Taiwan Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as TWN by Abbreviationfinder, Taiwan is a relatively young democracy. For nearly four decades, the kingdom was ruled under authoritarian forms, and it was not until the mid-1990s, with the first general election for the presidential post, that a real democratization came about. During the 2000s, protection of human rights has been strengthened and attempts have been made to address the rooted corruption. But over Taiwanese democracy rests a constant threat from the Communist regime in China, whose aim is to incorporate Taiwan into its repressive regime.

The presidential elections that have been held since 1996 have been approved by judges and even the elections to Parliament, the legislative yuan, have been classified as free and fair. There is universal suffrage and there are a number of parties that have an active role in political life.

  • Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Taiwan, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.

Civil society also works well with both organizational and meeting freedom. There are a large number of civil organizations, which must be state registered.
In the legislative yuan, six places are dedicated to Taiwan’s 16 recognized indigenous peoples. After the 2020 elections, as many as 42 percent of MPs were women, which was then the highest proportion in the region. The fact that the proportion is so high, in a society where men still have precedence in many areas, not least in working life, is partly due to the fact that half of the candidates nominated by each party for the 34 mandates distributed according to proportionate method must be women by law. In 2016, Taiwan got its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progress Party (DPP), and she was re-elected in the 2020 presidential election.

One of Tsai Ing-wen’s most notable promises during his first election campaign was to legalize same-sex marriage, and in May 2019, Taiwan became the first in Asia to introduce such a law.

But even though political and civil liberties are enshrined in the constitution and are usually well protected in practice, according to human rights organizations, there are external threats to democratic development. In recent years, Chinese attempts to influence both local and national elections have been reported. The purpose has been to try to reduce support for the Democratic Progress Party (DPP), which stands for a more Beijing-critical line than the other major party Kuomintang, KMT (see Current Policy). According to reports, Chinese influence attempts have been made, among other things, through propaganda campaigns on social media, pressures against the media to control the content of news reporting and in the form of financial support for KMT.

In order to prevent similar attempts to control election results, Taiwan’s legislative yuan in early 2020 adopted a widely debated law that would prevent foreign powers from donating, lobbying, or disseminating fake news in connection with elections. Those who violate the law can be sentenced to high fines or imprisonment. The law was criticized by the opposition within Kuomintang for restricting political rights and for being in itself an attempt by the DPP to control the election results.


During the decades when Kuomintang had a monopoly on power (see Modern History), corruption was widespread. KMT had strong support in the business sector and its candidates have had significant financial advantages over DPP. Even today, the connection between business and KMT is strong. Those who vote for KMT are, among other things, business owners who have lucrative business contacts with China and are therefore favorably placed on close cooperation with China.

When the DPP came to power in 2016 for the second time (after ruling Taiwan in 2000–2008), a law was passed on the management of resources as political parties inculcated. At the same time, it was forbidden for political parties to conduct profit-making business, something that KMT has long done and thus managed to build up large assets. A committee was appointed in accordance with the law. The intention was that the committee would correct historical injustices when KMT seized assets in an illegal way. In connection with an ongoing investigation into KMT’s assets and how the party got over them, KMT had their bank accounts frozen pending a decision on what would happen to them.

It is not uncommon for politicians to be accused of corruption and also brought to justice. Former KMT President Ma Ying-jeou has, since leaving office in 2016, been the subject of several investigations. In 2019, he was declared innocent in a case where, among other things, he was accused of revealing secret information. Also Mas’s representative DPP President Chen Shui-bian was charged with corruption when he left the presidential post. In 2009 he was sentenced to life imprisonment (see Modern History). Some human rights organizations, inside and outside Taiwan, called the prosecution and treatment of Chen political persecution. Chen was released in 2015 for medical reasons.

In 2019, Taiwan ranked 28th among 180 countries in the Transparency International Index of Corruption in the World (see full list here).

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of speech and press is guaranteed in the Constitution and the media can operate relatively freely in Taiwan. For the past two years, Taiwan has ranked 42 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders Index of Press Freedom in the World (World Press Freedom Index, see full list here).

Since 2005, the government, military and political parties are not allowed to own media directly, but most newspapers and ethereal channels support one of the two major parties. As in many other countries, the media has become increasingly concentrated to a few owners. Some media have been criticized for seeking self-censorship in their Kinar Reporting. This applies to media owned by corporate groups with parallel business operations in China. From Beijing, people have been keen to support China-friendly media in Taiwan, among other things with advertising. There is also information that Beijing, not least in connection with elections, has planted fake news.

There is a law to give the public access to the documents of the government and various government agencies.

Judicial system and legal security

The independence of the judiciary is protected in the Constitution and is generally respected in practice by decision-makers.

At the end of the 2010s, a legislative amendment was passed that tightened the penalty for judges who, for example, are guilty of corruption or dismissed for failing to fulfill their duties. The change in the law also meant that individuals could directly apply for a judge’s competence to be examined. In the past, they had to turn to a civil organization for help.

The death penalty is applied. Two executions were carried out during President Tsai Ing-wen’s first term in office.