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Taiwan 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Taipei. The U.S. maintains unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan through AIT, a private nonprofit corporation, which performs citizen and consular services similar to those at diplomatic posts. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Taiwan. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Taiwan page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Taiwan at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Taipei as being a LOW-threat location for crime.  There is extensive CCTV coverage throughout Taiwan (30,000 cameras in Taipei, 25,000 in Kaohsiung, and 35,000 in New Taipei City). The network of security cameras at traffic intersections, commercial establishments, and public areas of hotels and residential buildings means that authorities can monitor and/or record most activity occurring outside of the home. The extensive coverage plays a significant role in deterring the majority of criminal activity, and most streets in Taiwan are generally safe.

Pickpockets can be a problem in crowded areas, especially at various night markets. Exercise the same common sense precautions as in any large cosmopolitan area, such as maintaining a low profile and remaining aware of surroundings at all times. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Violent crime against foreigners is unusual, and overall violent crime rates in Taiwan are among the lowest in the world. Dial 113 to reach the Taipei Center for the Prevention of Domestic violence and Sexual Assault.

Residential thefts occur, particularly in buildings without 24-hour security coverage. 

Fraud is an issue in Taiwan. Victims are primarily located in mainland China and are contacted telephonically by an individual claiming to represent the police, prosecutor’s office, government agency, bank, insurance company, or other financial institution. Many of these frauds are perpetrated by criminals from Taiwan located in Southeast Asia, North America, Africa, and Europe, making identification, arrest, and prosecution difficult. Victims should immediately report fraud through the fraud hotline at 165.

Cybersecurity Issues

Free Wi-Fi hot spots and internet cafes are commonly available at airports, hotels, public transportation hubs, and other areas. Many of these networks are not secure and may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Avoid conducting sensitive conversations and/or financial transactions when using public, unsecured networks. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Whether driving, bicycling, or walking, remain especially cautious while in traffic. Traffic in Taiwan moves on the right side of the road. Taiwan has an extensive list of traffic laws or regulations, including mandatory use of seatbelts. Additionally, Taiwan has a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). Anyone who is convicted of this crime can receive heavy finesy or a harsh prison sentence. The blood alcohol content limit for drivers in Taiwan is much lower than the limit in the U.S.

The most challenging aspect of driving is the multiple streams of scooters and motorcycles on the roads. Scooter and bicycle accidents are the largest source of accidental U.S. citizen death in Taiwan, as scooters often fail to obey traffic laws or follow generally-accepted driving practices. Motor scooters will pass on both sides of a vehicle. You are legally required to ensure that no motor scooter, bicycle, or other vehicle is approaching from behind before opening the door. Do not turn right on a red traffic signal.

Although pedestrians have the right of way in marked crosswalks, drivers often do not yield; therefore, it is incumbent on pedestrians to check for traffic when at crosswalks. 

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

All forms of public transportation are generally safe. Taxis are metered, and drivers are licensed. All taxi drivers must display their license either on the dashboard or on the rear of the front passenger seat. This license includes a unique identifying number for the taxi driver that is useful should patrons need to retrieve personal items left in taxi cabs or file complaints.

Buses and the subways are safe and reliable. Directions are posted in English, and several free smartphone apps list bus and subway routes. 

A high-speed rail connects Taipei to Kaohsiung, with trains running throughout the day. 

Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) in Taipei and Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH) are Taiwan’s major airports. Taoyuan airport has many direct flights to the U.S. and is a hub for Asia. China Airlines and EVA Air are Taiwan’s two major airlines, both of which have multiple direct flights to the U.S. and other international destinations. Songshan International Airport (TSA) in Taipei offers flights to cities including Shanghai, Osaka, and Tokyo.

Other Travel Conditions

The roads in eastern Taiwan, particularly coastal roads, are older and prone to flooding and collapse caused by typhoons and earthquakes. Road closures in the mountainous and rural areas are not uncommon during/after typhoons. 

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Taipei as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Taipei as being a LOW-threat location for or political violence. Taiwan enjoys a vibrant democracy. Protests and demonstrations occur on a regular basis in major cities, particularly during elections. Demonstrations rarely turn violent, although they may become confrontational between opposing groups. Protest organizers must obtain permits from the police. Police often set aside areas for demonstrators, and police presence is clearly visible. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest

Post-specific Concerns

Dual Nationality and Compulsory Military Sercice

Taiwan has compulsory military service for Taiwan national males between the ages of 18 and 36. This includes dual U.S./Taiwan citizens who enter Taiwan on their U.S. passports. Authorities can arrest and/or fine dual U.S./Taiwan citizen males for failure to complete the compulsory military service.

Environmental Hazards

During the typhoon season (April through October), Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau issues typhoon warnings on average six times a year (of which three to four normally make landfall) and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently. Typhoons have caused road closures, major mudslides, and the collapse of buildings/structures. 

Taiwan periodically experiences significant earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake in 2016 caused 117 deaths and widespread damage. A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in 1999 resulted in the death of more than 2,400 people.

Critical Infrastructure

Taiwanese infrastructure elicits few concerns aside from occasional power outages in rural areas that may result from earthquakes or typhoons. In Taipei, there is seldom flooding and very rarely any power outages, even during large typhoons and earthquakes. 

Economic Concerns

Growing economic and business ties between China and Taiwan have increased concerns that employees might take corporate trade secrets to China for personal profit. The Trade Secrets law stipulates a maximum penalty of ten years and fines for such activities; however, this amendment does not provide investigators with tools (such as wiretapping) to prevent the theft of trade secrets. Once an employee absconds to China, the individual is beyond the reach of Taiwan’s prosecutorial system.

Privacy Concerns

Taiwan’s personal information protection act is very protective of the privacy of Taiwan nationals, and is designed to prevent the inappropriate dissemination of personal information by government, law enforcement, or private organizations. 

Personal Identity Concerns

Although rare, there have been instances in the past where foreign men have been severely injured after directly engaging with or making overtures toward Taiwan women accompanied by other men.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Taiwan. Taiwan law prohibits education and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In May of 2019, Taiwan was the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.  However, LGBTI individuals may still face a lack of tolerance, particularly in areas outside the capital and largest city Taipei. See Section 6 of Human Rights Practices in the State Department’s Human Rights Report for Taiwan and read the Department’s LGBTI Travel Information page

Taiwan law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and sets minimum fines for violations. By law, new public buildings, facilities, and transportation equipment must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

Drugs are increasingly available. In particular, there is increasing use of Ketamine and methamphetamine among young people. Narcotics (such as heroin) are also available. Taiwan authorities treat all drug violations very seriously. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs (including marijuana) in Taiwan are severe; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Taiwan shows no leniency for medical or recreational marijuana. Taiwan also has the death penalty for certain violent crimes and drug offenses.

Police Response

Police harassment of law-abiding citizens is rare. Conditions of police detention are generally consistent with international practice. Suspects have the following rights: the right to know what crime the suspect has been accused of; the right to remain silent; the right to contact an attorney; and the right to request police to investigate evidence favorable to the suspect. 

If detained, contact American Citizen Services at AIT at (02) 2162-2000. A Consular officer will attempt to visit the detained individual within 48 hours. 

The emergency line in Taiwan is 119. Contact emergency police at 110, and the fire department at 119. Police rarely have CPR training, though most firefighters do. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

The Foreign Affairs Police (FAP), part of the National Police Agency (NPA) tasked with assisting foreigners in distress or requiring assistance, has English-speaking officers at all major police precincts during normal working hours. The FAP also maintains a 24-hour service center that is staffed by English-speaking officers. Contact information is as follows: Taipei: (02) 2556-6007; Kaohsiung: (07) 281-5019; all other areas within Taiwan: (02) 2394-0238.

The NPA performs police and law enforcement functions in Taiwan. NPA’s primary missions are to maintain public order, uphold the safety of Taiwan’s citizens and society, prevent hazards, and promote the welfare of Taiwan’s citizens. NPA conducts criminal investigations, enforces laws, and performs many of the same functions conducted by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

The Ministry of Justice, Investigations Bureau (MJIB) is responsible for national security and investigating major crimes. MJIB’s national security mandate includes counter-terrorism, counter-infiltration, domestic security investigations, coordination of national internal security, and protection of national secrets. MJIB also investigates public corruption, economic crimes, drug crimes, money laundering, and cybercrimes.

The National Immigration Agency (NIA) is responsible for enforcing and investigating violations of Taiwan’s immigration laws. NIA officers staff Taiwan’s air and sea ports of entries. NIA also provides extensive services to foreign spouses and children of Taiwan nationals, including counseling, language classes, and protection hotlines.

The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) is the civilian law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the resources of Taiwan’s territorial waters, providing first-line defense along coastal areas against smugglers and illegal immigrants, maintaining law and order, and conducting search and rescue operations in Taiwan’s territorial waters.

The Customs Directorate (DGOC) is part of the Ministry of Finance and is charged with enforcing Taiwan’s customs policies and regulations. DGOC collects customs duties, taxes, and fees, prevents smuggling, and enforces government controls. 

Medical Emergencies

To detect and prevent the spread of diseases, Taiwan scans the body temperature of all arriving passengers with an infrared thermal apparatus. Symptomatic passengers must fill out a form and may need to give an onsite specimen or see local health authorities.

Taiwan has modern medical facilities, with state-of-the-art equipment available at many hospitals and clinics. Physicians are well trained, and many have studied in the U.S. and speak English. Hospital nursing services provide medication and wound care, but generally do not provide the daily patient care functions found in U.S. hospitals. Ambulances usually have emergency equipment and supplies and carry trained medical personnel.For a list of clinics and hospitals in Taiwan, see the American Institute in Taiwan’s Medical Assistance webpage.

The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Most hospitals accept only cash payments. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC suggests that travelers receive vaccinations for hepatitis A and B and routine childhood immunizations. The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for travelers to rural farm areas. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Taiwan.

In recent years, Taiwan has seen a significant increase in cases of dengue fever, a virus common in subtropical regions that is spread through mosquito bites. There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent dengue. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.

Be especially careful about medications. Always carry your prescription. Note that only limited quantities of medicines are permitted. Marijuana is never permitted, even with a prescription, and neither are some other medications that are classified in Taiwan as narcotics, for instance some ADHD medicines. U.S. citizens have been arrested and imprisoned for importing these types of drugs, whether in person or by mail.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is an active OSAC Country Council in Taipei. OSAC constituents who are interested in participating in the Country Council or connecting with the Regional Security Officer (RSO) should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific team.

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Contact Information

Number 100, Jinhu Road, Neihu District 11461, Taipei City

Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 0800-1200 and 1300-1700 (excluding U.S. and Taiwanese holidays)

Website: http://www.ait.org.tw/en/

Switchboard: (02) 2162-2000

Kaohsiung Office: (07) 335-5006

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

 

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