影/致力為移工、新住民發聲!台權會秘書長施逸翔的人權之路 | Taiwanese human rights activist reveal journey to advocating for new immigrants’ rights

【看CP學英文】在台灣,只要是在爭取人權的現場,不論是婦女議題、轉型正義、跨國婚姻移民、精神障礙者福祉或在台灣的非公民族群,如外籍移工、漁工和難民的權益保障,都能看到一名極力為弱勢者發聲的身影,那就是台灣人權促進會(Taiwan Association for Human Rights, 簡稱台權會)秘書長施逸翔。

Whenever there is a human rights issue in Taiwan, whether it is in regards to women rights, transitional justice, transnational marriage immigration, the welfare of the mentally challenged, or the protection of the rights of non-citizen groups in Taiwan, such as foreign migrant workers, fishermen, and refugees, a strong voice for the underprivileged can be seen in the form of Secretary-General Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔) of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR, 台灣人權促進會).


Having been involved in social movements and advocacy activities since he was a volunteer at the TAHR in graduate school, he is now the Secretary-General of the association.

He is responsible for overseeing the implementation of international human rights treaties and the establishment of human rights protection mechanisms in TAHR. In a recent interview with 4-Way Voice, he shared his advocacy experience and his hopes for the future of human rights education.

一次菲律賓人權調查之旅 開啟倡議移工議題的契機 | A trip to the Philippines sparked a passion in advocating for migrant workers’ rights


Shih graduated from Soochow University (東吳大學) with a master’s degree in philosophy and a degree in human rights.

During his school years, he had participated in many transitional justice social movements with his teachers, and through contacts with human rights workers, he gradually gained a deeper understanding of issues such as the White Terror and the 228 incident.

This in turn, slowly reversed the one-party state education he had received in his childhood years.

在攻讀人權學程期間,一次因緣際會下,施逸翔受邀前往菲律賓北呂宋路易西塔大莊園(Hacienda Luisita)進行人權調查,揭露當地廉價的血汗蔗糖工人罷工後遭政府鎮壓,最終導致7名工人死亡的慘案。「那次經驗帶給我很大的震撼,從全球化貧窮到政治迫害等人權議題都參雜在這個案件中」,這是一次重要的人權啟蒙,也是他開始接觸移工議題的契機。

While studying human rights, Shih was invited to conduct a human rights investigation in Hacienda Luisita, on northern Luzon, Philippines, to expose a government crackdown on a strike initiated by underpaid, sweatshop sugar cane mill workers that resulted in the deaths of seven workers.

“That experience was a big shock to me, as human rights issues ranging from globalized poverty to political persecution were all intertwined in the case,” he said.

It was an important human rights enlightenment and an opportunity for him to begin to engage with migrant worker labor issues.

回到台灣後,他開始將菲律賓的人權資訊傳遞給菲律賓的移工社群,並開始關注移工的人權狀況。進到台權會後,他也積極以國際公約的觀點切入,與台灣國際勞工協會(TIWA)、宜蘭縣漁工職業工會等非政府組織(Nongovernmental Organization,縮寫:NGO)進行合作,共同在移工、漁工議題上努力,致力為在台外籍弱勢者發聲。

After returning to Taiwan, he began to disseminate information about human rights in the Philippines to Filipino migrant worker communities and began to pay attention to the human rights situation of migrant workers in Taiwan.

After joining TAHR, he also actively worked with the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA, 台灣國際勞工協會), the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union (YMFU, 宜蘭縣漁工職業工會), and other non-governmental organizations to work together on migrant workers and fishermen’s issues and to speak out for the disadvantaged foreigners in Taiwan.

NGO倡議運動挑戰多 靈活變通才能與時代接軌 | NGO social movements need to change with the times


Promoting social movements and advocacy is not an easy task and activists often face various difficulties and challenges, one of which is fundraising.

Although Taiwanese are internationally known for their kindness and generosity in terms of donations, Shih pointed out that NGOs that advocate for human rights do not provide services directly, but rather promote policy and legal improvements from the source.

To slowly establish a human rights protection mechanism in Taiwan, it is often necessary to clash with the system, as well as organize marches and press conferences to fight against the system.

In the eyes of the general public, they may be portrayed as a “mob” and fail to gain the attention of donors, thus encountering difficulties in their operations.


In addition, the issues advocated by NGOs are mostly related to law reform, but the legislature is often caught up in party struggles and is less concerned with human rights-related policies and laws, Shih said.

Furthermore, TAHR is often concerned with non-citizens who cannot deliver votes, such as migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless people, or Tibetans in exile.

The legislators need to obtain voter support through political questioning, so it is often a challenge for non-citizen issues to reach the legislature.


Besides the above-mentioned operational challenges and difficulties in promoting human rights bills, Shih also said that NGOs need to learn to evolve with the times and be flexible in their advocating models. He pointed out that if they stick to a fixed model, they will eventually lose touch with the public.


Traditionally, advocacy groups most often hold meetings, press conferences, or public marches in the Legislative Yuan so that important human rights issues and information can be heard by the public.


Shih emphasized that “with the main purpose being information transmission, social activists should be more creative, follow the pace of social changes and pay close attention to the dynamics of the target groups. They should also make good use of strategic research and adopt the most effective way to speak out in response to the changes in external situations.”

受壓迫者就是最好的人權老師 從傾聽故事認識人權的樣貌 | The best human rights teachers are the oppressed


Shih mentioned, “In those days, there was almost no human rights education; only the basic textbooks of the “Three Principles of the People” and Chinese culture. Therefore, when we came across human rights issues such as the White Terror as students, we felt “cheated.”

“We realized that what we learned in the textbooks from our childhood were abstract lessons that had nothing to do with us,” Shih said, adding that it was only after being exposed to these issues that he slowly began to rebuild his own understanding of Taiwan.


“The students of this era are much more blessed because textbooks now teach them about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 公民政治權利公約) and the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 經濟社會文化權利公約) as well as the Sunflower Student Movement.

However, Shih stressed that good human rights education is not about studying human rights conventions or theories, but about going to human rights sites directly, such as the National Human Rights Museum (國家人權博物館), and listening to the guides’ stories of being a political victim.

By listening to these stories of oppression, the seeds of human rights can be truly planted in the hearts of all people, Shih added.


It will be like the shocking education of the Philippines Human Rights Inquiry which had a profound impact on him.

He said, “The real teachers of human rights are not me, or NGO advocates, but the human rights victims.”

“They are the ones who are brave enough to tell their stories and keep fighting for their rights. If you listen to their stories, you can truly understand what human rights are.”