Lian Fu Factory Workers' Railway Occupation and Factory Closure Workers' Protest Incidents

“Sorrow, Resentment, Hatred, Damnation”; “Proud to be Imprisoned, No remorse”

Event description

Lien Fu Garment, once a renowned long-established factory in Taiwan, earned significant foreign exchange for the country and even prompted a visit from then-President Chiang Ching-kuo. In 1990, amidst the widespread relocation of industries in Taiwan, Lien Fu's owners began investing in factories in Thailand and South Africa, where labor costs were lower, triggering a series of malicious factory closures.

In August 1996, employees arrived at work as usual only to find a notice announcing the temporary closure of the factory on September 15. Workers, who had dedicated most of their lives to their jobs, suddenly found themselves unemployed with some employees already eligible for retirement benefits. This plunged them into a state of uncertainty. In response, the workers formed a self-help association and sought assistance from prominent labor activists like Tseng Mao-hsing. Tseng Mao-hsing then collaborated with Fu Hung-ta of the Love Your Township Association, initiating organizational training for the union.

Initially, the self-help association intensively petitioned the Taoyuan County government, the Ministry of Labor, and the Legislative Yuan. They even went to the Hongxi Villa to seek an audience with President Lee Teng-hui. After several mediation sessions, the workers and the owners finally reached an agreement with chairman Lee Ming-hsiung signed the agreement, promising to raise funds for severance pay and retirement benefits, amounting to over 180 million. However, he repeatedly defaulted on the promises and eventually fled, liquidating assets in South Africa.

After months of unsuccessful petitions and protests, under the leadership of Tseng Mao-hsing, the Lien Fu Garment Factory Self-Help Association decided to adopt the drastic protest tactic of "lying on the tracks to commit suicide." This action aimed to provoke charges of "endangering public safety," accusing the government of helplessness regarding addressing serious economic crimes committed by the employers, such as withholding substantial wages, severance pay, and retirement benefits.

This protest showcased a nonviolent resistance by Taiwanese workers. All decisions were made transparently to demonstrate accountability and to help the broader society understand their forced choices. The decision to stage the protest at the Yong-feng Road level crossing was strategic, as it was a commute route for many workers over the decades, allowing train drivers more reaction time and ensuring the safety of other road users.

On December 20, 1996, shortly after leaving Taoyuan Station, the driver of Taiwan Railways Train No. 2179 noticed over three hundred middle-aged women dressed in black, forming two lines standing on the tracks. The driver quickly brought the train to an emergency stop. A burly man slowly led a large group of people and approached the train, carrying a black-and-white banner that read, "The ‘Normal channels’ are blocked." On that day, the train was disrupted for over an hour, and the adjacent road was blocked for two hours.

Although this protest stirred mixed reactions in the society, it nevertheless successfully drew attention to the struggle of factory closure workers. In total, over 80 people were charged and sentenced under charges of endangering public safety. However, after more than three years of litigation, only Tseng Mao-hsing, who led the protest, had to serve an actual 10-month prison sentence. He entered prison on September 23, 2000, and two months later, he was granted a special pardon by President Chen Shui-bian.

Apart from Lien Fu, other factory closure protests during that period included those at Fu Chang, Tung Ling, Tung Yang, and Tung Jih.


During that time, the advocacy of labor organizations and the sustained resistance of workers facing factory closures pressured the government to enact the "Implementation Act of Unemployment Benefits under Labor Insurance," in addition to labor insurance. This move also initiated the mechanism of wage compensation under the Labor Standards Act and introduced the "Promotion of Employment Loans for Workers Affected by Factory Closures," ostensibly in the form of "loans," providing financial assistance to workers affected by factory closures. This action subsequently led to legal disputes between the Ministry of Labor and the workers regarding the legal interpretation of loans, and the workers ultimately won the case with the assistance of pro bono lawyers.

To address similar cases systematically, labor groups continued to promote the "Mass Layoffs of Workers Protection Act," the "Unemployment Insurance Act," and regulations prioritizing workers' wage claims. The legislative process for these two laws, the Workers’ Protection Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act, was completed in 2002 and 2003, respectively. As for the provisions related to wage claims and severance pay in the Labor Standards Act, they were amended and passed on February 25, 2015, explicitly stating: "In the event of an employer's closure, liquidation, or declaration of bankruptcy, the workers' claims are to be repaid in the order of priority, equivalent to the priority of claims secured by the first-priority mortgage, pledge, or lien. Repayment is to be made in proportion to the amount of the claim, and any remaining unpaid portion has the right to be repaid with the highest priority."

Participating Organizations

Reference books