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
SOLVED: Domestic orders have already overtaken the total sold to China last year, while the Canadian and US representative offices posted messages of support A joint effort by groups and individuals in Taiwan and abroad to prop up sales of pineapples after China announced a ban on imports of the fruit succeeded in just four days, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday. China on Friday announced that it would suspend imports of Taiwanese pineapples starting on Monday, citing biosafety concerns. Following the announcement, the council urged the public to assist farmers by purchasing pineapples, saying it hoped to sell 20,000 tonnes of the fruit domestically and 30,000 tonnes in exports. “Domestic orders have already surpassed the total sold to China last year,” COA Minister
‘UNFRIENDLY’: COA Minister Chen Chi-chung said that Beijing probably imposed the sanction because the pineapple production season is about to start in Taiwan More than 99 percent of pineapples sold to China passed inspections, the government said yesterday, after China earlier in the day abruptly suspended imports of pineapples from the nation, which Taipei called an “unfriendly” move. From Monday, China is to stop importing pineapples from Taiwan, the Chinese General Administration of Customs said. The regulation is a normal measure for ensuring biosafety, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said in a news release later yesterday. Since last year, Chinese customs officials have repeatedly seized pineapples imported from Taiwan that carried “perilous organisms,” Ma said. Were the organisms to spread in China, they would
Taiwanese netizens and politicians yesterday mocked a Chinese plan to build a transportation network linking Beijing and Taipei, calling it “science fiction” and “daydreaming.” Their comments were in reaction to the Chinese State Council’s release last week of its “Guidelines on the National Comprehensive Transportation Network Plan,” which include several proposed transportation links, with one map showing a line running from China’s Jingjinji Metropolitan Region (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei) across the Taiwan Strait to Taipei. “This is the Chinese leadership daydreaming again of [fulfilling its] fantasy of extending China’s transportation network to Taiwan. I suggest people regard it as science fiction,” Democratic Progressive
‘ONE PERSON PER UNIT’: People undergoing home isolation cannot stay in a housing unit in which non-isolated people live, unless they have special approval Starting tomorrow, people under home isolation would be required to follow the “one person per housing unit” rule if in private housing, or stay at a quarantine hotel or centralized quarantine facility, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said the rules require people under home quarantine to be quarantined with one person per housing unit, or at a quarantine hotel or centralized quarantine facility. “Starting on March 1, individuals under home isolation will also be subject to the ‘one person per housing unit’ rule,” he said. “We