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Taiwan: Amendment to Criminal Law Provides “Exclusion Clause” for Fulfillment of Filial Obligations

(Feb. 19, 2010) On January 27, 2010, amendments to the Criminal Law were published in Taiwan's official gazette. The key amendment, a new article 294-1, sets forth circumstances exempting from criminal punishment someone who under the Civil Code has the obligation to provide support, fostering, or protection to persons unable to take care of themselves but who fails to do so to the extent necessary to preserve the dependant person's life will not be subject to criminal punishment. The four circumstances exculpating the care provider are those in which the dependant person had formerly:

1) committed the lightest offense of a criminal act for which there is a minimum punishment of fixed-term imprisonment of six months in the Criminal Code, harming the life, person, or freedom of the care provider;

2) committed an act under articles 227 (item 3, sexual relations with a minor 14-16 years of age), 228 (lewd behavior with persons under one's supervision, support, or care), 231-1 (forcing a male or female to have sexual relations with other persons for profit, and related offenses), or 286 (maltreatment of persons under 16 years of age, harming their natural development) of the Criminal Code or under articles 32 or 33 (both articles address use of force or other means to exploit another person's labor)of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act;

3) deliberately committed offenses, aside from those set forth in the above two items, which infringed on the care provider's life, person, or freedom and for which the person was sentenced to six months of fixed-term imprisonment; or

4) failed, without good reason, to fulfill the obligation to support the care provider for two years in a row, and the circumstances are grave. (Amendment to Criminal Law, THE GAZETTE OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT 34-35 (Jan. 27, 2010), available at [see hyperlink to full text of amendments, in Chinese].)

The main purpose of the new provision is to free children who have been abused or maltreated by their parents from filial duties. “With the exclusion clauses, the law will demand that parents fulfill their responsibilities first in order to be entitled to being supported in their old age by their children.” (Filial Duty No Longer Absolute Obligation After Law Revision, TAIWAN NEWS, Jan. 7, 2010, available at
.) Nevertheless, according to Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng, “in order to prevent people from abandoning their parents, … her ministry will handle all relevant cases carefully.” (Law Revision Aims to Spare Abused from Filial Duty, CHINA POST, Dec. 31, 2009, available at

Filial piety, deemed a “core value” in Taiwan's society, has been strictly upheld by the law. The Criminal Code subjects children convicted on charges of parent abandonment, for failing to fulfill the obligation to look after their parents, to prison terms of six months to five years (under article 294 of Chapter 5, Crimes of Abandonment). (Id.; Criminal Code of the Republic of China [in Chinese], Ministry of Justice website, (last visited Feb. 19, 2010).)