September 28: Taiwan’s Role in Transnational Human Rights Issues

September 28: Taiwan’s Role in Transnational Human Rights Issues

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 from 10:00AM – 11:30AM (ET)

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a seminar titled “Taiwan’s Role in Transnational Human Rights Issues.” With Taiwan’s strong commitment to human rights and vibrant civil society, the island has been a leader when it comes to many global social issues. Not only is Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage, but it also ranked within the top 20 in Freedom House’s 2022 Global Freedom Scores, scoring higher than both South Korea and the United States. Taiwan has also shown an enduring commitment to human rights through continual advances to indigenous rights and NGO involvement both domestically and abroad. Despite Taiwan’s strong human rights record, there are still areas where improvements can be made. This is particularly true when it comes to transnational issues, ranging from the treatment of foreign workers to Taiwan’s lack of a national asylum system. Additionally, the Asia-Pacific is the only region without a regional human rights mechanism, highlighting the crucial lack of a regional framework to address these issues. 

This panel aims to evaluate several human rights issues in Taiwan—LGBTQ+ rights, forced labor, and asylum-seeking—that have transnational effects and require transnational solutions. Where can Taiwan act as a leader and in what areas can it improve? Are there issues on which the United States can work together with Taiwan to ensure that human rights are being upheld? Or, conversely, are there lessons that the United States and other countries can learn from Taiwan? Featuring a representative from the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, this event will host experts on each of the three topics with the aim of examining the current state of human rights in Taiwan and pinpointing both Taiwan’s successes and challenges to find areas of international cooperation. This panel discussion is organized by the Global Taiwan Institute and supported in part by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. 

Doors will open at 9:30, and the event will begin at 10:00. If you plan on attending in-person, please RSVP here by September 26, as seating is limited. Please only register if you would like to attend in-person. Please direct questions or concerns to Program Assistant Zoe Weaver-Lee at zweaver@globaltaiwan.org.

The event will also be broadcast live on our website and on YouTube beginning at 10:00.

**Media: Please contact Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.

COVID Procedures: Proof of vaccination will be required at check in. Persons who do not provide proof of full vaccination will not be admitted to enter the premises unless the guest is under the age of 12 or has been granted a medical exemption approved by the event organizer.

The Speakers:

You Shih-ting (Tina) is the director of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights’ (TAHR) Northern Office based in Taipei. Her work focuses on the advocacy and education of human rights, and connecting the organization with other national and international partners to bring about greater impacts. Before joining TAHR in 2020, she had broad experience in business and human rights. Throughout her career, she has been inspired by the determination of youth and deeply believes that the world will become better if the younger generation gets more involved in the field of human rights.

Kao Ying-chao is an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University. His research interests include sexualities, gender and masculinities, global religions, and inequalities. He has published his work in the journals Contexts, Sexuality Research in China (in English), and Gender Equity Education Quarterly (in Chinese). His research on military masculinity was published in East Asian Men: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Desire and Masculinities in a Global Era. His traditional Chinese translation of Laud Humphreys’ Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places won the Editorship Award at the Taipei International Book Exhibition in 2017. He received his PhD in sociology from Rutgers University in 2018.

Jennifer Hong is a senior director at the Project 2049 Institute. Joining Project 2049 after over 10 years of federal government experience, she has worked at the US Department of State and National Science Foundation in various capacities, working on human rights and anti-trafficking issues across Asia and the Pacific Islands and leading strategic communications in the fields of foreign policy, law enforcement, and science and engineering. She received a MA in public policy from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a BA in legal studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Moderator:

Adrienne Wu is a research assistant at GTI and the host of GTI’s soft power and cultural policy podcast, Taiwan Salon. She graduated as valedictorian of her program in 2020 with a dual master’s degree in international relations from Ritsumeikan University and Kyunghee University. Her research interests include Taiwanese democratic consolidation, national identity, and soft power. Prior to graduate school, she worked as an English Instructor in Japan and Taiwan. She also worked at the Presidential Precinct to help facilitate the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for young African leaders. She has spent seven years living in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan—including a year of study at Waseda University while pursuing her BA in honors East Asian studies from McGill University. 

Event Summary: 

On September 28, 2022, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) hosted a seminar with the support of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, titled “Taiwan’s Role in Transnational Human Rights Issues.” This event featured You Shih-ting (Tina) of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Professor Kao Ying-chao of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and Jennifer Hong of the Project 2049 Institute. The event was moderated by GTI Research Assistant Adrienne Wu.

Wu began with an overview of Taiwan’s strong commitment to human rights and civil society, with a particular emphasis on LGBTQ+ rights. However, she also highlighted several challenges Taipei continues to face, including its poor handling of asylum seekers and issues involving forced labor. 

Following this introduction, Ms. You began by discussing the need for a transnational human rights framework in the Asia-Pacific, highlighting the forced disappearance of Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-che following his arrival in China. She continued by explaining the numerous forced labor violations that occur in Taiwan’s fishing industry, adding that the US government should take immediate action to address their role in structural injustices within the global supply chain. Additionally, You emphasized the need for the Taiwanese government to loosen restrictions on asylum seekers, and to allow marriage licenses for non-Taiwanese LGBTQ+ couples. 

Continuing where Ms. You left off on LGBTQ+ rights, Professor Kao Ying-chao lauded Taiwan as the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. However, he contended that there is much room for growth in the scope of education on LGBTQ+ issues. He noted that the environment surrounding LGBTQ+ rights differs greatly from the West, where religion is frequently at odds with LGBTQ+ rights. 

Ms. Hong then shifted the discussion back to the issue and implementation of transnational justice in Taiwan. She touched on her work at the Department of State involving human trafficking issues, highlighting that forced labor on fishing vessels continues to be a “very difficult” issue. She cited the lack of labor laws and the difficulty in policing off-shore vessels as key factors in the continuation of human trafficking. 

The discussion concluded with all panelists agreeing that Taiwan has the potential to be a beacon for human rights, both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. Additionally, the establishment of bilateral relations between the United States and Taiwan could help to improve existing efforts to counter human trafficking, as well as to help remove all forced labor products from global supply chains. 

This summary was written by GTI Fall 2022 Intern Katherine Wagner.

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