Article 14 of the Constitution stipulates that the people shall have the right to freedom of association. However, the right to associate was suspended for 38 years during the Martial Law period and civil society was under strict government control. After Taiwan declared an end to martial law in 1987, civil society activities and CSOs began to develop rapidly. However, the Civil Associations Act contains restrictions to the right to freedom of association. 

Since it came into force, the Judicial Yuan has issued several interpretations on the Civil Associations Act, holding that its enabling statute and sub-acts violate the Constitution, as shown in Judicial Yuan Interpretations No. 479, No. 644, No. 724, and No. 733. Despite these Constitutional interpretations, the Civil Associations Act has only been amended six times, none of which has modified the Act substantially.

Currently, under the Civil Associations Act, CSOs have to apply for a permit or registration from the government; the authorities have powers to review and reject an application; and Articles 61 and 62 can still be used to prescribe penalties as punishment for organisation that operates without registration.

In 2016, after the Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential elections the new government committed to abolish the Civil Associations Act and replace it with other laws including the Social Associations Act, the Foundations Act, the Occupational Associations Act, and the Political Party Act.

The Political Party Act was passed in the legislature in December 2017. However CSOs have raised concerns about the draft of the Social Associations Act, as the authorities have failed to consult with civil society nor have they allowed citizens to participate in the law’s drafting process. Moreover, according to civil society, the reform appears to be directed by a “paternalistic mindset”, and the revised law would still grant the Ministry of the Interior the authority to review and terminate the operations of social associations.

Trade unions are independent, and most workers enjoy freedom of association, though the government strictly regulates the right to strike. Among other barriers, teachers, workers in the defense industry, and government employees are prohibited from striking.