Taiwan has made “significant” progress in improving rights for Muslims, the US Department of State said on Friday in its International Religious Freedom report for last year.
The report cited the Chinese-Muslim Association as saying: The “authorities were making significant progress in improving rights for Muslims,” such as by increasing the number of restaurants and hotels that cater to Muslims’ dietary requirements and establishing prayer rooms for them.
“The number of halal-certified restaurants and hotels increased from 120 to 160 during the year,” the report said. “Local authorities in Taoyuan, Taichung, [as well as] Yunlin, Chiayi and Yilan [counties] held Eid al-Fitr commemorations. Authorities built new prayer rooms at train stations, libraries and tourist destinations.”
The report mentioned remarks by Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) when he attended the canonization of Pope Paul VI and six other Catholic figures at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in October last year as an indication of Taiwan’s efforts in pushing for religious freedom.
“As a beacon of religious freedom and tolerance, Taiwan is committed to further strengthening ties with the Holy See via substantive cooperative initiatives spanning democracy, religious freedom and human rights,” the report quoted Chen as saying.
However, the report repeated the department’s concerns from last year that the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) does not allow a day off for migrant domestic workers and caregivers, many of whom are Muslims from Indonesia, limiting their ability to attend religious services.
The report mentioned an objection from the Chinese-Muslim Association against a move made by the Kaohsiung City Government to relocate remains from a Muslim cemetery in the city to develop the site into a park.
The association said that the relocation failed to follow Muslim tenets.
The city government said it held two public hearings and communicated with the Muslim community in Kaohsiung, and the majority of Muslims in the area had agreed to the relocation, according to the State Department’s report.
The city government said that it exhumed graves and moved the remains in accordance with Muslim tenets, and also sent a delegation to Malaysia to learn how to properly relocate Muslim cemeteries, according to the report.
The imam of the Kaohsiung Mosque also provided assistance for the relocation, the report quoted the city as saying.
The report also cited the Tibet Religious Foundation as saying that Tibetan Buddhist monks in Taiwan remained unable to obtain resident visas for religious work, despite the authorities typically granting visas to other religious practitioners for similar purposes.
“The monks had to fly to Thailand every two months to renew their visas,” the report said. “The monks did not have passports and instead traveled using Indian Identity Certificates issued to Tibetans who reside in India, but do not have Indian citizenship, and reportedly were valid for travel to all countries.”
The department said that the foundation reported harassment from the True Enlightenment Practitioners Association, a Taiwanese Buddhist organization that has received funds from China and propagated a message saying: “Tibetan Buddhism is not real Buddhism.”
In November last year, a court in Taiwan ordered the association to publish an apology, but it had not done so by the end of the year.
The government has said that all libel cases involving the Tibet Religious Foundation are closed.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did