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Rumor on mass Indian worker influx China's 'cognitive warfare': Source

11/26/2023 07:24 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only
CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Nov 26 (CNA) A recent rumor claiming that the Taiwanese government is to introduce as many as 100,000 migrant workers from India is part of China's cognitive warfare, a national security source said Saturday.

The "fake news," which emerged shortly after Taipei confirmed on Nov. 13 that it is set to ink a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with New Delhi before the end of this year on the hiring of Indian migrant workers to Taiwan, is a tactic employed by Beijing to create social panic and spark tension between Taiwan and India, the source said.

In addition, China seems to have been spamming the Facebook page of Taiwan's Ministry of Labor (MOL) with "modularized messages," which either demand the ministry make public details of the MOU or reject Indian migrant workers, the source said, adding that at least 2,000 out of 3,600 accounts have met that pattern.

The majority of those accounts are "abnormal" as they show limited information about personal activities and social networking traces, the source said, making it possible they were created to manipulate public opinion regarding the issue.

While Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) has openly denied the 100,000 Indian migrant worker influx, the matter has raised the attention of Taiwan's National Security Council, which is also seeking intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the source.

It is because the disinformation involves discrimination and may hurt Taiwan-India relations, the source said, adding that it is in the process of developing more effective countermeasures.

However, the MOU issue has drawn heated debate online in Taiwan, and a rally is planned on Dec. 3 against the government's move.

According to a newly-established Instagram group, which is organizing the demonstration, Taiwan does not need to introduce yet another new source of migrant workers.

One of the Instagram page that posts the information about a Dec. 3 demonstration against the proposed introduction of Indian migrant works on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei.
One of the Instagram page that posts the information about a Dec. 3 demonstration against the proposed introduction of Indian migrant works on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei.

The move will lead to "stagnant wages forever," the group said, also raising concerns about women's safety due to "significant differences" in gender perspectives between India and Taiwan.

It was not good enough for the government to respond to its concerns by only saying "no discrimination," while providing neither explanations nor supporting measures, the group said.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan International Workers Association (TIWA) said it is not against migrant workers, adding that the key is to practice "equal pay and equal rights for equal work."

Failure to do so may lower overall labor conditions in Taiwan, which is detrimental for every worker regardless of nationality, the TIWA said.

A local India research association also issued a statement saying it welcomes Taiwan opening its doors to Indian migrant workers, but called for more effort from the government to break stereotypes towards India.

Nevertheless, the government still needs to review and improve the structural issues causing low wages in Taiwan as it opens up to migrant workers, the association said.

Bilateral trade between Taiwan and India has risen more than seven-fold from US$1.19 billion in 2001 to US$8.4 billion in 2022, the highest ever, with New Delhi currently Taipei's 14th largest buyer of goods and its 18th largest supplier, government statistics showed.

According to MOL data, there were approximately 750,000 migrant workers in Taiwan as of the end of September, with the majority coming from Indonesia (267,194), ahead of Vietnam (261,301) and the Philippines (152,026).

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Wu Hsin-yun and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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