Human rights in Taiwan
Taiwan, currently governed by the Republic of China government, has a multi-party democracy. The 2000 presidential victory of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen Shui-bian followed more than 50 years of rule by the Kuomintang (KMT) and marked the first transition from one political party to another in the Taiwanese history, reported by a Government Information Office (GIO) website as the "first ever in Chinese history." This followed gradual democratic reforms since the 1980s and 1990s; most notably, martial law was lifted in 1987, and the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion were repealed in 1991.
The citizens in Taiwan can change their government through elections and are held to enjoy most basic rights, according to a 2004 Freedom House report. Freedom House rates Taiwan as among the most "Free" nations in Asia, with a 2 in Political Rights and a 1 in Civil Liberties (scale of 1-7, with 1 being the highest). This represents a significant improvement, as the 1973 rating was 6.5, rising to 2.1 by 2000. For much of the history of the Kuomintang (KMT) regime on Taiwan, from the retreat from the mainland in 1949 until the 1970s and 1980s, the state was highly autocratic and varying degrees of repression of political and civil rights existed.
Taiwan under Japanese rule
The human rights during the Japanese rule era experienced dramatic changes with three major phases. After the 1895 defeat of the Republic of Formosa, the Empire of Japan annexed Taiwan. The early Japanese administration appointed military governors. The colonial policies often limited the human rights of the Taiwanese people. After the Tapani incident in 1915 and Japan's involvement in World War I, the colonial governance was gradually liberalized. Taiwan became an extension of the Japanese Home Islands and the Taiwanese people were educated under a policy of assimilation.
The last phase of Japanese rule began with the eruption of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. As the Japanese became active in international military affairs, its militarism rose. Its goal now was to fully Japanize Taiwan. In the meantime, laws were made to grant Taiwanese membership in the Japanese Diet, which theoretically would qualify a Taiwanese to become the prime minister of Japan eventually.
Taiwan under the Republic of China
Some of the autocracy in early Nationalist China also reflects a continuation of the political attitudes of Taiwan in the early decades after its founding in 1912. Many Chinese leaders, following the thought of Sun Yat-sen, held it necessary to maintain strong centralized control, including a militarized regime, during the early part of the regime's history, feeling that the populace was "not ready" for full democracy. Political repression was heavy during the early Kuomintang-Taiwan period in the mainland under Chiang Kai-shek, who would retreat to Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War.
Additionally, the history of Taiwan after 1945, in terms of political situation and human rights, displays multiple similarities with that of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Between the end of World War II and the 1980s, a similar degree of autocracy and centralization existed, followed by eventual democratization by two states. Both Taiwan and South Korea went on to become leading economic players in Asia, part of the Asian Tigers, and both are now recognized as relatively free societies with successful human rights developments in most areas.
The Asian values debate, which holds that the political and cultural traditions of Asia justify a certain degree of autocratic rule to enable the rapid economic development of society puts Taiwanese human rights in interesting perspective. These ideas were prevalent among many important leaders in Malaysia, Singapore, and elsewhere with seemingly Western-style democratic Constitutions coupled with authoritarian one-party rule, in the 1990s. Moreover, some in mainland China, including Peking University scholar Pan Wei Bo, feel the most effective and appropriate political structure for the Chinese people is a relatively centralized state under rule of law, with some degree of popular consultation.
Capital punishment exists in Taiwan. National police and security agencies are, however, under effective civilian control, although isolated reports of human right abuse still surface occasionally. Taiwanese residents generally enjoyed a high standard of living and a relatively equitable income distribution. The government generally respected the human rights of citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Instances of police abuse of persons in police custody, official corruption, violence and discrimination against women, child prostitution and abuse, and trafficking in women and children occurred.
In recent years, Taiwan's laws have focused on combating sexual discrimination, granting greater accommodation to conscientious objectors (Republic of China has obligatory national service), and upholding cultural and linguistic pluralism. In 2001, Republic of China's Ministry of Justice issued a draft version of the Basic Law On The Guarantees of Human Rights. For significant periods of Taiwan's history, both before and after 1949, when the Republic of China lost control of mainland China while only maintaining control of Taiwan, linguistic and cultural rights for minorities or non-power holding groups were often repressed. For example, local dialects such as Taiwanese (or any other non-Mandarin spoken variants spoken by the Taiwanese) were restricted in the mass media to promote the use of Mandarin as the common language.
- February 28 Incident
- Capital punishment in Taiwan
- Censorship in Taiwan
- Corporal punishment in Taiwan
- LGBT rights in Taiwan
- 2004 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights — China (Taiwan only)
- Human Rights in Taiwan - Government Information Office website
- Freedom House 2010 report on Taiwan
- Censorship in Taiwan
- Human rights on the website of the Ministry of Justice - review of the state reports