Firm accused of false imprisonment of migrant workers

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A factory in Kaohsiung has apologized for hiring foreign migrants illegally — but denied accusations it falsely imprisoned the workers for years at a time. “We are very sorry for illegally hiring foreign workers, but there was no such thing as imprisonment,” Tsai Chia-ping (蔡嘉娉), owner of the Chan Shen Country Food. Co., Ltd. (筌聖老家) said Monday. Local media reported that one of the four illegally hired Indonesian workers, known only by her nickname “Fang,” had been held against her will for 14 years and forced to work daily 15-hour shifts. Factory owner Tsai rejected the claims, saying that every employee had been given keys and an access card to the factory. “They could easily come and go. I don’t understand how this was interpreted as false imprisonment.” Tsai said that the factory was a relatively small one, with around seven employees, and that she could only “calmly accept” some business partners’ decision to cut ties amid threats from consumers to boycott products made at the factory. She denied the company had been avoiding the press since news of illegally hired workers broke, adding that accusations of false imprisonment and minimum-wage violations were “utterly contradictory to the truth.” “Hopefully the justice system will clear our name,” she said. Case Under Investigation Hsueh Chien-chung (薛鑑忠), section chief of the Ministry of Labor, said authorities had uncovered the workers last April during a police raid. The suspects had been charged with violating the Human Trafficking Prevention Act in November but had not yet gone on trial, Hsueh said. The workers were currently being held at shelters and would be introduced to other jobs by labor authorities according to their preference, Kaohsiung labor officials said Monday. As per the Employment Service Act, employers accused of mistreating foreign workers are subject to a temporary ban on hiring migrant laborers, to be made permanent if the employer is found guilty.

Every member registered under the same household as the perpetrator would also be banned and monitored for two years, Hsueh said, to prevent family members lending their names to apply. Officials advised foreign workers to take advantage of its dual-language hotline, 1995 for any labor questions. Popular organic and healthy food store Leezen Company Ltd. (里仁) announced later Monday that it has immediately ceased partnership with Chan Shen, taken all its products off the shelves, and will await results of the investigation until further action.