an alliance during the 1992 LY elections to promote candidates who support their agenda.

Women active in politics, human rights, and women's organizations single out intrafamily violence, especially wife beating, as a serious problem. Social welfare groups and municipal governments have established assistance centers to deal with this issue, but strong social pressure is sometimes exerted on abused wives to conceal their abuse to avoid "disgracing" their families. Greater mobility, education, and job opportunities – there are now 2.4 million women workers in Taiwan – are making women more independent, less inclined to tolerate domestic abuse, and increasingly willing to complain of mistreatment or to seek divorces. Taiwan's divorce rate is reportedly the highest in Asia, with one divorce for every 4 marriages in 1992, although divorced persons still make up less than 2 percent of the population, according to the MOI.

Rape remained a serious problem, and rape victims are socially stigmatized. One expert estimated that at least 7,000 rapes occur in Taiwan each year, but only 10 percent are reported to the police. Under Taiwan law, the authorities may not prosecute for rape; only the victim may file a complaint. Because rape trials are public, women are reluctant to prosecute their attackers. However, feminist and social welfare organizations have assisted rape victims, and victims are now more willing to come forward and press charges. The Criminal Code establishes the punishment for rape as not less than 5 years' imprisonment, and those convicted are usually sentenced to 5 to 10 years of imprisonment. The standard practice followed by the MOJ is to assign female prosecutors to rape cases and to have the cases heard before female judges. One well-publicized case, in which a secretary was raped by a businessman in the presence of a senior MOJ investigator, brought an especially strong reaction from women's groups. The officer was sentenced to 19 months' imprisonment for his actions, and the bureau's director publicly apologized to the victim, her family, and the country's women for the officer's inaction.


The human rights of children in Taiwan are protected by the Constitution and a number of laws and are normally well respected. Children are generally not subject to abuse or maltreatment by the authorities. However, a significant problem of child prostitution does exist (see below), and there is a minor but growing use of child labor (see Section 6.d.).

An extensive and well-supported compulsory educational system testifies to the quantity and quality of support devoted to children by the authorities. The Constitution guarantees free primary education to all children from 6 to 12 years of age and that those from poor families shall be supplied with books by the government. It also provides that "national, provincial, and local governments shall extensively establish scholarships to assist students of good scholastic standing and exemplary conduct who lack the means to continue their school education." Later laws have extended compulsory education through age 15. The Ministry of Education (MOE) says that 99.79 percent of children complete elementary school and that 99.54 percent complete the compulsory intermediate school years. According to the Constitution, 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. MOE says that 30 percent of its overall budget, approximately $1 billion, is spent on compulsory education.

Child prostitution remains a serious problem in Taiwan. Child prostitutes can be as old as 18, but most 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. In cases where 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, in cases where both parents have sold a child into prostitution, the current law requires the victim 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 girls from escaping. Laws directed against customers and pimps of child prostitutes are weak. In October, 59 legislators endorsed a new bill stiffening penalties against customers of child prostitutes, although at year's end the bill remained in committee.

Indigenous People

Taiwan's only non-Chinese minority group, less than 2 percent of the total population of 21 million, consists of the 344,000 aborigines, descendants of the Malayo-Polynesians already established in Taiwan when the first Chinese settlers arrived. In general, the civil and political rights of aborigines are fully protected under Taiwan laws. Although they face no official discrimination and have reserved seats in the National, Legislative, and Provincial Assemblies which allow their representatives to participate in the overall political process, the aborigines have had little impact over the years on major decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the allocation of their natural resources.

While their impact has been limited, aborigines participate in most levels of the political system. In addition to the representatives filling the six seats in the National and Legislative Assemblies and two seats in the Provincial Assembly reserved for aborigines – half of each elected by the plains aborigines and half by mountain aborigines – other leaders who are aborigines include the Chief of the Ministry of Interior's Aborigine Affairs section, the Deputy Director of the Provincial Aborigine Affairs Bureau, and the Chairman of the Pingtong County KMT Committee. Some barriers are being broken: the election of an aborigine as magistrate in Taitung County in November marks the first significant position won by an aborigine in a vote of the general public.

The NA 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. To pay greater attention to the needs of the aborigines, aboriginal affairs sections within social welfare departments at various levels of the bureaucracy have been raised to full departments. As part of its efforts to preserve ethnic identities, the Ministry of Education now includes some aboriginal language classes in primary schools.

Although aborigines face no official discrimination, they encounter significant cultural and economic barriers. Aborigines complain that they are prevented from owning ancestral lands in mountain areas under the authorities' control. Furthermore, they are not allowed to use non-Chinese personal names on legal documents. The average income of Taiwan's aborigines remains less than half of the national average. Researchers have found alcoholism to be a significant problem among the aborigines, with alcohol addiction rates exceeding 40 percent among members of 3 of the 9 major tribes. One estimate is that 10 percent of the aboriginal population suffers from chronic alcohol abuse. Earlier in the year, aborigine rights activists protested MOI plans to create national parks that include aboriginal lands on Orchid Island and at Jade Mountain, Taiwan's highest mountain. In October they returned to demonstrate at the LY against the impact of tourism on their lands. The sale of aboriginal girls by their parents into prostitution is a serious social problem. Although aborigines constitute under 2 percent of Taiwan's population, nearly 20 percent of the child prostitute population consists of aborigines, according to reliable statistics.

Although the aborigines face serious problems, the Aboriginal Rights Promotion Association, the only private aborigines support organization, has apparently run out of funds. It decided in October to move its office from Taipei county to the home of its chairman in Nantou county because of its financial difficulties.

People with Disabilities

According to official statistics, there are 230,000 disabled people in Taiwan. A leading expert in the field estimates, however, that the number is somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 and could be as high as 700,000, one-third of whom are severely handicapped and receive shelter or nursing care from the authorities.

Taiwan's Disabled Welfare Law was revised and strengthened in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against the disabled and sets minimum fines at approximately $2,239 for violators. New public buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment must be accessible to the handicapped. Existing public buildings are to be brought into conformity by 1995. The law requires larger government and private organizations to hire, respectively, 2 and 1 percent disabled persons. Organizations failing to do so are required to pay, for each disabled person not hired, the basic monthly salary (approximately $455) into the Disabled Welfare Fund, which supports institutions involved in welfare for the disabled. Specialists note that many organizations complain that it is difficult to find qualified disabled workers and prefer to pay the fines involved.

A handicapped legislator states that support for the disabled is limited mostly by a lack of bureaucratic support for the allocation of resources. He noted that since 1990 the Disabled Welfare Fund has accumulated approximately $122 million, but it has spent only about $140,000 because of a lack of personnel. As a result, only 10 percent of the 101,000 severely handicapped students receive special education, and education department funding for families to hire tutors directly for the remaining children is unrealistically low. Although voting rights for the disabled are protected, candidates for public office require high school diplomas, and few disabled persons receive full high school educations. The provincial government last year added 15 people to deal with the problems of the disabled. In addition, in conjunction with plans to increase welfare assistance to low-income elderly persons, the Cabinet in October also approved granting or increasing monthly allowances to an estimated 30,000 low-income disabled persons.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Labor's right of association remains seriously limited by a number of laws and regulations. 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. According to official sources, no unions have been dissolved, although certification has been denied if there were competing unions. In the latter cases, the unions were asked to reconcile their differences and file as a single union. Civil servants, teachers, defense industry workers, and administrators acting on behalf of employers are prohibited from organizing labor unions. The Labor Union Law requires that union leaders be elected regularly by their respective membership 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.

Unions may form confederations, but no administrative district, including cities, counties, and provinces, may have competing labor confederations, which effectively means there can only be one Taiwan-wide labor federation. The Chinese Federation of Labor (CFA) is closely associated with the KMT and also is affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Taiwan is not a member of the International Labor Organization.

Revisions of the law governing labor disputes, effective June 1988, recognize labor's right to strike but impose serious restrictions that make legal strikes difficult. Before a strike can be called, it must be approved by a majority vote of the full membership of the union. The authorities have required their official approval before such a meeting can be called. Both labor and management are forbidden to disrupt the "working order" when either mediation or arbitration is in progress.

Applications for local government arbitration must be made jointly by management and labor. Stiff penalties may be levied should no-strike/

no-retaliation clauses be violated, but employers have sometimes ignored the law and dismissed or locked out workers without any legal action being taken against them. One county, however, has been active in responding to violations. During a July 1992 strike, the Keelung Bus Company locked out workers and closed down all bus routes, even though the Taipei county government had announced that the dispute had entered the arbitration stage. The county fined the company approximately $12,300, but higher authorities overturned the fine and returned the case to the county for reconsideration. The county reinstated the fine, and the company has again appealed.

The drive for independent labor unions lost momentum in recent years due to generally higher wages, tougher tactics on the part of employers, the small scale and poor organization of most labor unions, and prosecution of labor activists by the authorities in the past; none was charged during 1993. For example, labor activist En Kun-Chan was sentenced to 22 months' imprisonment in 1992 for allegedly violating the Parade and Assembly Law and with interference with official functions for his part in a protest against two footwear companies which refused to provide back pay and severance pay after the firms were closed.

In addition, the movement of a number of labor-intensive factories overseas and the importation of foreign workers has made the employment situation in Taiwan increasingly competitive, reducing labor activism to a minimum. There were three major strikes in 1989 and two in 1992, but only one occurred in 1993, when the staff of Taipei's Grand Hotel in October protested plans to lay off more than 100 employees. However, an estimated 2,000 workers, representing more than 140 independent labor organizations demonstrated at the LY on October 5 and presented a petition, signed by more than 15,000 workers, demanding their own revisions to the Labor Standards Law to improve pay and working conditions.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

As of June 1993, some 3.1 million workers, approximately 35 percent of Taiwan's work force, belonged to 3,656 officially registered labor unions. The workers fall into two categories: 660,000 work in the manufacturing industry; 2.45 million are members of professional or crafts unions, generally working in small or family units. The high number of union members among professional and crafts workers is primarily a result of the eligibility of labor union members for health insurance. 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 authorities have failed to enforce this section of the law.

Labor laws governing union activities apply equally within export processing zones (EPZ's). Labor organizing practices are the same in EPZ's. EPZ firms are subject to the same labor laws as firms on the outside, allow organized unions, and follow normal practices in concluding collective bargaining agreements with their unions.

Collective bargaining is provided for under the Collective Agreements Law but is not mandatory. As of June 1993, 294 formal collective agreements were in force, about the same number as in 1991. 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. Wages are set generally by employers in accordance with market conditions. Legal restrictions on the right to strike and provisions for involuntary mediation of labor/management disputes when the authorities deem the dispute to be sufficiently serious or to involve "unfair practices" seriously weaken collective bargaining. Most collective actions by workers consist of such illegal actions as work stoppages and mass leave taking.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Under the Labor Standards Law, forced or compulsory labor is prohibited. Violation of the law is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 5 years. Except for allegations concerning prostitution (see Section 5), there were no reports of forced labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Standards Law stipulates that the minimum age for employment is 15 (i.e., after compulsory education ends), and interaction between this law and a compulsory education law effectively keeps child labor at a very low level. As of May 1993, 9,000 child workers between the ages of 15 and 16 were hired by manufacturing industries, and some labor experts believe that employment of younger children may slowly be increasing as the cost of living rises and as managers seek cheaper sources of labor. Minimum age laws are enforced by county and city labor bureaus; in general they lack the resources necessary to prevent violations.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Taiwan Labor Standards Law was enacted in 1984 to provide minimum labor standards. According to the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), in June 1993 the law covered 3.52 million of Taiwan's 5.97 million paid workers. (The CLA carries out the functions of a labor ministry, but it does not enjoy Cabinet rank.) The law has enjoyed only limited success in several areas, and many observers believe that it and other labor laws should be strengthened and extended to cover additional workers. By law the workweek is limited to 48 hours (8 hours per day, 6 days per week), with certain provisions for overtime.

Taiwan's current minimum wage, put into force after Cabinet approval in August, is approximately $500 (NT 13,350) per month. There is general agreement that the legally established minimum wage is less than that needed to assure a decent standard of living; however, the average manufacturing wage is more than double the legal minimum wage and that for service industry employees is 10 percent higher still. In addition, most large firms provide their employees with allowances for transportation, meals, housing, and other benefits which can amount to another 60 to 80 percent of base salary.

The 1991 Occupational Safety and Health Law enlarged coverage to include workers in agriculture, fishing, and forestry industries and appeared to strengthen penalties for safety violations, but it still provides only minimum standards for working conditions and health and safety precautions. According to Article 13 of the Occupational Safety and Health Law, workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. Some critics see the law as a step backwards, noting for example that general contractors are not responsible for the safety of workers of subcontractors under the revised law. In Taipei county in the last 3 years, the leading cause of accidental death has been construction accidents (approximately 80 per year) compared to approximately 70 per year for traffic accidents. However, rising labor consciousness and continuing labor shortages have resulted in improvements in working conditions.

The CLA does not effectively enforce many workplace laws and regulations, primarily because it employs too few inspectors. As of June 1993, there were 283 inspectors for approximately 300,000 enterprises covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Law, an increase of only 16 inspectors compared to the year before. Because the new law expanded coverage to include more enterprises, the inspection rate has declined. Since most enterprises are small, family-owned operations employing relatives who will not 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. Nonetheless, Taiwan's occupational injury rate has declined steadily from 0.82 percent in 1980 to 0.39 percent in 1991 and to 0.355 percent in 1992, according to CLA statistics.

Because of Taiwan's acute labor shortage, there was a legal influx of foreign workers in 1993. Foreign workers receive the same protection under labor legislation as local workers.

Authorities say illegal workers are entitled to the same work conditions as native workers, but in many cases illegal foreign workers are given board and lodging but no medical coverage, accident insurance, or other benefits enjoyed by local workers. Conditions in many small and medium-sized factories that employ illegal labor are poor, with old and poorly maintained equipment resulting in the potential for a high rate of industrial accidents. The accident numbers, however, remain low, according to CLA and Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) statistics. Illegal workers remain vulnerable to exploitation, including confiscation of passports, imposition of involuntary deductions from wages, and extension of working hours without overtime pay.

Various church groups in the Philippines in 1992 denounced the poor working conditions of Filipinos employed on board Taiwan fishing vessels, as well as squalid conditions found on offshore Taiwan floating "hotels" for fishing crews on Taiwan fishing boats. MECO says the use of offshore "hotels" has ended. The church groups also noted that a large number of Filipino fishermen have been reported as missing at sea.

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