Room Temperature is now Illegal for Large Businesses

An interesting thing comes to mind when many people look for ideas to ‘make’ others do what they think they should do…. Precedent. Even in Taiwan where precedent does not always apply to legal decisions, there still are quotations of precedent. Recently an example of precedent as a justification in Taiwan is during the rejection of the ECFA referendum, where it is stated that other countries did not vote on NAFTA. Welcome large businesses, we are now going to control your temperature and issue large fines for non-compliance.

New rule will make Taipei businesses warmer next month

By Mo Yan-chih
STAFF REPORTER TAIPEI TIMES
Wednesday, Jun 30, 2010, Page 2

More than 500 office buildings, department stores, supermarkets and hotels in Taipei will have to keep their air conditioning at 26ºC or above starting tomorrow, after the Taipei City Council passed a regulation compelling private businesses to increase energy saving. The regulation, passed on May 31, sets limits on the use of air conditioners and lighting for private businesses, and the city government will first target more than 500 businesses using more than 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month before applying the regulations to smaller firms.

The Department of Economic Development said that businesses will be given a six-month period to adjust. Starting from January next year, businesses whose air conditioning is below 26ºC could be fined between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000.

Representatives from 12 businesses, including Taipei 101 Mall, Pacific Sogo and Carrefour, yesterday joined Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) in pledging their dedication to saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

Cathy Yang (楊文琪), an assistant vice president at Taipei Financial Center Corp, owner of Taipei 101, said the company had installed energy-saving measures, including using efficient light bulbs and setting higher temperatures for air conditioning to reduce carbon emissions.

The skyscraper’s annual electricity bill is about NT$100 million (US$3,120,000) and the energy-saving measures helped the company save a total of NT$65 million in the past two years, she said.

“It’s a win-win situation for us and our customers. The energy-saving measures saved us money and created a more comfortable environment for customers,” she said.

Hau said the 500 businesses used about 2.57 billion kilowatts last year, or 38 percent of the city’s electricity. Those businesses could save enough electricity to supply about 7,000 households by reducing their power consumption by 1 percent.

“I want to also call on all residents to support this policy and join us in saving more energy,” Hau said.

It would be nice to think that as a business owner, we decide how much energy we use. Considering that we pay for this utility ‘service’, and TaiPower has been aggressive at the flexible rate charges ensuring that they can continue to provide this power. Simple laws of economics suggest that it is in the best interests of a business operator to reduce their power consumption as much as possible.

According to the CAN/CSA Z412-00 – “Office Ergonomics” guidelines which are the reflection of in depth analysis at human behavior in working situations states that in summer with humidity >60% that average room temperatures of 23 – 25.5 should exist in the working environment. However, take a look at the comfort chart below;

CAN/CSA Recommendations
Temperature
°F °C
78 25 Optimal for bathing, showering. Sleep is disturbed
75 24 People feel warm, lethargic and sleepy. Optimal for unclothed people.
72 22 Most comfortable year-round indoor temperature for sedentary people.
70 21 Optimum for performance of mental work.
64 18 Physically inactive people begin to shiver. Active people are comfortable.

According to ASHRAE 22.5 degrees Celsius is the average recommended ambient room temperature for computer hardware components.

So according to regulations based on in-depth studies and trail-under-fire, we find that the premium operating environment for humans and computers are very close together (21-22.5 degrees). Now, lets make a regulation stating that if a company has a temperature set to < 26 degrees they will be fined NT$10-50,000. This is not a comfortable work environment (and for a westerner is almost torture).

Did anyone consider that eliciting change for reduced energy consumption may be better regulated in altering building code for insulation? Rather than inhumane treatment and another absurd law?

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Political Backlash – The AhBien Story

As many people, even those who may not know about Taiwan, are aware President Chen Shui-Bian (ahBien) was arrested at the end of his second presidential term. In Taiwan, the source of information or updates on these proceedings has only been the politically controlled media. These media sources have been reporting rumor and third fourth and fifth hand information presented as facts. The inaccuracies have spread so far as to hinder prosecution attempts at information gathering by following hearsay from media sources.

There have been some global calls for accountability in the accuracy and humanity of the handling of this case. In some small response to this pressure recently there was a NYU University dialogue focusing on the trial of Chen Shui-bian. Thank you to NYU for opening this dialogue and posting it on YouTube. It is a long drawn out recap of the conclusions of the AhBien investigation without actually covering the conclusions of the investigation made superficial by the Taiwanese cultural need to save face. However, some very useful information can be gathered from the dialog and its well worth your time to watch considering I don’t have the time to respond to 1/12th of the issues raised here. I have linked the video below.

My Favorite Quotes

Video 1 approx: 1:05:45 Wang Jaw-Perng 國立台灣大學

“The trial of Chens case was independent, although I believe the judge was very bias and Chen did not get a fair trail.”

Video 1 approx:00:33:10 Nigel Li, Esq. 理律法律事務所

“Actually judicial independence or another notion, which is highly related in this case that is another constitutional principle… assumption of innocence. These two basic principles are also novel ideals to the legal culture of the young democracy in Taiwan….”

The trail of ahBien leaves one shrouded in mystery, specifically “What are the facts in the case?”. Unfortunately details of any evidence against ahBien do not come out in this dialogue, however there was an uncontested comment that all evidence against ahBien for extortion and money laundering is circumstantial. In Taiwan acceptance of evidence is the decision of the 3 judge panel, and they can decide if hearsay is admissible.  The additional fact that the maximum time any detainee can be held incommunicado is 2 months with the possibility of a single 2 month extension seems to ignore the fact that ahBien has been held from 2008 until now (2010/06/17). However as we know on the ground, as the time for this deadline draws nearer additional charges are brought against ahBien effectively resetting this 4 month limit. You may also find it interesting that the detention holding cell is 2.5 square meters, and a single 30 min exclusion from this cell is permitted daily. Another important fact of this case is better summed up by another quote from this video.

Video 1 approx: 1:04:30 Wang Jaw-Perng

“Judge B [the judge] was very active and very inquisitorial sometimes he was more aggressive than prosecutors in conducting the trial. In several occasions we can see this judge b [the judge] interrogated the defense witnesses for up to two hours”… “I think he did a good job for the prosecutors, this judge b [the judge] also a lot of times on many occasions he yelled at defense lawyers and yell at defendants he even sometimes mocked defense lawyers and defendants. So to protest the unfairness of judges and judiciary Chen [ahBien] dismissed all of his three defense lawyers and had several hunger strikes in the detention house.”

What happened to ahBien? A man who was able to win presidential election for two terms. A man who was considered a man of the people. Where are the people of his political campaign, his supporters and party? A man, who, as the dust is settling, only has two charges against him (the others have been dropped) and both are by circumstantial evidence. A man who was sentenced to life in prison, although that sentence has now been reduced to 20 years it is still a sentence far beyond any remedy found in the Taiwan legal code. A man who one month was the most powerful man in Taiwan and the next month was locked in a cell smaller than most bathrooms. Well for that answer we need to go to his people and ask.

In my conversations with party members I have attempted to find the source of this lack of support for ahBien. Initially I had began to suspect that many people had started to believe the media propaganda, and while this is true it is not so much the case with his party members. After the fall of ahBien a widespread ‘anti-corruption’ movement plagued Taiwan. Many people in office including several mayors found themselves under investigation and even incarcerated in the suspicion of mismanagement of slush funds. Interestingly enough, some of the accusations spread to those of the KMT party, but not one KMT political leader has been successfully prosecuted. In addition many ahBien supporters were drawn into the charges associated with those currently beimg held against Chen Sui-Bian. “Now is not the climate to be an ahBien supporter” said one party member and he is not the only one to express this sentiment. Many people however have expressed frustration and even anger at ahBien. One persons comments seemed to incorporate many other comments I have heard. “Chen Shui Bien had everything. We gave him 8 years to make changes to Taiwan. We supported him with large amounts of money. He was told the first thing that he should do is kill [not literally] the opposition. But now we find out he [ahBien] has enough money, and did not use that to support the party[DPP]. He was supposed to make Taiwan more better, but what has he done? He didn’t change the legal system, he didn’t use the chance to remove the opposition, he didn’t do anything that was needed. He deserves what he gets.” While the person went on to clarify that ahBien didn’t truly deserve everything that has happened, that person is unwilling to give ahBien any more support.

Unfortunately, it seems that the backlash of Chen Shui-Bians lack of monetary accountability and desire to leave the past behind when he stepped into office has given him a very harsh lesson in reality. Although, I would hope that in the spirit of human rights and concern for the legal system more Taiwanese would support not ahBien, but the legal decisions applicable to his case that have further reaching party implications in the future.

Part 1

Part 2

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Taiwan Legal Resources in English

Generally in any country that you live there is little excuse given for ignorance of the law. While the reality is that even lawyers, prosecutors and legislators in most legal systems do not have an understanding of every law, regardless that does not eliminate your liability. In Taiwan, an additional complexity occurs with the common understanding of the legal terminology that is exacerbated for foreigners who most likely do not have above average literacy in Chinese characters. While it is important to remember that an English interpretation of law in Taiwan is irrelevant, a fairly solid understanding of these laws are available in English. Although, it is very sad to note that I cannot find the Taiwan Criminal Code (the bulk of information that would describe what is legal and not) in English, here are some resources that you can use to give you a more solid footing.

General Links:

Specific Links

I hope this gets anyone interested started on their legal trip down the Taiwanese rabbit hole.

Sexual Harrasment 10-second rule

Well many of us remember the days of childhood where a valued piece of candy or food was dropped on the floor. Even though we knew that the food/candy was dirty, somehow in our minds we convince ourselves that minimal impact with the ground for less than X amount of seconds is an acceptable time for the retrieval of said food. Well, now as adults it seems we have another reason to hang on to our pretense that everything is okay. After a court ruling (that in English conveniently does not mention this 10 second rule) which basically states that short periods of unwanted touching that is on the waist and shoulders is legally acceptable. Just keep your unwanted touching sessions to less than 10 seconds. Reading this article also seems to indicate that mitigating circumstances include a personal apology email after charges are filed.

Updated Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:07 am TWN, The China Post news staff

Waist, shoulders not ‘private parts’: court
TAIPEI, Taiwan — An appeals court yesterday acquitted a man of sexual harassment on the grounds that waists and shoulders do not constitute “private parts.”

Chang Guo-hua, a 36-year-old IT company manager, was found guilty and sentenced to 40-day detention by the Hsinchu District local court for wrapping his hand around the waist and shoulder of a female subordinate several times in an after work co-worker gathering in Feb. 2008.

According to the verdict by the district court, Chang had made several advances toward the subordinate, who is in her twenties, via instant messenger chats as early as 2007 but was rejected. The female employee told the district court that she felt offended when Chang touched her. She tried to dodge him by moving her body but he kept holding on to her with his hand. At the end, she stood up and left the party.

Chang apologized to her via email only after she complained to her superior and decided to push for charges.

The district court convicted Chang based on his apology email and the fact that his action against the plaintiff’s will had offended her.

However, the High Court, which heard the appeal case, ruled that Chang only expressed in the email that he was “sorry for all impolite action verbally and physically” but did not specifically admit touching the plaintiff’s shoulder and waist.

The High Court also judged that since the waist and shoulder of a woman are not different from those of a man and that women often wear clothing that reveals the waist and shoulder in summer, these two body parts cannot be regarded as private. Therefore, even if Chang had touched the plaintiff on her shoulder and waist, his action does not constitute sexual harassment as described by the current Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, which stated that the crime involves the touching of “buttocks, breasts or other private body parts.”

The Modern Women’s Foundation’s Executive Director Yao Shu-wen decried the High Court’s acquittal of Chang, criticizing the judges for being “detached from the plaintiff’s feelings” and for failing to understand the different perceptions of a”private part” by men and women, according to the newspaper Apple Daily.

Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), the secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation, also called for the amendment of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act to be amended by substituting the restrictive list of “buttocks, breasts or other private body parts” with more general terms like “the invading and harassing of one’s body” so a better standard for judgment can be formed by the court through field work.

In every legal system there is a difficulty for judges in separating the intent against the letter of the law, and many people question the validity of these decisions. However, a closer examination of situations like this that set precedent or provide clarifications to the interpretation of the law should be evaluated much more carefully. Furthermore, a disciplinary panel or public morality panel should consider the decisions of sitting judges since it appears that independent rulings from a panel of judges is not adequate. While this is not a complete or realistic solution, something needs to be done in the interim since the creation of law in Taiwan and a more mature evaluation of law in this ‘child democracy’ (as the judicial excuses from Taiwan keep pointing out).

Re-evaluating Prostitution in Taiwan

Well lets face it. Prostitution is once again rearing its head as an issue in Taiwan. Sometimes I am a realist, and sometimes I am an idealist. When it comes to prostitution I am a realist. The fact remains that nowhere in the world has any government successfully eradicated prostitution. Some countries have even instituted the death penalty and dismemberment. It is a fact of life, and no matter how you feel about it you aren’t going to stop it. In last years November 7th session in Taiwan one of the discussion points was prostitution. Currently in Taiwan it is illegal to be a prostitute, but it is okay to search for prostitution. This law was deemed inequitable and a choice was given to legislation, either change the law to punish both the ‘John’ and the prostitute, or eliminate this law altogether.

Past Prostitution in Taiwan

Previously in Taiwan prostitution was legal. Prostitutes had to register with the government. This registration process stopped in 1974, and in fact there are still some existing prostitutes today who are registered from many years past (scary huh?). There are three major complaints about prostitution that I have heard from the opinions of local Taiwanese on this issue. Complaint 1, aboriginal and young girls were forced into prostitution against their will. Complaint 2, there was no zoning separation between regular residential areas and red light districts, I happen to know a person who currently lives in one of these districts and they really are not happy about it. Complaint 3, too many girls are lured in by materialistic wants (i.e. they want a new LV purse and cant afford it so they go into prostitution).

Current Prostitution in Taiwan

Current prostitution in Taiwan is an interesting gang relationship with the police. Basically there are 4 major areas of prostitution and KTVs all over the place that have ‘alternative services’. The police are paid off to ignore these areas, and typically the places where the police raids occur are independent operators that haven’t paid up recently. Prostitution in Taiwan is riddled with ‘older operators’ many of whom are old enough to have been registered prior to 1974 . There are many independent ‘college girls’ online who ‘need school money’, and a few paper based call in services. There is no protection for independent operators from rape and theft, and as anywhere there is protection by gangs but at the price of giving services to the gang, or being forced to service clients of their choice. Honestly gangs are not great protection, but they keep you from being arrested. From an outsiders opinion, this is not a safe occupation and its better to go with the ‘dating service for a fee’ services. Ultimately there are no health exams and many dangerous situations.

As of the Nov 7th session result, a legislative decision mandating that the current prostitution laws are inequitable and effective 6 months from that date, the law is dissolved. Further stipulations are in place stating that zoning needs to be resolved and 2 years hence a final solution needs to be in place. This means that all final decisions will be made in this years November 7th legislative session, in order for the laws to take place the following year. Broken down even further, what this means is that as of this moment (this is not legal advice, but an assumption based on past information) there are currently no laws against prostitution as of early June 2010 (now). I believe that there are still laws against solicitation and there is no legal venue (designated place) for prostitution.

Future Prostitution in Taiwan

This is where everything has become hush hush. But my sources lead me to believe that Kaohsiung County,  Taichung County, Tainan County, Penghu County, Hsinchu City, Taichung City and Pingtung County have agreed to set up special zoning for prostitution and Taipei City has rejected outright, however Taipei County (now Xin Bei City) has agreed. I don’t know if this agreement will still be effective if Tsai Ein-Wen is elected, but there is currently approval.

My wish list for prostitution in Taiwan

The whole reason that I am excited for legal prostitution in Taiwan is safety and protection. I want to see the following mandates, 1) Regular, but unannounced official spot checks on the working conditions and age of workers 2) Approval of personal licenses (even though they say that individual licensing wont occur) that are only valid if regular health checks are performed for STD’s 3) All burdens of healthcare, health checks, and any other company requirements of sex workers are those of the employer and are not considered a debt of the employee (too many people force prostitutes by saying that they owe them money for paying for health checks or company required beauty treatments or dress) 4) Locations of services are to be at the primary place of business within the supervision of the premises security/staff, or gps emergency responders are to be provided to each worker and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure safe transport to and from any location outside of the primary place of business. 5) Employees of sex services are entitled to all rights and privileges of the Taiwan Labor Law. 6) Any person under the age of 18 is not allowed within an area zoned for sex work for any reason at the liability of the principle business owner and no transactions or solicitation of services are to be performed outside of; the primary place of business, a private residence or within public view. 7) No area zoned for sex work will be visible or within 500 meters of a school, business whose primary services target children under the age of 18, or within 500 meters of a zoned residential area.

I truly hope this endeavor improves the life of those involved, rather than the shortsighted view that prostitution is wrong. Saying prostitution is wrong does not stop it, has not stopped it and will not stop it. While I have great respect for the Garden of Hope and the services they provide, just like the failure of communism; it was a great idea but planning on perfection in humanity will inevitably fail.