Many people in Taiwan are upset about a video that Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik made and posted on the Internet before going on his killing spree in Oslo, in which he expresses his admiration for Taiwan as a “modern country that never adopted multiculturalism.”
Many people have responded to Breivik’s assertion by saying that Taiwan is, on the contrary, a country that respects pluralistic culture.
I expressed my opinions on this subject in an article published in the Chinese-language China Times on July 29, an English version of which also appeared in the Taipei Times (“Does Taiwan genuinely respect plurality?” Aug. 4, page 8). In the article, I pointed out that although Taiwan has never seen a massacre of people from an ethnic minority or migrants by right-wing extremists, our laws, policies and systems are full of discrimination against immigrants and migrant workers.
Discriminatory attitudes are often seen in the words and actions of bureaucrats, while prejudice is pervasive in society at large. The article called upon Taiwanese who really want to refute Breivik’s description of Taiwan as a monocultural society to say a resounding “no” to all words and actions that discriminate against immigrants and migrant workers. If Taiwan does that, the nation can make it clear that it refuses to endorse right-wing ideology.
On Aug. 4, I received an anonymous letter containing a photocopy of a full-page report about Breivik that appeared on page A6 of the Chinese-language Apple Daily on July 25. The report includes a photograph of Breivik wearing a special forces diving suit and aiming a rifle at some imaginary adversary. In the blank space alongside the photograph, the anonymous letter-writer had scribbled the following shocking and hate-filled message: “When will Taiwan get a brave man like this to kill all the mangy foreign workers and trashy foreign spouses who have crawled over from Southeast Asia and other backward regions to hang around in Taiwan, along with the shameless hypocrites who wave banners and yell slogans on their behalf in the bogus name of brotherly love — people like that bloody sow Hsia Hsiao-chuan? Because of this trash and because of you, our descendants will have to live in a trash heap!”
This letter is not just an isolated, random incident. I have received several threatening letters over the past year, and other people and organizations that speak up for the rights of immigrants and migrant workers have also received such letters or been harassed in various ways. When you take that into account, is Taiwan really as far removed from what happened in Norway as people imagine?
In an attempt to show how determined Taiwan is to protect human rights, the government ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009 and enacted a law on their implementation.
Article 8 of the implementation act reads as follows: “All levels of governmental institutions and agencies should review laws, regulations, directions and administrative measures within their functions according to the two covenants. All laws, regulations, directions and administrative measures incompatible to the two covenants should be amended within two years after the act enters into force by new laws, law amendments, law abolitions and improved administrative measures.”