Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Wednesday to boost national security, saying her government would not submit to Chinese suppression as Beijing ramps up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island. (Reuters Photo/Tyrone Siu)

No Evidence to Support Claims Indonesian Students Are Abused in Taiwan: Official


JANUARY 04, 2019

Jakarta. John Chen, the head of the Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Jakarta, said on Friday that an investigation had found no evidence that Indonesian students were subject to abuses in Taiwan, and reaffirmed his country's commitment to their welfare.

"After further investigation, [we found] no facts of abuse of Indonesian students. [Also,] the allegation that Indonesian students are forced to eat pork is not true," Chen said at a press conference.

His statement followed recent media reports that quoted Ko Chih-en, a lawmaker for the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, as saying that hundreds of Indonesian students enrolled in a college and internship program were subjected to forced labor in Taiwanese factories.

This prompted Indonesia on Wednesday to stop sending students to that country under the program and call on Taiwan to launch an investigation.

A subsequent investigation by Taiwanese authorities, assisted by officials of the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office in that country, found no evidence to corroborate the claims. Chen expressed hope that this would lead to a resumption of the program.

The findings of the investigation are further supported by a petition signed by Indonesian students enrolled in the program at Hsing Wu University. The students denied the allegations and labeled the reports in several news outlets as fake news.

"When the overall situation is good, I hope this program will be resumed as soon as possible," Chen said.

Unofficial Channels

Mohamad Nasir, Indonesia's minister of research, technology and higher education, said on Thursday that his office was also looking into the matter and indicated that some students may have bypassed the official channels to enroll at Taiwanese universities.

"We are investigating this case. I have been communicating with those involved and we are certain that they departed for Taiwan through unofficial channels," the minister said, as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.

The college and internship program was launched in 2017 as part of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's New Southbound Policy initiative.

Chen admitted that the novelty of the program allowed unofficial agencies to exploit it during the first year, but added that his country's government responded by issuing a regulation in the program's second year prohibiting foreign students from enrolling at Taiwanese universities through unofficial channels.

According to the Taipei Economic and Trade Office, there were 1,231 Indonesians enrolled in the program last year, compared with 872 in 2017.

"This program is intended for underprivileged students. It allows them to work and go to college, so they can return to Indonesia having made some extra money and obtained a degree," Chen explained.

He added that the Taiwanese government was open to receiving feedback on the program.

"We would further listen to those students who are not satisfied with the overall situation [and] we would find a good way to improve," Chen said.