On Friday, China gave the green light to 16 airlines to operate regular direct flights to Taiwan in a sign that the Dalai Lama's impending visit would not harm trade ties.Behind the political theatre of the Dalai Lama's visit, the real politics go on....
Yesterday it was the Economist, today AFP published this brilliant account, so pro-Beijing in its construction that at first glance I thought the Aussie newspaper it appeared in had picked up Xinhua. Its very badness actually highlights some interesting political connections. AFP begins:
RELIGIOUS groups and pro-China activists have criticised the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan, saying the trip is "inappropriate" as the island reels from a deadly typhoon."Religious groups?" Let's see what they mean.
But the trip, during which the Buddhist leader is scheduled to visit typhoon-hit areas, has come under fire, with a pro-China group labelling him a "trouble-maker" while the Taiwan Mazu Association said the visit was "inappropriate.""We urge politicians to stop taking advantage of religion," says Cheng Ming-kun.
"We hope Taiwanese people will believe in Taiwanese religions. Religious exchange is good in normal time but it is inappropriate at such a time," said Cheng Ming-kun, chief of the Taiwan Mazu Association.
"We urge politicians to stop taking advantage of religion... and toying with typhoon victims," he told reporters.
The association represents worshippers of the Taoist sea goddess Mazu, who has millions of followers.
Sometimes hypocrisy elevates itself beyond being merely blatant, achieving a kind of sublime disconnect with reality that is like a work of art. Such is this lecture from Cheng Ming-kun about separating politics and religion.
Who is Mr. Cheng? Cheng holds a couple of key positions in the Matzu Associations, such as the Deputy Chairman of the Jenlan Temple in Dajia. Ring any bells? That's the name of the island's most important Matzu temple, the subject of one of the world's largest pilgrimages. That's right -- the procession run by the former KMT politician, now "non-partisan", Yen Ching-piao, elected out of jail by his loyal constituents a few years back. That procession is a prime example of how politics exploits religion in Taiwan (anyone know where the zillions in donations go?). Cheng, who was kidnapped for 10 days in 2005 in what was widely rumored to be a shady business deal gone bad, was indicted for forgery and breach of trust in connection with the temple association. Naturally Cheng is close to Yen -- I believe the proper expression is "thick as thieves."
What are Cheng's political affiliations? Well, Cheng was in Beijing in July promoting cross-strait ties through better Matzu connections. Cheng also met with Chen Yun-lin, last seen here in November of 2008 negotiating on Beijing's behalf. Is leveraging Taiwan's most important goddess to annex Taiwan to China apolitical?
AFP's presentation is thus a comical parody of actual news construction. First it mentions the "pro-China" group and then opposes Cheng's comments to it as if he were neutral, not "pro-China." Then, the deputy head of the single most politicized temple on the whole island piously informs us that religion should not be politicized!
This piece should definitely be in the Onion.
How to explain this? A friend of mine pointed out that Pierre Louette, the current CEO of AFP, appears to have personal interests in China. Louette is the former CEO of Havas, the main marketing company for the Beijing Olympics. Since Havas represents some of the biggest corporations in China....
UPDATE: More explanations/clarifications in the comments below
- As of ten this morning, the NYTimes had this:
Another travel marketer offering jobs is the Republic of Taiwan Tourism Bureau, with a contest called the Best Trip in the World (taiwanbesttrip.net). The offer: “Come up with the best Taiwan tour itinerary, take the tour, write about it online” and win a million Taiwan dollars (about $30,000) for a one-month trip around the island.
- Taiwan Matters notes that Ma went after Public Television three days after Morakot, apparently hoping to use the hoopla over the typhoon as cover to get his man in the top position.
- Average real income regresses to 1996 levels. It's a good thing we elected Ma and his economic czar to -- wait, what's that czar's name again?
- Our new AIT director, William Stanton, has arrived. Godspeed and good luck to the awesome Steve Young, who did a great job here. May his next post be filled with fewer headaches and more margaritas.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!