Taiwan Life in Brief – May 2017

RECUPERATING — Liang Sheng-yueh talks to a doctor at the Grande Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, following his rescue after being lost for 47 days while trekking. Photo: AP/Niranjan Shrestha

Taiwanese Trekker Found Alive in Nepal

A Taiwanese trekker who disappeared in the mountains of Nepal with his girlfriend has been rescued after 47 days in the wilderness, just three days after his girlfriend died. Liang Sheng-yueh, who turned 21 on Friday, and Liu Chen-chun, 19, went missing in early March while trekking in northwestern Nepal during a snowstorm and without a local guide. The pair had little food and survived for weeks on water and salt.

Liang’s family formally requested help in late March after losing contact with the two adventurers, and a search was mounted by the Nepalese government that continued until being suspended in late April due to inclement weather. The search had only recently been resumed when Madhav Basnet, an official at the Kathmandu-based Asian Trekking Agency, and three others found the pair. Liang was much weakened by the ordeal, having lost 30 kilograms and with his toes infected with maggots and his hair with lice. Liang was airlifted to Kathmandu for hospital treatment and Liu’s body for a post-mortem.

Most Sunflower Activists Acquitted

On March 31, the Taipei District Court acquitted 22 defendants on the basis of “civil disobedience” for the March 18, 2014 break-in and occupation of the Legislative Yuan in what came to be called the Sunflower movement. The student-led movement occupied the legislature’s main chamber for over a month to protest the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement, a trade in services pact between China and Taiwan that the student protestors contended was being rushed through with insufficient debate after having been negotiated without enough public communication.

The 22, who included protest leaders Lin Fei-fan, Chen Wei-ting, Huang Kuo-chang, and Wei Yang, were charged with inciting others to commit a crime, obstruction of police officers in the discharge of their duties, and other crimes committed during the break-in at the Legislative Yuan. Taipei District Court Chief Judge Liao Chien-yu said that three-judge panel reviewed theories and practice surrounding the concept of civil disobedience, and concluded that “the defendants’ occupation of the legislature on March 18 was in accordance with the seven major requirements for civil disobedience,” including concern for the public good and non-violence.

Sunflower Remembrance – Students cheer during a gathering to mark the first anniversary of the protest-movement occupation of the legislature

In a separate trial on April 10 involving the March 23, 2014 attempted break-in at the Executive Yuan, the Taipei District Court acquitted student protest leader Wei Yang along with 10 others, but another 11 defendants were convicted of damaging public property and disrupting public services, and were sentenced to three-to-five month prison terms. The April ruling did not cite the principles of civil disobedience.

The current government has sought to drop all charges levied against the Sunflower protesters, but some of the charges are automatically indictable even without a complaint.

Pension Reform Protests Continue

President Tsai Ing-wen’s goals of comprehensive pension reform are being met with passionate and sometime violent protests by civil servants, military officers, and others who will likely be impacted. On April 17, the Pension Reform Oversight Alliance (PROA) organized a protest outside of the Legislative Yuan aimed at blocking a review of pension reform bills. The protests continued throughout the week and turned violent, with several members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allied New Power Party being assaulted by protesters as they tried to enter the legislature on April 19. Premier Lin Chuan criticized the protesters for violence and the National Police Agency for its insufficient protection of lawmakers. Police are questioning a number of protesters about alleged violent acts.

The pension reforms are aimed at reducing interest paid out on civil servants’ retirement packages that are seen as being overly generous and endangering the entire pension system in Taiwan.

Foreign Skilled Workers Wooed

The Executive Yuan revealed a draft law on April 20 aimed at attracting foreign skilled workers through significant changes to existing immigration laws. The draft amendments, called the “Act for Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professional Talent,” would apply to personnel from all over the world (including Hong Kong and Macau) except for mainland China. The draft, which would be restricted to workers in designated industries, provides for lower tax rates, more lenient visa requirements, and inclusion in national pension schemes. The bill now goes to the Legislative Yuan for approval.