by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Casiocasio/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 4.0

AN ONGOING Control Yuan investigation aims to investigate a care facility in Taoyuan linked to the death of a five-year-old child and brain damage to a six-year-old child. Control Yuan members Chang Chu-fang, Lin Yu-jung, and Wang Yu-ling are investigating the case. 

The care facility is for children with mental or physical disabilities. The five-year-old child that died, who was surnamed Fang and was autistic, was shaken violently in the head and had tape placed around his neck. This led to the child rolling on the floor in pain for over twenty minutes, while biting his fingers and hitting his head. He died the next day, after his parents noticed his injuries after taking him home. 

The six-year-old child that suffered brain damage, who was surnamed Wu, was tied to a chair during an epileptic episode, rather than treated or taken to the hospital. The episode reportedly lasted for around three hours. As a result, she later fell into a coma, causing her to sustain permanent brain damage. This was not the only incident in which Wu had an epileptic episode at the center, but workers at the center did not seem to know how to deal with this, and so she is currently receiving medical care at the National Taiwan University Hospital. 

Facebook post by Claire Wang about the press conference

A third child, surnamed Peng and also autistic, who is not able to verbally communicate, was violently force-fed by workers at the facility with rice and pork floss. Consequently, Peng has become afraid to eat and has taken to engaging in self-abuse, such as slapping himself or hitting himself with objects, behavior which may also stem from his treatment at the center. 

There are at least five cases of abuse linked to the facility, which took place in 2021 and 2022. Three workers at the center, who were either involved in education or security, have been punished. 

Nevertheless, at a press conference earlier this month held by the parents of Fang, Wu, and Peng with Claire Wang of the New Power Party, the parents of abused children at the facility questioned the Taoyuan city government’s failure to investigate the case, and why the facility remained accredited. Reportedly, the facility claimed that Fang and Wu seemed normal prior to Fang’s death and Wu’s seizure, but the parents found otherwise after visiting the facility with police and watching the security camera footage of what had taken place there. 

The incident should draw attention to the broader issue of corporal punishment in Taiwan, as well as attitudes toward mental health or disabilities. In particular, prevailing attitudes toward mental health and disabilities are such that children facing issues are often seen as only “acting out”, and it is thought that physical punishment will dissuade them from doing so. 

There has been greater international media coverage of corporal punishment in Taiwanese educational institutions after the actions of an unlicensed judo instructor who had one of his students body-slammed 27 times, by both himself and other students. The student in question, a seven-year-old surnamed Huang, subsequently suffered a brain hemorrhage and fell into a coma. After seventy days in a coma, he was taken off life support. 

The Control Yuan. Photo credit: Lee19940327/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The teacher, who was surnamed Ho, believed that Huang was faking a headache. This was why he ordered other students to body-slam him and later also did so himself. The incident took place during the second week of classes, before students learned how to fall safely. Ho only called for an ambulance for Huang after he became unresponsive, continuing to body slam him after he started vomiting. 

This is not the only incident of corporal punishment in Taiwanese educational institutions to make domestic headlines, however. An investigation by the Control Yuan in late September censured the Yuan Ming Junior High School and Yunlin County Department of Education for maintaining a dress code for students in violation of existing laws and corporally punishing students that did not comply. Earlier in September, an elementary school student was awarded 30,000 NT in compensation by the Shilin District Court because they were ordered to climb up and down a set of stairs repeatedly while their classmates watched, in punishment for not turning in a test, skipping a temperature check, and failing to turn in a lesson that they were supposed to copy three times over. 

Such incidents, then, point to broader issues regarding the use of corporal punishment against children in Taiwan. These issues are further compounded by attitudes regarding physical and mental health and disability in Taiwan. 

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