Over one hundred people took part in a satirical, religious style demonstration outside the Executive Yuan to protest against the draft amendments to the Labor Standards Act on Sunday afternoon, one day before DPP plans to stage another attempt to pass the draft amendments through the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee in the legislature. Imitating a dharma assembly that’s commonly practiced at Buddhist or Taoist style funerals, the demonstration featured a series of rituals that saw 9 protesters shaved their heads and led the crowd of over a hundred people to recite a mantra adapted from the 86 articles of the Labor Standards Act.

Additionally, as a response to the “good deeds” comment that William Lai made on November 24th, the event was filled with props that are commonly seen at funerals in Taiwan, including paper houses, ghost money, and paintings of William Lai, Tsai Ing-Wen and Lin Jing-yi in the style of god and goddesses. According to one of the organizers, today’s subcultural protest was meant to encourage Taiwanese people to join the movement in order to put pressure on DPP.

“We are angry, but our power is limited,” said Wu Chun-yen, one of the protesters who led the recitation of the adapted scriptures. “That’s why we decided to stage a subcultural protest since protesting on our own is definitely not an effective strategy. Through today’s event, we hope to encourage everyone to contribute in whatever they can.”  

In between recitation sessions, the organizers reemphasized their disapproval over the 4 main amendments that were proposed by the Executive Yuan in a sarcastic style that featured playful exchanges between two ritual masters. Apart from the theatrical elements, representatives from labor rights groups were also invited to share their dismay over the proposed changes through speeches.

“Taiwan’s poor labor standards is the creation of KMT and DPP’s failure as ruling parties,” said Joyce Chang, the Secretary of Taipei City Doctors Union. “Our employee relations and the labor system need to be rebuilt, because it only benefits the vested interest holders. We need to support our labor force by adopting methods that are not part of the existing system. We have the rights to decide our own future.”

Even though DPP’s legislative caucus whip, Ker Chien-ming, promised on December 1 that the proposed amendments would undergo minor adjustments, labor rights organizations remain skeptical about DPP’s plan towards the Labor Standards Act. According to Ker’s announcement, amendments to allow employers to legally require employees to work 12 days in a row and reduce the minimum rest time between shifts from 11 to 8 hours will be taken out of the draft amendments that would undergo discussion on December 4th. Wu Chun-yen called on all participants at the end of the demonstration to closely monitor the development inside the legislature.

“I call on all of you to closely follow the development inside the legislature starting tomorrow,” said Wu. “The draft amendments could be signed into law as early as the beginning of 2018, and there could be a one month hiatus if the draft amendments were passed tomorrow. I hope all of you can join us and keep putting pressure on DPP, the Executive Yuan and government officials.”

Wu indicates that DPP’s responses to opinions on the draft amendments from civil rights groups and academics have shown that it is unlikely for them to integrate these suggestions into the final version of the draft amendments. He warns that if DPP decides to forcefully pass the draft amendments through the committee on Monday, they will pay a heavy price for their decision.

“Their attitude is pushing them onto the same path that KMT has taken,” said Wu. “I believe many of the younger generation no longer hold a positive image of DPP, and I think not many people are still expecting them to achieve something that would benefit the general public.”

With two legislative sessions already scheduled for reviewing the draft amendments this week, labor rights groups have planned a large-scale protest outside the legislature for Monday.

(Feature images by William Yang)

William Yang

William is a freelance writer and photographer based in Taiwan, with a passion for human rights and storytelling. He holds a Master of Journalism degree from Temple University, and has extensive experiences interning at global NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Mercy Corps.