The legislature revised the Statute Governing Duties of the Police (
To understand why this was an improvement in terms of human rights, one must understand that such inspections were grounded on the assumption the police had the "right" to inspect households.
This was a "right" that entitled the police to demand entry into a home for household inspections even in the absence of real or suspect crimes.
This was at odds with the spirit of human rights and civil procedure which are based on the belief that people are entitled not to be disturbed by the reach of government hands into their homes in the absence of a strong justification -- such as to stop the perpetration of a crime or to capture criminals.
This is not to mention the invasion of privacy issue, highlighted by the forced intrusion on households through such inspections.
Those who are familiar with the practice of household inspection know that it was a practice under which police officers would periodically knock on the door of each home and ask to examine the identification cards of the individuals in that home to see if they conformed with the household registration and to see if there was anything suspicious about the residence. The police did not need to have any reasonable or grounded suspicion about criminal activities before requesting entry. This practice was far removed from Western practices under which police cannot enter private households without either a search warrant issued by a court or an urgent need to stop the perpetration of crime.
Closely tied to police household inspections was the system of household registration.
In Taiwan, every person must register his or her residence at a specific household. Generally speaking, in the past, when a police officer conducted a household inspection, he was supposed to ensure that the inhabitants of a house were the people whose residence was registered at that household. If there were strangers in the house, the police were supposed to find out whether there were any suspicious circumstances underlying the guests' presence.
Unlike in China, people in Taiwan are free to live anywhere they want in the country and to move their household registration whenever they want. In reality, the household registrations of many people no longer reflect their true residence and the government has not attempted to impose any real restrictions on such practices. It is extremely common for people to work in a big city such as Taipei and to leave their household registration at their homes in other parts of the country. This has been clearly demonstrated by the exodus from Taipei at election time, when voters return to their hometowns to vote.
So, in reality, there is no real restriction on the people's right to free movement. However, by Western standards, the fact that people still need to register their residency with a household would be considered a cumbersome requirement that violate the right to free movement.
In recent years, household inspections by the police had become fairly superficial and merely a formality. This of course had much to do with the fact that household registration has become a system with much more form than substance.
The removal of household inspection from the roster of police duties was a praiseworthy move. However, it was praiseworthy not because it removes an unnecessary workload from the police. Rather it is praiseworthy because it lessen the opportunities and the rights of the police to intrude on private households without proper justification.
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