Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Articles about the recent arrest of a foreign English teacher for drug dealing

Posted by thuicc on September 9, 2005

There are several articles that have been written about the recent arrest of Forand Mathieu James, a white Canadian kindergarten teacher in Taipei, for possession and dealing of drugs. The expatriate online magazine POTS has an editorial by David Frazier that argues that one of the important issues coming from this incident is foreigners’ rights in Taiwan. As Frazier puts it,

We should also remember that the wonderful livability of Taiwan is afforded by a general sense of goodwill on the part of most Taiwanese, not the law. Taiwanese law does not guarantee a tremendous number of rights for resident aliens: we are not allowed to own businesses or property under their own names; our dependents do not have the right to work; we are only allowed to work the one job specified by their work permit, not multiple jobs as in most developed countries; we have reduced privileges with banks, telecom accounts, drivers’ licenses, and banks; we cannot form labor unions; and there is no independent review in cases of deportation.

Given the fuzzy legality of most of Taiwan’s systems, a shift in attitude towards “foreign guests” is worrisome (and in fact some of my Taiwanese colleagues have told me they already sense such a shift coming out of the new nationalistic ideas promoted by the DPP). Taiwanese employers routinely tell foreign workers not to worry about work permits, but when there is a problem, the worker is deported while the employer pays a small fine. When the law and goodwill run up against each other, the law always wins.

Frazier expresses disappointment with foreigners who have tried to distance themselves from James. He feels the foreign community in Taiwan should band together to make sure that their rights are protected.

Michael Turton, on the other hand, argues that what is important is that the foreign teacher broke the law, and that what this person has done affects the rest of the foreign (particularly white) community in Taiwan. He concludes that

it is precisely because we recognize that we are a community that we have both the obligation and the responsibility to protect ourselves from thoughtless, self-centered individuals who threaten our livelihoods and position here by removing the protecting hand of that community from them, and withholding approval and support of their behavior.

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