Taiwan: Racial Commercials Everywhere

On Taiwan's TV screens there is a commercial about drawing lots of cars. In this commercial, a woman with south-east Asia look is driving a car, and the subtitle says:”How can she own a car?”

Is this a question? How cannot a south-east Asia woman own a car in Taiwan? When you see more and more women with south east Asia look playing roles of servants in each commercial or advertisement on cleansers and brooms, the question seems quite easy to answer. Their roles that Taiwanese media represents are always servants and poor people–even though there are at least 200 thousand south east Asia women bearing the identities as spouses or mothers of Taiwanese people.

Business commercials produced by private sectors discriminates against them, while the government-made advertisements are full of repression. Since the law stipulate foreign spouses to provide proof of super high financial capability if they want to obtain permanent citizenship in Taiwan. Last year, spouses from South East Asia countries and Mainland China composed the Coalition Against Financial Requirement for Immigrants. The Alliance protested the commercials carried out by Ministry of the Interior distorted the facts and repressed their struggles for basic human rights.


Ministry of the Interior publish a advertisement on newspaper saying that setting such a financial threshold is for the purpose of “ensuring lowest basic living conditions for foreign spouses”.

Bruce Liao, a law scholar dedicated to new immigrants issues indicates that

實質上,稍微有一點兒邏輯觀念,就知道「歸化財力門檻」根本與「確保外籍配偶最低生活保障」沒有關係。如果真有新移民家庭 難以生活,那是社會給付與防止歧視的問題,干財力門檻底事?

In essence, with a little bit of logic you will see that there is no meaningful connection between “financial threshold to naturalization” and “ensuring lowest basic living conditions for foreign spouses”. If there is any immigrant's family falling below basic criteria of survival, that should be the problem of social welfare and discrimination prevention–nothing to do with financial threshold.



According to these sayings, we should carry out census on financial capability every a few years and suspend ID cards of those who don't pass the threshold, shouldn't we?

Things like this never happen just once. The advertisements carried out by Taiwanese Government not only repress foreign spouses but also Taiwan aborigines. In the end of last year, the government of Taipei County wanted to force a group of aborigines to move away who had lived by the Hsin Dian River for generations (see GV's report here). The government claimed that the high land is vulnerable to floods and published a advertisement with a big title saying “don't regret after your village is under water!”

Even though their are numerous discrimination commercials and ads in Taiwan, there isn't much reflection among public opinions. Very often, only the minorities who are directly affected by the ads would come out to protest. Among alternative media, Taiwan Lihpao and BaoBonPhuong monthly, a newspaper for Vietnamese migrant, have made a public statement for boycotting discriminative ads.

基於對弱勢處境的認識與提升媒體素質的要務,在台新移民報紙《四方報》主編張正曾經誠懇地公開表示:「作為一個以服務新移民為宗 旨、關心外籍勞工權益的媒體,儘管目前仍需有關單位補助,財務上也不寬裕,但《四方報》絕對拒絕刊登歧視弱勢族群的廣告,如污名新移民、否定同志存在或扭 曲原住民形象的廣告等等。」

Since it is crucial for us to understand social minorities and improve media standard, Chang Zhen, the chief editor of BaoBonPhuong monthly – a newspapers for new immigrants, stated sincerely that: “as a media serving new immigrant and concerning about migrant workers’ rights, even though we still rely on subsidy for our publication work and our finance is tide, BaoBonPhuong monthly won't accept any advertisements that are discriminative towards migrants, homosexuals or indigeneous people.”

Another newspapers, Taiwan Lipao, which is also affiliated with Shu university, also made a public statement boycotting discriminative ads. Apart from the POTS section, Taiwan Lipao's principle in advertisement would follow BaoBonPhuong monthly in prohibiting discriminative ads. Moreover, Lihpao would follow up published articles and reports, if there are debates concerning discriminative languages by the newspapers’ writers, the editors would balance the voice with articles speaking from the perspective of the minorities.

However, POTS, a most well-known and widely circulated alternative printed media seems to be indifferent to the discriminative advertisement issue. Last year, the magazine has an anti-homosexual film advertisement. Many readers are astonished by the ad as POTS likes to translate left wing media articles, such as Guardian and it is widely believed that the magazine has a leftist orientation. Homosexual groups protested against the ads, but according to a report by Lihpao, POTS’ editor in chief Huang Sun-Quan tried to explain off the issue by “different standard between advertisement and news content”, “business need” and “different management principle between media and social movement group”, etc.

Another serious example happened right before the voting day of Presidential Election which just finished 3 days ago, when the campaign of DPP's candidate, Frank Chang-ting Hsieh, published several newspaper advertisements on March 20 in order to fight against the “cross-strait common market” political idea brought out of Ma Ying-jeou, the candidate of KMT. One of the advertisement from DPP enraged many bloggers.

In the advertisement it says:


Ma Ying-jeou advocates one Chinese common market, which allows free flow of people and goods. A huge amount of mainland Chinese, with very different lifestyle would flow into Taiwan. These people are noisy, they would jump the queue, compete for seat in the buses, split and shit in the street. And this would become part of our daily life, just imagine how it would affect our living? Taiwanese, are you ready for this?


When all these discriminative advertisements are popping up, there are more and more inappropriate act against minorities in Taiwan society. Homosexuals are subjected to violent threat and attack; government officials are speaking in discriminative language; middle school youths and university students have fun by bullying migrant workers; teachers carry out physical punishment on aboriginal kids. From time to time, there are news about physical abuse towards Southeast Asia workers and wives by employers and husbands respectively. Apart from violent incidents, family conflicts occur quite frequently. Putting aside issue concerning the coming out of homosexuals, there are cases when children cannot accept their Vietnamese mother, or even verbally abuse their mother. A Vietnamese wife wrote to sisterhood.org and said that:


I want to divorce!… I want to go back to Vietnam! His two kids look down on me, I am Vietnamese, so what?… I am their father's wife… I am their stepmother!

In order to improve the deteriorating media ethics in term of discrimination, the National Communications Commission (NCC), when drafting the “Telecommunications Act” in last September, explicitly wrote down that television broadcast is “prohibited to instigate ethnic hatred or gender discrimination”. Offender would be subjected to 30 thousand to 1 million fine.

However, communication study professor Benla Kuang pointed out that:


Hateful and discriminative language shouldn't restrict by the traditional definition of “ethnic group”, in France, the “Freedom of Press Act” includes “ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability” as areas for prohibition against discrimination. Some countries’ anti-hate act has extended to migrant, age-group, occupation, language, people's outlook, etc. The areas covered by the (Taiwan) Telecommunications Act draft is much narrower.

At present, the Telecommunications Act hasn't been passed in the Legislative Yuan, the anti-discrimination regulation hasn't been enacted. Even if the Act has been passed, it won't be easily to carry out. Such kind of discriminative advertisement would still appear as the media lack self-regulating practice and regulative law isn't ready yet.

(Original written in Chinese by Edison Li, Translated into English by Portnoy and Oiwan)


  • Charles Liu

    Um, US has similar “financial support” requirement when sponsoring vias/immigration for relative/spouse.

    And your translation “ensuring lowest basic living conditions” is a bit off. It’s more like “ensuring basic living standards”, at least that’s what it means.

  • Taiwanese often urinate and spit in the streets as well. I think that is a common cultural characteristic Taiwanese share with their ethnic Chinese cousins. Not being racist by saying that, just outlining what I have seen over the years in Taiwan.

    In any event, I have also felt that Taiwanese are extremely narrow-minded when dealing with anyone who is not Taiwanese. Stereotypes prevail. Taiwanese also often feel all white people look alike, etc.

    • et

      I don’t know where you are from…but racism and stereotyping exists everywhere. Just as you say Taiwanese people think white people look the same, white people think Asians all look alike. As an American-born Taiwanese, I have been asked many times, Oh you’re when did you come to this country (You’re English is quite good)? Where are you from? (If I say where I was born, the follow-up questions is: no, really where are you from?)…White people are narrow-minded and ignorant too.

    • Narq

      I fear that I disagree to an extent to what you are saying.

      “Taiwanese are extremely narrow-minded when dealing with anyone who is not Taiwanese. Stereotypes prevail. Taiwanese also often feel all white people look alike, etc.”

      Perhaps you should look around and take this level of critical thinking to you own surroundings. I have found that white people also feel that all Asians look alike. I too, have found that white people look down on people who have a ‘strange’ accent. It is not merely the Taiwanese who are “narrow-minded” as you so put, it exists within all races on the planet and to be honest, since Asians have been around in the Western world a lot more than the whites have been in the Asian world, I think that the “narrow-mindness” of Asians can be justified, (especially that Taiwan is such a small, and often repressed country).

  • ur chinese friend

    Why is it shocking that Taiwanese are making fun of those who are in worse financial situations than they are? They have only been using the term “Mainlander” in derogatory remark for oh, 30 years now?

    Anyhow, Check out the Hitler Cafe in Taipei. http://www.flickr.com/photos/poagao/11282978/

    And apparently the Nazi party is rising up as well among Taiwanese students with anti-Immigration stance.


  • J

    Interesting topic. Descrimination is only natural, why fight it? As the common perception with the Taiwanese populace is that Caucasians > Far Easterns > South Asian + Middle East > Africans + Aboriginals

    Sad but this is how reality is.

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  • Frank

    I am a black student from Africa. This being my second year and having learned some Mandarin, i have come to understand Taiwanese more critically. First there is Racism everywhere, especially if you are black. Taiwanese ladies, who understandably are more curious and courageous than their timid men would like to know more about you, but she fears the men outburst behind her back. By any mean if the lady accepts a black man as a boyfriend, she automatically becomes an outskirt from the Taiwanese society.
    I have seen stupid Taiwanese men who would shout at their children to take care of themselves because a black man is near them. Taiwanese men are more insecure than their female counterpart. Its here i am seeing for the first time shy men who can cry at the laps of their girlfriends due to inability of emotional control. Do their women know this? Oh yes but their ladies have resigned to this fate of dealing with incomplete men. Ironically, taiwanese men have very choosy taste for women. Most Taiwanese men will give Utopian guidlines of how the lady to be should look like i.e. white very white, slim (very thin), no biceps, big eyes (never mind that Taiwanese are chinese) etc…
    This bizarre has caused most of the Taiwanese ladies to focus on making themselves look like underfed ghost aliens , whereas Taiwan is a haven for food.

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