The principal human rights problems reported in Taiwan last year were judicial corruption and violence against women and children, the US State Department’s annual report on human rights showed on Friday.
The report’s 10-page analysis of the state of human rights in Taiwan touched on the imprisonment of ailing former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but did not reach any conclusions about his continued incarceration.
It said that “a growing number of observers claimed Chen was being mistreated,” but that authorities had said the treatment Chen was receiving was adequate and that his condition did not warrant parole on medical grounds.
However, the report did say that the 2009 trial of Chen and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), had heightened public scrutiny of pre-indictment and pretrial detention, prosecutorial leaks, other possible prosecutorial misconduct and transparency in judicial procedures.
“Although the authorities made efforts to eliminate corruption and diminish political influence in the judiciary, some residual problems remained,” the report said.
“During the year, judicial reform advocates pressed for greater public accountability, reforms of the personnel system and other procedural reforms,” it added.
The report said that political commentators and academics had publicly questioned the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in high-profile and politically sensitive cases.
The nation’s independent press, an effective judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combined to protect freedom of speech and the press, the report said.
Another serious problem in Taiwan was rape, including spousal rape, and violence against women, the report said.
“Because victims were socially stigmatized, many did not report the crime, and the MOI [Ministry of the Interior] estimated that the total number of sexual assaults was 10 times the number reported to police,” the report said.
As of September last year, 86,240 incidents of domestic violence were reported in Taiwan, but only 2,592 cases were prosecuted. These cases led to the conviction of 1,685 people.
“Social pressure not to disgrace their families discouraged abused women from reporting incidents to the police,” the report said.
There may also be a problem with sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Women’s groups complained that, despite the law and increased awareness of the issue, judicial authorities remained dismissive of sexual harassment complaints,” the report said.
The report said that child abuse also continued to be a widespread problem in Taiwan.
Authorities reported 19,936 child abuse cases involving 16,330 victims in the first eight months of last year.
The report also said there seemed to be discrimination, including in work environments, against people with HIV/AIDS.
Despite these issues, the report was overall very favorable toward Taiwan, standing in stark contrast to the analysis it made of China.
“Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, were routine in China,” the report said.
It said that individuals and groups seen as politically sensitive by authorities continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion and travel.
“Efforts to silence and intimidate political activists and public interest lawyers continued to increase … to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions,” the report said.
It said that over the past year in China, security forces reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
In one case cited in the report, an 11-year-old ethnic Uighur boy named Mirzahid died after being taken into police custody for attending an unregistered Islamic school. It was later alleged that police officers had tortured him to death.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the report, which analyzes the state of human rights in 199 countries, would be sent to US Congress for consideration.
“These reports send a very clear message that all governments have a responsibility to protect universal human rights and help to blaze a path forward for places where those rights are either threatened or denied,” Kerry said.
He said that standing up for values and speaking out for people who did not have any chance to speak for themselves was “one of the things we can be proudest of that we do here in the State Department.”