6 Taiwanese universities caught sending SE Asian students to work in factories

300 Indonesian students at Hsing Wu University forced to work 40 hours a week in contact lens factory

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Students forced to work in contact lens factory. (Photo from Ko Chih-en)

Students forced to work in contact lens factory. (Photo from Ko Chih-en)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Taiwanese legislator today revealed that six more universities have been found to be assigning their students from New Southbound Policy (NSP) nations to manual labor positions in factories, reported Liberty Times.

In the Legislative Yuan today, Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said six universities have been exposed as sending their students from NSP nations to work as manual laborers in factories. In one case, students were only allowed to go to class two days a week and have one day of rest, while working the remaining four days at a factory, where they packaged 30,000 contact lenses for 10 hours per shift.

Ko said in this particular case, 300 Indonesian students under the age of 20 were enrolled at Hsing Wu University (醒吾科大) in New Taipei City's Linkou District through a broker. The students came to attend special international classes that went through the Department of Information Management at in mid-October of last year, reported China Times.

However, the Ministry of Education (MOE) prohibits internships for first-year college students. Despite the ban, the school in question arranged for the students to work as a group.

Classes were only held on Thursdays and Fridays each week, and from Sunday through Wednesday, they were transported by tour bus to a factory in Hsinchu. The students worked in shifts that lasted from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with only a 2-hour break, while they stood for 10 hours a day packaging 30,000 contact lenses.

Ko said that most of the Indonesian students were Muslims and yet, shockingly, many of the meals consisted of pork chops. Moreover, when the students complained to the university, officials oddly asked them to be patient, and said that if the students help the company, the company will help the school.

School officials told the students if they did not go to work, the company would not be able to cooperate with the school. Factory managers also allegedly directly told students, "You are the same as foreign migrant workers."

Ko said that, after the universities applied for the "special classes," they received subsidies from the MOE, which they then used to pay brokers to recruit students. The brokers in turn then convinced students from NSP countries into studying in Taiwan.

Once in Taiwan, the universities then arranged "internships" for the students, and the brokers would then pocket fees from the companies. The fee that the universities paid the brokers was NT$200 for one student and NT$200,000 for 1,000 students, which would be paid under the guise of an "attendance fee," according to Liberty Times.

Acting Minister of Education Yao Leeh-ter (姚立德) said the MOE invited the presidents of these universities to the MOE last year, warning them in person not to break the law. Yao said that in light of the latest revelations, the ministry would conduct an investigation.

Director of the MOE Technological and Vocational Education Department Yang Yu-hui (楊玉惠) said that internships are forbidden for freshmen from NSP countries and after their first year, they should not work more than 20 hours per week, based on the Employment Service Act (就業服務法).

The latest revelations come a little over a month since news broke that 40 Sri Lankan students at the University of Kang Ning were forced to work in a slaughterhouse in Taipei and Tainan.