Has Tsai’s New Southbound Policy Opened the Floodgates to Exploitation?

Recent cases of alleged labor abuse raise serious questions of whether the policy exploits by design.

The News Lens
Date: 2019/03/08
By: Nick Aspinwall

Credit: Reuters / TPG

In a recent interview with CNN, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) warned of the threat posed by Beijing to the global world order, urging the democratic world to stand with Taiwan. “If it’s Taiwan today, people should ask who’s next?” she said. “Our challenge is whether our independent existence, security, prosperity and democracy can be maintained. This is the biggest issue for Taiwan.”

Under Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan has asked global protectors of democracy and human rights to recognize and support its plight. As a country priding itself on it own protection of human rights, however, Taiwan has categorically failed to protect the rights of its 700,000 Southeast Asian migrant workers and its rapidly growing number of international students.

Tsai’s signature New Southbound Policy, which aims to bolster ties with South and Southeast Asian countries and promote people-to-people exchanges, has increasingly been spotlighted as a prime engine of exploitation. New avenues have been opened which have allowed bad actors to recruit international students to problematic work-study programs and potentially abuse group tourist visa schemes for human trafficking purposes. It raises the question: Is this a bug or a feature? A January Taipei Times editorial called on Taiwan to “stop the abuse of a well-intended system.” But the prevalence of this abuse, and the governmental disinterest in reforming the systems which have long enabled it, raise questions of how well-intended this system truly is for migrant workers and international students.    [FULL  STORY]

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