This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.
COUNTRY PROFILE: TAIWAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Government Overview: Taiwan has a multiparty democratic regime headed by a popularly elected president and unicameral legislature in which four major parties maintain two alliances in a new era of coalition politics and divided government. The current governmental system was established by the 1946 constitution of the Republic of China. As envisioned by its founder, Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925), the government has five branches, or yuans: executive, legislative, judicial, examination, and control. In March 2004, incumbent President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (Minzhu Jinpu Dang, abbreviated as Minjindang; DPP) barely won reelection. In the December 2004 Legislative Yuan elections, Chen’s party won the most seats, but the Kuomintang (KMT) increased its tally of seats and, through an alliance with two other parties—the Pan-Blue alliance—could outvote the Chen’s Pan-Green alliance. It is thus difficult for the DPP government to further its economic and political reform agendas. In keeping with its trend toward independence, the DPP administration increasingly eschews the Republic of China name.
Taiwan’s constitution—that of the Republic of China—was adopted by the National Constituent Assembly in Nanjing, China, on December 25, 1946. It was promulgated on January 1, 1947, and took effect on December 25, 1947. On April 18, 1948, the National Assembly added to the constitution a set of “Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion,” which in effect superseded the constitution and gave the president emergency powers. These provisions were in effect until terminated in 1991. To bring the constitution into line with Taiwan’s new situation, in 1991 the National Assembly passed the first amendment to the 1946 constitution. It has 10 articles, including provision for regular elections for the Legislative Yuan and the National Assembly; authorization for the president to issue emergency decrees to avert imminent danger to the security of the nation or of the people; and the stipulation that rights and obligations between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait may be regulated by law. Since then the constitution has been amended five more times, in 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999 (voided in 2000), and 2000 (revised the fourth amendment articles), all aimed at fostering constitutional democracy. The constitution now has 175 articles in 9 chapters, with 6 amendments (4 of which are operative) and 11 operative “additional articles.” The constitution invokes the Three Principles of the People (Sun Yat-sun’s San Min Chu I—nationalism, democracy, and social well-being). Article 1 describes the Republic of China as a “democratic republic of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Executive Branch: The chief of state on Taiwan since May 20, 2000, and reelected in March 2004, is President Chen Shui-bian. The vice president is Lu Hsiu-lien (Annette Lu), Chen’s running mate in 2000 and 2004. The government is led by a cabinet known as the Executive Yuan, which is the highest administrative organ and is responsible to the Legislative Yuan. The head of government (or premier) is the president of the Executive Yuan, Hsieh Chang-ting (Frank Hsieh, since February 2005), who is assisted by a vice premier (Wu Rong-I, since February 2005). The premier is appointed by the president; vice premiers are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier. In February 2005, the Executive Yuan had 45 members, including the premier, vice premier, secretary general, 38 individuals holding the title of minister or minister without portfolio, 8 commission and council chairs, the governor of the Central Bank of China, and the director of the National Palace Museum.
Legislative Branch: Taiwan has two unicameral legislative bodies. The highest legislative organ in Taiwan is the Legislative Yuan. It has 225 members elected for three-year terms, and incumbents are eligible for reelection. Of the total seat holders, 168 are elected by popular vote, 41 are elected on the basis of the proportion of island-wide votes received by the participating political parties, 8 are elected from overseas Chinese constituencies on the basis of island-wide votes received by participating parties, and 8 are elected by popular vote among the aboriginal populations. The number of seats in the Legislative Yuan is scheduled to be reduced from 225 to 113 with the election of 2007. The president of the Executive Yuan in February 2005 was Wang Jin-pyng.
The other unicameral legislative body is the National Assembly. Once a powerful body that elected the chief of state, the National Assembly has been weakened by means of various constitutional amendments between 1991 and 2000. It became a 300-seat, non-standing body with delegates nominated by political parties on the basis of proportional representation within three months of a Legislative Yuan call to amend the constitution, impeach the president, or change national borders. Most of its original functions, including hearing the president’s state of the nation address and approving the president’s nominations of members of the Council of Grand Justices and the heads of the Examination Yuan and Control Yuan, have been transferred to the Legislative Yuan.
Judicial Branch: The Judicial Yuan is composed of justices appointed by the president with the consent of the Legislative Yuan. The Council of Grand Justices, the main body of the Judicial Yuan, comprises the president (in February 2005, Weng Yueh-sheng) and vice president of the Judicial Yuan, who serve for four-year terms, and 13 other grand justices who serve for eight years. The council interprets the constitution and “unifies the interpretation of laws and ordinances.” The Judicial Yuan is in charge of civil, criminal, and administrative cases. It also deals with cases concerning the discipline of public officials. Its subordinate organs are the Supreme Court (with 8 civil and 12 criminal divisions); high courts (currently, there is one court serving Taiwan and P’eng-hu, with branch courts in T’ai-chung, T’ai-nan, Kao-hsiung, and Hua-lien, which addresses civil, criminal, juvenile, traffic, and labor cases); district courts (20, each with civil, criminal, and summary divisions); the Supreme Administrative Court; high administrative courts (three, which, together with the Supreme Administrative Court, are part of a “two-level and two-instance system” for administrative litigation established in 2000); and the Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries, which exercises jurisdiction over cases brought before the Control Yuan. In the early 2000s, the Judicial Yuan has endeavored to reduce political influence on judges. An independent committee using secret ballots now decides judicial appointments and promotions. Except in the case of decisions by assistant judges, judicial decisions are no longer subject to review by presiding judges.
Examination Yuan: The Examination Yuan is the fourth branch of government. It has a president (in February 2005, Yao Chia-wen) and 19 members, all of whom were appointed in 2002 for six-year terms by the president, with the approval of the Legislative Yuan. The Examination Yuan Council is made up of the Examination Yuan president and vice president and one other member. The council makes policy and decides all significant matters within the jurisdiction of the Examination Yuan, that is, examinations, pay, conditions of employment, and training. The Examination Yuan also oversees the civil service pension fund. Its subordinate bodies are the Ministry of Examination, the Ministry of Civil Service, the Civil Service Protection and Training Commission, and the Supervisory Board of the Public Service Pension Fund. The Examination Yuan also supervises the operations of the Central Personnel Administration, which was established under the Executive Yuan in 1967.
Control Yuan: The Control Yuan is the fifth branch of government. It meets monthly with its president (in February 2005, Fredrick Chien; Chien Fu) serving as chair. The Control Yuan has seven committees, which handle cases on domestic and ethnic minority affairs; foreign and overseas Chinese affairs; national defense and intelligence affairs; finance and economic affairs; education and cultural affairs; transportation, communications, and procurement affairs; and judicial affairs and prison administration. It has a supervisory role with respect to security matters, censure, and audit. The Control Yuan also has the authority to impeach public officials at the central and local levels. It once was a parliamentary body with 223 members, but after being reformed into a quasi-judicial branch of government in 1992, its membership dropped to 29. Although the Control Yuan once had the power to impeach the president and vice president, a constitutional amendment moved that function to the Legislative Yuan in 2000.
Administrative Divisions: Taiwan has two provincial-level units: the Taiwan Provincial Government, which administers Taiwan and the P’eng-hu Islands (Pescadores, 64 islands), and the Fu-chien Provincial Government, which has control of some 20 offshore islands formerly appertaining to the mainland’s Fujian Province.
Provincial and Local Government: The Taiwan Provincial Government has jurisdiction over the island of Taiwan and the P’eng-hu Islands (Pescadores). The governor of Taiwan Province presides over a 19-member Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council. There also is a popularly elected Taiwan Provincial Assembly. Taiwan Province is subdivided into 16 counties (hsien), headed by magistrates; 5 municipalities (shih), headed by mayors; and 2 special municipalities (chuan-shih)—Taipei and Kao-hsiung, also headed by mayors. However, Taipei and Kao-hsiung and all of Taiwan’s counties and cities are directly administered by the Executive Yuan. The capital of Taiwan Province since 1989 has been Chung-hsing-hsin-ts’un (Chung-hsing New Village) in Nan-t’ou County. The Republic of China also has administrative control over two counties subordinate to the Fu-chien Provincial Government: Kinmen and Lienchiang counties. Kinmen County includes the island of Kinmen and other outlying islands, which are offshore from the mainland city of Xiamen (Hsia-men or Amoy). The part of Lienchiang County controlled by the Taiwan authorities includes Matsu and its outlying islands. It is to the north of Kinmen, offshore from the mouth of the mainland’s Minjiang (Min River) and the provincial capital of Fuzhou. From 1956 to 1992, the armed forces had full administrative control of Kinmen and Lienchiang. In 1992 local autonomy was restored to both counties as part of the constitutional reforms, giving their residents the same rights and freedoms as all people in Taiwan. The Fu-chien Provincial Consultative Council, presided over by the governor of Fu-chien, has offices in the town of Kinmen on Kinmen Island (Chin-men Tao). Throughout Taiwan, P’eng-hu, and the Fu-chien islands there are popularly elected county and municipal assemblies and village and town councils.
Judicial and Legal System: The legal code is based on the German-based civil-law system that was brought to Taiwan by the Kuomintang government after World War II. The current legal system used throughout Taiwan is derived from the national constitution, civil laws enacted by the legislature, and the Code of Civil Procedure, all of which are applied through the three-tier court system (district courts and their branches, which hear civil and criminal cases; high courts and their branches, which hear appeals against judgments of district courts or their branches; and the Supreme Court at the highest appellate level). Judges are given life-time appointments but can be removed if found guilty of a criminal offense, subjected to disciplinary measure, or declared to be under interdiction.
Electoral System: Article 129 of the constitution guarantees universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot. Persons who have reached age 20 can vote, and persons 23 years and older can run for office. Article 129 of the constitution provides for presidential and vice presidential candidates running on the same ticket and elected by popular vote to four-year terms. The next Legislative Yuan election will be held in December 2007 and the next presidential election, in March 2008. In elections for special municipality mayors, county magistrates, provincial-level municipality mayors, rural and urban township magistrates, and county-level city mayors, each voter casts one vote in a single-member district, and the candidate who receives a plurality of the votes is elected. Elections for the Legislative Yuan, special municipal councils, county or city councils, and township councils use the single, non-transferable vote method. Normally, several representatives are elected from a single electoral district based on existing administrative boundaries. Each voter casts one vote, and several leading candidates are elected. Prior to an election, each party submits two lists of candidates, one for the national constituency and the other for overseas Chinese communities. Voters do not vote directly for candidates on the party lists. Instead, they vote in their respective single, non-transferable-vote districts, and the votes obtained by all candidates are totaled according to party affiliation. The seats for the national constituency and overseas Chinese communities are then distributed proportionally among the parties that get at least 5 percent of total valid votes nationwide. National and local elections are held and supervised by the Central Elections Commission, an organization subordinate to the Executive Yuan. Article 133 of the constitution provides for recall of a duly elected candidate, and Article 136 provides for initiatives and referenda.
Politics and Political Parties: After years of dominance by the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), from 1949 to 1989, Taiwan developed a multiparty democracy from among splinters of the Kuomintang as well as opposition groups. The most successful party in this new era is the Democratic Progressive Party (Minzhu Jinpu Dang, abbreviated as Minjindang; DPP), which has had successes in the Legislative Yuan elections since its establishment in 1986. Its candidate, Chen Shui-bian, won the presidency in 2000 and 2004. In the March 20, 2004, Chen and his running mate, Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien (Annette Lu), garnered 50.1 percent of the popular votes while their opponents, Lien Chan of the Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party) and his vice presidential running mate, James C.Y. Soong of the People First Party (Qinmindang, a KMT breakaway party, PFP), won 49.9 percent. In the December 11, 2004, Legislative Yuan elections, the DPP won 36 percent of the vote (89 seats) to the Kuomintang’s 33 percent (79 seats). The other parties of note were the PFP, which won 14 percent of the vote (34 seats), and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (Taiwan Tuanjie Lianmeng; TSU), which took 8 percent of the vote (12 seats). The Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (Wudang Tuanjie Lianmeng, which won 6 seats), the New Party (Hsin Tang or Xindang, formerly the Chinese New Party, Zhongguo Xindang, which won 1 seat), and independents (non-party—tang-wai or dangwai, 4 seats) hold the other 11 Legislative Yuan seats. Four major parties form two alliances: the pro-independence Pan-Green alliance includes the DPP and the TSU. The pro-reunification Pan-Blue alliance includes the KMT, the PFP, and the New Party. The Pan-Blue alliance holds a slight majority (113 to 102) in the Legislative Yuan. The Non-Partisan Solidarity Union belongs to neither alliance and takes no position on independence.
Mass Media: Taiwan has 841 registered news agencies. The largest is the Central News Agency (CNA), which since 1996 has been a publicly owned, independently run national company organized under government statute. It has 12 domestic and 30 overseas offices and offers Chinese, English, French, and Spanish language news services via radio, television, and the Internet. Once martial law was lifted in 1986, Taiwan’s media industry became free from government censorship and other constraints. The three largest daily newspapers, listed according to the size of their circulation, are Tzu-yu shih-pao (Liberty Times), Chung-kuo shih-pao (China Times), and Lien-ho pao (United Daily News), each of which also owns companies that sell other publications, including English-language titles. There is also a government-affiliated newspaper, Chung-yang jih-pao (Central Daily News). A daily tabloid, P’ing-guo jih-pao (Apple Daily), and a controversial Hong Kong-based weekly tabloid, I Chou K’an (One Weekly, which is published in Taiwan with the English subtitle Next Taiwan), entered the major newspaper market in 2003 and 2002, respectively, and have achieved wide popular readerships. Taiwan has 598 other newspapers, plus more than 8,000 weekly, biweekly, and monthly magazines. There are more than 7,800 publishing companies in Taiwan, which, in 2001, published a total of 40,235 book titles.
Taiwan’s national radio statio is the Central Broadcasting System, which operates Mandarin local variety and news and dialect networks. Radio Taipei International and the Voice of Asia broadcast in 12 foreign languages. Prior to 1993, Taiwan had only 33 radio broadcasting companies. Ten years later, the number had increased to 154, and 20 more were being developed, while 3,217 radio program production companies were registered. Radio stations offer a range of domestic programming in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Hakka and daily international programming in a variety of Chinese dialects aimed at the mainland and overseas Chinese, as well as Arabic, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Thai, Tibetan, Vietnamese, and a number of European languages. By 2004 Taiwan had 63 cable television companies and 132 satellite broadcasting companies in operation.
In 1999 the Legislative Yuan abolished the Publications Law, which the police had used to seize or ban printed material that was considered seditious, treasonous, sacrilegious, interfered with the lawful exercise of public functions, or violated public order or morals. In 2003 the Legislative Yuan approved legislation that barred the government, political parties, and party officials from owning or running media organizations. The law also required that the government and political parties divest themselves of ownership of all television and radio broadcast companies within two years and that officials resign from boards and managerial positions in media companies within six months.
Foreign Relations: Taiwan, as the Republic of China, has formal diplomatic relations with 24 nations and the Holy See. Most of these nations are in Latin America and the Caribbean (12) and Africa (7), as well as several small Pacific Ocean island nations (5). Nations wanting to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China have had to first agree to break off relations with the Republic of China. However, to ensure a continuation of representation, nonofficial Taiwan offices handling commercial and cultural relations are maintained by 92 representative offices or branch offices in the capitals and major cities of 59 nations. Reciprocally, 48 nations that do not have official diplomatic relations with Taipei have established 58 representative offices or visa-issuing centers in Taiwan. These offices perform most of the functions of embassies and consulates general.
Relations between Taiwan and the United States are conducted under the framework of three documents. The first is the 1979 U.S. Taiwan Relations Act, which established the legal basis for unofficial relations with Taiwan and which has received reaffirmation from each U.S. administration since its enactment. The second is the 1982 U.S.-China joint communiqué, in which the United States declared it did not intend to seek a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan; that its arms sales to Taiwan “would not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years”; and that it planned to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan. In the same document, China said it would strive for a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question. The third document is the 1994 U.S. Taiwan Policy Review, in which, while declaring adherence to previous U.S.-China communiqués and the “one China policy,” the Clinton Administration said that in view of the changing circumstances in China and Taiwan, the United States would allow top Taiwan leaders to transit the United States, initiate sub-cabinet-level economic dialogue with Taiwan, support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that accept non-state members, and allow high-level U.S. government officials to meet with Taiwan counterparts in unofficial settings and to travel to Taiwan.
Even though Washington terminated its 1954 mutual security treaty with Taiwan in 1979, it has continued to sell defensive military equipment to Taiwan. The United States has repeatedly expressed concern over any coercive measures that Beijing takes or threatens to take against Taiwan and that may contribute to regional instability. In Washington’s view, providing defensive weapons to and maintaining unofficial relations with Taiwan are a fundamental part of the U.S. policy that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States has welcomed and encouraged cross-strait dialogue to reduce tensions and to create an environment for a peaceful resolution of differences between Taiwan and the People’s Republic. The United States does not support Taiwan independence and has stated that it is opposed to any attempt by either side to unilaterally alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan maintains its diplomatic presence in the United States with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, which has its headquarters in Taipei and offices in Washington, D.C., and 12 other U.S. cities. The United States reciprocates with its American Institute in Taiwan, with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and offices in Taipei and Kao-hsiung.
Relations with Japan and South Korea also are very important. Both are major trading partners and have had long histories of political and cultural exchanges with Taiwan. Both Taiwan and U.S. policy makers see Taiwan, along with Japan and South Korea, as part of the strategic triangle of Asian democratic countries that help promote peace in the Asian-Pacific region.
Taiwan has long maintained close relations with West European nations, with emphasis on trade, cultural, technological, educational, and tourism exchanges. Relations with Europe are conducted both bilaterally and with European institutions, especially the European Union (EU). Taiwan has an embassy at the Holy See and representative offices in the capitals of 19 EU members, as well as in Norway and Switzerland. The Taipei Representative Office in Belgium is in charge of EU affairs. The EU and 18 European nations have representative offices in Taipei.
Cross-Strait Relations: The People’s Republic of China considers Taiwan one of its provinces and an inalienable part of China that has been separated from the motherland since 1949. The Republic of China government also holds to the principle that Taiwan is part of China, and reunification and “return to the mainland” are long-held goals. Taipei also has taken the stance that genuine democratization of the mainland is a prerequisite for reunification. While Beijing adamantly opposes independence or any quasi-state status for Taiwan and periodically threatens forceful reunification, Taiwan’s leaders have increasingly moved toward de facto independence and rejection of Beijing’s proffered “one country, two systems” approach that has been applied to Hong Kong and Macau. Taiwan holds that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been governed since 1949 as separate territories and have developed separate identities.
The two sides have had no direct official contact since 1949. At the onset of the reform era on the mainland in 1979, Beijing began making intensive overtures to Taiwan, but Taipei responded with its “three no’s policy” (no contacts, no negotiations, and no compromise). However, starting in the early 1980s, both sides allowed economic and trade exchanges, education exchanges, travel, tourism, and other activities. Private exchanges between relatives on the two sides began in 1987. In May 1991, President Lee Teng-hui announced the termination of the “Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion,” thereby abandoning the claim to govern mainland China, acknowledging that the Chinese Communist Party regime controls the mainland, and establishing the position that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are under separate rule. Between 1990 and 1991, Taiwan set up three organizations to administer relations between itself and mainland China. They are the National Unification Council, an advisory board to the president that drafted guidelines in February 1991 calling for a phased approach toward unification; the Mainland Affairs Council, a cabinet-level administrative agency responsible for the overall planning, coordination, evaluation, and implementation of the government’s mainland policies; and the Straits Exchange Foundation, a private organization authorized by the government to handle technical and business matters with China. The Act Governing Relations Between Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area was promulgated in 1992 and amended several times since to keep adapting to rapidly changing cross-strait relations. In 1993 representatives from the Straits Exchange Foundation met in Singapore with their mainland counterparts, the representatives of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, for the first cross-strait talks in more than 40 years. Beijing’s extreme displeasure with the 1995 visit to the United States by Taiwan President Lee Tung-hui and China’s 1996 test firing of a guided missile off Taiwan’s coast during the campaign for the island’s first popularly elected president kept other cross-strait meetings from occurring. The second round of talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait was held in Shanghai in 1998, and agreement was reached on expanding exchanges. However, when Lee Tung-hui said in a July 1999 interview that a “special state-to-state relationship” existed between Taiwan and China, Beijing suspended further negotiations and has since excoriated Lee.
Despite its great displeasure over Lee Tung-hui’s 1999 remarks, Beijing continues to favor the traditional position and policies of the KMT and was very unhappy with the election of a Taiwan independence advocate, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Chen Shui-bian, in March 2000. In his inaugural address, Chen tempered his party’s outspoken position on independence with the pronouncement of the “five nos,” saying that as long as Beijing had no intention of using military force against Taiwan, he would not declare independence, change the name of the nation, push for the inclusion of the “state-to-state” description in the constitution, or promote a referendum on the issue of independence or unification. The “five no’s” have been reaffirmed on several occasions since then, including a Lunar News Message on February 24, 2005. Chen also has insisted that the cross-strait dialogue should be conducted without any preconditions, while Beijing insists on recognition of the “one China” concept as a prerequisite, which Chen, while acknowledging this insistence, has stopped short of endorsing. Thereafter, additional progress was made in cross-strait activities, including opening direct transportation, postal services, and trade between China and Kinmen and Matsu; expanding the functions and scope of offshore shipping centers; and opening Taiwan to tourism by mainland citizens. Taiwan’s earlier “no haste, be patient” policy regarding direct investment on the mainland was replaced by the principle of “proactive liberalization with effective management.”
In the ensuing years, there was little Taiwan could do to assuage Beijing’s political concerns, especially following statements such as Chen made in July 2002, characterizing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait as “Taiwan and China standing on opposite sides of the Strait, there is one country on each side.” A breakthrough came in 2003, when the two sides agreed to allow indirect chartered air flights from Taiwan on festival holidays, although only the Lunar New Year flights ultimately took place. A further breakthrough was made in January 2005, when Beijing agreed to two-way, round-trip, and direct non-stop charter flights across the Taiwan Strait. The first flights took place on January 29, 2005. In March 2005, China passed a new Taiwan anti-secession law. The law states that China would “never forswear the use of force . . . [and] non-peaceful means . . . would be our last resort when all our efforts for a peaceful reunification should prove futile.” Taiwan Premier Frank Hsieh, at a rally in Taipei protesting the new law, said that cross-strait relations were not and never will be a domestic issue as Beijing claims. Pro-independence demonstrators condemned the law and burned People’s Republic of China flags in protest.
International Memberships: The Republic of China was one of the founding members of the United Nations (UN) in 1946 and was a permanent member of the UN Security Council. However, following the vote of the UN General Assembly in 1971, China’s seat was given to the People’s Republic of China, and Taipei’s representatives were ousted. Taiwan has campaigned unsuccessfully since 1993 for membership in the UN system and since 1997 for observer status in the World Health Organization. Taiwan belongs to the following multilateral organizations in which statehood is not a requirement for membership: Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Asian Development Bank, Central American Bank for Economic Integration, International Chamber of Commerce, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Olympic Committee, World Confederation of Labor, and World Trade Organization (both China and Taiwan became members on January 1, 2002). Although no longer a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), representatives of Taiwan’s Chinese Federation of Labor attend ILO annual meetings as an affiliate of the ICFTU.
Major International Treaties: Treaties signed on behalf of China before 1949 are applicable only to the Republic of China on Taiwan. Because of its international status, Taiwan is not a party to any international environmental agreements. In 1972 Taiwan signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, but its signature was not recognized because Taiwan is not a sovereign state. Taiwan was not allowed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention when it came into force in 1997. However, Taiwan has said it will adhere to both of these conventions as well as to the Missile Technology Control Regime.
Armed Forces Overview: The president of the Republic of China is the commander in chief of the armed forces. The Ministry of Defense has various administrative and planning departments. The chief of the general staff oversees military operations through the army, navy, and air force general headquarters, each of which is led by its own commander in chief. The armed forces totaled about 290,000 personnel in 2004. Components are the army (approximately 200,000); navy (45,000), including a marine component (15,000); and air force (45,000). The active military structure is supported by a 1.6 million-strong Reserve Command, of which 1.5 million are army, 32,000 navy, 35,000 marines, and 90,000 air force personnel.
Foreign Military Relations: The United States is Taiwan’s most important source of military matériel and supports Taiwan with sales of defensive weaponry necessary to offset an attack from the People’s Republic of China.
External Threat: The major threat perceived by Taiwan is from the People’s Republic of China, which has periodically and emphatically stated that it will take control of Taiwan by force if necessary.
Defense Budget: Taiwan’s annual military expenditures in 2003 totaled US$6.6 billion, or US$293 per capita, almost 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The defense budget for 2005 represented 15.4 percent of the total government budget.
Major Military Units: The army has 3 army corps, an airborne special operations command, 10 infantry divisions, 2 mechanized infantry divisions, 3 mobile divisions, 2 air defense brigades, 6 independent armored brigades, 1 tank group, 2 air defense surface-to-air missile groups, 2 aviation groups, and 2 aviation brigades. Three offshore commands, with some 50,000 troops, are located on Kinmen, Matsu, and P’eng-hu islands. The navy is divided into three naval districts, with a headquarters base at Tsoying (north of Kao-hsiung) and bases at An-ping, Hsin-c’hu, Hua-lien, Chi-lung, Kenting, Ma-kung (P’eng-hu Islands), Suao, Tamshui, and Wuchi. Naval aviation units are based at Hua-lien, P’ing-t’ung, and Tsoying. The air force has 13 main air bases and has access to 21 civilian and military airports located throughout the country. The air force is organized into 34 combat, reconnaissance, airborne early warning, electronic warfare, search and rescue, transport, and helicopter squadrons. In 2004 Taiwan set up its new Missile Command under the Army General headquarters. It combines army air-defense missile units and navy antiship, land-based missile units (but not air force land-based missile units).
Major Military Equipment: The army’s major military equipment includes 300 main battle tanks, 230 light tanks, 650 armored personnel carriers, 997 pieces of towed artillery, 415 pieces of self-propelled artillery, coastal artillery pieces, more than 300 multiple rocket launchers, mortars, 240 surface-to-surface rockets and missiles, 1,000 antitank guided weapons, more than 500 recoilless launchers, and 400 air defense guns. The navy has 4 submarines, 11 destroyers, 21 frigates, 10 corvettes, 11 large patrol craft, 116 or more fast attack craft (missile), 4 ocean minesweepers, 12 coastal minesweepers, 3 land ships (dock), 18 land ships (tank) and landing ships (medium), 18 landing ships (craft utility), 1 survey ship, 1 combat survey ship, 1 repair ship, 5 or more transport ships, 3 or more salvage ships, and 2 support tankers. The naval aviation wing has shipborne and land-based helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The air force has 479 combat aircraft, including 3 fighter squadrons and 20 fighter and ground attack squadrons. The air inventory also includes various reconnaissance aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, 4 airborne early warning aircraft, 1 squadron of search and rescue aircraft, 3 transport squadrons, 18 helicopters (but no armed helicopters), and 78 training aircraft, as well as a substantial number of air-to-surface, antiradiation, and air-to-air missiles.
Military Service: All males in good health when reaching 18 years of age are liable for 2 years of military service (2 months of basic training followed by 22 months of active duty). Individuals can be drafted as members of the armed forces between ages 19 and 45. National Guard service can substitute for active-duty armed forces service under certain conditions (for example, “average health,” poor economic status, or only son of parents more than 70 years of age).
Paramilitary Forces: The Coast Guard has about 22,000 members, mostly involved in guard duty in the Nan-sha (Spratly) and Tung-sha (Pratas) islands. They are organized into 8 local coast guard commands and 25 coast guard battalions. The Customs Service under the Ministry of Finance has about 650 armed officers. There also are 1,000 members of the Maritime Police, with about 38 armed patrol boats. Additionally, about 25,000 personnel belong to security groups under the National Police Administration, Ministry of Interior; Bureau of Investigation, Ministry of Justice; and Military Police, Ministry of Defense.
Foreign Military Forces: The Singapore armed forces have three training camps (for infantry, artillery, and armored forces) in Taiwan. In 2002–4 there was discussion by Singapore about possibly moving some or all of these facilities to China’s Hainan Island.
Police and Internal Security: The National Police Administration (NPA) of the Ministry of Interior, the NPA’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, and the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau are responsible for law enforcement relating to internal security. The NPA handles national police administrative affairs and commands and supervises all police agencies in Taiwan. The subordinate organizations of the NPA include the Immigration Office, which handles international entries and exits; the Criminal Investigation Police, which is responsible for crime prevention and investigation; the National Highway Police, which maintains traffic order and safety and investigates traffic accidents on national freeways; the Aviation Police, which is in charge of air terminal and airport security; the Railway Police, which maintains railway security; the Taiwan Police College, which is in charge of police education; the Special Police, organized into six headquarters and responsible for guarding central government agencies, assisting with local security, protecting designated organizations, and enforcing security checks at airports; Special Police Provincial Headquarters, which is in charge of security for state-run industries; the National Parks Police Corps, which maintains security, order, and rescue work within national parks; the Aerial Police Brigade, which provides air mobilization support for other police forces; and the Chi-lung (Keelung), Hua-lien, Kao-hsiung, and T’ai-chung harbor police.
Terrorism: Taiwan has not been the target of international terrorist activities but has made preparations to safeguard itself against possible attacks. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Taiwan increased its own antiterrorist security and that of foreign entities in Taiwan, especially the United States. These measures include more police protection of foreign embassies, representative offices, and related organizations and the exchange of intelligence and information relative to security inspection, anti-money laundering, and energy security. The government also took measures to improve the collection of advance warnings of the arrival in Taiwan of members of terrorist organizations and information on the manufacture and trafficking of illegal biochemical agents and weapons of mass destruction. On the domestic front, an unknown group—or possibly an individual who a few days later committed suicide—attempted to assassinate President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien in T’ai-nan on March 19, 2004, during their presidential reelection campaign.
Human Rights: Personal freedoms are guaranteed in Article 8 of the Republic of China constitution. The same article prohibits extralegal arrest and detention, requires that the organization making an arrest or detention shall make the charges known and turn over the detainee to an appropriate court not later then 24 hours after the arrest, and allows trials only as prescribed by law. Military courts are limited to the prosecution of persons in active-duty military service. In articles 10 through 16, the constitution guarantees a wide range of rights, such as freedom of speech, teaching, writing, and publication; freedom of privacy of correspondence; freedom of religious belief; freedom of assembly and of association; the rights to live, work, and own property; the right to present petitions, lodge complaints, and institute legal proceedings; and the rights of election, recall, initiative, and referendum. Article 23 stipulates that these constitutionally guaranteed rights shall not be abridged by law “except as may be necessary to prevent infringement upon the freedoms of others, to avert imminent danger, to main social order, or to promote public welfare.” Taiwan’s Code of Criminal Procedure provides that no violence, threat, inducement, fraud, or other improper means shall be used against accused persons.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s human rights report for 2004, there were credible reports that police have occasionally physically abused persons in their custody and that such abuses most often occurred in local police stations where interrogations were not recorded and when attorneys often were not present. According to the government, instilling respect for human rights is part of basic police training, and the Central Police University, the Taiwan Police College, and police departments are strengthening human rights and legal education in the student curriculum and personnel training. Human rights groups have acknowledged these improvements. Prison conditions generally meet international standards, and human rights monitors are allowed in for inspections. However, conditions are crowded, and prisons are being expanded. An area that has been considered seriously problematic is violence against women, including domestic violence and rape. Taiwan is a significant transit point and, to a lesser extent, a destination for trafficked persons. Organized crime rings reportedly traffic in a small number of women for the purpose of prostitution. The majority of cases involve women from mainland China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
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