Migrant Lives Matter: 'Nine Shots'

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Friday 30th October 2020 (13:00-14:30)

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The University of Nottingham's Taiwan Studies Programme in association with Global Taiwan Studies Salon (EATS-NATSA-IJTS-JATS) presents an online discussion and film.

Migrant Lives Matter: ‘Nine Shots’

When: 30 October 20, 1-2.30pm UK time, 9-10.30pm Taipei time

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Nine Shots’ is a pilot documentary made by Tsai Tsung-lung, a renowned documentary maker, who explores the death of a Vietnamese migrant worker that reminds us of the death of George Floyd and the injury of Jacob Blake. What motivated men and women in the Global South to seek employment in the Global North? How are guest workers portrayed by the media, particularly those who are on the run? What kind of recruitment, employment and migration regimes should be put in place between the sending and receiving states? Who, or what, is responsible for their loss of lives or their suffering of injuries at work or as a result of the use of state force? Does the use of force indicate institutional and societal discrimination?

Using ‘Nine Shots’ as a prompt, this seminar interviews Director Tsai and discusses salient issues related to the migration of guest workers to their host country where they are not expected to be integrated. Audiences may find it distressing to view some parts of the documentary.

Panel discussants include:

  • Dr Chun-yi Lee, (Chair person) Director of The Taiwan Studies Programme, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham
  • Isabelle Cheng,  Senior Lecturer in East Asian and International Development Studies at the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature at the University of Portsmouth
  • Tsai Tsung-lung, Film director and Associate Professor at the Department of Communications at the National Chung Cheng University

Panelist biographies

Dr. Chun-Yi Lee is Associate Professor at school of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham. She is also the director of Taiwan Studies Program at Nottingham. Chun-Yi's first book was published by Routledge in 2011: Taiwanese Business or Chinese Security Asset. The book is under Leiden Series in Modern East Asia History and Politics. Chun-Yi applied from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) with Prof. Andreas Bieler on the project, 'Globalisation, national transformation and workers' rights: An analysis of Chinese labour within the global economy' in 2010. This project successfully received the funding from the ESRC and started to operate from October 2011 till September 2014. In viewing the Chinese labour facing the challenge of industrial upgrading, Chun-yi applied a research project funded by Chiang-Ching-kuo (CCK) Foundation in Taiwan in relation to 'Chinese Investment in Taiwan: Challenge or Opportunity for Taiwan's Industrial Development'. This project has finished in December 2016. Currently, Chun-yi is working on a public policy research project, to compare Taiwan and UK government's strategies to counter Covid-19. Meanwhile Chun-yi is working her second monograph on the topic of 'China's New Normal: The Impact of China's Rise on the Global Political Economy'.

Dr. Isabelle Cheng is Senior Lecturer in East Asian and International Development Studies at the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature at the University of Portsmouth. Her research focuses on marriage and labour migration in East Asia with reference to sovereignty, border, political participation and migrant workers’ maternity. Taking a gender approach, she is also interested in the Cold War in East Asia, focusing on how women’s voices are used for psychological warfare. She currently serves as the Secretary-General of European Association of Taiwan Studies.

Tsai Tsung-lung is Associate Professor at the Department of Communications at the National Chung Cheng University. He is also an independent documentary producer and director. Some of his recent works, such as See You, Lovable Strangers (再見 可愛陌生人) (2016), were collaborated with his Vietnamese spouse and focused on migrant spouse and migrant workers in Taiwan. Tsai is known for his award-winning documentaries, such as Killing in Formosa (島國殺人紀事) (2001), Behind the Miracle (奇蹟背後) (2002), and Oil Disease: Surviving Evil(油症-與毒共存) (2008). Sunflower Occupation (太陽 不遠) (2016) was selected in the New Asian Currents item in the 2015 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival.


Talk Reflection by Linh Le – PhD Researcher, Institute for Media Studies (IMS),Faculty of Social Sciences | KU Leuven

The death of a Vietnamese migrant worker Nguyen Quoc Phi caused by nine gunshots from a young police officer in Taiwan was a tragic event, one that would haunt whoever watches Director Tsai Tsung-lung’s pilot documentary “Nine shots” for a very long time.
The documentary intends to show that Taiwanese media can be ‘dehumanising’ in their representations of migrant workers. While media producers could sway public opinion toward the migrant community in Taiwan by showcasing ‘a perfect victim’, Director Tsai chose not to do so. Instead, he strove for balance by not portraying Phi as ‘a perfect, innocent victim’ to gain sympathy from the society, but by casting him as a runaway migrant worker who was believed to be intoxicated/drugged at the time he was shot by the police. Yet, the director’s skilfulness of utilising subtle cues to gain public empathy shines through the motion pictures of Phi’s hometown and his family home, as well as his Facebook posts before his passing. These footages show that a migrant worker can have ‘a soul’ and a life that is as normal as many Taiwanese: a young man with hopes and ambitions, longing for home in Vietnam but also belonging in Taiwan, and the wish to make enough money to build his own family. The indelible question that underlies the event of Phi’s death is, as the title of the event suggests, “do migrant lives matter?” Can the fact of being a migrant worker, on top of being intoxicated, be taken as a legitimate reason for depriving him or her of the right to be treated as an equal human being? 
The pilot documentary offers deeper insights into the death of Phi, a migrant worker in Taiwan. The full version is to be released in the near future.  


by Ratih Kabinawa, PhD Candidate in the School of Social Sciences, at the University of Western Australia.

Using the death of a Vietnamese migrant worker as a starting point, ‘Nine Shots’ – a short pilot documentary – explores the dark side of migrant labour recruitment and employment in Taiwan. Twenty-seven-year-old Nguyen, an undocumented migrant worker, suffered a tragic death after a Taiwanese police officer shot him nine times, accusing him of aggressive behaviour. It was heart-rending seeing the shots from the secret recording from the police’s footage while Nguyen was defenceless and covered in blood. Directed by a renowned documentary maker, Tsai Tsung-lung, the film reveals various challenges that migrant workers face while working in Taiwan. These include negotiating a vicious brokerage system, distressing institutional fees, insufficient safety training, societal discrimination, abuse and exploitation, and the absence of labour laws to protect these workers. Director Tsai skilfully conducts a thorough investigation of the case by collecting various views from different stakeholders. While migrant worker activists and associations demanded justice for Nguyen, some members of society expressed support for the police officer because of his duties in securing law and order. The movie itself, however, does not cover any official statements, leaving open the question of how the Taiwanese and Vietnamese governments dealt with this horrible tragedy. This persuasive 24-minute documentary invites the audience to pose the question: are we facing a systemic failure of migrant labour regimes? Subtitled in English, the documentary deserves widespread distribution to create awareness about the rights of marginalised groups that are often neglected. 


by Andreas Sierek, Taiwan observer based in Vienna and a member of European Association of Taiwan Studies.

Unsurprisingly, the pilot of the eventual documentary 'Nine Shots', being just a preliminary sketch, had loose ends. But the well prepared panellists did a great job tying them together, so well prepared indeed that the initial absence of the main discussant, film director Tsai Tsung-lung, did not throw Chun-yi Lee and Isabelle Cheng off track even for a minute.
The law is not racist but it purposely disadvantages migrants. Institutions are not racist but they neglect to protect migrants from exploitation. The police is not racist but its officers are insufficiently trained to handle language and cultural barriers. All this together turns some migrants into run away outcasts every so often, getting portrayed as lawless and somewhat subhuman by rabid media. Unsurprisingly, many natives, among them police officers, feel disdain and no sympathy for migrants. They rather tend to feel menaced on close physical proximity. Violence and heartless withholding of vital help are the consequences all too often.The discussion demonstrated that meaningful insights can be gained when empathy does not get stuck in an urge to decry an individual's failures and to celebrate the victim. It's more effective to uncover and mend structural failures in society

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