A breakfast shop in Tainan that provides free meals to disadvantaged families announced that it was being sued after a disagreement with a customer was not resolved through arbitration.
A report on Thursday from the Chinese-language United Daily News said the disagreement occurred last month when a mother received the wrong order for her son and was told she had a bad attitude when she asked for it to be remade.
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant will face criminal charges under the Offenses Against Reputation and Credit (妨害名譽及信用罪). Slander and defamation are criminal offenses under Articles 309 and 310 of the Criminal Code and an offender is subject to a fine or up to two years in jail if investigators determine that the offensive statements were publicly disseminated.
The 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — to which Taiwan was a signatory before being expelled from the UN — determined that punishing libel and defamation as criminal offenses is a violation of individual rights. The UN Human Rights Committee reiterated this position in 2012.
Decriminalizing libel and defamation, which has been brought up by Taiwanese law experts numerous times over the past two decades, is an important step in strengthening the nation’s democracy.
The issue was first considered seriously in 2000, when Chen Chih-hsiang (陳志祥), then a Taipei District Court trial judge, called for an interpretation of the law while presiding over a libel case between a High Court judge and two officials of the Judicial Reform Foundation.
The Council of Grand Justices determined that criminal liability, rather than civil proceedings, is a more appropriate means given the “circumstances of the country.” They did not elaborate on what circumstances they were referring to, but added: “If an intrusion of a person’s reputation can be resolved with civil compensation, then rich people would be able to defame others as much as they wish. This is not what constitutional protection is meant to be.”
Following the council’s interpretation, Lin Tzu-yi (林子儀), a professor of constitutional law at National Taiwan University who specializes in freedom of expression, challenged the council’s take on free expression, calling it a “backward” decision.
In March last year, the national affairs conference on judicial reform discussed the issue when they met for their fifth subcommittee meeting at the Judicial Yuan.
Taiwan National Chiao Tung University law professor Lin Chih-chieh (林志潔), a leading member of the subcommittee, echoed others’ suggestions that cases related to insult, defamation and slander should be filed with civil courts, saying: “Prosecution of offenses relating to freedom of expression contravene the protection of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”
Trying libel and defamation cases as criminal offenses ties up prosecutors and investigators, and leaves the law susceptible to abuse for vindictive purposes.
Taiwan also does not recognize some of the defenses against libel claims that most other covenant signatories recognize.
For example, in most nations, assertions made as expressions of opinion rather than statements of fact are usually dismissed, because opinions are inherently not falsifiable. Also, in most jurisdictions, statements made in anger, such as calling someone “an arse” during a drunken argument, would likely be considered mere vulgar abuse and not defamatory. This is not the case in Taiwan, where prosecutors approach these statements as factual assertions.
Libel laws are important for the protection of people’s reputations and financial livelihoods, but should not cause people to live in perpetual fear that they might unintentionally say the wrong thing at the wrong time and end up embroiled in a lawsuit. Libel should be handled by civil courts that are well-equipped to determine whether a statement has caused real damage.
In Chinese author Lu Xun’s (魯迅) novella The True Story of Ah Q (阿Q正傳) — one of the earliest works of modern Chinese fiction, first serialized in 1921 — the story’s hapless protagonist, Ah Q (阿Q), is a poor itinerant worker from China’s peasant class, living during the part-feudal, part-colonial dying embers of the Qing Dynasty. Ah Q is a feeble and psychologically flawed individual who bullies the meek and cowers before the powerful. Despised and regularly mocked by villagers, after every episode of public ridicule and failure, Ah Q consoles himself that he has won a “spiritual victory.” Utterly
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) chairman Mark Liu (劉德音) said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would render the company’s plants inoperable, and that such a war would produce “no winners.” Not only would Taiwan’s economy be destroyed in a cross-strait conflict, but the impact “would go well beyond semiconductors, and would bring about the destruction of the world’s rules-based order and totally change the geopolitical landscape,” Liu said in the interview, according to the Central News Agency. Bloomberg columnist Hal Brands wrote on June 24: “A major war over Taiwan could create global economic
Washington’s official position on US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is that nothing has changed: The US government says it is maintaining its “one China” policy, that Pelosi is free to arrange international trips with congressional delegations independent of the government and that she is not the first US official to visit Taiwan even this year. Yet there is no denying that the fact and the optics of the second-in-line to the US presidency speaking with lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan about inter-parliamentary discussions and learning from each other as equals are hugely significant, as were
Amid a fervor in the global media, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her congressional delegation made a high-profile visit to Taipei. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) awarded a state honor to her at the Presidential Office. Evidently, the occasion took on the aspect of an inter-state relationship between the US and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, despite no mutual state recognition between the two. Beijing furiously condemned Pelosi’s visit in advance, with military drills in the waters surrounding coastal China to check the move. Pelosi is a well-known China hawk, and second in the line of succession to