Southeast Asian students ‘tricked’ into work

Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, which encourages economic and cultural ties with Southeast Asian countries, is under fire after Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said hundreds of Southeast Asian students have been coerced into low-paying work at factories.

At least six schools, including New Taipei’s Hsing Wu University, have joined with Taiwan’s oft-criticized employment agencies to assign students in Taiwan on “internship” programs to arduous work at factories, according to Ko. “They had to stand for 10 hours and package 30,000 contact lenses every day,” said Ko, according to the Taipei Times.

This arrangement, if Ko’s account is accurate, would fit international definitions of forced labor.

The legislator said students were placed under financial pressure due to unexpected tuition hikes starting in their sophomore year at university and coerced into joining programs advertised as “internship” work by employment agencies. Ko added that agencies have bragged that students, unprotected by labor laws, are more “useful” than migrant workers.

The news comes as Taiwan is gripped by a case of 152 missing Vietnamese tourists who entered Taiwan last week, some of whom have been detained. Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) is investigating whether human smugglers are involved in the case.

The New Southbound Policy, a banner initiative of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), now finds itself under fire as its exchange initiatives meet the long-standing exploitation of and discrimination against Southeast Asians in Taiwan.

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Credit: Wikicommons

Hsing Wu University in New Taipei, Taiwan.

‘Taipei Twin Towers’ bid won by foreign consortium

Hong Kong firm Nan Hai Development and Malton Berhad of Malaysia have won a bid to develop the “Taipei Twin Towers” project adjacent to Taipei Main Station, the Taipei Department of Rapid Transit Systems said yesterday.

The bid was approved after five unsuccessful attempts to find a developer for the project, which has long been mired in bribery scandals.

The two towers will be 65 and 53 stories tall with retail stores on lower floors, office space on middle floors and hotel rooms on the topmost floors, Nan Hai chairman Yu Pun-hoi (于品海) said earlier this month.

Nan Hai will spend NT$60 billion (US$1.95 billion) on the project, Yu added.

The project aims to revitalize a Taipei skyline that, absent the iconic Taipei 101, has not seen what Yu calls “eye-catching buildings.” Yu claims the new project will “rescue the city from the architectural doldrums” – which is an idea many in Taipei can get behind.


Credit: CNA

A rendering of the proposed 'Taipei Twin Towers.'

New digital ID cards

Premier William Lai (賴清德) said on Thursday the government plans to launch new electronic national identity cards (eID) in 2020 to allow simpler access to government services.

Lai was briefed by National Development Council head Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶), who ensured the eID cards will not be used as devices to store personal data and will not lead to privacy or security issues.

The eID system aims to make 80 percent of government services available online, according to Chen, including potential electronic voting in referendums.

Taiwan has pushed forth novel e-government initiatives, including virtual democratic platforms where citizens can collectively discuss potential legislation. However, there are questions as to whether they’ve been seen as a priority by the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.

While electronic voting is used in several countries after being first implemented by Estonia in 2007, global enthusiasm for e-voting has rapidly waned over security issues as many systems are easily hacked.

Premier Lai may be on the outs, according to the Taipei Times, which reports that former premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) may be slated to take his position in January. After the Nov. 24 elections, DPP legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) told The News Lens Taiwan could expect significant changes in Cabinet come the new year.


Credit: Wikicommons

Premier William Lai is reportedly on the outs.

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Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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