Covering events from January-December 2001

President: Chen Shui-bian
Head of government: Chang Chun-hsiung
Capital: Taipei
Population: 22.5 million
Official language: Mandarin Chinese
Death penalty: retentionist

Despite its promises to improve the human rights situation, the government implemented few reforms. The death penalty continued to be imposed and 10 people were executed. Torture continued to be used as a means to force confessions, which were then used as evidence in court. Although some 20 Tibetan asylum-seekers were granted asylum, there was concern that immigration procedures were inadequate and lacked transparency.


In the legislative elections held in December the ruling Democratic Progressive Party won 87 seats and became the largest political party in the 225-member legislature. The Kuomintang lost a majority in the legislature for the first time in Taiwan's history.

Economic difficulties, such as rising unemployment, and economic relations, including financial cooperation with China, were high on the political agenda. Taiwan became a signatory to the World Trade Organization in November and was expected to ratify its membership by January 2002. It was hoped that increased support for the ruling party would help to reverse economic decline; in the three months to September, Taiwan's Gross Domestic Product suffered its biggest quarterly fall in 26 years.

Torture and ill-treatment

Torture remained a serious and often unreported problem. It was reported in March that in a study conducted in 2000 by the Chinese Association for Human Rights, some 1,700 prisoners alleged that police officers tortured suspects to extract confessions. Lawyers and human rights activists feared that confessions obtained under torture were used by the police as evidence in court.

Death penalty

Ten people were executed during 2001. While executions continued, the government made legislative changes which reduced the number of crimes under the Military Criminal Code carrying a mandatory death penalty.

  • The retrial which began in November 2000 at the Taipei High Court of Su Chien-ho, Liu Bin-lang and Chuang Lin-hsun, known as the "Hsichih trio", continued until the second half of the year. Despite President Chen Shui-bian's promises to consider a pardon from the death penalty for the three men, they remained on death row where they have been since 1992. AI had earlier urged the government to institute a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into reports that the three men were tortured while in police custody and confessed under duress, and called for a retrial. A former cellmate of Su Chien-ho testified in May that when Su Chien-ho returned to their cell after an interrogation session, his lips were bloody and he was unable to stand without help. The cellmate stated that Su Chien-ho's genitals were badly swollen. Another witness had earlier stated that he had seen Su Chien-ho tied to a chair while a wooden pole was used to beat the soles of his feet, an electric cattle prod was used to apply shocks to Liu Bin-lang's genitals, and Chuang Lin-hsun was hit on the head.
Promises of human rights reform

According to Prime Minister Chang Chun-hsiung, initial moves were being undertaken to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The government was conducting a comprehensive review of current domestic laws to ensure that they were in line with international human rights conventions. In December, President Chen Shui-bian announced that in 2002 the government would issue a report and a white paper on human rights policies. He also stated that the draft plan to establish a national human rights commission would be reviewed, that international standards would be incorporated into domestic legislation, and that a basic law on human rights protection was being drafted.

Arms trade
There was concern that Taiwan was a leading manufacturer and supplier of electro-shock equipment, including stun guns, and that there were few or no restrictions on their sale and use.

This 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.