Taiwanese hailed as 'hero' by US state Department

Secretary general of Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union has been recognized for protecting the rights of foreign fishermen

Allison Lee (center) with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Ivanka Trump (right). Photo: State Department.

Allison Lee (center) with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Ivanka Trump (right). Photo: State Department.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The secretary general of the Yilan Migrant Fisherman Union (YMFU, 宜蘭縣漁工職業工會), Allison Lee (李麗華), became the first Taiwanese to receive the "Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award" from the U.S. State Department yesterday.

The award ceremony was held in conjunction with the release of the State Departments' 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, during which it was announced that China had been demoted to "Tier 3" category country, the lowest possible ranking. Taiwan, on the other hand, received a ranking as a "Tier 1" nation, the highest ranking in the report.

The citation presented to Lee read:

"In recognition of her unwavering advocacy on behalf of foreign fishermen on Taiwan-flagged vessels, her central role in forming the first labor union composed of and led by foreign workers, and her courage in demanding stronger protections for vulnerable workers through sustained engagement with authorities and the public."

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presented Lee with the award and she spoke briefly with Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, who inquired about her work fighting for foreign fisherman's rights in Taiwan.

Founded in 2013, Lee was instrumental in the establishment of the YMFU, the first union in Taiwan dedicated to protecting the rights of migrant fishermen.

Her efforts to uphold the rights of foreign fishermen were recognized by the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, which submitted a recommendation for her to receive the award.