Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Illegal Chinese a growing threat

On Friday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) ordered a crackdown on the criminal activities of illegal Chinese immigrants in Taiwan, indicating that such activities have become a serious social problem.

In recent months, it has been discovered that in an increasing numbers of criminal cases -- ranging from kidnappings to violent assaults and even murder -- illegal Chinese immigrants were the hired guns.

Several reasons explain this increasingly serious phenomenon. For one, the price of hiring Chinese assailants is quite inexpensive -- reportedly around NT$200,000 for each person per crime. Also, it is quite easy for these assailants to escape punishment since they can be easily smuggled out of Taiwan in the same way that most of them were, in fact, smuggled in. Moreover, because they are strangers to Taiwan it is very difficult to identify them. Nobody can identify them visually, and they usually have neither criminal records nor fingerprints on file here in Taiwan.

Many of these Chinese hit men who have been caught have been found to be former members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) or the Chinese "police." As such they are often very well trained and come with powerful arms illegally purchased and smuggled from the other side of the Taiwan Strait. Cheap, efficient and hard to trace, no wonder they are in demand.

At the supply end, there are plenty of illegal Chinese immigrants who will succumb to the temptation of the money they could earn from such criminal conduct. Some are illegal immigrants who were smuggled into Taiwan initially in the hope of finding legal work and earning some money. However, most of them find out that it is not that easy to make a quick buck in Taiwan, at least not through legal means. On top of this, there are, of course, those who have been smuggled into Taiwan for a short period for the sole purpose of perpetrating crimes for which they were hired to commit.

According to the police, these Chinese hit men typically work alone or in small groups. However, there are increasing signs that Chinese and Taiwanese organized criminal gangs are becoming involved. This phenomenon explains why there is an apparent trend to reverse the serious imbalance in the numbers of female and male Chinese illegal immigrants in Taiwan. Up until fairly recently, the number of female illegal immigrants from China far outnumbered the male immigrants -- the ratio used to be about 8:1, according to government statistics. The female illegals often came to Taiwan through bogus marriages with Taiwanese men in order to make quick money through prostitution. While this has also led to social and criminal problems, those caused by the influx of Chinese hit men hired by Taiwanese gangs threaten to be far more serious.

As indicated by Chen, there should be no discrimination against Chinese immigrants who enter Taiwan legally and the government should protect their rights. But illegal immigration brings a host of problems in its wake, crime being just one of them. This is, of course, because illegal immigrants are typically a highly marginalized group in society with little chance of elevating, or in many cases even just regularizing, their social and economic status. Many of them resort to crime. Given their shadowy existence, they are also one of the most difficult groups to effectively police.

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