National Human Rights Commission

On July 31st, 2000, President Chen held his second major news conference. One of the major points he made was that the ROC is going to establish a National Human Rights Commission (my abbreviation is NHRC).

Up to the time of this posting in December 2001, there has been no further news on the establishment of the NHRC. Will this just become another one of the DPP’s empty promises?

Or is it that the DPP has come to the realization that there are no significant human rights problems in Taiwan under their administration?

Question: Does the foreign community in Taiwan agree with this conclusion? At the present time, when any problems occur, are the current channels of communication (in the ROC government structure) already adequate for the foreigners who are living and working here?

Do foreigners in the ROC have “human rights” issues that are not being sufficiently addressed at present? What do you think? This is definitely something that needs some careful consideration. What important human rights issues are out there waiting to be solved?

Slow are the the wheels of the bureaucracy under this and all other administrations. But work on the human rights commission is progressing, albeit slowly.

[b]Law to create human rights commission drafted[/b]

One problem I always had was understanding how foreign residents legally working in Taiwan could be deported if found to have HIV infection or certain other communicable diseases. That is, legally employed foreigners and their employers are required to pay National Health Insurance premiums. If they are deported because of health reasons, how will they collect on the benefits? Worse, many foreigners living in Taiwan do not carry private health insurance that would pay for their medical care in their home country. Is this a human rights issue?

Jeff’s story is an interesting tale of “expedient deportation” policy by the ROC. Of course, the irony of being eligible to return the very next day is even more typical of the ROC. It is not as a draconian policy as it could be, thus does this violate human rights? Perhaps not in the spirit of the issue.

I would be disturbed by the outright and blantant denial of the AIT consular protection rights to an American citizen, such is usually under the Vienna Treaty.

What if they had (maliciously) “deported” you to China by mistake?

BTW, I am another “Jeff”, in order for everyone not to be confused with the above posting.

No, there was nothing malicious about it. They were just filling their quota. The guy who busted me even took me out for noodles and a beer after they finished the paperwork. And he picked up the tab for McDonalds on the way to the airport. I got to sleep in the police barracks that night, which was another treat.

They didn’t really care where I went, as long as I was off the island for at least a day.

Actually, I did get to call AIT eventually, but only after I had gotten to the airport and had been turned over to the airport police. I also called another bushiban to warn them they were going to get raided (I overheard that at the police station)–but they apparently didn’t tell the English teacher, who was deported the next day.

But to get back on track, my main point was the deportation of people for medical reasons. Any thoughts on that?

Regarding the deportation of people for medical reasons, see the discussion in “Health Check”, at

Deportation of alien people for medical reasons hits very close to home for Americans interests with regards to the US State Dept, Taiwan status, and the Health Care Finance Administration (Medicaid).

You may recall the US Trust Territory on your grade school maps in social studies class?

Well, these are now “freely associated states” with special alien status under a Free Compact with the USA. The trust territory is gone, and they are proudly independent members of the United Nations. Two have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, FAS status is much like being a “domestic country” for many of our federal programs including “Welfare” Medicaid. You may or may not have ever heard of the enormous “immigrant” burden placed upon Hawaii and Guam funding of these ‘federal aliens’ from Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau. HCFA is at odds with the State Dept over this issue, and the INS officials have dramatically increased the potential denial of entry requirements to stem the flow of FAS “subsidized” citizens whom are only seeking superior health care within the sovereign territories of the USA. A Mexican illegal has much better access to “emergency Medicaid” than a FAS citizen in a lawful status. Mexican illegals get “amnesty” but FAS citizens just get barred from entry into the Mainland.

Taiwan has been most generous in seriously funding the developments of these diplomatic allies. This generosity really makes Taiwan most friendly to the US taxpayer.

What seriously irritates the State Dept position is the “One China” policy has been a centerstage spotlight on this uniquely domestic health issue of health insurance and immigrant status issues. The same “Red Team” folks at State have been the most active in eroding the humanitarianism of the HCFA in the name of “pragmatism”. Cite any State Dept official in the Clinton administration whom was a part of the Asia/Pacific staffers, and they mostly likely had a resume with “insular affairs” experience. They also have capriciously and repeatedly sought to prevent the establishment of “universal health coverage” from applying to the FAS areas. HCFA has a problem with this as they feel we have an obligation under the Free Compact.

Cost-consciousness, taxpayer accountability or public health was not in their game plan at the State Dept, just their capricious defense of bureaucratic turf wars against those whom “opposed” them with private sector solutions to bigger government. If you are a “compassionate conservative” interested in the social problems like these, they’ll level charges of McCarthyism on the drop of a hat. This FACT alone makes it literally impossible to work with any of the conservative religious charties most likely to build upon their extensive presence in these areas with a non-profit “private” health care infrastructure. This is just the tip of the iceberg but it is almost criminal to abuse such monopolistic powers in the name of “One China” under the Free Compact.

Legal Opinion: FAS and Taiwan

State Dept Unprecedented Action In Name of “One China”

The Response

FAS, TRA, & Constitutional Basis of SFPT

Now do you believe that this health care issue is truly an inalienable human right issue?

Does anyone think that the ruling party in the Legislative Yuan might buy the idea of establishing a “discussion group” with Taiwan-resident foreigners, whereby six or seven foreigners and six or seven Legislators could meet informally every two months or so to exchange views on the current social, political, economic, etc. situation?

Would it be suitable to advocate that the foreigners to be selected to form such a group, (with a term of one year or more), be able to read, write, and speak Mandarin fluently, (i.e. at newspaper level or above)?

I think I might try to sell this establishment of a “discussion group” idea to the DPP. Thoughts???

I don’t see why they wouldn’t buy the idea, however, how those six or seven foreigners should be selected from among the foreign resident community very carefully and should be representational of the whole community. I don’t know if it’s important that they are all able to write Chinese, but it would be important that they speak it fluently. It may even be good to have a Taiwanese speaker present, if you’re talking DPP…

The business organisations, such as AmCham and the ECCT, have proven very effective in their government liasons, but members of those groups do not have the same agenda as us. After all, most are employed by overseas companies, and it doesn’t serve their interests to get involved in ‘interior’ issues.
They do have experience, though, and some connexions.
But, maybe that would be someplace to start.
Or, at least get ideas.

I’m sure there are a few Amcham people on these forums. Speak up!

Richard, as a foreigner married to a Taiwanese national, I admire your work our behalf. You are it seems the lone champion of our cause. Although I am but a babe in the woods compared to your time and experience in Taiwan, may I humbly add my two cents to your suggestion.

Politicians have been elected to allocate resources among those they have been elected to serve. Unfortunately, we as foreigners constitute a small minority, and as an unenfranchised minority, to boot, we are unable to have our say as to how the above-mentioned resources are allocated. As a result we are last in line when the cake is cut. Most of us, as I assume, hail from democratic nations, so having no say must indeed be a frustration for us all, especially for those of us who are married to Taiwanese nationals and have decided to reside in Taiwan permanently. As we constitute no tangible asset to any politician on the island, any advances made to members of the Legislative Yuan to further our cause will, I fear, fall on deaf ears. Therefore, any such audience granted to us as per your suggestion will be extremely generous and extremely unlikely.

But I believe there is a way we may convince politicians that our well being is in Taiwan’s best interests, especially those legislators who have a sincere agenda for improving the long-term lot of Taiwan: Politicians who look forward to the day when she enters the international fold as a fully-fledged nation. If we can convince any number of such enlightened members that if we are happy, the perception the world has of Taiwan will improve: Then we shall have a foothold in the Yuan and be able to better go about shaping our lot. If Taiwan were to respect the basic rights of resident foreigners as afforded by most First World countries, she will garner more respect as a nation and be classed on the same tier as these nations. Taiwan will then be able to demand the respect these wealthy nations have had for so long. If Taiwan were to improve the way in which she treats foreigners, she will be able to demand the reciprocation of these rights for her citizens abroad. This will in turn, albeit in a small way, help Taiwan gain more credence as a nation.

So I feel your wanting to target DPP members is a good start and wish you all the best. I would love to help, but my Chinese isn’t up to scratch. Give me a year or two. But if there is any other way I might be able to help our cause, please let me know.

I think this is an excellent idea and might be surprisingly effective despite our lack of franchise. Look what Richard has accomplished already! If the legislators don’t hear from us, they’re even less likely to advance our interests.

I do agree that it would be best for the group to be as diverse as possible. Ideally, we would have someone from the Japanese community and at least one person from outside of Greater Taipei.

I’d be willing to serve as a member.


Richard, I don’t see the value in limiting the panel to fluent Chinese speakers:

  1. If you want the Taiwanese to start thinking internationally, then you have to get them to speak other ‘international’ languages and come to the ‘international’ table, not the other way around. I learned this when doing trade negotiation here in Taiwan. I liked to show off my Chinese business language skills … I learned the hard way. Speak Chinese only when you have to. Have them force their minds into percpetions shaped by a ‘foreign’ language. Have them better see a ‘foreign’ point of view in a ‘foreign’ tounge. No matter how good we think our Chinese is, we handicap ourselves in certain situations where we are so willing to give the home field advantage of language. We also sabotage our own effort by showing a very atypical kind of foreigner to the government. Speak Chinese to be polite, speak Chinese to build rapport, speak Chinese in situations where there is true misunderstanding, BUT speak English when you are talking about the meat and potatoes of ‘foreign’ concepts. It puts the pressure on them to listen harder.

(Ever notice what happens when you speak Chinese vs English at McDonald’s? Most of the time when you speak Chinese, you get Chinese service. When you speak English like an unassuming business man off the plane with high standards, they often treat you that way. Yes, they often also run around gafawing, but they recognize that you expect more than their own standards and they react accordingly … usually.)

  1. Secondly, the panel would be slanted a bit towards a certain kind of Taiwan foreigner, representative of a minority. Many foreigners are working, living, studding and getting married here for various reasons and various lengths of stay. It would be best to include a panel that represents a mix. Yes, some requirements would be prudent, but the language thing has to go. That would only create a good-ole boy’s club of the long-termers here in Taiwan. Suggestions:
  • Chinese Speakers
  • Non-Chinese Speakers
  • English Teachers
  • White Collar Workers
  • Long Term Foreigners
  • Short Term Students
  • Short Term Business Community
  • Expatriate Community
  • Married Foreigners
  • Foreigners from around the World

Jeremy, I don’t think we should require Chinese fluency either. At the same time, I think it’s highly desirable. Most legislators are far from being fluent English speakers. These are powerful people with limited time. If we can get them to meet with us and discuss our concerns, we need to be able communicate with them effectively, succintly, and in their language(s). Even more importantly, we need to submit our positions to their staff in writing before we meet with them.

I don’t disagree that speaking Chinese is a big plus, and certainly those with the speaking and writing skills could be leaders in the panel, and of course those with those skills are more likely to be leaders because of the nature of their “kind” of investment in Taiwan.

To sort of make a bit of a retreat here, I am fully confident that Mr. Hartzell has a great deal of experience that I don’t have in negotiating these kind of legal/diplomatic situations, and therefore might see how there is such a huge advantage for having these screening qualifications.

But it still makes me a bit uneasy. I’d feel a lot better if the panel represented a more balanced distribution of foreigners in Taiwan. That way it wouldn’t look like one group (like married people, or long-term working professionals) is “more important” or “more equal” than another for representation.

I know that Mr. Hartzell does a lot of great community service for his particular area of interest (I guess for foreigners married to ROC citizens and related issues), and since his time is limited, has called on others to pick up the baton for other constituencies. However, when it comes to a general “discussion panel of foreigners” it shouldn’t be limited to the voice of one or two particular foreign constituencies.

To make it easier for these “important” government administrators and politicians to analyze the opinions of so many different voices, it might be best to have some of these panel leaders help simplify and consolidate issues for easy consumption.

Overseas Chinese have representation in the ROC, but ARC permanent resident “constituents” are very excluded. Of course, they are not voting citizens either, but there is a growing notion of Taiwan immigration patterns. They should become more fully “represented” or protected by some legislative committee. Aliens still have civil rights in the USA and the courts often will be their last line of defense.

If anyone is still interested in the latest news regarding Taiwan’s Human Rights Commission I offer these words which are taken from an article I wrote that will appear in the November edition of Topics magazine.

...{T}he third possibility is a Human Rights Commission that simply acts as an advisor to the government.  In this model the Human Rights Commission conducts research, prepares reports and otherwise advises the government on what human rights policy should be.  Human rights advocates, my self included, ridicule this last form of Human Rights Commission in that it usually amounts to nothing more than a “paper tiger”.  The key thing about “advice” is that it can be ignored.  Human Rights Commissions that are “advisory” allows a government to “have its cake and eat it too” in the sense of the government can claim to have a Human Rights Commission while not having that Human Rights Commission do anything of substance.  As a budgetary matter, advisory Human Rights Commissions are by far the cheapest. 

Taiwan seems committed to the advisory model for its Human Rights Commission.  The ostensible reason put forward is that the advisory model is the only practically workable form that Taiwan’s Human Rights Commission could take.  If an “adjudicator” model is chosen the Judicial Yuan will view it as an incursion into their territory.  If an “advocate” model is chosen and the Control Yuan will view that as an incursion into their territory.  Both of those agencies are sufficiently feared by Taiwan’s legislators that any legislation that runs counter to their wishes will not pass.  

Also too, there is the money matter.  At a time of shrinking revenues, many would say that Taiwan does not need a costly new government agency even for such a high priority purpose as human rights promotion and protection.  As noted above the advisory model is by far the least expensive.  It is also the most meaningless.

Note: unlike some of my articles which I write (e.g. for the Taipei Journal… i.e. the government rag)… this is what I really think. Taiwan’s Human Rights Commission is going to be an empty show, just like 99.9% of the (cough, cough) “reform” projects here on the Beautiful Isle.

Take care,

Over a year ago I was speaking to PFP Legislator Lee Ching-an and she told me to expect the same thing – an empty show. Well, at any rate she told me not to expect any effective Human Rights Commission to be established by the DPP.

I had been hoping that her analysis was in error.

Freudian slip? :laughing: Or is there actually an attempt to breed champions here that I don’t know about?

Sorry, I realize that this is a serious thread… but that was too funny to let pass.

The legislator you spoke with had it half right. She was right the commission would be a show, she was wrong in implying that if some other political party was in power it would be different. The old KMT used to go through the same b.s. human rights “shows” and I have every reason to suspect that if the (misnamed) People’s First Party ever got in power it would be the same.

Until Taiwanese culture changes as a whole–which is not likely to happen anytime soon–shows over substance will be the norm. This kind of ties in with that email reply I sent you a couple of weeks ago. My analysis has not changed.

Be all that as it may, I still think highly of folks such as yourself who are seriously committed to making a difference here in Taiwan. Good luck and god speed to you. And I say that in all sincerity.

If you ever need any more “helpful advice” feel free to get in touch.

take care,

Hello Brian:

Thanks for your informative input in this thread. I still think we should get together and have coffee again sometime. I have some interesting things to discuss, and would like to get your opinion. I talked to some Taiwanese friends this evening and they said it was “explosive.”

I know you are busy. I have a secretary who comes in most days now to help with drafting legal documents. So, I am usually in Nei Hu if I am not in the Legislative Yuan or in Court. Send me an email if you see some openings in your schedule, or if you are planning to be in the Nei Hu area.