Taiwan won generally high marks in the latest US report on worldwide human rights, but it still suffers from the exploitation of migrant workers and from corruption in high places.
According to Human Rights Practices for 2013 released on Thursday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, 573 Taiwanese officials — including 39 “high-ranking” officials — were indicted on corruption charges last year.
“The fundamental struggle for dignity, for decency in the treatment of human beings between each other, and between states and citizens, is a driving force in all of human history,” Kerry said.
He said the annual report covering nearly 200 countries was not “some high-minded exercise,” but was the most comprehensive, authoritative, dispassionate and factual review produced globally.
Prison and detention centers in Taiwan were said to meet international standards with about 58,746 adults and fewer than 1,000 juveniles imprisoned.
“The case of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) continued to receive high-profile attention from domestic and international human rights activists who accused the authorities of political persecution and criticized the conditions of his imprisonment,” the 10 page section on Taiwan said.
The section also said that the judicial system suffered from corruption, and that the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in high-profile and politically sensitive cases had been questioned.
While speech and the press were generally free, pressure from China and from local businessmen had led to some self-censorship, the report said.
There were also some allegations that the state-run Central News Agency decided not to publish a news story about a Gallup poll that found Taiwanese were pessimistic about their daily life.
The report, compiled mostly by US government officials resident in each of the countries involved, said some legal experts and politicians alleged the Ministry of Justice was not sufficiently independent, claiming that ministry authorities conducted politically motivated investigations of politicians.
“Legal scholars and politicians claimed that the authorities illegally wiretapped sitting legislators of both the [Chinese Nationalist Party] KMT and the [Democratic Progressive Party] DPP parties during an investigation that led to a KMT attempt to revoke Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) party membership,” the report said.
“During the year authorities indicted numerous legislators and local officials on charges of corruption — for example incumbent [People First Party] legislator Lin Cheng-er (林正二) was indicted in July for receiving bribes from construction companies,” the report said.
It said that many rapes and cases of domestic violence were not reported because victims were socially stigmatized, noting that the number of sexual assaults was estimated to be 10 times the number reported to police.
Women continued to be promoted less frequently, occupied fewer management positions and worked for lower pay than men, the report said.
About 19,174 children and teenagers were said to suffer abuse during the year and there were children under the age of 18 engaged in prostitution, the report said.
According to activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, violence against LGBT people with HIV/AIDS was a problem, as was employment discrimination, the report said.
“There was evidence of forced labor in domestic services, farming, fishing, manufacturing and construction,” it said.
In the first six months of last year, police and judicial agencies removed 219 victims from forced labor, including sexual exploitation, the report said.
It said there were documented abusive conditions for migrant workers on Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels operating out of Singapore. The workers were given substandard food and little medical care, while they were forced to work 18 to 20 hours a day, the report said.