Taiwan charges 10 over Uganda scholarship scam; students forced to toil in a factory instead of studying

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Taiwanese prosecutors on Friday indicted a senior university official and nine others over a scholarship scam where Ugandan students were forced to toil in a factory instead of studying.

The case came to light in January after local media reported student complaints that they were ordered to “intern” at factories, dealing a blow to Taiwan’s image as one of Asia’s most progressive democracies.

The education ministry has since banned Chung Chou University of Science and Technology in central Changhua county from recruiting foreign students.

District prosecutors on Friday indicted the school’s dean of student affairs, the deputy chief of the county government’s youth development department and eight others on a number of charges from human trafficking to fraud and corruption.

According to prosecutors, the dean and two colleagues allegedly “tricked” the Ugandans with “fake promises of hefty scholarships and high-tech industry internships” into coming to study at the university in late 2019.

Once they arrived in Taiwan, the students were informed that they owed the school travel and other expenses, and had to do long hours of labour-intensive work at local factories.

The deputy chief failed to investigate the alleged exploitation and decided that the factory that hired them did not violate labour laws, prosecutors said.

The deputy head of a shelter for foreigners was also charged in the case after he revealed the whereabouts of a Ugandan student to a school employee.

Taiwan touts itself as one of Asia’s most progressive democracies, with a government that promotes human rights and headline-grabbing moves such as legalising same-sex marriage in 2019.

The island has, however, long been criticised for labour exploitation and how it treats foreign migrant workers.

Its lucrative deep-sea fishing industry, the world’s second-largest after China, has been accused of widespread abuse of migrants, prompting the government to pledge more than $68 million to improve working conditions.