Monday, May 17, 2010

Indonesian Workers Forced to Eat Pork, Mainland Students Not Allowed to Marry

Indonesian Workers Forced to Eat Pork, Mainland Students Not Allowed to Marry
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 17, 2010

A Taiwanese employer who forced Indonesian workers of the Islamic faith to eat pork, has been condemned by the international media. Indonesian labor organizations also denounced him, saying that forcing Indonesian workers to eat eat pork is forcing them to violate their religious consciences, and therefore tantamount to a crime. Yesterday a group of Indonesian workers took to the streets, protesting the brutal and ignorant attitude of Taiwanese employers toward other cultures.

Taiwan has been dependent upon foreign labor for over twenty years. Yet incidents of employers withholding foreign workers' pay, denying them holiday leave, and restricting their movements have not diminished. Many employers see foreign workers as domestic slaves. They see foreign workers as second-class workers. They exploit their bodies, then leave them isolated and without support. They force them to perform endless labor, then ignore their physical and mental fatigue, and demonstrate even less concern for their beliefs and their culture. The reason this incident broke out, was mainly because the employer withheld too much of the foreign workers' wages. In fact, during their training period, many Indonesian workers have been forced to sign consent forms stating, "I am willing to eat pork." Clearly Indonesian workers being forced to eat pork is widespread on Taiwan. It is definitely not limited to this one case.

Taiwan has long taken pride in its prosperity and democracy compared to its Asian neighbors. But as an economy dependent upon foreign workers, discrimination against foreign workers is rash, out of touch with the times, and underscores our shallowness. When discussing foreign workers, many employers think only in terms of "management" and "overhead." But were it not for the abundance of cheap labor from Southeast Asia, twenty years of economic development on Taiwan would probably have a very different face. Therefore, shouldn't we grant these foreign workers, who contributed to Taiwan's development, a little more respect?

Discrimination is a psychological paradox. Often it is a mixture of arrogance, ignorance, and fear. The employer who withheld wages and forced workers to eat pork is a typical example of arrogance and ignorance. Meanwhile, recent DPP attempts to impose layer upon layer of controls on mainland students studying on Taiwan, are the product of another kind of arrogance and fear.

The Democratic Progressive Party initially opposed allowing mainland students to study on Taiwan. The reason they gave was that mainland students would deprive local students of educational resources. But when major universities welcomed mainland students, the Democratic Progressive Party knew that argument would not hold water. Soon they demand a whole new set of barriers, the so-called "Three Limitations and Six Prohibitions." These barriers include limiting the schools mainland students may attend, limiting their numbers, limiting the regions in which they may attend. These barriers include no norm-referenced testing, no reductions in existing enrollment, no scholarships, no moonlighting, no occupational licensure, and no employment allowed. And finally, should a mainland student and a local student happen to fall in love and want to marry, the mainland student will be repatriated.

Consider the matter from an equal rights perspective. Taiwan has established a complicated and onerous threshold for mainland students studying on Taiwan almost as strict as those during martial law. The Democratic Progressive Party is rationalizing its flagrant discrimination with such mantras as "Defending the nation! Defending the people!" The KMT, bafflingly, is dancing to the DPP's tune. At a time when global educational exchanges are increasingly free and open, Taiwan sees mainland students separated by a few miles of water as implacable enemies. It sees mainland students as insidious infiltrators. It sees educational opportunities as deadly threats. Is this not laughable beyond belief?

The Democratic Progressive Party has long boasted of its goal of "founding a nation on human rights." Yet it does everything in its power to treat mainland students and mainland spouses with enmity. The discriminatory restrictions the DPP imposed upon them are utterly devoid of human feeling. They run counter to the concept of universal human rights. The DPP rose to prominence by holding high the banner of democracy and progress, and by safeguarding the interests of the disadvantaged. But somewhere along the way, its ideals of democracy and progress were buried by its "nativist" consciousness. The DPP is able to express its "anti-China" hatred only by demagoguing such low level issues as mainland students studying on Taiwan. One might say that the Green Camp's prejudices against mainland students and mainland spouses reflect a serious step backward for the DPP. Meanwhile the ruling KMT, which is far too eager to compromise, seems to have forgotten that selective discrimination against mainland students is fueling the flames of discrimination on Taiwan.

The general public's oppression of foreign workers, and its contempt for foreign workers has economic and cultural roots. But the Green Camp's antipathy toward [mainland] China and mainland students is politically motivated. Regardless, the targets of both forms of discrimination are part of the Asian community that Taiwan ought to be befriending. This is what we most need to be vigilant about. The Republic of China's diplomatic situation is precarious. Many of our foreign relations depend upon private diplomacy to establish friendship and trust. The visitors ordinary members of the public are most likely to come in contact with are foreign workers, foreign spouses, mainland tourists and mainland students. If the public on Taiwan cannot view others without hostility and prejudice, it may well breed misunderstanding of Taiwan amongst our neighbors, and we may well wind up even more isolated in the Asian community.

2010.05.17 01:38 am









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