Students shave their heads as a form of protest over changes to the labor law. Photo: Screenshot from Youtube video

Nine Taiwanese students shaved their heads outside the Executive Yuan on Sunday in an action they described as a “Dharma assembly” to mock a top government official, who said recently that caregivers should not complain about getting a low salary but learn to be as generous as Buddha.

The assembly, which was intended to be humorous in nature, featured common Buddhist and Taoist practices found in funerals such as paper houses, ghost money and other offerings traditionally burned for the deceased.

The protesters also called for people to fight the government’s change to the Labor Standards Acts.

Premier Lai Ching-te recently made controversial remarks regarding caregivers, saying that they should not complain about getting a low salary but should know that they are doing a favor to society. Lai said low-paid caregivers were “earning merit” in Buddhist terms.

Chao Jen-chen, a student from National Taiwan University, said the concept for the assembly came from Lai’s inappropriate speech. And an organiser, who played the part of a ritual master at funerals, said the law was “on its deathbed”.

“We’re here to pray that Taiwan’s workers will not suffer from overwork,” he said.

Wang Wen-yu, the sole female student who shaved her head, said having the hair shaved off her head meant supporting the fight for workers’ rights. “It was the right thing to do,” she said.

On November 9, the Executive Yuan approved the amendment to the labor laws. The change aims to make work rules more flexible for both employers and employees. Many labor groups and trade unions staged rallies and a 269-hour hunger strike against the law.

Read: Migrant workers protest against looser labor rights

Read: Workers slam planned loosening of Taiwan’s labor law

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