Taiwan: how not to abolish conscription


Taiwan claims to abolish conscription from 1 January 2015 on. However, a closer look reveals that this is not really the case. Potential conscripts born in 1994 or later would only have to undergo four months of basic military training, reports said. Those born before who had not served yet, would still be expected to serve for one year, Ministry of National Defense personnel chief Chao Ko-ta told lawmakers according to Taiwan News.
An obligation to perform four months of basic military training can hardly be called "no conscription". However, alternatives to obligatory military service will disappear on 1 January 2015. It has to be noted that "alternative service" in Taiwan is not only available to conscientious objectors. 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.The period for alternative service is one and a half times longer than the active service term for exemption from military drill.

It is unclear whether both types of alternative service will be abolished, but it sounds likely. Responding to fears from legislators that some would refuse to undergo the four months of training for religious reasons, Chao said they could do administrative work at departments not involved in combat duties. This suggests they would service in an unarmed role within the military, and not in a purely civilian service.
Alternative service in Taiwan began in 2000, with about 23,000 people fulfilling one of the two types of the service during 2009, reports said.

Sources: Taiwan News: Taiwan MND to abolish alternatives to conscription in 2015, 2 April 2010; War Resisters' International: Taiwan: military service shortened to 12 months, CO-Update No 44, January 2009


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