SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

一島一命: Case for Taiwan’s Urgent Reforms in Migrant Rights

Bonny Ling

Date: 31 May 2022Time: 12:00 PM

Finishes: 31 May 2022Time: 1:30 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B103

Type of Event: Talk

*Please be aware that this session follows British Summer Time (BST).


President Tsai Ing-wen in 2021 wrote in the U.S. publication Foreign Affairs that Taiwan can be a force for good in the changing international order. She described the story of Taiwan as one of resilience, upholding democratic and progressive values while facing a constant challenge to its existence. Taiwan is “a testament to what a determined practitioner of democracy can achieve.” Yet, this vision of Taiwan is beset by reports of abuse of its migrant population that stand at odds with the people-centric aims of its New Southbound Policy of closer ties between Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

Taiwan ranks 15th in total exports in the world and occupies an important place in global supply chains, whether in the high-tech industry or seafood. Taiwan produces over half the global supply of semiconductors, while its distant-waters fishing fleet is the second largest in the world, after China. These sectors are highly dependent on migrant labour, the same as for Taiwan’s domestic care and social welfare sector.

This talk sets out the case for Taiwan to undertake urgent reforms in migrant rights, particularly with respect to its migrant recruitment system and in the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation. The talk will reference different regimes of public international law, as well as growing expectations in the area of business and human rights, and argue that Taiwan must embark on reforms in the situation of migrant rights with immediacy — for the sake of its economy and, moreover, for its vision of upholding democratic and progressive values in a changing international order.

Case for Taiwan’s Urgent Reforms in Migrant Rights

(Caption: At the arrival hall of Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan. For many migrant workers landing in Taiwan, this service counter would be their first point of contact with local authorities. Image taken by Bonny Ling in October 2019.)

Speaker Bio

Bonny Ling

Dr.Bonny Ling is a scholar and practitioner who works on international human rights and development. She has worked in the UN system and in international civil society. Bonny is Executive Director of Work Better Innovations, a research consultancy with a community service mission working on new ideas for a responsible economy; Senior Non-Resident Fellow with the University of Nottingham Taiwan Studies Programme; Research Fellow with the Institute for Human Rights and Business; and Advisory Board Member of the INGO Human Rights at Sea. Bonny wrote her PhD in Law on human trafficking and China at the Irish Centre of Human Rights and is an expert on human trafficking and modern slavery. She graduated from Cambridge University (criminology) and the Fletcher School, Tufts University (law and diplomacy). Bonny has served as an international election observer in East Timor and for the OSCE. Previously at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, she writes on human rights, migrants, business responsibilities and international development and is a contributing writer for Ketagalan Media, New Bloom, Taipei Times, Taiwan Insight and The News Lens.

Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

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