Taiwan’s population of 23 million is governed by a president and parliament chosen in multiparty elections. In 2004 President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was reelected in a close election. The opposition coalition made up of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) won 114 of the 225 Legislative Yuan (LY) seats. The elections were generally regarded as free and fair. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The authorities generally respected the human rights of citizens; however, there continued to be problems reported in the following areas: corruption by officials, violence and discrimination against women, trafficking in persons, and abuses of foreign workers.
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 that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution stipulates that no violence, threat, inducement, fraud, or other improper means should be used against accused persons. Several human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) stated they had not received any reports of physical abuse of persons held in police custody. One NGO received several police abuse complaints, but was unable to substantiate the reports. Unlike in previous years, lawyers and legal scholars did not complain of police abuse occurring when interrogations were not recorded or when attorneys were not present.
The primary responsibility for investigating torture and mistreatment lies with prosecutors. The Control Yuan (CY), the highest government oversight agency, also investigates such cases.
The law allows suspects to have attorneys present during interrogations, primarily to ensure that abuse does not take place (see section 1.d.). The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stated that each interrogation was audiotaped or videotaped and that any allegation of mistreatment was investigated. Police were subject to severe punishment for abusing their authority in arresting or detaining suspects or using threats of violence to extract evidence.
The criminal code provides that criminal charges must be based on legally obtained evidence. A confession by a defendant or accomplice, without other evidentiary support, is not sufficient to convict a defendant. Police must investigate allegations that a confession was illegally obtained before proceeding to other evidence.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. Prison overcrowding was a growing problem. As of December prisons operated at 119 percent of design capacity.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The National Police Administration (NPA) of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has administrative jurisdiction over all police units. City mayors and county magistrates appoint city and county police commissioners from candidates recommended by the NPA. Mayors and magistrates are responsible for maintaining order and assessing the performance of police commissioners within their jurisdiction.
Police corruption continued to be a problem. In July four police officers and their police chief were indicted on suspicion of taking bribes to conceal a gambling ring. In November three officers were detained for accepting bribes from illegal casinos, and another officer was indicted for leaking investigation information to a criminal group suspected of kidnapping.
Following a spate of police corruption scandals the MOI announced in November that it would increase inspection of the police and require police chiefs to cooperate closely with prosecutors’ investigations. Prosecutors and the CY are responsible for investigating allegations of police malfeasance. The NPA also has an inspector general and an internal affairs division that conduct internal police investigations. Police officers and senior officials suspected of corruption are prosecuted and punished upon conviction.
Arrest and Detention
Police may legally detain without a warrant anyone they suspect of committing a crime when the punishment would be imprisonment of five years or more if there is ample reason to believe the person may flee. When circumstances are too urgent to apply for a summons prior to questioning, police may question a person without first obtaining the required summons from a public prosecutor. However after detaining a suspect, the authorities must immediately apply to a prosecutor for a warrant in order 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. If the prosecutor rejects the application for a warrant, the police must release the detainee immediately. Indicted persons may be released on bail at judicial discretion. By 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 two months and, with court approval, a single extension of an additional two months. Limits also apply to detention during trial. If a crime is punishable by less than 10 years’ imprisonment, then no more than three extensions of two months each may be granted during the trial and appellate proceedings. During a second appeal, only one extension may be granted. The authorities generally observed these procedures, and trials usually took place within three months of indictment.
During an interrogation the law requires that the police inform a suspect 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 subsequently amended, the police must inform the suspect. The authorities generally respected a detainee’s request to have a lawyer present during the investigation phase. When a detainee requests legal counsel, police must wait at least four hours for a lawyer before proceeding with an interrogation. Although the law requires that indigent persons be provided legal counsel during trials, it does not provide for legal counsel during interrogations.
Confessions from interrogations conducted in the evenings generally are not to be used as evidence; allegations that a confession was obtained illegally are to be investigated before it can be used in a trial. With the exception of urgent circumstances, when such equipment is unavailable, interrogations must be audiotaped or videotaped, and when written reports of interrogations are in conflict with evidence in audiotapes and videotapes, the contradictory interrogation may not be used as evidence.
Some human rights advocates claimed that the rules did not provide adequate protection since suspects often did not have legal representation during interrogation. Informed observers continued to report that public defense counsels did not appear until the final argument of a trial and that they seldom spent adequate time discussing the case with their clients. In response to this complaint, courts continued allowing appointment of private attorneys or public defense counsel for detainees. In a first trial, courts require that counsel interview the detainee at least once before each hearing and, in an appeal, whenever the detainee requests an interview.
On January 11, the Judicial Yuan (JY) approved a pilot legal aid program to provide indigent suspects with counsel during initial police questioning. The program, started in November, recruited volunteer attorneys and worked with the NPA to establish clear procedural guidelines. A NGO, the Legal Aid Foundation of Taiwan, also provided professional legal services to the indigent.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice. Although the government made efforts to eliminate corruption and to diminish political influence in recent years, residual problems remained (see section 3).
The JY, headed by a president and vice president, is one of the five coequal branches of the political system and includes the 15-member Council of Grand Justices (CGJ), 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. An administrative court provides judicial review of administrative decisions.
Active-duty military personnel are subject to the military justice system. Except in exigent circumstances, a military court-issued warrant is required to arrest a suspect or to search a person or place. A search incident to arrest does not require a separate warrant. Suspects are entitled to counsel during interrogation. Suspects can be detained up to 60 days, which can be extended upon a showing of good cause. Trial must take place no later than 90 days after arrest. Defendants are entitled to counsel during trial and are entitled to collect and present evidence in their defense. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Cases are tried before one or more military judges. Established guidelines limit judges’ sentencing discretion. Defendants can appeal convictions to higher military courts and then to the civilian court system. Critics contend that since military prosecutors and judges are usually officers in the same unit and under the same command, there is insufficient separation between them to properly safeguard a defendant’s interests.
The constitution establishes the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Judges, rather than juries, decide cases; all judges are appointed by, and are responsible to, the JY. In a typical court case, a single judge rather than a defense attorney or prosecutor interrogates parties and witnesses. 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’s access to government-held evidence is determined by the presiding judge on a case-by-case basis. All defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and criminal procedure rights are extended to all persons without limitation.
A defendant has the right to an attorney. If the defendant is charged with committing a crime for which the penalty is three 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. Although the government took measures to strengthen the effectiveness of defense representation, some human rights lawyers argued that more improvements were necessary. 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. All convicted persons have the right to appeal to the next higher court level. Persons sentenced to terms of imprisonment of three years or more may appeal beyond that level. The Supreme Court automatically reviews life imprisonment and death sentences. It is unconstitutional to allow the confessions of accomplices to be used as the only evidence to convict a defendant.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
District courts are the courts of first instance for the trial of civil monetary and non-monetary claims, including those seeking redress for human rights violations. High courts hear appeals from the district courts. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal and will review judgments of the high courts, but only on questions of law, not fact. A separate two-tier administrative court system resolves disputes arising from administrative laws. Courts are empowered to attach assets and issue provisional and permanent injunctions. There were no reports of problems enforcing domestic court orders.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution protects the right to privacy and this was generally respected in practice. The law requires prosecutors to obtain judicial approval of search warrants, except when incidental to arrest or when there are concerns that evidence may be destroyed. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of police misusing the search-incidental-to-arrest provision. The police must report any incidental search to a prosecutor or the court within 24 hours. The court must decide whether the incidental search violated the law. A police officer convicted of conducting an illegal search may be given a sentence of up to one year in prison.
The law imposes severe penalties for unauthorized wiretapping. The law provides 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 MOJ and the police used wiretapping as an investigative tool. According to the MOJ prosecution department, the annual number of approved wiretappings has steadily increased from 19,845 in 2004 to 24,117 in 2005, and to 25,556 through November.
Homosexual rights advocacy groups claim that government law enforcement agencies monitored Internet chat room and bulletin-board exchanges between adults (see section 2.a.).
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 government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.
Government and political party officials are forbidden from holding positions in broadcast media companies. Government entities and political parties were required to divest themselves of all radio and broadcast companies by December 2005. On April 21, the government donated its 70 percent share of China Television System (CTS) to the Public Television Service (PTS). The two companies merged into the Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS), which was privatized on July 1. By year’s end the government had not sold its 47 percent stake in Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV). Critics argued that more needed to be done to insulate broadcast news media from political influence.
On February 22, the National Communications Commission (NCC) convened for the first time. On July 21, the CGJ determined that the system for appointing commissioners was unconstitutional, but allowed the sitting commissioners to remain in office until new commissioners could be appointed.
In April the NCC reinstated the license of cable news channel Eastern TV. The Government Information Office (GIO) had revoked the license in 2005, provoking charges that it had infringed on press freedom and hurt the livelihoods of broadcast journalists. On July 12, Eastern TV resumed operations.
In May the Executive Yuan Administrative Appeals Review Committee reversed another controversial GIO decision. In November 2005 GIO levied a $30,000 (NT$1 million) fine on TVBS, a Hong Kong-invested satellite broadcast station. GIO alleged TVBS had exceeded the 50 percent cap on foreign ownership. GIO was ordered to return the fine. TVBS, which had been a vocal critic of government corruption, had accused the GIO of a “political witch hunt.”
Also in May the NCC decided to halt a GIO plan to restructure publicly owned radio networks and to reorganize the distribution of frequencies. Instead the NCC proposed to open new FM frequencies for commercial use. The NCC plan was expected to create a mechanism for the commercial sale and transfer of radio frequencies and formal procedures for their recovery and reassignment by the government.
There was a vigorous and active free press. Critics alleged that dependency upon government advertising revenue and loans from government-controlled banks deterred media outlets from criticizing the government. The government denied using loans or advertising revenue to manipulate the media. On April 30, the Executive Yuan terminated its media purchasing program.
On September 16, supporters of President Chen Shui-bian attacked four television journalists covering a pro-Chen demonstration. Police arrested some of the attackers, who claimed the journalists were biased against the president.
For three consecutive days in April a Taipei court ordered a United Daily News reporter named Kao to pay a fine of $1,000 (NT$30,000) per day until he revealed the source for an article that allegedly caused the stock of a company to lose two-thirds of its value. Kao refused to disclose his source, decried the court’s decision to fine him as a “serious violation of press freedom,” and filed an appeal.
By law the police may seize violent or pornographic material. The police must request search warrants from prosecutors to conduct such seizures (see section 1.f.).
On October 26, the Constitutional Court (CC) held that freedom of publication is not an absolute right, stipulating that certain sexually explicit materials are protected only as long as they are properly packaged and labeled. Based on the CC interpretation, the owner of a gay bookstore appealed his 2005 conviction for violating the criminal code, which bans the sale, circulation, and public display of obscene publications. The owner argued the magazines were legally imported from Hong Kong and had been properly packaged in opaque wrappers as required by adult publications ordinances.
The GIO, which requires that any publications imported from mainland China be sent to the GIO Publications Department for screening before sale or publication, has the authority to ban importation of publications that advocate communism or the establishment of united front organizations, endanger public order or good morals, or violate laws. Nevertheless, a wide variety of mainland China-origin material was accessible through the Internet as well as in retail stores. Cable television systems were required to send imported material to the GIO for screening and to convert subtitles from the simplified characters used in mainland China to traditional characters before broadcasting.
The media occasionally infringed on individuals’ right to privacy. The media often taped and aired police interrogations and entered hospital rooms when the patient was unable to prevent such entry. The electronic media also frequently ignored individuals’ requests to respect their privacy. In August a prominent sports figure announced that he would no longer accept interviews by the media because reporters had harassed his parents. He reversed his decision eight days later, after the media agreed to respect his and his parents’ privacy.
There were generally no government restrictions on access to the Internet, with the following exceptions:
In September the Ministry of National Defense investigated a military pilot who took a picture of the presidential plane while flying escort. The pilot’s girlfriend posted the photograph on her Web site, with commentary critical of the president. Military authorities argued that the posting of the photograph was a breach of national security.
In October 2005 the GIO promulgated regulations that restricted access to certain Internet sites based on an Internet content rating to persons 18 years of age or older. Rules required restricted material to be clearly marked.
Homosexual rights advocacy groups claim that government law enforcement agencies monitored Internet chat room and bulletin-board exchanges between adults. Several NGOs reported that law enforcement officials prosecuted and punished adults for posting sexually suggestive messages. According to one NGO, police used Internet network addresses to identify individual perpetrators, who were then charged. Critics noted the law has no age limitation and asserted that police enforcement against adults violated free speech rights.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
The law prohibits teachings, writings, or research that advocate communism or communist united front organizations, which endanger the public order or good morals, or violate regulations or laws. The government did not otherwise restrict academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and authorities generally respected these rights in practice. Although the National Security Law gives the government the authority to prevent demonstrations advocating communism or the division of the national territory, pro-independence and pro-reunification demonstrations took place without government interference.
Under the Civic Organizations Law, the Constitutional Court, which is made up of the CGJ, has 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.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.
The Jewish community consisted of approximately 150 members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The constitution provides these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice.
All travelers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are required to have invitations from sponsors and are subject to approval by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC). PRC tourists must travel in groups, stay at designated hotels, and return to their hotel rooms by 10 p.m. PRC tour groups must be chaperoned by a Taiwan travel agency, which is required to post a $29,000 (NT$1 million) bond for each group. The bond is forfeited if any tour group member is involved in legal problems or is reported missing. The Tourism Bureau must be notified in advance of any change to a tour group itinerary. PRC visitors who come to the country for family and business purposes are required to regularly report their location to the police. They are also prohibited from seeking employment in the country.
Regulations require that PRC spouses of Taiwanese citizens who apply for a national identification card pass a security clearance.
PRC journalists were granted a maximum stay of 30 days. PRC national news outlets China Central Television (CCTV), China National Radio, and China News Service regularly assign up to two journalists in the country at a time. At year’s end there were six journalists from these news agencies on one-month assignments in Taiwan.
In March 2005 after the PRC adopted the Anti secession Law, Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily were temporarily barred from posting journalists to Taiwan. Subsequently, journalists from these two news organizations were permitted to visit the country but were not granted the maximum one-month stay.
The law does not provide for forced exile, and it was not practiced.
According to the Cross-Strait Relations Act, Taiwan citizens residing in the PRC will lose Taiwan citizenship if they do not return within four years. They may apply to recover citizenship through relatives or a legal representative. Applications to recover citizenship were regularly granted, and there were no reports of rejected applications.
Protection of Refugees
The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. All PRC citizens unlawfully present are required by law to be returned to the PRC, including trafficking in-persons victims (see section 5). Although the authorities were reluctant to return to the mainland those who might suffer political persecution, they regularly deported mainlanders who illegally entered the island for what were presumed to be economic reasons.
During the year authorities regularly renewed two PRC democracy activists’ three-month temporary visas and continued to provide them financial support. However their requests for long-term visas were denied and the two continued to seek asylum in a third country. They first entered Taiwan illegally in 2004 by fishing boat, and requested asylum. After brief confinement in a detention center, they were released and allowed freedom of movement.
Throughout the year the government repatriated illegal immigrants to their countries of origin. According to MOI, the total number of illegal PRC immigrants deported to the mainland declined, from 2,352 in 2005 to 1,596 during the year. At year’s end, 480 illegal PRC immigrants were in detention centers awaiting repatriation.
PRC illegal immigrants continued to wait long periods in detention. During the year their average wait time before repatriation was 377 days. By comparison, non-PRC illegal aliens averaged just 37 days in detention before repatriation. MOI claimed that some PRC detainees gave false name and age information, making it difficult for PRC authorities to properly identify them. Some were charged with criminal acts and must await trial and sentencing before repatriation. MOI also faulted PRC authorities for causing procedural delays.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: the Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
According to the law, candidates are free to run for any office in an election as long as they meet all requirements. Both the DPP and the KMT utilized a combination of public opinion polls and primary elections to select candidates. Independent candidates were common. The law specifies and regulates the maximum budget each candidate can spend in an election. In general, individuals and parties were given full freedom within the confines of the law to participate in elections.
On December 9, the KMT candidate was elected mayor of Taipei by a sizeable margin, and the DPP candidate was elected mayor of Kaohsiung by less than 1,200 votes (0.12 percent). The Kaohsiung mayoral candidates traded accusations of vote-buying, but at year’s end the courts declined to order a recount, citing insufficient evidence. By early December prosecutors had received 463 complaints of vote-buying related to the mayoral and city council races in Taipei and Kaohsiung.
In December 2005 the KMT defeated the DPP in island-wide city, county and local government elections. Despite allegations of vote-buying and isolated cases of unethical campaign practices, the elections were viewed as free and fair.
In the 2004 presidential election, President Chen Shui-bian was re-elected and in the 2004 legislative elections, the opposition KMT-PFP coalition won a narrow majority in the LY. Both elections were hotly contested in an intense partisan atmosphere but generally were regarded as free and fair. An apparent assassination attempt against President Chen and Vice President Lu on the eve of the vote and the extremely close election result continued to be matters of controversy. In August 2005 the Supreme Court prosecutor’s office concluded that the assassination attempt was made by a retired construction worker, Chen Yi-hsiung, who committed suicide after the incident. The KMT-PFP opposition rejected the report and in May established a second investigation committee. The report from the second committee alleged the assailant had not committed suicide but was murdered. The results of both investigations were delivered to the Tainan district prosecutor’s office.
On January 19, Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s second female vice premier. Vice President Annette Lu was re-elected to a second term in 2004. Six of the 48 cabinet members were women. Three of the 21 members of the Examination Yuan were women. Three of the 13 grand justices were women. Three of the 15 members of the DPP central standing committee and 12 of the 30 members of the DPP central executive committee were women. Ten of the 31 members of the KMT central standing committee were women. There were 46 women in the 221-member LY. According to constitutional amendments passed in June 2005, at least half of the nominees for at-large overseas legislators must be 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. Aborigines accounted for about 2 percent of the population; their allocation of legislative seats was almost twice their proportional representation. An Aborigine served as Chairman of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs.
Government Corruption and Transparency
There were allegations of government corruption during the year. However, the government continued to take action to combat corruption in the executive and judicial branches of government. Allegations of vote buying continued, although all political parties committed publicly to ending the practice.
In February regulations went into effect that required political appointees to the cabinet (Executive Yuan) and its subordinate agencies to place all financial assets into a trust within three months of assuming office and, for those already in office, within three months of the effective date of the regulations.
President Chen’s son-in-law was indicted for insider trading and embezzlement in May. First lady Wu Shu-chen was also accused of questionable financial dealings. On June 27, the legislature rejected a motion to recall President Chen. In late July prosecutors began an investigation of alleged misuse of presidential office accounts by the president, his wife, and several officials from the presidential office. Two weeks of mass demonstrations took place in September calling for the president’s resignation. On October 13, a second legislative motion to recall President Chen failed. The first lady was indicted for corruption, on November 3, as were several officials of the presidential office for offenses related to the alleged improper use of presidential office funds. Although not indicted because of presidential immunity, the president was named as an involved party. A third motion to recall President Chen failed on November 24.
During the year a number of senior government officials were also investigated for corruption, including former presidential office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan, former head of the cabinet-level Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Kong Jaw-sheng and former director general of the FSC’s Examination Bureau, Lee Chin-chen, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for facilitating insider trading. Several senior Kaohsiung officials were named as suspects in the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation labor scandal. Keelung City mayor Hsu Tsai-li was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption. Several former vice ministers and deputy ministers were also under investigation for alleged corruption.
By November prosecutors had indicted 1,487 persons on various corruption charges and had convicted 1,252 persons. Of those accused, 77 were high-ranking government officials, 244 were mid-level, 394 were low-level, and 58 were elected officials.
In November 2005 the Public Officials Election and Recall Act was revised to stiffen penalties for those convicted of vote-buying. As a result, those convicted face a mandatory jail sentence of three to 10 years.
In December 2005 the LY passed the Access to Government Information Law. Under the law, all government information must be made available to the public upon request, except national secrets, professional secrets, personal information, and intellectual property rights. All citizens, including those living overseas, and all companies and groups registered in the country, as well as foreign citizens whose countries do not prohibit Taiwan citizens from applying for access to their government information, can submit information requests and can administratively appeal if such requests are denied.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
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.
Violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, remained a serious problem. The law allows prosecutors to take the initiative in investigating complaints of domestic violence without waiting for a spouse to file a formal lawsuit. As of November, 2,038 persons had been prosecuted for domestic violence, and 1,527 persons had been convicted. Typically persons convicted in domestic violence cases were sentenced to less than six months in prison. Strong social pressure not to disgrace their families discouraged abused women from reporting incidents to the police.
By November, 61,508 cases of domestic violence were reported, representing a projected 9 percent increase of reported cases over 2005. MOI cited this as evidence that women were more willing to report domestic violence.
Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime and remained a serious problem; its victims were socially stigmatized. Experts estimated that the total number of rapes was 10 times the number reported to the police. The law provides protection for rape victims. Mentally handicapped victims and those under 16 years of age are allowed to testify via a two-way television system. Rape trials may not be open to the public unless the victim consents. By regulation, doctors, social workers, police, and prosecutors jointly question victims of sexual abuse to reduce the number of times a victim is questioned. The law permits a charge of rape without requiring the victim to press charges.
The law establishes the punishment for rape as not less than five years’ imprisonment, and those convicted usually were given prison sentences of five to 10 years. According to the MOI, 6,601 reports of rape or sexual assault were filed during the year. Prosecutors tried 1,825 of those cases and convicted 1,535 persons. Women’s rights activists criticized law enforcement for bringing only a small percentage of perpetrators to justice.
The law requires all city and county governments to establish violence prevention and control centers to address domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elderly abuse. These government-funded centers provided victims with protection, medical treatment, emergency assistance, shelter, legal counseling, and education and training on a 24-hour basis. As of November the centers obtained 26,143 protection orders from the courts.
Prostitution was illegal. Prostitution, including child prostitution, was a problem. Trafficking in women remained a problem (see section 5, Trafficking). Authorities reported that the number of prostitutes from Southeast Asian countries, mainly Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia, increased.
During the year authorities arrested 380 Southeast Asian women for prostitution, a 73 percent increase over 2005. Those arrested included 186 women from Vietnam, 105 from Indonesia, and 55 from Thailand. At the same time, prostitution arrests of women from the PRC, Hong Kong, and Macau declined sharply. During the year 664 PRC women who had entered Taiwan legally were arrested for prostitution, a decrease of 48 percent from 2005. Seventeen illegal PRC entrants were also arrested for prostitution, a 66 percent drop from 2005. There were reports of a growing trend of teenagers and young women being lured into prostitution by Internet advertisements promising employment, large salaries, and adventure.
The law prohibits sex discrimination. The law also stipulates that measures be taken to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. The Gender Equality in Employment Act (GEEA) provides for equal treatment with regard to salaries, promotions, and assignments. The GEEA entitles women to request up to two-years of unpaid maternity leave and forbids termination because of pregnancy or marriage. Despite the law, women continued to be denied maternity leave or were forced to quit jobs due to marriage, age, or pregnancy. Women’s advocates noted that women continued to be promoted less frequently, occupied fewer management positions, and worked for lower pay than their male counterparts. Women make up 42 percent of the total workforce, and 50 percent of the service industry workforce. According to the Council on Labor Affairs (CLA), salaries for women averaged 85 percent of those for men performing comparable jobs.
During the year a poll reported that most women were unaware of or did not understand their employment rights. Women’s rights activists urged the government to more actively promote workplace gender equality. Most city and county administrations formed committees to deal with complaints of sexual discrimination in the workplace.
In February the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act went into effect. Sexual harassment is a crime. Violators face fines of $3,000 to $30,000 (NT$100,000 to NT$1,000,000) and imprisonment for up to two years. All levels of government and larger private employers were required to enact preventive measures and establish complaint procedures to deter sexual harassment. Hot lines were established in several major cities, but reporting levels were well below expectations. Women’s groups criticized the government’s implementation of the law as ineffective, and attributed low reporting rates to inadequate publicity.
Since 1987 the country has registered more than 370,000 marriages to foreigners, mostly women from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. During the year 20 to 30 percent of all marriages were to foreign-born spouses and 13 percent of all births were to foreign-born mothers. Government regulations do not adequately protect the rights of foreign spouses, especially those with children from the marriage.
Foreign spouses are initially issued a visitor’s visa, which usually must be renewed outside the country. Foreign spouses cannot apply for citizenship until they have resided in the country for three consecutive years. They are required to relinquish their home country citizenship in order to apply. Citizenship is typically granted after the fourth consecutive year of residence; thus, for one year foreign spouses are technically stateless. Without citizenship, foreign spouses can be deported if their visas expire. In one high-profile case, a married Taiwanese man named Chan used another man’s identity to marry a Cambodian woman, who bore him twins. When the woman’s visa expired, she was unable to renew it because her registered husband, named Yao, had died. The Cambodian woman was deported, and Chan arranged with the authorities to adopt the twins. The mother of the twins appealed to a legislator for help. At year’s end the MOI had not decided whether the twin’s mother was entitled to custody, or if she would be permitted to return to the country.
Foreign spouses were targets of discrimination both inside and outside the home. Most cross-border marriages were arranged by brokers, whose advertisements in Taiwan were frequently degrading to women. For fees ranging from $7,000 to $12,000 (NT$250,000 to $400,000), brokers typically flew clients to other Southeast Asian cities, where they could choose from a group of eligible women recruited by the broker. The marriage and necessary paperwork were usually completed within a week. Several reports suggested that this commercialized process likened foreign spouses to property and contributed to their mistreatment. A MOI report concluded that social and economic marginalization contributed to an abnormally high rate of domestic violence in cross-border marriages. Traffickers abused the spousal visa program to bring foreign women into the country for prostitution. Politicians publicly disparaged foreign spouses, which contributed to negative stereotypes.
To assist the growing number of foreign born spouses authorities took steps to help integrate them into society, including offering free Mandarin language and child-raising classes and counseling services at community outreach centers. The government-funded Legal Aid Foundation expanded its services to include an out reach to foreign spouses that included a hot line established to receive complaints. The MOI continued to operate its hot line service with staff conversant in Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian, English, and Chinese. As of November the service had received 651 calls from non-Chinese speakers. On October 1, Chunghwa Telecom, in collaboration with a local NGO, activated a similar free nationwide telephone hot line which provided assistance to foreign born spouses.
The government was committed to the rights and welfare of children, and the law included provisions to protect them. Education for children between six and 15 years of age was free, universal, compulsory, and enforced. According to government statistics, 99 percent of school-age children attended primary and junior high school. Children were provided health care under the national health insurance plan.
Child abuse continued to be a widespread and growing problem. According to 2005 MOI statistics, reports of child abuse rose by 26 percent over 2004. During the year this trend continued. Through September, 9,984 cases had been reported, including cases of physical, mental, or sexual abuse or harm due to guardian neglect, marking a projected increase of 24 percent over 2005. Approximately 90 percent of abusers were parents, relatives, or caregivers. Hospitals, schools, social welfare organizations, or the police reported 60 percent of all cases, with 40 percent of reports coming from family members or the public. Fifty percent of all cases were reported through the child abuse hot line. The central government, local governments, and private organizations continued efforts to identify and assist high-risk children and families, and to increase public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.
In July the central and local governments began a $100 (NT$3,000) per month per child subsidy program to reduce financial stress on lower-income families deemed to be at high risk for child abuse. The central government paid 70 percent of the $6.4 million (NT$198 million) program, with local governments contributing the rest. The program was expected to help as many as 15,000 underprivileged children. The government also allocated $1 million (NT$31.5 million) to hire an additional 140 social workers to serve as child welfare case managers. MOI tripled funding for social welfare groups to $3 million (NT$135 million) to support their efforts to identify and assist high-risk children and families, and to increase public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.
By law, 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 to county or city governments within 24 hours, and authorities must respond with appropriate measures within 24 hours. County or city officials are required to submit a request for investigation to a supervisory agency within four days. Both the MOI children’s bureau and NGO specialists monitored cases to ensure that these requirements were met. A hot line accepted complaints of child abuse and offered counseling. Courts were authorized to appoint guardians for children who lost their parents or whose parents were deemed unfit.
The MOI provided guidance to local governments for day-care facilities and for children’s halfway houses and education centers. Financial subsidies were provided to low-income families with children in day-care facilities and to local governments to promote child protection efforts.
The law prohibited advertisements in the media tied to the sex trade. Persons could be indicted and convicted for patronizing underage prostitutes in foreign countries; adding to penalties imposed on citizens arrested abroad for having sex with minors. These laws were enforced in practice.
Solicitors of child prostitutes under the age of 14 faced sentences of three to 10 years in prison. Those who patronized prostitutes between the ages of 14 to 16 were sentenced to three to seven years. Solicitors of child prostitutes older than 16 but younger than 18 faced up to one year in prison or hard labor, or a fine up to $100,000 (NT$3 million).
During the year 997 persons were indicted and 887 persons were convicted of violating the Child and Youth Sexual Transaction Prevention Act, which criminalized possession and distribution of child pornography and child prostitution. This was a 16 percent increase in indictments but a 5 percent decrease in convictions from 2005. The law also required the publication of the names of violators in newspapers.
Trafficking in Persons
There was no comprehensive trafficking law, although most forms of trafficking were criminalized through a number of statutes. The law did not address prevention of trafficking or victim protection, which authorities nonetheless provided on an ad hoc basis. The MOJ and the MOI were responsible for combating trafficking.
Trafficking in persons remained a serious problem. The country continued to be a destination for women and girls, mainly from the PRC. These individuals were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor. There were numerous reports of women from Southeast Asian countries, primarily from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, being forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade after receiving fraudulent offers of employment. There also were reports of Taiwanese women being trafficked for sexual exploitation purposes to Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries.
During the year 261 persons were indicted for trafficking related offenses, this represented a 25 percent increase over 2005. Of those indicted, 92 persons were convicted, a 16 percent decrease from 2005. Of those convicted, 74 persons were found guilty of exploiting children for prostitution. Of those defendants, 29 were sentenced to five to seven years in prison, 16 were sentenced for three to five years, and 20 received sentences of one to three years. Another 12 defendants were convicted of forced prostitution. Two of them were sentenced to 10 to 15 years; three were sentenced to seven to 10 years; one was sentenced to five to seven years; and four were sentenced to three to five years. Five defendants were convicted of forced prostitution of a minor: two were sentenced to 10 to 15 years; two received seven to 10 years; and one was sentenced to one to two years. One defendant was convicted of human trafficking and received a prison sentence of seven to 10 years.
NGOs reported that traffickers continued to use fraudulent marriages as a method for human trafficking, in part because penalties for “husbands” were lenient. Foreign spouses, mainly from the PRC, but also from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, were lured to the country by marriage brokers, only to be forced into prostitution or exploitative labor. To counteract this trend the country reinstated a face-to-face interview requirement in January 2005 for Vietnamese women seeking to marry Taiwanese men. Mainland Chinese spouses were also required to undergo face-to-face interviews.
On June 6, MOI banned the formation of new cross-border matchmaking companies and announced that existing firms would be subject to stricter regulations and monitoring.
In July the Kaohsiung prosecutor’s office indicted eight individuals suspected of trafficking Vietnamese women for prostitution. Prosecutors requested sentences ranging from 20 years to life. Prosecutors also investigated allegations that local hospitals had colluded with traffickers to conduct illegal abortions on Vietnamese spouses.
In October a senior immigration official and 10 others were arrested for helping smuggle at least 80 Chinese women into the country for prostitution over a six month period.
NGOs and the media continued to report many incidents of physical and mental abuse. NGOs and academics asserted that more government regulation was needed to reduce deceptive marriage brokering and marriages of convenience for illegal purposes.
NPA officials stated that increasing law enforcement pressure on smuggling rings had forced traffickers to rely on other methods, including sham marriages. Ninety percent of those smuggled, both men and women, were from Fujian Province. Authorities continued to fund NGO anti trafficking prevention programs targeting minors and Southeast Asian women married to Taiwanese men. Taiwan also funded anti trafficking publicity campaigns in source countries.
According to a report released in February by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), the total number of illegal immigrants from the PRC, especially women, continued to drop. Through September 319 illegal Chinese immigrants were arrested, 28 of whom were women. In 2005 the CGA intercepted 1,069 Chinese nationals smuggled into the country; 182 of whom were women.
Labor trafficking remained a serious problem. NGOs reported that foreign laborers often contracted for one type of employment, but were diverted to another (see section 6.e.).
Authorities took several steps to combat trafficking and to repatriate illegal immigrants; including increased efforts to detect and disrupt criminal syndicates that smuggled migrants and trafficking victims. Officials also exchanged information with foreign law enforcement and immigration counterparts, especially those in Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and sets minimum fines for violations. Through September there were 969,000 persons identified as having mental or physical disabilities.
The law stipulates that the government must provide services and programs to the disabled population. Free universal medical care was provided to persons with disabilities. NGOs continued to note that more public nursing homes were needed and current programs, such as home care services, needed to be expanded to meet the growing needs of the disabled population, including the growing numbers of elderly persons.
The law requires all private enterprises with more than 100 employees to hire at least one disabled person per 100 workers. For all government offices, public schools, and public enterprises with 50 or more employees, disabled employees must comprise at least 2 percent of their total workforce. For each unmet quota position, both public and private organizations are required to pay into the Disabled Welfare Fund (DWF) an amount equal to one basic monthly salary or approximately $500 (NT$15,840). As of September persons with disabilities constituted approximately 2 percent of the public sector workforce.
The law provides monetary assistance for up to five years, and additional support through other programs, for those with occupational injuries. NGOs maintained that the government needed to extend the current five-year limit and liberalize the qualifications for assistance.
By law, new public buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment must be accessible to persons with disabilities, and this requirement was generally met. Violations resulted in fines of $1,800 to $9,100 (NT$60,000 to $300,000). The MOI guided local government efforts to budget for, develop, and implement refitting guidelines. Handicap-accessible public transportation, although limited to larger cities, increased to 224 special vehicles, including 32 low-chassis buses. Additional handicap-priority seating was installed in 233 buses. Five hundred buses were equipped with new handrails and 460 were equipped with anti skid flooring. NGOs stated that more vehicles were needed to accommodate demand.
The only non-Chinese minority group consisted of the aboriginal descendants of Malayo-Polynesians, who were well established on the island when the first Chinese settlers arrived. According to MOI statistics, Aborigines accounted for approximately 2 percent of the population. More than 70 percent of the Aborigines were Christian, while the dominant Han Chinese were largely Buddhist or Taoist. The civil and political rights of Aborigines were protected under law (see section 3). The LY amended the constitution in 1992 and again in 1997 to upgrade the status of aboriginal people, protect their right of political participation, and ensure their cultural, educational, and business development. In addition, the authorities also instituted social programs to help Aborigines assimilate into the dominant Chinese society.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
According to gay rights activists, anti-homosexual violence was rare, but societal discrimination against homosexuals and persons with HIV and AIDS was a problem. It was reported that some politicians and religious groups made derogatory remarks about the homosexual community. Free speech advocates alleged the government prejudicially applied obscenity laws to punish a seller of legally imported gay pornography (see section 2.a.).
There were no laws prohibiting homosexual activities. While the authorities were committed to protecting homosexual rights, discrimination against some groups continued.
The 2004 Gender Equality Education Law stipulated that except for traditionally male- or female-only schools, educational institutions cannot discriminate against prospective employees or students based on gender or sexual preference. All schools were obligated to establish curricula to foster greater tolerance of non-traditional gender roles. Homosexual rights activists welcomed the law but criticized government enforcement as inadequate.
On September 17, some 5,000 persons took part in the fourth annual gay rights rally; calling for society to respect the civil rights of the country’s estimated one million homosexuals.
The national health insurance system provides free screening and treatment, including antiretroviral therapy, for the estimated 12,000 HIV-infected nationals.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The right to unionize is protected by law but is highly regulated. At present, approximately 28 percent of the 10.4 million labor force belongs to one of the 4,352 registered labor unions. Many of them are also members of one of the eight country-wide labor federations.
Workers other than teachers, civil servants, and defense industry workers, are protected by the Labor Union Law (LUL). Under the LUL, employers may not refuse employment to, dismiss, or otherwise unfairly treat workers because of their union-related activities. The LUL requires that labor union leaders be elected regularly by secret ballot, and in recent years workers tended to reject management-endorsed union slates. However, in practice employers sometimes dismissed labor union leaders without reasonable cause or laid them off first during employee cutbacks. According to the Taiwan Federation of Trade Unions (TFTC) and the Taiwan Labor Front, the law has no specific penalties for violations.
Some public employees, including teachers, civil servants, and defense industry workers have only limited rights to form unions. These restrictions have led to a long running dispute between government authorities and groups that represent teachers and civil servants. Teachers and civil servants are allowed to form professional associations to negotiate with authorities but are not allowed to strike. A teachers’ union has been established since 2003 but has not been recognized by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA). Domestic workers have no right to organize.
A number of laws and regulations limit the right of association. While labor unions may draw up their own rules and constitutions, they must submit those rules and constitutions to their county and city governments as well as the CLA for review. Labor unions may be rejected or dissolved if they do not meet certification requirements or if their activities disturb public order. During the year for example, employees from two different financial companies attempted to form a union under the name of their parent holding company. The CLA rejected the bid, citing a law which forbids employees from different companies from forming a single union.
In 1971 the PRC replaced Taiwan in the International Labor Organization (ILO). However, Taiwan’s Chinese Federation of Labor attends the ILO annual meetings as an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Except for some public employees, the law gives workers the right to organize, bargain, and act collectively. As of March there were 233 collective agreements in force; however, they covered only a small proportion of the labor force, and 78 percent of industrial labor unions had no collective agreements.
The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right in practice. However, the law imposes restrictions that in practice make it difficult to strike legally, which undermines the usefulness of collective bargaining. For example, the law requires mediation of labor/management disputes when authorities deem 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. Moreover, labor unions are only allowed to strike over issues of compensation and working schedules. 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.
Recent efforts to privatize state-run enterprises resulted in rising tensions between labor unions and the authorities. In the last few years, strikes and protests by labor unions at Business Bank of Taiwan, Changhwa Commercial Bank, Taiwan Power Company, and Chunghwa Telecom have delayed privatization efforts. From January to November, 75,351 persons had been involved in labor disputes, compared with 77,260 during the same period of 2005.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including forced and compulsory labor by children. However, the authorities prosecuted several cases of forced child prostitution and there was evidence of labor trafficking (see section 5).
d. Prohibition of Child Labor 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 effectively enforced minimum-age laws.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The LSL addresses rights and obligations of employees and employers. The law also provides standards for working conditions and health and safety precautions. By year’s end the LSL covered an estimated 6 million of Taiwan’s 7.6 million salaried workers. Those not covered included nursery workers, gardeners, bodyguards, teachers, doctors, lawyers, civil servants, and domestic workers.
The minimum monthly wage is $500 (NT$15,840). 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. The average manufacturing wage was more than double the legal minimum wage, and the average wage for service industry employees was even higher. Legal working hours were 336 hours per eight-week period (for an average of 42 hours per work week). While a five-day work week was mandated for the public sector, according to a CLA survey, 55 percent of private sector enterprises also reduced the normal workweek to 5 days.
The law provided standards for working conditions and health and safety precautions and gave workers the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. Although the CLA conducted publicity campaigns during the year to increase public awareness of the law and operated telephone hot lines to accept complaints of LSL violations, there was widespread criticism that the CLA did not effectively enforce workplace laws and regulations. During the first 10 months of the year 128,992 inspections were completed. This was a 45 percent increase over the same period in 2005. This increase was due in part to the expansion of the CLA inspector corps by 150. Over 440 inspectors were responsible for supervising approximately 300,000 enterprises covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Law.
The CLA did not provide the same protection to foreign workers that it did to citizens. The LSL did not cover the more than 148,000 foreign workers employed as nursing caregivers or the 2,000 employed as housekeepers. According to an ITUC report released in June, 333,000 legal migrant workers suffered wage discrimination. These workers were not allowed to take leadership positions in unions, making them vulnerable to exploitation. In addition, migrant workers were often depicted by local media as dangerous or criminal.
No domestic workers were entitled to the minimum wage. Although the minimum wage was not a legal obligation, most domestic workers were hired through brokers who negotiated the minimum wage to ensure that the worker earned enough to cover the brokers’ fees. Of the $500 (NT$15,840) a month typically paid to domestic caretakers, after deductions by brokers, most domestic caretakers reportedly received only $100 (NT$3,000) to $200 (NT$6,000) per month in the first two years of working in Taiwan. Domestic workers could change jobs only under rare circumstances and were often not fully informed of available recourse in the event of abuse.
On January 16, CLA launched the Foreign Workers Service Center at the international airport. The service center provided orientation services to arriving workers and dispute resolution services to those departing the country. Service center telephones were located throughout the airport to facilitate the filing of complaints. As of June the center’s multilingual staff had responded to 65,538 service requests, including 124 petitions filed by workers facing deportation. Five workers were exempted from deportation and transferred to shelters to help authorities investigate abuse allegations.
On March 13 and 14, approximately 2,000 Thai factory workers in Kaohsiung city held a strike to seek equal treatment. CLA, with the help of the Yunlin county government and Thailand trade and economic office, quickly negotiated a settlement that addressed most of the workers’ demands. A similar strike took placed a few weeks earlier in another factory in Kaohsiung.
On March 31, 630 Thai construction workers employed by the Kaohsiung Railway Transit Corporation (KRTC) stopped work for one day to protest unpaid overtime work, increased medical expenses, substandard living conditions, and inadequate meals. KRTC management met with labor representatives and agreed to treat the strike as a holiday. Workers resumed work the next day.
On November 1, a package of new foreign labor regulations went into effect. Employers of foreign workers were required to agree to a “living management plan,” specifying an employee’s work hours, overtime provisions, living quarters, meal program, and free time. CLA inspectors were required to inspect a foreign worker’s living and work environment within 72 hours of the worker’s arrival in the country. For companies employing over 100 foreign workers, work and living facility inspections were required every three months. To prevent employers from deporting foreign workers without just cause, CLA required all contract terminations to be witnessed and approved by an appropriate city or county government official.
On November 8, the LY passed legislation establishing the National Immigration Agency (NIA). During the year the new agency consolidated elements of the National Police Agency, Council for Labor Affairs, MOI, and other agencies. NIA’s director assumed responsibility for all immigration-related policies and procedures for foreign workers, foreign spouses, immigrant services, and repatriation of illegal immigrants.
Labor trafficking remained a serious problem. NGOs reported that foreign laborers often contract for one type of employment, but were diverted to another. Both brokers and employers profited from this bait-and-switch tactic. Brokers charged much more for high-wage factory jobs than for low-wage domestic worker positions. NGOs reported that many foreign workers who paid to secure a high-wage factory job were offered low-wage domestic work once in the country. In addition, many foreign workers who contracted to do domestic work were instead forced to work in factories, then paid the lower domestic worker wage.
In addition to labor trafficking risks, NGOs urged authorities to address other issues facing foreign workers: an abusive broker system, the lack of rights and legal protections, and the risk of retaliatory deportation. Brokers regularly charged high fees.
On August 3, CLA announced plans to intensify inspection and oversight of brokerage companies. Brokerage companies were rated based on legal compliance. Company ratings were published to encourage good management practices. Lower-rated companies were targeted for more frequent inspection, and were subject to closure.
The country imposed strict quotas on the number of foreign workers admitted each year. According to several NGOs, the lack of legal protection coupled with fear of retaliatory deportation prevented workers from protesting substandard or even dangerous working conditions. These fears were compounded for those foreign workers unable to speak Chinese.
According to CLA, an employer convicted of illegally changing the place or nature of a foreign worker’s employment was subject to a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 (NT$30,000 to $150,000). Anyone convicted of illegally hiring foreign workers or transferring a foreign worker to another employer was fined $5,000 to $25,000 (NT$150,000 to $750,000).
On April 20, CLA adopted a mandatory maximum fine policy to strengthen deterrence. However, county labor officials continued to assess fines at less than the available maximums. According to CLA, existing laws required labor authorities to annul an employer’s permit to recruit or employ foreign workers if the employer failed to cure a violation within a specified time or if the employer committed a second violation.
During the year 308 employers were fined for hiring illegal foreign workers, 1,584 were fined for hiring foreign workers without a government permit, 110 employers were fined for unlawfully transferring employment of a foreign worker to another employer, and 618 employers were cited for unlawfully changing a foreign worker’s job or place of employment. Of the 110 employers fined for unlawfully transferring employment of a foreign worker to another employer, only 25 were assessed the maximum $25,000 (NT$750,000) fine. Employers cited for other types of foreign labor violations were often assessed only the minimum fine.
Foreign worker rights groups urged the government to extend the work permits of foreign workers forced to seek shelter from employer abuse or sexual assault. Foreign workers were allowed to work in the country for three years. Under the law, once a worker files a complaint against the employer, the worker can not resume work until the abuse case is closed, which can take more than a year; this waiting period is included in the three-year work period. Many foreign workers, still burdened with broker fees and other debts, chose to work illegally, rather than face such a long period without income. Foreign workers who worked illegally faced heavy fines, mandatory repatriation, and were permanently barred from re-entering the country, regardless of the circumstances.
There were 24 CLA-funded labor consultation service centers located throughout the country. These centers provided counseling, legal aid, and labor dispute resolution services. They also operated toll-free multilingual hot lines. Through December the service centers responded to 71,613 inquiries, of which 7,497 were related to labor disputes.
Thirteen overnight-stay shelters were available to foreign workers in need. Twelve shelters were operated by NGOs, two of which were wholly supported by funding from the Taipei and Kaohsiung city governments. One shelter was operated by the Indonesian foreign representative office.