Conscription in Taiwan
The Republic of China (Taiwan) has maintained a policy of conscription for all qualified males of military age since 1951. The Taiwanese government planned originally to end this policy in 2014, but abolishing conscription is quite controversial among Taiwanese society, and hence the government has not yet created a firm schedule for its abolition. Females from the outlying islands within the province of Fuchien, which are geographically closest to mainland China, were also required to serve in a civil defense role, although this requirement has been dropped since the lifting of martial law. Although the majority of all enlisted positions in the ROC Armed Forces have been and are currently filled by draftees, the government intends to gradually expand the number of volunteer soldiers with the eventual goal of forming an all volunteer military. However, even then there will be compulsory basic training for all males reaching 18. Recent years have also seen an increase in the service options open to draftees, including alternative service with the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), as well as specialized service options for draftees in specific professions. The draft process is set forth under the ROC Military Service Act under the auspices of the MOI's National Conscription Agency as well as by Article 20 of the ROC Constitution.
The ROC Defense Ministry had announced that should voluntary enlistment reach sufficient numbers, the compulsory service period for draftees will be shortened to 14 months in 2007. It will be further shortened to 12 months in 2009.
On March 10, 2009 Minister of Defence Chen Chao-min said by the end of 2014 Taiwan will have an all-volunteer military force. The process of removing conscription will begin in 2010 and by the end of 2014 an all volunteer force will replace the conscripts. Individuals who wish to join must have a minimum of high school education and those who do not volunteer for the military will be required to complete four months of military boot camp. In 2012, it was reported that from 2013 on, military draftees born after January 1, 1994 will only need to receive four months of military training and will no longer be required to serve one year of military service, and that the government was on track to replace all serving conscripts with volunteers by the end of 2014. However, this timetable was pushed back in 2013 to the end of 2016.
Should this policy remain unchanged, although the ROC will have a purely volunteer professional force, every male will still be conscripted to receive four-month military training. Thus, after 2016, compulsory military service will still remain in practice in the ROC.
The Military Service Act of the Republic of China was first enacted in 1933 (when the island of Taiwan, including the Pescadores, was not part of the ROC), with the latest amendment in 2011. The Enforcement Act for the Military Service Act was first enacted in 1947, when the government was fighting with the Communist Party of China across China.
Initially, the Republic of China Army adopted mandatory conscription for males in regions under its control in order to fight the Japanese. Mandatory conscription was introduced to Taiwan in 1951. By 1954, the majority of conscripts served two years. Naval, air force and special forces conscripts served three years. In 1981, all conscripts began serving two years. Ten years later, the conscription period was reduced to twenty-two months, and alternative military service became an option. Between 2004 and 2007, two months were cut from mandatory military service each year, until a total of one year remained in 2008. Service time for men born after 1994 was cut to four months in 2013. The last group of mandatory conscripts were discharged in December 2018.
According to the laws of the ROC, all male citizens 19 years of age on January 1 to 40 years of age on December 31 are obligated to render mandatory military service; they are considered draftees. Male individuals of conscription age are those who possess ROC citizenship and who are 19 years of age on January 1, and the calculation method is as follows: the current year minus the birth year yielding an answer of 19 and above is considered conscription age (e.g. 2006 – 1987 = 19). Draftees who were born between January 1 and December 31 in 1987 are considered as being 19 years of age from January 1 to December 31 of 2006.
The following compulsory service options are available as of January 2006:
- Enlisted military service (士兵役): 12 months of active duty enlisted military service in one of the four branches of the ROC Armed Forces.
- Alternative service (替代役): 12 months and 15 days of public safety or community service related work under the MOI, usually in the police, fire department, public clinics, local government offices, or as teachers in rural areas. Various billets are available only to draftees with related qualifications.
- National defense service (國防役): Available to draftees with advanced degrees, particularly in the sciences and engineering, who upon selection, receive 3 months of officer training culminating in a commission as an officer in the reserves, followed by four years of employment in a government or academic research institution such as the Academia Sinica or Industrial Technology Research Institute.
According to the NCA, male citizens born after January 1st, 1994 will only have to serve 4 months in Enlisted Military Service or 6 months in Alternative Service. The 4 months of Enlisted Military Service could be further broken down into two sessions of 2 months boot camps.
The military draft process occurs in four steps:
- Military Registration Investigation: Interview conducted by the conscription sections of local government offices to determine the educational background of the draftee as well as any special skills (e.g. proficiency in a foreign language). Generally occurs upon a male ROC national's 19th birthday or periodically upon his establishment (or change) of residence in ROC administered territories while of draft age but not yet drafted. Education and other deferments may be granted at this point if the draftee is eligible. If the draftee is not eligible for a deferment, a physical examination is scheduled. The draftee may also apply for alternative or national defense service at this point. In the case of the latter, the draftee will be required to compete successfully at an officer selection board for the desired billet, after which he will continue directly on to officer training school following completion of the physical exam.
- Physical Examination: Draftee undergoes a full physical examination at a hospital approved by the Department of Health. Physical fitness is classified on three levels, A, B, and C, with level A and B draftees considered physically fit for military service.
- Drawing Lots: Draftees fit for military service then draw lots to determine if they will serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps (Military police officers are selected from Army draftees). The chances of drawing for each service are not equal with the Army generally being the most probable, the Navy intermediate, and the Air Force and Marines being the least probable.
- Basic Training: After being assigned a service branch, the draftee is then assigned a date to begin basic training, after which the draftee will enter active duty.
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