Taiwan’s vibrant and competitive democratic system has allowed for regular peaceful transfers of power since 2000, and protections for civil liberties are generally robust. Ongoing concerns include inadequate safeguards against the exploitation of migrant workers and the Chinese government’s efforts to influence policymaking, media, and the democratic infrastructure.
- Chinese forces mounted large-scale military exercises in August as then US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. The Chinese military fired missiles, aircraft and warships made incursions into Taiwan’s air and naval space, and pro-China actors launched cyberattacks and disseminated disinformation.
- Widespread transmission of COVID-19 was detected in April, the same month the government began to pivot away from its “zero-COVID” strategy, with transmission peaking in May. Coronavirus-related rules were loosened as the year progressed, though migrant workers continued to face restrictions.
- In the November local elections, the conservative opposition Kuomintang (KMT) won top posts in 13 of 22 contested cities, counties, and special municipalities. President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) resigned as party chairwoman over the results.
- Also in November, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have lowered the age requirement to vote in elections and run for office to 18 years failed in a referendum.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president, who is directly elected for up to two four-year terms, appoints the premier with the consent of the legislature. Members of the Executive Yuan, or cabinet, are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the premier. In practice, the president holds most executive authority.
Presidential elections have generally been considered credible. In January 2020, President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP was reelected with 57.1 percent of the vote. KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu won 38.6 percent. James Soong of the center-right People First Party won 4.3 percent. The campaign period featured online disinformation and influence operations that were attributed to the Chinese government, with negative or misleading content targeting Tsai, the DPP, and the democratic process. However, the Taiwanese government, civil society projects, and social media platforms worked to counter Beijing’s efforts, which largely failed to shape the outcome.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The unicameral Legislative Yuan’s 113 members serve four-year terms; 73 are directly elected in single-member constituencies, 34 are elected by proportional representation, and 6 are elected by Indigenous voters in two multiseat constituencies. In the free and fair January 2020 polls, the DPP secured 61 seats, the KMT won 38, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) won 5, the New Power Party won 3, and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP) took 1. Independents won the remainder.
In the November 2022 local elections, KMT candidates won top posts in 13 of 22 contested cities, counties, and special municipalities, including Taipei City and Keelung City. The TPP candidate won the Hsinchu City mayoral race, succeeding a term-limited DPP incumbent. President Tsai resigned as DPP chairwoman over the party’s performance but remained as chief executive.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||4.004 4.004|
The Central Election Commission (CEC) administers elections in Taiwan. No political party may hold more than one-third of the CEC’s seats, and it operates impartially in practice.
The 2018 Referendum Act lowered thresholds to permit citizen-initiated ballot measures and decreased the voting age for referendums from 20 to 18 years. Taiwanese must otherwise be at least 20 to vote in elections and 23 to run for office. A constitutional amendment to lower both age requirements to 18 did not surpass the needed threshold in a November 2022 referendum.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
The multiparty political system features vigorous competition between the two major parties, the DPP and KMT. Third parties also play a significant role in national and local contests. Outgoing Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je formed the TPP in 2019, which won 5 Legislative Yuan seats in 2020 and the Hsinchu City mayoralty in November 2022. The TSP also entered the Legislative Yuan for the first time in 2020.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Taiwan enjoys regular democratic transfers of power between rival parties. Parties in opposition at the national level often control key municipal governments, and power regularly rotates at the local level.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||3.003 4.004|
Major business owners with interests in China remain an influential force in Taiwanese politics, largely through their close relationship with the KMT. The KMT, which ruled Taiwan as an authoritarian, one-party state for decades until democratic reforms took hold in the 1980s and 90s, long enjoyed a considerable financial advantage over rivals like the DPP, which has traditionally placed a stronger emphasis on resisting Beijing’s moves toward unification. However, that advantage has been lost in recent years; many KMT accounts were frozen after investigations into allegations that the KMT improperly acquired public assets during its rule.
Chinese interference in Taiwan’s elections, largely through disinformation campaigns and influence over certain media outlets, remains a serious concern. Beijing has been effective in supporting the election of pro-China politicians and seeks to undermine public confidence in the Taiwanese political system, though such interference was reportedly less prevalent during the November 2022 local elections.
The Anti-Infiltration Act prohibits foreign powers from funding or directing lobbying efforts, election campaigns, or election-related disinformation in Taiwan, providing for penalties of up to five years in prison.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||4.004 4.004|
Taiwan’s constitution grants all citizens the right to vote, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The constitution and electoral laws also include gender quotas for local councils and at-large Legislative Yuan seats. In addition to the presidency, women won 42 percent of the legislature’s seats in 2020. Audrey Tang, who is nonbinary, remained a minister in 2022.
Taiwanese living abroad do not benefit from absentee voting but must instead return to their home county or registered household to vote.
Six Legislative Yuan seats are reserved for Indigenous candidates elected by Indigenous voters. An additional two Indigenous candidates won seats in 2016 via party-list voting, but none did so in 2020. Members of Taiwan’s 16 Indigenous groups make up roughly 2 percent of the population.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
Elected officials set and implement policy without undue interference from foreign or other unelected actors, though consideration of China plays a significant role in Taiwanese policymaking.
Pressure from Beijing continues to threaten Taiwan’s sovereignty and its open democratic system. Eight countries have severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan since late 2016, largely as a result of financial incentives offered by Beijing. At the end of 2022, Taiwan had diplomatic recognition from just 14 countries, including the Holy See.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||3.003 4.004|
Corruption is significantly less pervasive than in the past, but it remains a concern. Corruption charges have been lodged against current and former officials from multiple parties in recent years.
According to a 2020 Transparency International survey, 90 percent of people in Taiwan think corruption in government is a problem. Political and business interests are closely intertwined, leading to malfeasance in government procurement. The DPP has moved to reduce these practices, including through 2019 amendments to the Government Procurement Act. Corruption and criminal behavior are perceived to persist in local government.
In November 2022, prosecutors accused a senior army officer of accepting bribes from a former soldier who was acting as a Chinese agent.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||4.004 4.004|
The 2005 Freedom of Government Information Law enables public access to financial audit reports, documents about administrative guidance, and other officially held documents. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are typically able to comment on and influence pending policies and legislation. In recent years, the open digital platform vTaiwan has gained acceptance among policymakers as a means for the public to debate and contribute to legislative proposals.
The government is widely considered to be transparent regarding COVID-19. However, observers criticized authorities’ lack of clarity in public communications as the government transitioned away from its zero-COVID strategy beginning in April 2022. Trust in public authorities nevertheless contributed to high vaccination rates as the year progressed.
|Are there free and independent media?||4.004 4.004|
The news media are generally free, reflecting a diversity of views and reporting aggressively on government policies, though many outlets display strong party affiliation in their coverage.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) exerts significant influence on the Taiwanese media environment and maintains a well-funded, large-scale disinformation campaign. Pro-China companies and businessmen with significant interests in China, namely the Want Want China Times Media Group and owner Tsai Eng-meng, own media outlets that self-censor or otherwise avoid subjects Beijing deems sensitive, like human rights. The National Communications Commission (NCC) has at times blocked the expansion of such enterprises to ensure competition and pluralism and has fined television news channels for airing false reports. In 2020, the NCC rejected the broadcast license renewal of pro-Beijing CTi News. The NCC has also sought to regulate Chinese-owned over-the-top services.
Under Taiwan’s libel laws, those who disseminate a fact that will “injure the reputation of another” can face criminal prosecution, with sentences of up to two years in prison or a fine. The risk of criminal libel charges or demands for compensation could inhibit journalists in their reporting, even if courts ultimately rule in their favor.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
Individuals of all faiths can worship freely. Religious organizations that choose to register with the government receive tax-exempt status.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Educators in Taiwan generally operate without interference, and past practices—including prosecutions—aimed at restricting academics’ political activism have become rare. However, some university professors have alleged pressure from administrators to curb speech that could offend Chinese students in the past.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
Personal expression and private discussion are largely free of improper restrictions, and the government is not known to illegally monitor online communications. However, the government faces the growing challenge of combating online disinformation—usually disseminated via social media from China or by pro-China actors in Taiwan—while upholding freedom of expression.
Human rights experts have recommended improvements to laws meant to combat false information, which contain vague terms that have the potential to limit legitimate speech. Such laws are enforced against social media users, though cases rarely lead to convictions, and those found guilty are typically ordered to pay small fines. In May 2022, however, two social media users received suspended prison sentences for spreading COVID-19-related misinformation under a pandemic-related law.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
The 1988 Assembly and Parade Act enables authorities to prosecute protesters who fail to obtain a permit or follow orders to disperse and includes some restrictions on the location of protests. Nevertheless, freedom of assembly is respected in practice and protests are regularly held.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Registration for NGOs is freely granted. NGOs typically operate without harassment or undue interference.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||3.003 4.004|
Trade unions are independent and most workers enjoy freedom of association, though the government strictly regulates the right to strike. Among other barriers, teachers, defense-industry workers, and government employees are prohibited from striking. Workers hired through temporary agencies cannot organize or participate in collective bargaining.
Under the Labor Incident Act, special courts can adjudicate labor issues, including union disputes.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||4.004 4.004|
Taiwan’s judiciary is independent. Court rulings are generally free from political or other improper interference.
Under the Citizen Judges Act, which will take effect in January 2023, laypeople will serve as judges alongside professional judges in cases involving intentional killings; laypeople will hear more cases beginning in 2026. Critics have maintained a long-standing call for the introduction of jury trials.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||4.004 4.004|
Constitutional guarantees concerning due process and defendants’ rights are generally upheld, and police largely respect safeguards against arbitrary detention. Although prosecutors and other law enforcement officials have engaged in abusive practices in the past, such violations have been less common in recent years.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||4.004 4.004|
Both criminal violence and excessive use of force by police are rare, and attorneys are allowed to monitor interrogations to prevent torture.
Capital punishment is rarely implemented in Taiwan. Three people have been put to death since 2016, and none in 2022. All of those executed were found guilty of murder or other offenses resulting in death, such as arson. Condemned inmates are hooded and sedated before being shot.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution provides for the equality of all citizens before the law, although Indigenous people continue to face social and economic discrimination, leading to high unemployment, lower wages, and barriers to education and social services. The 2017 Indigenous Languages Development Act designated the languages spoken by 16 officially recognized Indigenous groups as national languages and authorized their formal use in legislative and legal affairs.
Despite constitutionally enshrined equal-rights protections, women face discrimination in employment and compensation. Taiwanese law prohibits discrimination in employment and education based on sexual orientation, and violence against LGBT+ people is adequately addressed by police.
The National Human Rights Commission receives complaints on issues including discrimination, investigates violations, reviews laws and policies, and works with other entities to promote human rights protections.
Taiwanese law does not allow for asylum or refugee status. The government has provided temporary visas and humanitarian services to people fleeing persecution in Hong Kong, but has reportedly been more restrictive in granting permanent-residency requests.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Taiwan’s residents enjoy freedom of movement, and the government has gradually eased restrictions on travel between Taiwan and China in recent years. However, despite laws and guidelines meant to protect them, some migrant workers routinely experience illegitimate movement restrictions, such as the withholding of travel documents by employers. Contractual restrictions make it difficult in practice for many migrant workers to change employers.
Coronavirus-related restrictions were relaxed in 2022 as the government ended its zero-COVID strategy. In October, for example, travelers were no longer required to enter quarantine. Migrant workers continued to face some restrictions in 2022, however. Coronavirus-related rules have been applied against migrant workers in a discriminatory manner during the pandemic.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||3.003 4.004|
Although property rights are generally respected, urban renewal and industrial projects have been criticized for unfairly displacing residents. Housing advocates have called for legal amendments to clarify residency rights, including protections against forced eviction, and the establishment of an appeals system to review alleged violations.
Indigenous groups argue that government efforts to recognize their claims to ancestral lands are inadequate, as the project applies only to state-owned land and excludes large segments of privately owned territory.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||4.004 4.004|
There are no major restrictions on personal status matters such as marriage and divorce, although Chinese nationals who are married to Taiwanese nationals must wait six years before becoming eligible for citizenship; spouses of other nationalities need only wait four years. Same-sex marriages have been legal in Taiwan since 2019.
Rape and domestic violence remain serious problems. While the law permits authorities to investigate complaints without victims pressing charges, cultural norms inhibit many women from reporting these crimes to the police. Reforms have improved protections for accusers and encouraged reporting of rape and sexual assault, which appears to have increased prosecution and conviction rates.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
Protections against exploitative working conditions in Taiwan are relatively strong overall, and NGOs actively expose abuses and advocate for policy improvements. Amendments to the Labor Standards Act (LSA) instituted in 2018 allowed employers to schedule more consecutive workdays and shorter breaks between shifts than previously, in what was considered a setback for workers.
Many of Taiwan’s 700,000 migrant workers are mistreated or exploited by employers, despite 2018 amendments to the Employment Services Act that were meant to address abuses. These workers are often indebted to brokers. The LSA does not cover foreign domestic workers or fishery workers; they are subjected to the withholding of wages, long working hours, physical and sexual abuse, lack of food or medical care, denial of sleep, substandard safety equipment, poor living conditions, and extortion or fraud by recruitment and brokerage agencies.
Abuses are particularly prevalent aboard distant fishing vessels, with crewmembers being physically assaulted, working excessive hours, and having their wages withheld.
Some skilled foreign workers and students are encouraged to seek permanent residency under a Labor Ministry initiative.
For-profit universities have reportedly recruited foreign students—especially from Indonesia—and then placed them into exploitative labor conditions under the pretense of educational opportunity.
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Global Freedom Score94 100 free
Internet Freedom Score79 100 free