Mega Bank’s dismissive attitude toward NY financial regulator

Taiwan’s Mega Bank has agreed to pay a US$180 million fine to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) for numerous regulatory violations per a consent order agreed to by the bank and DFS. For me, the most unsurprising part of the order was on p.9:


This dismissive attitude toward the law and failure to understand the egregiousness of the legal consequences seem to be typical of many Taiwanese institutions. Perhaps the fine would not have been as large if Mega Bank simply admitted to wrongdoing or did not completely show its ignorance of the law in its March response. The consent order can be accessed here.

Book review: The U.S.-Taiwan-China Relationship in International Law and Policy

In 1972, Lung-chu Chen published an article in the Yale Law Journal entitled “Who Owns Taiwan: A Search for International Title” along with then Yale Associate Professor of Law W. M. Reisman. In it, they “called for an immediate plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations to ascertain the wishes of its then 15 million people regarding the island’s status”. Forty-four years later, Chen, Professor of Law at New York Law School, once again proposes a plebiscite for the Taiwanese people to determine their future in his latest work, The U.S.-Taiwan-China Relationship in International Law and Policy.

A renowned international law scholar, Chen has written an insightful yet accessible book that is a must read for anyone interested in Taiwan. While a basic understanding of legal principles would be useful, Chen’s writing does not assume this knowledge. A basic understanding of Taiwanese political history is similarly unnecessary. Likely inevitable due to the nature of the subject matter, this book introduces readers to fundamental concepts and ideas in Taiwanese history and politics, American law on Congressional and executive powers, international relations, and international law and weaves them together in a intelligible manner while applying them to the context of Taiwan.

The entire book review an be found on Ketagalan Media in both English and Chinese.


Info on National Health Insurance for newborns of foreign residents


A couple of days ago, The News Lens published a story on the plight of a foreign couple with residency status in Taiwan who found out too late that their newborns are not covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI):

After a month-long battle with birth complications and surgeries, Erica Brüll-Reinhold and Bas Brüll expected to be able to take their twin daughters home from a hospital in southern Taiwan. Instead, the couple were told the newborns could not be discharged until a hospital bill of NT$1.3 million (US$41,000) was paid, because their babies were not covered under Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) policy.

Initially, the hospital charged the couple under NHI regulations, which gives newborns coverage under the mother’s health insurance for the first two months. However, issues with the couple’s Alien Residence Certificates (ARC) prompted the hospital to call the Bureau of National Health Insurance to check if they were indeed covered. The hospital was informed that NHI regulations require foreign babies to stay in Taiwan for six months to be eligible for coverage. The twins were therefore not covered by their mother’s insurance.

The couple’s own crowdfunding page for the medical expenses notes that they were unaware the newborns would not be covered until they were about to be discharged:

Our girls recovered nicely and three days later we were informed that the girls would finally be able to come home in the next few days. We were ecstatic…for a few minutes, until they dropped an unexpected bombshell on us. Over the past month we had been paying their medical bills each week. Taiwan has an amazing National Health Insurance (NHI) program and newborns are automatically added to their mother’s insurance for the first 2 months. The hospital had done so and charged us accordingly. However, on this day we were told that this information had been false. After repeated confusing calls between the folks at NHI and the hospital, it became known that newborns of foreign parents would not be covered for their first six months. It didn’t even matter that both parents had work permits, jobs and health insurance; the law stated that newborns of foreigners were excluded from the National Health Insurance program.

Without a doubt, the law excluding the newborns of foreigners in Taiwan from immediate insurance coverage makes no sense, and the couple is in an unfortunate situation. The law should be amended so newborns of foreign residents should not have to wait six months for coverage.

In this post, I’m more interested in whether this exclusion is stated clearly by the NHI Administration. In other words, is this information available for any non-citizen Taiwanese residents who wants to find out whether their newborns would be covered?  Information about the insurance scheme can be found on the official NHI Administration website. The NHI handbook, which is available in English, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Indonesian, is available for download there. Although the handbook does not explicitly state that newborns of foreign residents are not covered by the NHI, this can be inferred by looking at two passages:

Babies with Taiwanese citizenship, born in Taiwan, are enrolled in the program from the day they are born.

Foreign Nationals from Hong Kong, Macau, China, or Other Countries who Reside in Taiwan

Those who are unemployed but able to enroll as a dependent through a relative (i.e., parents, spouses, or children) could participate in the National Health Insurance program through a relative’s insurance registration organization after six months continuous residence in Taiwan.

Immediate insurance coverage of babies is only mentioned for those with Taiwanese citizenship, and the text of the second passage is clear that there are no exceptions for newborns of foreign nationals. There is a separate page on the NHI Administration website in Chinese stating that babies born to foreign residents in Taiwan are not eligible for NHI coverage until after the six-month waiting period, but I have been unable to find an English version of this page. So, it looks like the information is there, but it certainly isn’t user friendly.

No, Pokemon GO is not banned in metro stations

It has been reported that playing Pokemon GO is banned in Taipei Metro stations. This is patently false. Taipei Metro merely warned that:

[T]he Mass Rapid Transit Act allows a fine of NT$1,500-$7,500 against passengers who pose a safety risk to themselves or others.

Playing Pokemon GO is still allowed as long as one does not jeopardize the safety of oneself or others. The monetary figure cited above is from Article 5o of the Act, which also lists the prohibited actions:

1. The offender or driver will be subject to a fine of more than NT$1,500 and less than NT$7,500 in any of the following situations:
(1) Climbing onto, jumping off, or hanging over a moving train.

(2) Obstructing train doors or platform doors from closing, or opening them without permission.

(3) Non-mass rapid transit system personnel or vehicles that violate the second paragraph of Article 44 by trespassing on mass rapid transit tracks, bridges, tunnels or mass rapid transit premises not open to public access.

(4) Avoiding ticket procedures or use improper methods to enter/exit stations or get on/off trains.

(5) Refusing ticket checks conducted by mass rapid transit personnels or hindering their the performance of their duty.

(6) Remaining in the carriage when the train is not in service and disregarding requests to leave.

(7) Raising funds, distributing or posting advertisements, peddling goods, or conducting other commercial activities within carriages or stations without permission.

(8) Bringing animals into mass rapid transit stations or carriages without permission

(9) Drinking, eating, chewing gum or betel nut ; spitting phlegm or betel nut juice; littering with cigarette butts, gum, food waste or other rubbish within the restriction areas of a mass rapid transit system.

(10) Hindering other passengers from passing through or using station entrances/exits, ticket-reading gates, ticket vending machines, escalators or other passages, and disregarding the requests to leave.

(11) Loitering in station concourses or platform areas for purposes other than taking trains, thereby hindering other passengers from passing and disregarding the requests to leave

(12) Lying down on train or platform seats and disregarding the warnings

(13) Operating stalls, putting up canopies, or organizing banquets within the mass rapid transit system premises without permission

(14) Behaviors such as playing on the platform, crossing yellow warning lines, or not complying with the directions by walking or running on the escalator, or affecting the operation order and operation safety without permission

2. Persons who commit any of the violations listed in the preceding paragraph shall be forced to leave mass rapid transit system premises by the joint force of mass rapid transit system personnels and police. No refund will be made on fares for uncovered journeys.

There is a notable caveat. Children under 14 cannot be fined per Taipei City regulations. So, play away, kids!

It does appear from news sources, however, that the Taiwan Railways Administration, the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration have banned the game in train stations, carriages, and airports. The legality of these agencies unilaterally singling out and banning a game, or even a type of game (augmented reality games) may be dubious, as this may be bordering on violations of free expression rights. What’s next, banning particular apps because of the messages they contain? Where does it stop? Do we trust these bureaucrats to make the decision? I really hope people who are told to stop playing Pokemon GO at train stations, high speed rail stations, or airports demand to be ticketed so this can be reviewed by the courts.

Money from sale of Chen Shui-bian’s US properties returned to Taiwan

Last month, the US Department of Justice issued a press release regarding two properties in the US purchased by former president Chen Shui-bian’s family through illegal proceeds:

The Department of Justice announced today that it is returning approximately $1.5 million to Taiwan, the proceeds of the sale of a forfeited New York condominium and a Virginia residence that the United States alleged in its complaint were purchased with the proceeds of bribes paid to the family of Taiwan’s former President Chen Shui-Bian.

According to the civil forfeiture complaints filed in this case, Yuanta Securities Co. Ltd. paid a bribe of 200 million New Taiwan dollars (equivalent to approximately $6 million USD) to former First Lady Wu Shu-Jen in 2004, during former President Chen Shui-Bian’s administration.  The bribe was allegedly paid to ensure that the president would use his power so that the Taiwan authorities would not oppose Yuanta’s bid to acquire a financial holding company.  The former first family used Hong Kong and Swiss bank accounts, shell companies and a St. Kitts and Nevis trust to transfer the bribe proceeds needed to purchase the properties in Keswick, Virginia, and New York.  The properties were owned by the former first family of Taiwan through two limited liability companies.  In October 2012, U.S. District Courts in Virginia and in New York entered final forfeiture judgments against these two properties without opposition by the record owners.  The United States then sold these two properties and obtained approximately $1.5 million in proceeds, which is being returned to Taiwan.

Here are the aforementioned judgments for the Virginia and New York cases.

NPP is off the mark on Ma’s professorship

Former President Ma Ying-jeou has been tapped to be the Yen Chia-kan Chair Professor of Law – named after the former president – at Soochow University. NPP legislators Huang Kuo-chang and Hsu Yung-ming have been slamming the appointment by questioning Ma’s credentials and warning he will teach the ‘wrong’ international law and mislead students. According to Soochow University’s own rules, a person can be appointed to the position if she or he is one of the following:

  1. Academia Sinica Academician
  2. Recipient of an Academic Award from the Ministry of Education
  3. Recipient of three or more Outstanding Research Awards from the National Science Council
  4. Person with outstanding contribution or renown in academia or practice

Surely a former president meets the fourth criterion. Whether one agrees with his politics or policies, it is incontrovertible that Ma’s experience offers a unique perspective that would be beneficial to students. Will Ma’s teaching be biased? Probably, just like every other professor. Will his students be so passive that they would just believe everything he says? Of course not. Wouldn’t this be a good opportunity for students to challenge Ma’s policies and understanding of law? C’mon, NPP, have a little more faith in the young people of Taiwan. After all, they’re the ones that got you on the stage for your inane political theater, no?

More on the pretrial detention case

Yesterday, I wrote that the judge in the second bail hearing in the police knife attack case ordered the defendant detained based on additional sketchy evidence (See the District Court’s Chinese-language press release on the second bail hearing here). What was the evidence adduced? First, prosecutors claimed that the suspect’s son had said that the suspect has been unemployed for a month and did not return home everyday. The son was often unaware of where he was. Second, the prosecutors alleged that the suspect did not answer the door for 50 minutes when prosecutors went to his home to take him into custody for further questioning. These two allegations are supposedly indications that the suspect is a flight risk.

Even if both were completely true, does that make him a flight risk? What legal obligation does an adult have to inform his adult son where he was 24/7? What legal obligation does an adult have to come home everyday? Did people other from his son know where he was? It’s not like he was homeless or itinerant or moved out permanently. What legal obligation does a citizen have to open the door for prosecutors who did not have a search warrant for entry? It’s not like he was trying to escape during these 50 minutes. He was actually just staying put in his home, where he could be found.

Detention would be warranted if there’s reason to believe the suspect would not appear in court as mandated or could not be found if he failed to appear. I’m willing to bet most lawyers (excluding prosecutors) would say the additional evidence is flimsy and would not support a decision for detention. It appears to be pretextual so the suspect can be forced to go through another bail hearing. This raises the possibility that the judge may have succumbed to pressure from the public – uncritically pro-police and ignorant of the aim of pretrial detention or defendants’ rights in general – that has been calling the first judge a dinosaur without actually engaging the law.  Is this blatant disregard of the law and capitulation to mob mentality the type of citizen participation in the judiciary that Tsai Ing-wen wants?