Taiwan: military service shortened to 12 months

A draft amendment to Taiwan's Conscription Act was passed preliminarily by a legislative committee on 3 December 2008, shortening the term of conscription from one year and two months to one year. The Ministry of National Defense began to shorten the term of conscription in 2004, when the period of mandatory military service was reduced from one year and 10 months to one year and eight months.

By January 2007, the term was shortened to one year and four months and as of July 2007, it was further shortened to one year and two months.

Taiwan's Military Service Act, amended on 2 February 2000, stipulates that military service is mandatory for male citizens of Taiwan (Taiwan 2 Feb. 2000, Art. 1). Military conscription may begin on the first of January of the year following that in which a male turns eighteen years old and may be terminated on the thirty-first of December of the year in which he turns forty, known as the "Male's Service Age". There is no age restriction for termination of service for officers and junior officers.

According to Taiwan's Government Information Office Website, under the Implementation Regulations for Substitute Conscription of 2 February 2000, conscripts "deemed unsuitable for regular military service" could choose to apply to perform an alternative military service.

A 2 March 2006 article by the South China Morning Post reported that some seven per cent of Taiwanese conscripts were fulfilling their military service through substitutive conscription. The news article stated "the government sets a quota for substitute service" and that 4,100 such positions were made available in 2005 (South China Morning Post 2 Mar. 2006). However, according to the Taiwanese government, approximately 12,200 men served substitute services in 2003 (Taiwan 2005), up from 10,000 in 2002 and 8,300 in 2001.

The Implementation Regulations for Substitute Conscription create two types of substitute or alternative service. After physical examination, conscripts in Taiwan are divided into three groups: servicemen on active duty, alternative servicemen, and those exempted from military service. Those classified as active servicemen, however, can apply for alternative service if they wish to do so. In case applicants exceed the fixed number, chances are given by lot. The term for alternative services is four to six months longer than active duty, depending on the types of tasks.

Conscientious objection is only recognised for religious conscientious objectors. Conscientious objectors are not under military drill, whereas ordinary conscripts are trained for four months before they are assigned to various positions. Two weeks of basic training and another two weeks of professional training are on their way before appointment. The period for alternative service is one and a half times longer than the active service term for exemption from military drill. The screening of conscientious objectors is strict. Anyone applying for alternative service is required to write a statement of reasons. They must be issued a written guarantee from their religious organisation, too. An official from the Taiwan branch of the Watchtower Society said "Once reviewed strictly by local elders, the applications are examined closely again inside the Taiwan branch." The applications are brought up to the Examination Board under the Conscription Bureau, the Ministry of Internal Affairs for final examination. The Implementation Regulations for Substitute Conscription set limits for qualification in the enforcement regulations as "anyone who has practiced his religion for more than 2 years and recognized to be inapt for military service due to religious conscience."

Sources: Taiwan News: Taiwan to shorten conscription term to one year, 3 December 2008, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Country of Origin Research: RESPONSES TO INFORMATION REQUESTS (RIRs), TWN101096.E, 20 April 2006, Hankyoreh 21: "We're Not Put in Prison", 29 March 2001