2002 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices China (Taiwan Only)
BG0309E | Date: 2003-04-03
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State
March 31, 2003
Taiwan is a multiparty democracy. The 2000 victory of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian followed more than 50 years of rule by the Kuomintang (KMT) and marked the first transition from one political party to another in Taiwan's history. The president appoints the premier, who heads the Executive Yuan (EY), or Cabinet. Constitutional amendments adopted in 1997 provided the Legislative Yuan (LY) with the authority to dismiss the Cabinet with a no-confidence vote. In 2001 the DPP won a plurality of seats in the LY in free and fair elections. In the 2002 Taipei and Kaohsiung municipal elections, an incumbent KMT mayor in Taipei and an incumbent DPP mayor in Kaohsiung were reelected in free and fair elections. In addition to the DPP, the KMT, the People First Party, and the Taiwan Solidarity Union played significant roles in the LY. The Judicial Yuan (JY) is constitutionally independent of the other branches of the political system, and the Government respected the judiciary's independence in practice.
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 police and security agencies are under effective civilian control. The police occasionally committed human rights abuses.
Taiwan has a dynamic, export-oriented, free market economy. Liberalization of the economy has diminished the dominant role that state-owned and party-run enterprises previously played in such major sectors as finance, transportation, utilities, shipbuilding, steel, telecommunications, and petrochemicals. Services and capital- and technology-intensive industries were the most important sectors. Major exports included computers, electronic equipment, machinery, and textiles. Taiwan's more than 22 million citizens generally enjoyed a high standard of living and an equitable income distribution.
The authorities generally respected the human rights of citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Principal problems included police abuse of detainees; allegations of judicial corruption; violence and discrimination against women; child prostitution and abuse; societal discrimination against Aborigines; restrictions on workers' freedom of association and on their ability to strike; and some instances of trafficking in women and children.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life
committed by the Government or its agents.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that no violence, threat, inducement, fraud, or other improper means shall be used against accused persons; however, 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 Section 1.d.). The MOJ claimed that each interrogation is audiotaped or videotaped and that any allegation of mistreatment is investigated. Nonetheless lawyers and legal scholars noted that abuses most often occurred in local police stations where interrogations were not recorded and when attorneys often were not present.
Police emphasized confessions by suspects as the principal investigative tool, and the judicial system sometimes accepted confessions even when they contradicted available physical evidence or logic. Law enforcement agencies remained weak in scientific investigative skills; however, the NPA continued to make efforts to improve by upgrading its crime laboratory technology and training crime scene examiners.
The NPA stated that regulations forbid the abuse of suspects and that police who abuse suspects are punished. However, there were credible reports that physical abuse or the threat of abuse was a recurring investigative technique. Detainees who are abused physically have the right to sue the police for torture, and confessions shown to have been obtained through torture are inadmissible in court proceedings. According to the Government, there were no such cases during the year and two in 2001, one in Yunlin County and one in Kaohsiung. The policeman in the first case was found guilty and sentenced to 8 months in prison; no information was available regarding the second case. In 2000 the Taiwan High Court began the retrial of the "Hsichih Trio" who alleged police torture in extracting their confessions to a 1991 murder charge; the case remained pending at year's end.
Although the primary responsibility for investigating torture and mistreatment lies with prosecutors, the Control Yuan (CY), a coequal branch of the political system that investigates official misconduct, also investigates such cases. While the authorities stated that instilling respect for human rights was a part of basic police training, human rights groups asserted that the measures the authorities have taken to protect human rights were inadequate.
Corporal punishment is forbidden under military law and strictly prohibited in practice. In the past, military hazing was a problem; however, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has implemented several programs in recent years to address the problem. In March a law was passed establishing committees for the protection and promotion of servicemen's rights and interests, which emonstrably have served to reduce incidents of hazing and mistreatment.
Prison conditions generally met international standards; however, overcrowding at the 49 prisons and overly long stays at detention centers for illegal aliens remained problems. Recent NPA initiatives have begun to have an impact, reducing the average stay at detention centers for illegal aliens from 98 days to 88 days. Also during the year, the number of inmates that exceeded the capacity of Taiwan's prisons fell to 2,420, or 4.4 percent of total inmates, from 4,940, or 9.6 percent of total inmates, in 2001. During the year, renovation, expansion and construction projects added approximately 3,500 beds.
The authorities permitted prison visits by human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the authorities generally observed this prohibition. Police legally may arrest without a warrant anyone they suspect of committing a crime for which the punishment would be imprisonment of 5 years or more, when there is ample reason to believe the person may flee. Police may question persons without a formal summons when circumstances are too urgent to report to a public prosecutor. However, immediately after detaining a suspect the authorities must apply to a prosecutor for a warrant to detain the arrestee for up to 24 hours and must 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. In 2000 the NPA ordered all police stations to prohibit the media from photographing persons under detention and to cease providing the names of detainees to the media. In 2001 the MOJ and the NPA strengthened efforts to prevent disclosure of information on detainees to the media; this reduced somewhat the unauthorized release of information.
Under the law prosecutors must apply to the courts within 24 hours after arrest for permission to continue detaining an arrestee. The duration of this pretrial detention is limited to 2 months, and the courts may approve a single extension of 2 months. Limits also apply for detention during trial. If a crime is punishable by less than 10 years' imprisonment then no more than 3 extensions of 2 months each may be granted during the trial and appellate proceedings. During the second appeal, only one extension may be granted. The authorities generally observed these procedures, and trials usually took place within 3 months of indictment.
The Code of Criminal Procedure requires the police to inform a suspect during an interrogation of the specific charges in question, the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, and the right to ask the police to investigate evidence that would be favorable to the suspect. If the charges are amended subsequently, the police must inform the suspect. The authorities generally respected a detainee's request to have a lawyer present during the investigation phase, but defense lawyers and human rights groups continued to complain that the rules did not provide adequate protection since suspects often did not have legal representation during police interrogation. A contributing factor is the lack of a legal requirement that indigent persons be provided counsel during police interrogation, although counsel was provided during trials. In addition, informed observers reported that the "public defense counsels" did not provide effective defense assistance. They typically did not appear until the final argument of the trial, and they seldom spent a significant amount of time discussing the case with their clients.
The Constitution does not provide for forced exile, and it was not practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. However, while the Government has made efforts to eliminate corruption and to diminish political influence in recent years, they remained serious problems.
In recent years, the Judicial Yuan (JY) has taken several measures to reduce political influence on judges. An independent committee using secret ballots decides judicial appointments and promotions. Judicial decisions no longer are subject to review by presiding judges, except in the case of decisions by "assistant judges." The judges themselves decide upon distribution of cases. Finally, judges and the President of the JY are prohibited from taking part in political activities. The Government's anticorruption campaign also has reinforced the JY's efforts to eliminate judicial corruption. Although the LY has yet to enact the JY President's proposed code of judicial conduct, the proposals have resulted in revised precepts for evaluation of judicial performance and strengthened reviews of judges' financial disclosure reports. In 2000 the JY initiated a human rights course in its judicial training program. These factors have reduced the incidence of judicial misconduct; however, there continued to be complaints of corruption on the part of individual judges. In 2000 a judge in Tainan was arrested on suspicion of running a brothel since 1998 and using his position to protect the business from police scrutiny. In July the judge was sentenced to 12 years in prison and deprived of his right to serve in the Government for 8 years following his release. At year's end, his appeal was pending in the Taiwan High Court.
The JY is one of the five coequal branches of the political system. The JY is headed by a president and a vice president and also contains the 16-member Council of Grand Justices, which 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 Administrative Court also provides judicial review.
The law provides the right of fair public trial, and this generally was respected in practice. Judges, rather than juries, decide cases; all judges are appointed by, and are 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 that a party wishes to submit if the judge considers it irrelevant; a refusal to hear evidence may be a factor in an appeal. Trials are public, but attendance at trials involving juveniles or potentially sensitive issues that might attract crowds may require court permission.
A defendant has the right to an attorney. If the defendant is charged with committing a crime for which the penalty is 3 or more years' imprisonment or if the defendant is indigent, the judge may assign an attorney. Attorneys assigned to defendants generally assisted once an indictment was filed and at trial, but usually were not present during police interrogations. Informed observers reported that public defense counsels did not provide effective defense assistance (see Section 1.d.). The law states that a suspect may not be compelled to testify, and that a confession shall not be the sole evidence used to find a defendant guilty. Nonetheless convictions frequently resulted from a combination of a confession and circumstantial evidence of varying quality. However, in 2001 a Taipei district court judge acquitted a defendant of theft charges on the grounds that his confession was made involuntarily. All convicted persons have the right to appeal to the next higher court level. Persons sentenced to terms of imprisonment of 3 years or more may appeal beyond that level. The Supreme Court automatically reviews life imprisonment and death sentences.
In May the LY passed criminal procedure legislation making judges impartial adjudicators of lawsuits rather than law enforcers for the Government obligated to personally help gather evidence for prosecutors. The revision, which downgrades the status of prosecutors from a rank similar to that of a judge, requires prosecutors to bear the full responsibility for investigations and charges them with the duty of convincing the judge of the guilt of the accused.
In 2001 the Council of Grand Justices declared certain due process provisions of the 1985 Antihoodlum Law to be unconstitutional. The law departed from international standards by allowing police to detain suspects for up to 1 month--extendable to subsequent months--while the suspect was under investigation. In April the LY passed legislation eliminating that provision.
At year's end, six District Courts had adopted the new trial system that has been in use in the Shihlin District Court since 1999. Implemented in response to the JY President's 1999 judicial reform proposals and intended to better protect the rights of the accused, the new modified adversarial trial system is a potential model for the rest of the judicial system.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution and the Criminal and Civil Codes contain provisions protecting privacy. In 2001 the LY amended the Code of Criminal Procedure to require prosecutors to obtain judicial approval of search warrants, except when "incidental to arrest" or when there are concerns that evidence may be destroyed. However, critics claimed that the incidental to arrest provision is not only unconstitutional but is also often interpreted broadly by police to justify searches of locations other than actual arrest sites. According to the NPA, warrantless searches are allowed only in special circumstances, such as to arrest an escapee or if facts indicate that 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. A policeman who carries out an illegal search may be sued for illegal entry and sentenced to up to 1 year in prison; however, few defendants or their spouses have filed charges against policemen found to have obtained evidence illegally. Furthermore, illegally obtained evidence is not excluded automatically from consideration by the court; instead, its admission is left to the discretion of the judge. Judges increasingly excluded illegally obtained evidence, although in the past such evidence was admitted and frequently provided the basis for conviction.
In 2001 the Council of Grand Justices ruled that the Police Administration Law (PAL), which had been used to give police wide discretion in searching persons in public places and stopping vehicles for inspections, did not entitle police to make such searches unless a clear risk to public safety had been established. Noting that such searches could infringe on freedom of movement, privacy, and the right to property, the Council instructed the NPA to revise the PAL in accordance with its ruling immediately. At year's end, the Executive Yuan was debating the revision to be proposed to the LY.
Although the MOJ and the police continued to use wiretapping as an investigative tool, unauthorized wiretapping has become less of a problem following passage in 1999 of the Telecommunications Protection and Control Law, which imposed severe penalties for unauthorized wiretapping. The Telecommunication Law and Code of Criminal Procedure provide that 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 total number of approved wiretaps dropped from 13,000 in 1999 to 3,051 in 2000. Approvals subsequently increased to 7,218 in 2001 and to 8,631 during the first 10 months of the year. Officials attributed the recent increase to investigations into alleged vote-buying cases during local and national elections in the past 2 years. The law also regulates wiretapping by the intelligence services.
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 respected these rights in practice.
Print media represented the full spectrum of views within society. However, some political influence still existed over the electronic media, particularly broadcast television stations. The ruling DPP was associated with Formosa TV (FTV), the Government was the largest shareholder of Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV), the military was the largest shareholder of the Chinese Television System (CTS), and the opposition KMT was the largest shareholder of China Television Company (CTV). However, the existence of approximately 100 cable television stations, some of which carry programming openly critical of the various political parties, has diminished the importance of political party influence over the broadcast television stations.
Controls over radio stations were more limited than those over television stations and were gradually being liberalized. In 2001 the Government Information Office (GIO) received 503 applications for radio broadcast frequencies. A total of 77 frequencies were made available, including 45 medium-range and 32 short-range frequencies. As of 2001, 23 medium-range and 10 short-range frequencies had been apportioned. During the year, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications announced no plans to further expand the number of frequencies available.
Observers noted that licensing requirements obliged prospective radio station owners to have more capital than actually was required to operate a station, which inhibited individuals or groups from applying for radio station licenses. However, the GIO claimed that the $1.43 million (NT$50 million) required capitalization was based upon consideration of actual business costs and noted that the required capitalization was reduced to $28,600 (NT$1 million) for radio stations serving remote areas or designated ethnic groups and civic organizations, or which promote local development. According to Ministry of Transportation and Communication statistics, more than 130 unlicensed "underground" radio stations, many associated with the ruling or with opposition parties, operated illegally.
Among other restrictions regulating the media were those precluding persons previously convicted of sedition from owning, managing, or working in television and radio stations. DPP leaders, many of whom were convicted of sedition in the aftermath of the 1979 Human Rights Day demonstrations that turned into a riot, which is known as the "Kaohsiung incident," nevertheless were not affected because their rights were restored through presidential amnesties by the previous administration.
There is a vigorous and active free press. In 1999 the LY abolished the Publications Law, which had empowered the police to seize or ban printed material that was seditious, treasonous, sacrilegious, interfered with the lawful exercise of public functions, or violated public order or morals. However, in March the Government raided the offices of Next Magazine and confiscated 160,000 copies of an issue containing an article about $100 million (NT$3.5 billion) in secret funds established by former president Lee Teng-hui and used as well by the current administration for diplomatic missions and policy initiatives. The Taiwan High Court Prosecutor's Office charged a reporter at the magazine with breaching national security; the case was pending at year's end.
The GIO required that any publications imported from mainland China be sent to the GIO Publications Department for screening before sale or publication, and still sought to ban the importation of publications that advocated communism or the establishment of united front organizations, endangered public order or good morals, or violated regulations or laws. The GIO also required that China-origin material be converted to traditional characters before being published in Taiwan. However, few local publishing companies observed this regulation, and substantial People's Republic of China-origin material was imported and was widely available at schools and in research institutes. During the year, some academics and publishing houses called on the GIO to relax its restrictions on the use of simplified Chinese characters. Cable television systems broadcast uncensored television channels from mainland China.
The authorities generally did not restrict academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the authorities generally respected this right in practice. Permits required for outdoor public meetings were granted routinely.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association; and the authorities generally respected this right in practice. The Civic Organization Law requires all civic organizations to register.
Under the Civic Organization Law the Constitutional Court holds the power to dissolve political parties. Grounds for dissolution include objectives or actions that are deemed to jeopardize the existence of the "Republic of China." The Constitutional Court heard no cases under this law during the year.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities generally respected this right in practice. Religious organizations may register with the central authorities through their island-wide associations under either the Temple Management Law, the Civic Organizations Law, or the chapter of the Civil Code that governs foundations and associations; however, registration is not mandatory. Registered organizations operate on a tax-free basis and are required to make annual reports of their financial operations. While individual places of worship may register with local authorities, many chose not to register and operated as the personal property of their leaders. In the past, concern over abuse of tax-free privileges or other financial misdeeds occasionally prompted the authorities to deny registration to new religions whose doctrines were not clear, but there were no reports that the authorities sought to suppress new religions during the year. In 2000 the President granted a special amnesty to 19 conscientious objectors who had been imprisoned for refusing military service on religious grounds. In 2001 the LY passed an Alternative Service Law that permits conscientious objector draftees to fulfill their military service commitments through community service.
For a more detailed discussion see the 2002 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The authorities did not restrict freedom of internal travel. Foreign travel by passport holders was common.
Nonresident passport holders usually are issued "overseas Chinese" passports and must seek entry permits for travel to Taiwan. According 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 the year. Holders of nonresident passports who normally reside abroad may return and regain their household registration, a document required to vote or participate as a candidate in an election.
Since 1987 the authorities have relaxed substantially strictures against travel by residents to the Chinese mainland, and such travel was common. In 2000 relatively tight restrictions on the entry of Chinese from the mainland for national security reasons, which previously had been relaxed to permit cross-strait exchanges, were further relaxed when the LY passed legislation permitting mainland Chinese to visit for business, academic, or tourism purposes. In 2001 Taiwan further relaxed the regulations to allow PRC correspondents to be temporarily posted to Taiwan for up to 1 month per visit. By the end of July, 98 PRC journalists had taken advantage of this change.
There is no law under which noncitizens may ask for asylum, and there were no applications for refugee status during the year. While the authorities have been reluctant to return to the mainland those who might suffer political persecution, they regularly deported to the mainland, under provisions of the Mainland Relations Act, mainlanders who illegally entered the island for economic reasons. There were no reports during the year of forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Some detention centers for illegal immigrants continued to be overcrowded, and detainees complained about overly long stays at the centers while waiting to be repatriated. Recent expansion projects sought to relieve overcrowded conditions. The Bureau of Entry and Exit faulted mainland Chinese authorities for delays in repatriation. In 2000 the authorities began allowing some detained illegal aliens from mainland China to return to the mainland by airplane via Hong Kong at their own expense. Also in 2000 the authorities began to repatriate illegal alien mainland Chinese directly from the island of Matsu or allow them to fly back to China via a third country, rather than take them to detention centers in Taiwan.
In 2001 the ship's master and the chief engineer of the Greek cargo vessel M/V Amorgos were prevented from leaving the island while the Environmental Protection Agency negotiated with the shipping company's agent regarding compensation for damages caused by an oil spill when the ship ran aground off the coast of southern Taiwan. After 8 months, they were allowed to depart the island and given compensation.
The 1999 Entry, Exit, and Immigration Law provides strict sentencing guidelines for alien smuggling. Several cases have been brought before the courts under this law; however, few resulted in convictions.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens have the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice. In 2000 for the first time an opposition party candidate was elected President, winning a 39 percent plurality in a 3-person race. Generally free and fair popular elections for the LY have taken place four times since 1992.
The Chen administration has made significant progress in its efforts to eliminate corruption and vote buying. In early 2001, the MOJ worked to ensure fair Farmers' and Fishermen's Association elections. Investigations of 444 suspected vote-buying cases resulted in the indictment of 43 persons. The MOJ also conducted a concerted campaign against vote buying in the 2001-2002 national and local elections. As of January, the MOJ had investigated 5,794 vote-buying cases and indicted 141 persons.
In 2000 the MOJ also launched a campaign against government corruption. As of May, prosecutors had indicted 12 former and incumbent legislators, 6 former and incumbent city mayors and county magistrates, and 87 local township chiefs, of whom 2 local township chiefs had been convicted. Of the 166 city, county and local officials who were indicted for corruption, 1 council member had been convicted by year's end. In addition, prosecutors were investigating 3 incumbent legislators, 1 mayor, 1 county magistrate, 19 local township chiefs, and 57 city, county, and township elected representatives at year's end.
In 2000 the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau was ordered to cease political intelligence gathering regarding politicians and political parties, and to concentrate on criminal matters.
The DPP won the largest bloc in the 2001 legislative elections, obtaining 87 of 225 seats. The KMT, which lost the legislative majority for the first time, won 68 seats. The People First Party more than doubled its representation in the LY, winning 46 seats. The newly established Taiwan Solidarity Union, inspired by the pro-Taiwanese ideology of former president Lee Teng-hui, won 13 seats. The New Party won one seat.
The Constitution provides for equal rights for women, and their role in the political sphere is increasing. In 2000 a woman for the first time was elected vice president, and 7 of 40 cabinet officials were women, including the Chairpersons of the Mainland Affairs Council and the Labor Affairs Council. Two of 25 Control Yuan members and 3 of 20 Examination Yuan members were women. A number of women also held important political party positions. Two of the 15 members of the DPP Central Standing Committee were women, as were 8 of the KMT's 31 Central Standing Committee members. Forty-eight members in the 225-member Legislative Yuan were women.
Aborigine representatives participated in most levels of the political system. They held eight reserved seats in the LY, half of which were elected by plains Aborigines and half by mountain Aborigines. The proportion of legislative seats allocated to Aborigines was almost twice their percentage of the population. An Aborigine served as Chairman of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The most active human rights organizations were the Chinese Association of Human Rights and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights. Both organizations operated freely and investigated human rights complaints, many of which came to public attention through the media and statements by lawmakers from all political parties. The authorities also permitted representatives of international human rights organizations to visit and meet with citizens freely. Amnesty International maintained a Taipei office. Women's and children's human rights groups monitored police and judicial performance and campaigned to address abuses.
In his 2000 inaugural address, President Chen declared that Taiwan must include international human rights in its legal code and establish a national human rights commission. In October the Government issued a report entitled "Taiwan: 2002 Human Rights Policy White Paper," with a timetable for an ambitious human rights promotion program, including planned issuance of a National Human Rights Report in March 2003, a program to examine and revise laws likely to be affected by human rights policies, and preparation of a national Human Rights Action Plan in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. In October the Government cosponsored an international symposium on human rights in Taiwan addressing the implementation of international human rights standards, the establishment of a national human rights commission and the role of NGOs in the advancement of human rights. In December President Chen reported that the Government had submitted a draft organic law for the National Human Rights Commission to the Legislative Yuan for approval and that the LY had begun to screen bills for the localization of international human rights codes. In 2001 the Ministry of Education initiated a program of human rights education at all levels of the educational system.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equality of citizens before the law "irrespective of sex, religion, race, class, or party affiliation." It also provides for the rights of persons with disabilities. While the authorities were committed to protecting these rights, discrimination against some groups continued.
Violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, remained a serious problem. Domestic violence was especially widespread. The authorities funded domestic violence hot lines, which also handled calls for assistance from victims of sexual assault and child abuse. From January through September, the hot line run by the Domestic Violence Prevention and Control Center under the Ministry of Interior received 55,310 calls. The Ministry of Justice continued to take steps to strengthen the protection of women and children against violence in accordance with the 1999 Domestic Violence and Protection Control Law. The law allows prosecutors to take the initiative in investigating complaints of domestic violence without waiting for a spouse to file a formal lawsuit. Although some cases were prosecuted, strong social pressure discouraged abused women from reporting incidents to the police in order to avoid disgracing their families.
Rape also remained a serious problem, and its victims were stigmatized socially. One expert estimated that 7,000 rapes--10 times the number reported to the police--occurred annually. In 1999 the LY passed legislation that permits the prosecution of the crime of rape without requiring the victim to press charges. Under the law, rape trials may not be open to the public unless the victim consents. The Code of Criminal Procedure establishes the punishment for rape as not less than 5 years' imprisonment, and those convicted usually were given sentences of 5 to 10 years in prison. There were 2,943 cases of rape or sexual assault reported in 2001. Spousal rape is a crime. In 2001 the Ministry of Interior (MOI) adopted a new procedure under which doctors, social workers, police, and prosecutors jointly question victims of sexual abuse in order to reduce the number of times a victim is questioned. From January through November, 1,431 persons were indicted for rape or sexual assault, and 1,143 persons, most indicted in previous years, were convicted.
The law requires all city and county governments to set up domestic violence prevention and control centers. The centers provided victims with protection, shelter, legal counseling, and other services on a 24-hour basis. From January through September, the city and county domestic violence prevention and control centers consulted with a total of 54,180 persons, set up follow-up files on the cases of 14,903 persons, helped obtain 2,429 court protection orders, and assisted in obtaining emergency shelter for 1,161 persons. Under the law, a judicial order may be obtained to prohibit violators from approaching victims. The MOI also provided assistance, such as financial assistance and shelter, to victims of rape or domestic violence. In 1999 the Ministry established a domestic violence prevention committee to implement a comprehensive program for the protection of women and children. The committee, among other things, worked to ensure that the various prevention and control centers were functioning effectively, and that other government agencies, such as the police, handled domestic violence cases appropriately. The committee also worked with NGOs on these issues.
Prostitution, including child prostitution, also was a problem. The authorities were phasing out legalized prostitution. In 1999 the LY banned prostitution, but exempted 23 brothels and 119 prostitutes already registered with the authorities. Under the law, no new houses of prostitution may be registered. There have been reports of a growing trend of young women, often well educated, entering into part-time prostitution.
There also were credible reports of a small number of women being trafficked onto the island for purposes of prostitution (see Section 6.f.), and reports of a larger number of women who entered for purposes of engaging in prostitution. Sexual harassment was a problem, but the Government actively addressed the issue. During the year, the authorities reacted quickly to investigate allegations of sexual harassment lodged against a high-ranking government official.
The law prohibits sex discrimination. Many sections of the legal code that discriminated against women have been eliminated. For example, women are no longer required to adopt their husband's last name after marriage, and the citizenship law was amended in 2000 to permit transmission of citizenship through either parent.
In March the 2001 Gender Equality in the Workplace Act went into effect, providing for equal treatment with regard to salaries, promotions, and assignments. The law also stipulates that measures be taken to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Women's advocates noted that women were promoted less frequently and worked for lower pay than their male counterparts, and that women were not granted maternity leave or were forced to quit jobs due to marriage, age, or pregnancy, despite the fact that previously existing labor laws afforded women some protections against gender-based discrimination in the workplace. According to the Council on Labor Affairs, salaries for women averaged 85 percent of those for men performing comparable jobs. Most city and county administrations have set up committees to deal with complaints of sexual discrimination in the workplace.
In 2001 the Ministry of Education initiated a program to promote equal educational opportunities for both sexes and to include units on family life, relations between the sexes, and equal opportunity rights in educational material at all levels.
In 2001 60 women's organizations joined together to form the National Union of Taiwan Women to promote women's rights. Also in 2001, President Chen reiterated his administration's determination to protect teenage girls from commercial sexual exploitation and signed a declaration drafted by the Garden of Hope Foundation to increase public awareness of the need to protect the rights of teenage girls.
The Constitution includes provisions to protect children's rights, and the authorities were committed to supporting them. Education for children between 6 and 15 years of age is free and compulsory, and this rule was enforced. The percentage of school age children attending primary school was 99.94 percent, and those attending junior high school 99.86 percent. Children also were provided health care under the national health insurance scheme.
Child abuse was a significant problem. In 2001 there were 4,466 cases of child abuse according to MOI statistics. Following the 1999 enactment of the Domestic Violence Control Law, 21 city and county governments established domestic violence protection centers, the goal of which is to protect women, children and senior citizens from violence. Services include a 24-hour hot line, emergency assistance, shelter, medical treatment and examination, counseling for victims, legal assistance, and education and training. Under the law any persons discovering cases of child abuse or neglect must notify the police, social welfare, or child welfare authorities; child welfare specialists must make such notification within 24 hours; and the authorities involved must issue an investigation report within 24 hours. Both the MOI's Social Affairs Department and nongovernmental specialists asserted that these requirements were followed. In October the Shihlin District Court found a senior member of a Buddhist academy guilty of sexually harassing novice monks in 2000. The defendant was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and has appealed his case to the Taiwan High Court. Financial subsidies were provided to low-income families with children in day care facilities and to local governments to promote child protection efforts. In 2001 the MOI assisted city and county governments in establishing 38 public daycare facilities and 26 child protection centers. The latter facilities have a total capacity of 938 and housed 528 children at year's end. From July to December, the MOI's pilot program in 3 counties provided assistance to aboriginal children in approximately 120 child abuse cases. In 2001 a hot line was established to accept complaints of child abuse and offer counseling. Courts are authorized to appoint guardians for children who have either lost their parents or whose parents are deemed unfit.
In 1999 the first juvenile court was established in Kaohsiung to handle criminal cases. Previously regular courts handled such cases. The court employed 24 juvenile counselors, and was believed to have been effective in dealing with juvenile criminal cases. There were three juvenile detention centers on the island.
Although no reliable statistics were available, child prostitution was a serious problem, particularly among aboriginal children (see Section 6.f.). Most child prostitutes ranged in age from 12 to 17 years. 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 for not less than 6 months and not more than 2 years. However, legal loopholes and cultural barriers remained obstacles to enforcement. According to well-informed observers, the practice of aboriginal families selling their children into prostitution no longer existed.
According to some reports, brothel owners used violence, drug addiction, and other forms of coercion to prevent child prostitutes from escaping. The law provides for up to 2 years' incarceration for customers of prostitutes under the age of 18. The law also requires the publication of the names of violators in newspapers. In the first 10 months of the year, the names of approximately 100 persons convicted of patronizing child prostitutes were published. Under a plan adopted by the NPA, city and county authorities across the island have established police task forces to strengthen their efforts against child prostitution. From January through November, 1,479 persons were indicted and 1,128 were convicted for violations of the law. During this period, the police rescued 346 child prostitutes. The law prohibits the media from running advertisements involving the sex trade and imposes penalties on citizens arrested abroad for having sex with minors, and these laws were enforced in practice (see Section 6.f.).
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and sets minimum fines for various violations. New public buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment must be accessible to persons with disabilities, and in practice this requirement was generally met. Violations of the law resulted in fines of US$1,700 to US$8,600 (NT$60,000 to NT$300,000.) Existing public buildings were to be brought into conformity by 1995; however, as of year's end there did not yet appear to be a substantial effort aimed at refitting older buildings to accommodate persons with disabilities.
According to MOI statistics, there were 790,312 persons with disabilities. One-third of the total were severely disabled and received shelter or nursing care from the authorities. The Disabled Welfare Law requires large public and private organizations to hire persons with disabilities equal to 2 and 1 percent of their work force respectively. Organizations failing to do so must pay, for each person with disabilities not hired, 50 percent of the basic monthly salary (approximately $227 (NT$7,940)) into the Disabled Welfare Fund, which supports institutions involved in welfare for persons with disabilities. Many organizations complained that it was difficult to find qualified workers with disabilities, and they appeared to prefer to pay the fines. Another law requires that, to compete for government contracts, a firm with at least 100 employees must include among its employees a minimum of 2 percent of either persons with disabilities or Aborigines. Both the central and local governments have established committees for the protection of persons with disabilities.
The only non-Chinese minority group consists of the aboriginal descendants of Malayo-Polynesians already well established on the island when the first Chinese settlers arrived. According to MOI statistics, there were 429,534 of these Aborigines. More than 70 percent were Christian, while the dominant Han Chinese were largely Buddhist or Taoist. The civil and political rights of Aborigines are protected under law. The National Assembly amended the Constitution in 1992 and again in 1997 to upgrade the status of aboriginal people, protect their right of political participation, and to ensure their cultural, educational, and business development. In addition the authorities instituted social programs to help Aborigines assimilate into the dominant Chinese society. The cabinet-level Council of Aboriginal Affairs was established in 1996 to protect aboriginal rights and interests. Critics noted that its budget was quite small. The Ministry of Education offered some aboriginal language classes in primary schools. The Ministry of Education subsidized university education for Aborigines and worked to preserve aboriginal culture, history, and language through the establishment of Aborigine studies centers. The law requires that, to compete for government contracts, a firm with at least 100 employees must include among its employees a minimum of 2 percent of either persons with disabilities or Aborigines.
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 complained that they were prevented from owning ancestral lands in mountain areas under the authorities' control, some of which have been designated as national parks or conservation areas. Land rights remained a crucial issue for Aborigines, along with social discrimination, educational underachievement, low economic status, and high rates of alcoholism. Some Aborigine leaders have come to believe that only some form of autonomy can preserve their land rights, which constantly were threatened by Chinese developers who used connections and corruption to gain title to aboriginal land. According to Council of Aboriginal Affairs statistics, only approximately 70 percent of Aborigine children completed elementary school.
The sale of Aborigine children into prostitution by their parents reportedly no longer occurred.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Although the JY ruled in 1995 that the right of association is protected by the Constitution, legislation implementing this decision had not been passed; teachers, civil servants, and defense industry workers were not permitted to form labor unions. In June the LY passed the Civil Servants Association Law, which allows civil servants to organize but forbids them to strike. On September 28, more than 100,000 teachers from around the island gathered in downtown Taipei to demand their right to form unions.
A number of laws and regulations further limit the right of association. Labor unions may draw up their own rules and constitutions, but they must submit these to the authorities for review. Labor unions may be dissolved if they do not meet certification requirements or if their activities disturb public order. However, there were no instances of the authorities dissolving local labor groups or denying certification to new labor unions during the year.
The Labor Union Law requires that labor union leaders be elected regularly by secret ballot, and, in recent years, workers have sometimes rejected management-endorsed union slates. During the year there were no reports of political interference in labor union affairs.
Under the Labor Union Law, employers may not refuse employment to, dismiss, or otherwise unfairly treat workers because they are labor union members. However, in practice employers sometimes have dismissed labor union leaders without reasonable cause, or laid them off first during employee cutbacks, and observers pointed out that the law has no specific penalties for violations. According to the National Federation of Independent Trade Unionists, over 400 trade unionists and supporters have been fired since the labor movement began to expand after the 1987 lifting of martial law.
Labor unions may form confederations, but in the past no administrative district, including a city, county, or province, was allowed to have competing labor confederations. In 2000 the Government significantly eased restrictions on the right of association, and the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) recognized six new island-wide labor federations, including the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (previously known as the National Federation of Industrial Unions), the Chinese Labor Unions Federation, and the National Trade Union Confederation. Nonetheless the percentage of workers who are labor union members has not increased in recent years in the face of a series of factory closure layoffs, the shift from manufacturing to service industries, the small scale and poor organization of most unions, and past prosecution of labor activists by the authorities. As of June, some 2.9 million workers, approximately 29 percent of the 10.0 million-person labor force, belonged to 3,854 registered labor unions.
In 1971 the People's Republic of China replaced Taiwan in the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, in June the president of the China Federation of Labor (CFL), with assistance from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), attended the ILO annual meeting in Geneva. The CFL was affiliated with the ICFTU; the new federations were not internationally affiliated.
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.
The Collective Agreements Law provides for collective bargaining but does not make it mandatory. The 282 collective agreements in force in June involved roughly 26 percent of industrial labor unions and covered a relatively small proportion of the total workforce. Employers set wages generally in accordance with market conditions.
The law governing labor disputes recognizes the right of labor unions to strike but imposes restrictions that in practice make legal strikes difficult and seriously weaken collective bargaining. For example, the authorities require 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 and no-retaliation clauses. Employers in the past sometimes ignored the law and dismissed or locked out workers without any legal action being taken against them, although no such cases were reported during the year. The Council of Labor Affairs reported that from 1990 to 1999, there were 34 strikes, of which 23 involved workers at bus companies seeking increased pay and reduced hours. There were no strikes during the year, in 2001, or in 2000.
Firms in export processing zones were subject to the same laws regarding treatment of labor unions as other firms and followed normal practices including honoring collective bargaining agreements with their unions.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including forced and bonded labor by children; however, there were several cases of forced child prostitution prosecuted by the authorities (see Sections 5 and 6.f.).
In 1992 66 women who were forced to work as "comfort women" (women who, during World War II, were forced to provide sex to soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Government) registered with the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (TWRF). In 1999 TWRF helped nine of those still alive to file a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court seeking compensation of $81,300 (10 million Japanese Yen) per person and a formal apology from the Japanese Government. On October 15, the Tokyo District Court ruled against the women, who planned to appeal.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The Labor Standards Law (LSL) stipulates age 15, the age at which compulsory education ends, as the minimum age for employment. County and city labor bureaus enforced minimum age laws effectively. The Child Welfare Law, Juvenile Welfare Law, and Child and Juvenile Sexual Transaction Prevention Act protect children from debt bondage, prostitution, pornographic performances, and other illicit activities specified in ILO Convention 182.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Labor Standards Law addresses rights and obligations of employees and employers, but the law was not well enforced in areas such as overtime work and pay or retirement payments. By the end of 2001, the LSL covered 5.74 million of Taiwan's 6.8 million salaried workers. Those not covered included teachers, doctors, lawyers, civil servants, and domestic workers. The CLA conducted publicity campaigns to increase public awareness of the law and operated telephone hot lines to accept complaints of LSL violations.
The CLA did not increase the minimum monthly wage, which has remained at $452 (NT$15,840) since 1998. While sufficient in less expensive areas, this wage did not assure a decent standard of living for a worker and family in urban areas such as Taipei. However, the average manufacturing wage was more than double the legal minimum wage, and the average for service industry employees was even higher. In 2000 the LY passed legislation to reduce working hours from 48 hours per week to 84 hours per 2-week period. In the public sector, there is a 5-day workweek. According to a CLA survey, 49 percent of private enterprises also have implemented entire or partial 5-day workweeks.
The law provides only minimal standards for working conditions and health and safety precautions; it gives workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment.
Critics alleged that the CLA did not effectively enforce workplace laws and regulations because it employed too few inspectors. During the year, there were 260 inspectors available for the approximately 270,000 enterprises covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Law. However, with new cross-inspection measures, the number of health inspections increased 54 percent from 40,715 in 2000 to 62,840 in 2001, while the number of safety inspections increased by 35 percent from 39,676 to 53,713. The CLA maintains that it has strengthened its safety checks at workplaces with a greater risk of worker injury and it offered training programs to help workers protect their rights. Since many enterprises were small, family-owned operations employing relatives unlikely to report violations, actual adherence to the hours, wage, and safety sections of various labor laws was hard to document but was believed to be minimal in these smaller enterprises.
During the year, there were over 307,000 legal foreign workers, including approximately 122,000 workers from Thailand, 69,000 from the Philippines, and 19,000 from Vietnam. In 2000 the CLA adopted a series of measures to restrict foreign workers in Taiwan's major public construction projects, key manufacturing investment projects, and the manufacturing sector and announced that it intended to reduce the number of foreign workers on the island by 15,000 workers per year.
The law stipulates that foreign workers who are employed legally receive the same protection as local workers. However, the CLA in 1998 allowed family maids, including foreign family maids, to be exempted from the LSL, denying them the right to safeguards provided to citizens. Moreover authorities say that in many cases illegal foreign workers, many from Thailand and the Philippines, received board and lodging from their employers, but no medical coverage, accident insurance, or other benefits enjoyed by citizens. In response to deteriorating economic conditions, the Government adopted a proposal by the Economic Development Advisory Conference allowing room and board expenses for foreign workers, beginning with contracts signed in September 2001, to be treated as in-kind payments and deducted from foreign workers' pay.
Illegal foreign workers also were vulnerable to employer exploitation in the form of confiscation of passports (making it difficult to change employers), imposition of involuntary deductions from wages, and extension of working hours without overtime pay. There also were reports that foreign workers often paid high agency fees to obtain jobs. In addition observers reported that conditions in many small and medium-sized factories that employed illegal foreign labor were dangerous, due to old and poorly maintained equipment. Observers alleged that legal foreign workers were sometimes similarly exploited. The CLA urged employers not to mistreat foreign workers, and employers were subject to the same penalties for mistreating foreign workers as for mistreating citizen workers. In an effort to reduce broker fees, the CLA revoked permits of agencies charging excessive fees, and local governments inspected agency hiring practices. The CLA also negotiated direct hire agreements with labor sending countries, and encouraged NGOs to establish nonprofit employment service organizations to assist foreign laborers in locating employment.
In 2000 the CLA ended the practice of requiring foreign female workers to undergo pregnancy tests. In the past, those who tested positive were subject to immediate deportation. In November the CLA repealed regulations requiring the deportation of foreign laborers who became pregnant and further amended regulations to allow them to switch to jobs with lighter workloads. The CLA has established 20 offices around the island to provide counseling and other services to foreign workers; and it provided financial assistance to city and county governments to conduct inspections of places where foreign workers were employed. It also was attempting to reduce the number of illegal foreign workers.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The Statute for the Prevention of Child and Juvenile Sexual Trafficking empowers the authorities to prosecute any person who forces a child below the age of 18 to engage in sex or sells or pawns such a child by other means. Provisions in the Criminal Code can also be used to prosecute traffickers in persons above the age of 18. Trafficking in persons was a problem.
The island remained a significant transit point and, to a lesser extent, a destination for trafficked persons. There were reports of organized crime rings trafficking in a small number of women for the purpose of prostitution. The majority of cases involved women from mainland China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Criminal gangs in mainland China reportedly used deceptive measures to recruit and procure young women who were then trafficked to Taiwan-based organized crime gangs who arranged sham marriages to enable them to obtain visas to enter Taiwan, and exploited them for purposes of prostitution. Many of the victims were aware that they were to work as prostitutes, but were deceived by the traffickers about what their pay and working and living conditions would be upon arrival. Once in Taiwan, they were kept isolated, their passports were held, and they were threatened with violence if they did not cooperate. Small numbers of young Malaysian women, primarily ethnic Chinese, were trafficked to Taiwan for sexual exploitation. Burmese also were trafficked to Taiwan. The authorities, academic experts, and NGO experts claimed that the number of trafficking victims has decreased significantly in recent years. The authorities reportedly prosecuted eight trafficking cases during 2000.
Taiwan remained a significant transit point for persons from mainland China attempting to travel illegally to the United States and other countries. Some of these illegal migrants became trafficking victims in the destination countries. In 1999 the LY enacted legislation which criminalized alien smuggling (see Section 2.d.).
Police were trained in handling trafficking, prostitution, and cases of domestic violence. The Government worked with NGOs to provide counseling and medical assistance to victims as needed. Foreign victims of trafficking were repatriated as quickly as possible.
The whole text of the 2002 Report can be found at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18240.htm.