Hundreds of Southeast Asian students recruited to Taiwanese universities under the government’s New Southbound Policy have allegedly been tricked into doing illegal work at factories, with some working 10 hours per day, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said yesterday.
At least six schools have allegedly collaborated with employment agencies and companies to make their students provide cheap labor, Ko told a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee.
One school, which she later identified as Hsing Wu University in New Taipei City’s Linkou District (林口), arranged for its students to work 10 hours per day, four days per week at an optics manufacturer, she said.
Photo courtesy of Hsing Wu University
“They had to stand for 10 hours and package 30,000 contact lenses every day” and were banned from taking any leave, she said.
When students told the school about their work, it replied that they “must help the company so that the company can help the school,” she said.
The students were assigned to shabby dormitories in Hsinchu to be near their work, she said, adding that the rooms did not have desks.
Photo: Lin Hsiao-yun, Taipei Times
“Two days a week, they would have to wake up at 5am and be driven to Linkou for classes on a bus [arranged by the school] that departs at 6am,” she said.
Employment agencies tricked many of the approximately 200 students into applying for the program through advertisements claiming that they would be offered free accommodation and meals, as well as a monthly salary of about NT$20,000 for “internship” work, Ko said.
However, after arriving, the students realized that starting from their sophomore year, they would need to pay more than NT$40,000 every semester for tuition, accommodation and other expenses, which placed them under great financial pressure, she said.
“This is not an isolated case, but a reoccurring pattern” that shows how schools, employment agencies and companies are taking advantage of the New Southbound Policy internship program designed to encourage students from Southeast Asia to take classes and complete internships, she said.
“Schools offer internship programs and receive subsidies from the Ministry of Education, and employment agencies trick students into joining the programs,” Ko said. “Schools then arrange for internships at companies, which pay employment agencies for introducing the workers.”
Many agencies have boasted about how students recruited under the program are more “useful” than migrant workers, as they are not subject to labor law restrictions, she said.
The ministry has been aware of the problem since last year and has warned schools against recruiting students through employment agencies, Acting Minister of Education Yao Leeh-ter (姚立德) said.
“Those found to have done so would lose subsidies and be banned from offering international internship programs and, in more serious cases, required to receive special consultation,” he said.
The ministry’s international internship program requires review, he added, promising to launch investigations into all schools involved.
Students can perform part-time work that is unrelated to their school work as long as it does not exceed 20 hours per week, he said.
“If students are exploited, we would definitely intervene,” he added.
Hsing Wu University did not recruit students through employment agencies and only helped arrange legal part-time work for students who needed income to cover their living expenses, university vice president Chen Yi-wen (陳義文) told reporters at a news conference after the meeting.
Companies have provided free accommodation to 25 students and compromised by exempting Indonesian students from night shifts for their prayers, university international section head Kuo An-min (國安民) said, adding that the students’ lives have turned “from black and white to full color” because of the program.
Additional reporting by Rachel Lin
EIGHT-YEAR WINDOW: Avril Haines said that Beijing is closely watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although Moscow’s actions have not sped up Beijing’s timeline The threat posed by China to Taiwan until 2030 is “critical,” US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Tuesday while testifying on worldwide threats at a hearing of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services. “I think it’s fair to say that it’s critical, or acute,” Haines said when asked by US Senator Josh Hawley if she viewed the threat facing Taiwan to be acute from now until 2030. “It’s our view that they [China] are working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention,” she said, without
NO CONSENSUS YET: Local governments and the CECC have agreed to change the ‘3+4’ self-isolation policy, but are still mulling what to replace it with The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and local governments have agreed to ease restrictions on close contacts of COVID-19 cases, although the details are still being discussed, the center said yesterday. The discussions follow Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Saturday approving a proposal to shorten the “3+4” policy — three days of home isolation followed by four days of self-disease prevention — for close contacts who have received booster doses. “We did not reach a consensus on how to revise the current restrictions, but we all agreed that the administrative burden must be reduced and the intensity of restrictions must be eased,
OPPOSING CHINESE ‘HOSTILITY’: The bill orders the state secretary to create a plan to regain observer status for Taiwan, saying Taipei is a model contributor to world health US President Joe Biden on Friday signed a bill into law to help Taiwan regain observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), demonstrating Washington’s support for Taiwan’s international participation. Friday was the deadline for Biden to sign the bill (S.812), which directs “the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO), and for other purposes.” The 75th WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, is scheduled to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday next week to May 28. The bill, introduced by US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate
‘DAMOCLES SWORD’: An Italian missionary said the arrest of cardinal Zen is a blow for the church in Hong Kong, China and the world, signaling great danger ahead China yesterday defended the arrest of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, a move that triggered international outrage and deepened concerns over Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in the territory. Retired cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, was among a group of veteran democracy advocates arrested on Wednesday for “colluding with foreign forces.” Pop singer Denise Ho (何韻詩), veteran barrister Margaret Ng (吳靄儀) and cultural studies academic Hui Po-keung (許寶強) were also arrested, the latter as he attempted to fly to Europe to take up an academic post. Cyd Ho (何秀蘭), a democracy