(Apr. 15, 2009) The Legislative Yuan of the Republic of China (ROC) (on Taiwan) ratified two United Nations human rights instruments, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, on March 31, 2009. On the same date, the legislature approved the Law on the Enforcement of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which will make the covenants legally binding in Taiwan. The ROC government became a signatory to the covenants 42 years ago, on October 5, 1967, when it still held a seat in the United Nations (it relinquished that seat in 1971). Although the two covenants “had been sent to the legislature for approval several times since 2001,” according to spokesman Wang Yu-chi of the President's Office, ratification had heretofore remained elusive. (Flora Wang, Legislature Ratifies UN Rights Treaties, TAIPEI TIMES, Apr. 1, 2009, at 3, available at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2009/04/01/2003439900.)
Under the new nine-article Law, government agencies at all levels must conform to the human rights guarantees of the two covenants, avoid infringing human rights, protect the people from suffering infringements by others, and also actively promote the actualization of every human right (art. 4). In addition, they must, in accordance with their mandated professional duties, be responsible for planning, promoting, and implementing the provisions of the two covenants; where the professional duties of different agencies are involved they must coordinate and consult with each other in handling matters. The government is also obliged to cooperate with the governments of all countries, nongovernment organizations, and human rights organizations to protect and advance the realization of the human rights guaranteed by the two covenants (art. 5). The government is further required to establish a human rights reporting mechanism in accordance with the two treaties (art. 6).
The Law stipulates that funding for the government agencies' implementation of the covenant provisions should be given priority (art. 7). The agencies have two years after the Law's entry into force to review the relevant laws, regulations, and administrative practices; to formulate, amend, or abolish those laws and regulations that are not in compliance with the covenants; and to reform the non-compliant practices (art. 8). It has been pointed out that “[t]his sets a precedent for Taiwan's ratification of and accession to other international conventions.” (Peter Huang, A Breakthrough in Human Rights, TAIPEI TIMES, Apr. 8, 2009, available at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2009/04/08/200344049
4; Legislative Yuan at the Third Reading Adopts and Establishes the “Law on the Enforcement of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” [in Chinese], LAWBANK online database, Apr. 3, 2009, available at http://www.lawbank.com.tw/fnews/news.php?keyword=&sdate=&edate=&
The People's Republic of China ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on February 28, 2001; it has not yet ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, although Premier Wen Jiabao stated at a press conference on March 18, 2008, that China would ratify the latter “at an early date.” (Premier: China to Ratify UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at Early Date, CHINA ECONOMIC NET, Mar. 18, 2008, available at http://english.ce.cn/National/Politics/200803/18/t20080318_14878399.shtm
l; Parliament Ratifies Int'l Human Rights Covenant, U.N. WIRE, Feb. 28, 2001, available at http://www.unwire.org/unwire/20010228/13255_story.asp.) It is stated in the “National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010)” that the PRC “will continue to carry out legislative and judicial and administrative reform to make domestic law better dovetail with the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] provisions and, as early as possible, create favorable conditions for approving the treaty.” (China's “National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010)” (Complete Text) (10) [in Chinese], CHINA NEWS SERVICE, Apr. 13, 2009, available at http://www.chinanews.com.cn/gn/news/2009/04-13/1642885.shtml.)