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Taiwan an export powerhouse of fraudsters
Publication Date : 02-10-2012
Long before the recent brouhaha over “Taiwanese labourers” in Australia, Taiwan has been the export powerhouse of fraudsters to the mainland and Southeast Asia.
On September 18, the Philippines deported 279 Taiwanese arrested in the country's biggest crackdown on online fraud. They were accused of impersonating police, prosecutors and bank officials to convince victims in China and Taiwan to transfer money into accounts provided by the syndicate, the Associated Press reported.
In an analysis published by The China Times on September 22, National Cheng Kung University political science professor Yang Yung-nane suggested Taiwan might have acquired the unfortunate title as the world's biggest exporters of fraudsters.
The proliferation of Taiwanese fraud ring members had become so big a disturbance of Philippine society that Manila considered holding the 279 Taiwanese to face charges brought by local courts, Yang said.
Part of the reason for the profusion of Taiwan fraudsters is educational, Yang suggested. The science-oriented Taiwanese school system is not providing enough humanist and cultural education to its students, resulting in skilled graduates being absorbed by fraud rings.
Taiwan's economic problems, in part caused by the structural mismatch between education and business needs, result in a failure to provide adequate jobs for these graduates. Yang also suggested lax punishment of fraud, among other reasons, as contributing to the popularity of fraud among local criminals.
While the professor has a point, the country's proliferation of fraudsters stems from more profound problems than the lack of proper humanist education, better jobs and tougher laws.
An analysis of the fraud problem should be anchored to the fundamental fact of fraud: it is a crime. A university graduate may choose to cut meat eight hours a day in Australia for better pay but most people don't become criminals simply due to educational and economic reasons alone. Taiwan's economy may be slowing down but it is far from the point of collapse where the majority of the public are forced to criminality just to survive.
It requires a conscious moral choice to break laws, and more importantly, to harm others for one's own benefit. The fact that a nation as small as Taiwan has the chance to claim the fraudster kingdom title shows that an unproportionally large number of people are willing to cheat others for a living.
The proliferation of Taiwanese fraudsters, in this light, reveals the nation's moral crisis as much as its efficiency in training skillful individuals. This problem in no small part comes from the absence of a sense of right and wrong in Taiwanese society due to a media and political culture that puts too heavy an emphasis on freedom of speech rather than the responsibilities that come with that freedom.
Public commentators let themselves go on air with any topic in vogue, from celebrity gossip to baseless political conspiracies. They try to outdo each other with bombshell statements and revelations, without troubling themselves with fact-checking. When caught twisting facts or outright lying, many just shrug and say they merely exaggerated a bit for the show's “entertainment effect”.
In such a media climate and with Taiwan's vitriolic political environment, seldom do public figures take responsibility for their comments. Even rarer is truth being revealed clearly to the public. To give one example, it seems to be impossibly difficult for Taiwanese to establish the impartial truth about something as simple and straightforward as the health condition of former President Chen Shui-bian. He could be either fine or in a major health crisis depending on the viewers' and examiners' party line. By suggesting to release Chen on medical parole in order to heal a political wound earlier, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin was just confirming the truth in our society that orders and rules are secondary to practical political needs.
This society has long shown its would-be fraudsters the mutability of truth, armed them with the know-how to twist facts for narrow personal interests, and helped break their moral compasses.
While tougher laws and better employment possibilities can help reduce the number of fraudsters, they cannot solve the true problem of Taiwan's moral crisis. Without visibly establishing the importance of truth in society, there is little standing in the way of people with legitimate jobs deciding to cheat and hurt others as easily as fraudsters.