Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tainan County/City Merger Approved

The Taipei Times reported on the surprise decision of the Executive Yuan to permit a merger of Tainan city and county this week. The article gives a good overview of the plan:
In early April, the legislature passed an amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) allowing cities and counties to integrate into special municipalities, paving the way for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to deliver on his campaign promise of remapping the country into three metropolises and 15 counties and cities.

Eleven out of a total of 23 counties and cities applied to upgrade their status either alone or by merging with others.

Liu finalized the review results at yesterday’s meeting.

Aside from the Tainan proposal, Liu also endorsed the initial review last Tuesday — approving the upgrade of Taipei County to a municipal city and the mergers of Taichung County and Taichung City as well as Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County into municipalities, while rejecting proposals by Taoyuan County and Changhua County to be upgraded to municipalities and by Yunlin County and Chiayi County to merged into a municipality.

After the revision becomes effective next year, within 10 days of local elections in special municipalities, the current administrative borders of two special municipalities and 23 counties and cities will be redrawn into five special municipalities and 17 counties and cities.

Jiang said the redrawing of administrative districts was in line with the spirit of Ma’s plan to remap the country.

He said that the adjustment of the administrative zones could help formulate three big urban communities in northern, central, and southern Taiwan and reduce regional disparities.

“The meaning of President Ma’s ‘three metropolises and 15 counties plan’ lies in enhancing the country’s overall competitiveness and pursuing balance in regional development. How many special municipalities and counties or cities the country has after districts are remapped is not the point,” Jiang said.

The government developed the country into seven regions with each having at least one special municipality or quasi-special municipality as locomotives for development — Taipei City, Taipei County, Keelung City, and Yilan County; Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County, Hsinchu City, and Miaoli County; a merged Taichung County and City, Changhua County, and Nantou County; a merged Tainan County and Tainan City, Chiayi County, and Yunlin County; a merged Kaohsiung County and City and Pingtung County; Hualien County and Taitung County; and the islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.

Jiang said the government would use policy tools to encourage the counties and cities within a region to cooperate to promote overall development.

Minister of Finance Lee Sush- der (李述德) said the government would revise the Law Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) to ensure that each county or city, regardless of its status, obtained a bigger budget than now.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said the party welcomed the Tainan merger, but urged the government to propose an amendment to the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures and the Administrative Division Law (行政區域劃分法) as soon as possible to equalize counties, cities with new municipal cities.
Today's Taipei Times translated a Liberty Times editorial on the problems of the process, which it saw as slapdash and unprofessional, with results rigged in advance:
The first was echoed by Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) when he said the upgrades were a scheme by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to pave the way for reelection in 2012. A merged Taipei City and County and a merged Taichung City and County would become stronger pan-blue camp electorates, while the pan-green camp would be able to gain power in the merged Kaohsiung and Tainan municipalities, setting up richer territories for pork-barrel politics at the next presidential election.

Mindful of the electoral importance of Taipei County, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) thinks it can kill two birds with one stone by postponing the election for Taipei County commissioner via the upgrade to stall for time in regaining lost ground in this electorate.

A combined Kaohsiung City and County, meanwhile, would be a pan-green stronghold and the pan-blue camp would have little hope of gaining power there. The KMT government did not hesitate to approve their upgrade and merger application, however, because it expects a disorganized Democratic Progressive Party to be more vulnerable to infighting over local elections.

The second problem is that the mergers and upgrades will result in the postponement of mayoral and county commissioner elections. In a democracy, the terms of democratically elected leaders and public representatives are a contract between candidates and voters that should not be broken for cynical ends.
Redrawing the boundaries of Taiwan's counties has long been high on the list of goals for reformers from both parties. As I've noted before, Taipei takes the lion's share of tax revenues -- meaning essentially that the south and east are impoverished to pay for Taipei's ability to live above its income. Whether, when the dust clears, more revenues will actually be shipped to Kaohsiung and Tainan is anyone's guess. Currently the Act Governing the Allocation of revenues calls for 43% of revenue to go to special municipalities (currently two, Taipei and Kaohsiung) and 57% to everywhere else.

At present Changhua and Yunlin/Chiayi counties are also considering upgrades -- what an irony it would be if everyone upgraded and 43% of the budget split among Kaohsiung, Tainan, Yunlin/Chiayi, Changhua, Taichung, and Taipei, leaving 57% for Taitung, Hualien, Nantou, Hsinchu, Taoyuan, Miaoli, I-lan, and the islands. That would seriously redistribute the island's wealth!

The new upgrades will result in new development and new land speculation, which will in turn bring in new monies into the pockets of officialdom. It will also result in a vast expansion of government payrolls, since a municipality has the right to employ thousands more people in the local government -- meaning new opportunities for political patronage that will help cement the grip of the party in power on the local governments. The expansion also allows for new appointees to committees and boards.

The upgrade will likely delay elections for local county/municipality chiefs, giving the KMT time to make up ground, especially in Taipei County, and to exploit the divisions in the DPP. One theory has it that the Taichung upgrade will enable the popular KMT politician Jason Hu to run again for mayor for eight more years of Hu leadership -- the corollary being that Ma supporters want to keep Hu in Taichung and out of the central government (he is sometimes mentioned as a possible premier).

UPDATE: Excellent further explanation in first comment.

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Richard Bush asks what the continued military build up means

J Michael Cole over at Far Eastern Sweet Potato led me to this article by longtime Taiwan analyst Richard Bush III at Brookings. Coupled with the comments surrounding the possibility of selling F-16s to Taiwan that appear to identify China as the source of the "Taiwan problem," it seems that US analysts are at last waking up and getting a whiff of that expansionist cup'o'java that China has been serving us for the last twenty years..... Bush writes in an opening paragraph more notable for its misrepresentations than its illuminations...

In the relations between Taiwan and China, something intriguing happened between last spring and this spring. I refer not to the impressive progress that the two sides have made since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008. They have restored dialogue mechanisms; concluded agreements to enhance cooperation in the areas of trade, transportation, finance, and crime control; and made possible Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly. This significant progress occurred against the backdrop of fifteen previous years of deepening mutual mistrust, which led Beijing and Taipei each to craft policy based on fears of the other’s intentions rather than hopes for cooperation.
  • The KMT-Beijing united front against Taiwan independence and democracy is "impressive progress."
  • The Chen and Lee Administrations were eras of "deepening mistrust." No mention is made of all the "impressive progress" in "trade, transportation, finance, and crime control" made under those Administrations, particularly the Chen Administration. The past in which the DPP initiated and pursued contacts is now down the memory hole. The connection between the current KMT and past DPP policy is now down the memory hole as well. This line has been the one taken by US analysts since the Ma election campaign began two years ago.
  • There are "two sides" -- not two groups of Chinese nationalists searching for a way to annex Taiwan to China without appearing to ever cross the Rubicon of annexation.
  • "deepening mutual mistrust" Taiwan does not threaten China in any way; the threat is entirely one-sided. "Mistrust" from the Chinese side simply implies the belief that the DPP will not lie down for Beijing.
  • The military build up during the Lee-Chen era was OK since it was aimed at Taiwan independence and democracy types. Now that Ma is in power, suddenly the military build up has become a problem that China has created (Bush states this below). What a difference a year makes....
Bush goes on to wonder why on earth China didn't reduce its military build up since it has an ally in power in Taipei....

Still, it is startling that Beijing did not adjust the procurements and deployments that are most relevant to Taiwan in response to Ma’s taking office. After all, what drove China to its military buildup was its perception of threatening intentions of Ma’s predecessors. He on the other hand has pursued a policy of reassurance and reconciliation. We can imagine several possible reasons.

The first is bureaucratic: that the PLA procures equipment on a five-year cycle, and the adjustment to Ma will begin in the cycle that begins in 2011. The second concerns threat perception: PLA and other leaders do not believe that the threat of separatism has disappeared. Pro-independence forces could return to power and China must be prepared. The third possible reason is institutional. The PLA is increasingly a corporate entity that has its own view of how, within broad policy parameters, to protect China’s national security. It could be some combination of the three. We simply do not know.

China’s failure to adjust has important implications for the future of cross-Strait stability, because it affects the sustainability of Ma Ying-jeou’s policies. In his electoral campaign, he argued that that the best way to ensure Taiwan’s prosperity, security, and dignity in the face of a more powerful China to reassure and engage Beijing. His appeal, therefore, defines what he must achieve to secure re-election in 2012 for himself and his party. Moreover, Ma has made very clear that China’s existing military capabilities are an obstacle to creating a truly stable cross-Strait environment. As he told The New York Times last year, “We don't want to negotiate a peace agreement while our security is threatened by a possible missile attack.”

This paragraph is quite interesting. Bush of course knows that Ma is not in charge of the cross-strait negotiations, but nevertheless organizes the paragraphs around Ma's 2012 policy needs. Gone of course is the mention that the KMT fought the special arms purchase and, a couple of years back when Ma asked in a speech in London that the missiles be removed, repudiated that position -- the KMT thought it was perfectly acceptable for missiles to be pointed at its children. The idea that Ma thinks negotiation with missiles pointed at Taiwan is impossible is manure meant to fertilize re-election prospects -- the current government has no problem negotiating with China on all sorts of things with missiles pointed at it.

What Bush doesn't note is the speed at which things are occurring here, both domestically and in the cross-strait relationship. The military build up is there to spur that process along, and to create in locals a sense of resignation, of the inevitability of anschluss. I believe, as do others watching the process unfold, that the KMT and CCP want the anschluss to take place by 2011, the 100th anniversary of the ROC, especially since Hu Jintao steps down in 2012. Unlike many whom I know are beginning to privately wonder whether we'll have an election here in 2012, I am totally confident we will.

The second to last paragraph is absolutely wonderful and it echoes the logic in the post below: if the build up continues, it is obviously proper for the US to sell Taiwan weapons....
If by its actions Beijing demonstrates a continuing desire to increase Taiwan’s sense of insecurity, then it is proper for the United States to reduce it through arms sales and other forms of security cooperation. We should, of course, provide systems that strengthen Taiwan’s real deterrent, not those that are useful primarily as political symbols (China can easily tell the difference). True, continued arms sales will damage U.S.-China relations, but we are responding to a problem that China has itself created.
Note that in addition to the direct public link between arms sales and the Chinese military build up, we also have Bush's hint of "other forms of security cooperation." Jim Steinberg, who was important in crafting the Clinton expansion of contacts with Taiwan that the Bush Administration curtailed, is once again in high position. I am curious to see what meanings "other forms of security cooperation" takes on in the Obama Administration.

Further, Richard Bush here also directly states that the problem is of China's own making. Perhaps US analysts will take that next step and re-examine their rhetoric about Chen "provoking" China. After all, if China continues its build up when it has a Chinese nationalist ideologue in office in Taiwan, it is obvious that the previous military build up cannot have been in response to Taiwan independence, but must instead stem from some other motive -- the same one that has compelled it to annex Tibet and take aim at the territories of most of its neighbors.

Daily Links
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Where are my F-16s?

I thought a while back that the Administration might come round to selling F-16s to Taiwan, and sure enough, lots of clues coming out this week in the media that we might see a breakthrough on that front....

First, the Taipei Times reported the other day that the dawn is breaking in Washington....
Another source said that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had greatly pleased the Obama administration with his pro-China policies that have reduced tensions across the Taiwan Strait and there was an inclination to help him because China continues a massive arms buildup and it has not reduced the number of missiles it has pointed at Taiwan.
That's right folks -- tension is caused by China, not Taiwan. The article went on to say...
Beijing may have decided to send Wang to Washington following reports earlier this month that there was a general consensus on Capitol Hill in favor of selling F-16s to Taiwan.


For its part, the Obama administration has remained very quiet on the subject.

However, Kurt Campbell, speaking during his Senate confirmation hearing last week as assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, said there were “discussions under way right now” on the outstanding request for arms sales to Taiwan.

Democratic Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the Foreign Relations Asia subcommittee, asked Campbell what he thought about supplying Taiwan with F-16 fighters, Black Hawk helicopters and design assistance for diesel electric submarines.

“There are specifics — discussions under way right now. I’m not in the Department of State, so I’m not going to comment on them,” Campbell said.

His remarks were the first official confirmation that the Obama administration is working on future arms sales to Taiwan.
AP had a similar report based on AIT head Steve Young's recent remarks...
Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Young said Washington will continue to help Taiwan enhance its security and the sale of the 66 F-16 C/D jets is still on the table.

"As (senior officials) get into place, they will continue to look closely at this whole question," Young said, adding Washington does not consult with Beijing on arms sales to Taiwan.

Young cited Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, National Security adviser Jeffrey Bader, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallace Gregson as officials who will be involved in the F-16 matter.
Finally, Taiwan News has an in-depth report on Young's remarks:
The United States is not concerned that advanced military technologies will be leaked to China through its weapon sales to Taiwan because Taiwan is capable of protecting such technologies, the top U.S. envoy to Taiwan said Friday.

"I don't really think there is a great concern about the transfer of technology from Taiwan because I think that Taiwan has very effective means in the controlling of technology, " Stephen M. Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , said at a biannual press conference.


Young said that while the U.S. welcomes the reduction of tensions between Taiwan and China, it is also aware of the People's Republic of China's relentless military buildup -- much of it directed at Taiwan -- and the Ma Ying-jeou administration's interest in continuing to pursue security cooperation with the U.S.

"I think that the Obama administration will calculate the requests of our Taiwan friends in that light and act at an appropriate time when there are decisions about what types of defensive weapons might make the most sense to provide this island, " he said.
Interesting that Young deliberately links the "reduction of tensions" -- a totally false construction much used in US policy circles, the level of tension being controlled by China, not Taiwan, and amenable to reduction at any time, not just when a right-wing Chinese nationalist is president of Taiwan -- with the military buildup. It almost looks to my jaundiced eye that Young is using his latter observation about the buildup to cancel out the former observation about the illusory "reduction of tensions," as if to say -- tensions are really still here. Good for you, Steve.

And note that both in DC and in Taipei, US officials are saying that the weapons sale to Taiwan is a direct response to the continuing Chinese military build up. Good on ya. As the Taipei Times reported two days ago:
Two sources said Wang Yi argued that greatly improved relations across the Taiwan Strait meant that the chances of military confrontation were dramatically reduced and that Taiwan no longer needed to increase defenses, adding that if the US went ahead with the sales it would have a strong negative impact on China-US relations.

But the US side replied that China’s own military buildup and failure to reduce the large missile force Beijing has aimed at Taiwan did not give Washington much confidence in Wang’s argument.

One source said: “The US response was that: ‘We don’t arm Taiwan to turn it into an offensive threat, we arm Taiwan in response to the PLA force modernization and the threat it poses to Taiwan.’”
Clearly US officials link Taiwan's defense to China's expansionist dreams.

Young also says that the US is not concerned that US technology will fall into Chinese hands, although the media has consistently reported that many in Washington are worried about that. What gives?

Currently, we are still awaiting official word. While we wait, the US is considering upgrading the existing fleet of F-16s...

(hat tip to Raj and Marc and others for sending me links)
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Riding the Northern Cross

This weekend I did the Northern Cross-Island Highway, Highway 7, from Sanxia in Taipei County, to I-lan, and then back around to Keelung. One of the best rides on the island, it offers stunning scenery, breathtaking hill climbs, and unexpected encounters. As the pic above shows, we started the ride in Sanxia, fighting the traffic....

....but soon broke away into the hills.

The first climb is about 350 meters, followed by a short downhill and then a 9% upward grade for a couple of kilometers. Despite the much longer and higher climbs later on, I felt this was the hardest part of the journey. This section is popular with bicyclists from Taipei. Here a group of them rests.

One of those "Look how high we've climbed" moments.....

The bridge near Xiao Wulai, where we....

...rested and lounged in the river for a while.

After Xiao Wulai it was back to steady climbing.

The road didn't seem that steep, but appearances were deceptive. After you rounded a couple of curves, it was always surprising to see how high you'd actually climbed.

At nearly every bend in the road there was a waterfall...here the cars are lined up waiting for a rockfall to be cleared.

Looking back over a section of the road.

At one point we had to wait while work crews cleared the road of fallen rocks. We also waited out the rain. After we stopped at this sausage vendor's stand, we got caught in another bout of rain. Pushing on, we arrived in Baling at about 600 meters elevation for the evening, where we stayed at the youth hostel, which was clean, dry, and had washers and dryers.

At Baling a chain broke on a bike someone had rented. We went to the scooter shop to see if the legendary improvisation skills of Taiwan's scooter repairmen could help -- eventually the company sent out a chain and bike mechanic to fix it -- and there we ran into a young man. "Is there an internet cafe in town?" I asked. "Nope." "So what do you do for fun?" He considered that. "Eat. Sleep. Watch TV. Shoot flying squirrels."

At 5:00 am, Baling sleeps as we ride out into what would become a day whose beauty and clarity remain in the memory for years afterwards, incredible riding on a road we had all to ourselves, and stark raving terror.

We crossed this landslide holding our bikes, nervously waiting for the muddy shelf to collapse and take us with it. It turned out to be a blessing -- with the road closed behind us, we rode for the next two hours on what was essentially a wide bike bath devoid of vehicles (quipped one wag: "It was kind of the government to put in this bike path for us") Those other bicyclists with spiffy expensive biking clothing and imported Italian composite bikes? Didn't see them above 400 meters.

We stopped at this bridge for snacks with awesome views over the chasm as dawn broke on one of the most beautiful days I have ever experienced. This marked the beginning of another 600 meter climb over 10 kilometers to the high point of the road at about 1280 meters above sea level. It was not a steep climb, but it was steady, and it was hard work for me.

An aboriginal village strung out across a mountainside.

Shafts of Edenic sunlight cut their way to the road through the forest primeval.

We took a short break here.

Lots of beautiful but dangerous things on the road.

As I rounded a turn, suddenly I shouted "Holy shit!" and headed back down the mountain. Michael turned to find out what could make me, a confirmed hill hater, turn back down a hill I'd just puffed up. The answer was an exemplar of the notorious "hundred pace snake", or the Sharp Nosed Pit Viper, which I had nearly driven over in my zen-like approach to a ten kilometer hill climb.

A closer look at this dangerous animal, which was quite aroused by our presence.

After the peak, a welcome drop of a couple of hundred of meters.

A stunning day of blue skies with little clouds or fog in the mountains. As we rode around to the section of the road cut into the mountain there, it began to cloud over.

We then dropped several hundred meters in about 10 kilometers of switchbacks (hard on the hands, all that braking) to the Lanyang River, whose bed is planted with rocks...and watermelons.

Another view of the riverbed.

The beautiful Lanyang River. We rode along here for an hour, then split, with one party going to Luodong to catch the train to Taipei, while a couple of us headed for Toucheng to spend the night and continue to Keelung in the morning. After a 95 kilometer day, we ended up staying in Wai Ao at the surfing B&Bs there.

At dawn the fishing boats were gathering up their nets as we struck out for Keelung. 70 kms later, having done 250 kms since Friday, we arrived at the Keelung Train station a little after 10, and tossed my bike, and myself, on the train. I could hardly believe that I had been able to conquer the Northern Cross.

Felt good.

UPDATE: Michael Cannon's account with loads of pictures.

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Text of Joint Statement on Detention and Chen Shui-bian

The text of the joint statement on detention signed by DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen and other scholars, lawyers, and activists, including Nobel prize winner Lee Yuan-tse. While the statement calls for the release of Chen, and some of the media reporting has focused on that, note that the Chen case is merely the backdrop for a larger questioning of the detention system and other aspects of the judicial system that appear to be in need of reform. Note also that there is a paragraph in there that is highly critical of Chen.


The joint statement calling for the reform of the detention system, implementation of human rights in the administration of justice and an immediate end to the detention of former President Chen Shui-bian
June 25, 2009

We firmly believe that an independent, impartial judiciary is fundamental to the rule of law for any democratic country. The legal responsibility for anyone in the justice system must be determined through a fair procedure, without any prejudice. Only then will decisions made by the courts have any credibility in society.

Looking at our current “detention system,” it is obvious that the prerequisites for detention are loose, and the period of each detention could last up to two months with the possibility of repeated extensions. This system has been abused to the extent that defendants are in actuality serving the penalty of incarceration prior to the trial. For a long time, this has caused irreparable damage to the personal freedom of defendants. Therefore, from a human rights perspective, there is an urgent necessity to launch a comprehensive reform and review of the shortcomings of the detention system. Since President Ma Ying-jeou has signed two international human rights conventions and related protocols, the administration should demonstrate its endorsement of human rights by the concrete action of implementing the spirit of those treaties in Taiwan’s domestic law.

We believe that human rights are priceless. To minimize the possible violation of human rights, judicial officials should be allowed to execute the power of detention only when the strictest prerequisites are met. Constitutional interpretation No. 653 by the Council of Grand Justices states the following: Detaining and placing restriction on the personal freedom of the defendant under criminal charge will isolate him/her from his/her family, society and career and have a detrimental impact on his/her personal rights, such as reputation and credibility. This is the most severe form of intervention regarding personal freedom, thus it should be used with extreme caution and only as the last resort for protecting the procedure. Unless all the prerequisites stipulated by law have been met to verify its necessity, detention must not be lightly exercised. However, the case of former President Chen has clearly illustrated that the legal rights of our former head of state have not been protected. This being so, how we can ever ensure that the rights of ordinary citizens will not be violated?

We believe that the court decisions to repeatedly detain President Chen are unreasonable and unnecessary, and have severely damaged the credibility of our judicial system. The court has listed several actions by President Chen as reasons to extend his detention, such as: “Denying his guilt, publishing books, accepting visits from foreign press, reapplying for membership in the Democratic Progressive Party, and not feeling well.” The court has also accused former President Chen of assaulting the justice system when he was simply exercising his litigation strategy of: “no confession, no plea, no summoning witnesses and cross-examinations.” These reasons cited by the court are irrelevant to the legal prerequisites for detention: flight risk, destruction of evidence, alteration or fabrication of evidence, or conspiracy with any accomplice or witness. Besides, there were clear violations of the principle of “gesetzlicher Richter (法官法訂原則)” regarding the changing of judges. (In this case, the Presiding Judge of the case Chou Chan-chun (周占春) was replaced in the middle of the trial by Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) and as soon as Tsai became Presiding Judge, he immediately reversed Chou’s original ruling that there was no longer a legal necessity to detain former President Chen, and announced the decision to extend his detention period.) These controversies have raised public doubts about the neutrality of the judiciary.

Indeed, President Chen has disappointed the society with his inability to handle the behavior of his family members, as well as his failure to manage separately his political contributions and his private property. His family members wired money abroad, thus failing his commitment to the people. However, no matter what verdict former President Chen receives or how history judges him, respecting his legal right to a fair trial should be fundamental value shared by our society. The mishandling of his case has highlighted the deficiencies of the system. The emotional likes or dislikes of the society toward the defendant should not be allowed to overwhelm our concerns about the system itself.

An independent and fair judicial system that is trusted by the public should be a source of strength for the judiciary. A fair trial of former President Chen will fortify Taiwan’s democracy. This long-term detention of President Chen has already created tremendous damage to the image and credibility of our judicial system. It has also created more divisions, confrontations and tensions within our society which will seriously endanger the development of Taiwan’s democracy.

Out of a need to cherish our democracy and protect justice, we call for the immediate release of former President Chen. The government should take immediate action to reform the detention system that has violated basic rights, as well as amend related laws, such as the Criminal Procedure Law. Before the laws are amended, the judiciary should execute its authority of detention with extreme caution to minimize the violation of the rights. We all hope that by starting from the point of protecting human rights, we will then promote judicial reform and thus the foundation of Taiwan’s democracy will be strengthened.

This joint statement was signed by a group of 10 lawyers, scholars, and civil right activists listed below: (in alphabetical order)

Dr. Chen Chien-Jen (陳建仁), Professor, National Taiwan University
Dr. Chen Hwei-Syin (陳惠馨), Dean, the College of Law, National Chengchi University
Dr. Chiu Hei-Yuan (瞿海源), Research Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica
Dr. Huang, Juei-Min (黃瑞明), Chairman, Judicial Reform Foundation
Dr. Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), Research Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica
Lee Yuan-chen (李元貞), Founder, the Awakening Foundation
Dr. Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), former President, Academia Sinica
Wellington Koo (顧立雄), Chairman, Taiwan Bar Association
Dr. Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華), Chairman, Citizen Congress Watch
Dr. Tsai Ingwen (蔡英文), Chairperson, Democratic Progressive Party

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Friday, June 26, 2009

"Political Neutrality" for Teachers

Before we go on to the main event here, I'd just like to take a moment and ask who is in charge at DPP HQ? Are they smoking crack over there? Just when the island needs US support, and when the DPP needs backing from its Congressional and government allies, it up and decides to foment public agitation against US beef imports -- the one export item our government is obsessed with importing into Taiwan. Great move guys -- thanks for making the job of Taiwan advocates in Washington that much harder.

Onwards and downwards.....

Big news in the local papers as the government passes a revised political neutrality law aimed teachers. In Taiwan, teachers are central government employees. The law extends neutrality rules that applied to public servants to all teachers and professors with administrative responsibility, such as Deans or Department Chairs, in public schools, along with all research fellows in public institutions. The new restrictions include hanging, posting, or wearing political symbols of political parties or candidates; holding meetings, initiating rallies, or leading petitions; signing on ad in public media; speaking, rallying, or calling for support on behalf of candidates.

The law is obviously aimed at anyone criticizing the current administration from a position of importance in an educational institution, and is clearly meant to muzzle such individuals. As a commentary in the Liberty Times noted today, the law is vague, and implies that anyone who speaks out on policy from the bully pulpit of a deanship or similar can be criminally charged with abuse of administrative resources. Even part-time administrators appear to fall under the law, and since many ordinary teachers in universities do administrative work or have titles like "Director of Overseas Cooperation", they might well be vulnerable. Imagine too that any Academia Sinica researcher could conceivably be charged with "being political" for commenting in public on an ongoing policy -- say the environmental concerns of the Suhua Highway or a new program to re-introduce Chinese history as the only history in the public schools. The mere fact of having to consider this possibility may have a chilling effect.

It is hard to see how this can have a positive effect on the government's avowed intention, through three Administrations, to internationalize the university system here. The very basis of a university is the open exchange and critique of ideas.

As I've noted before, to move closer to China is to move farther from democracy.

REF: Op-Ed in Liberty Times

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Displaced Tensions

"Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; Three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tension, apprehension,
And dissention have begun. "
— Alfred Bester (The Demolished Man)

Ma save us! While US analysts appear to be enamored of the Beijing line about tensions in the Cross-strait relationship (hilariously, some see Ma as a savior), there's no better way to hold up to the light the double standard Taiwan's democracy gets slammed with than to take a gander at China and India, as well as at the continuing saga of China's expansion into Pacific Ocean islands it has never owned (like Taiwan, for example).

Let's start with India. WSJ this week hosts Jeff Smith with a nifty review of China's spidery encirclement of the subcontinental state. Apparently New Delhi announced it was increasing its troop presence in the Himal in response to Chinese expansionism, provoking the usual tantrums from Beijing. That region of the world doesn't get all the sexy media coverage that the Taiwan Strait gets, but it is a powder keg in its own height-challenged, oxygen-deprived way....
In recent years however China has been raising the temperature at the border. Chinese claims to Arunachal Pradesh and frequent Chinese "incursions" into the nearby Indian state of Sikkim have begun to multiply in line with Beijing's rising economic and political influence. Moreover, unlike India, China has methodically developed its infrastructure along the disputed border, littering the barren terrain with highways and railways capable of moving large numbers of goods and troops.

For its part, New Delhi has become both increasingly aware of its disadvantage and exceedingly suspicious of China's intentions. India's June 8 announcement that it will deploy two additional army mountain divisions to the northeastern state of Assam will bring India's troop levels in the region to more than 100,000. The Indian Air Force, meanwhile, announced it will station two squadrons of advanced Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft in Tezpur, also in Assam. They will be complemented by three Airborne Warning and Control Systems and the addition or upgrade of airstrips and advanced landing stations. This is part of a broader effort to bolster India's military and transportation infrastructure in its neglected northeast.
When it comes to India it is possible for writers to state seriously that China is heating things up. These are the same tactics it uses with Taiwan, but the curious fact is that in the Taiwan case, the island takes the blame. Probably because it is more difficult to find Indians willing to carry water for Beijing than Americans.....
Upon hearing India's plans, Beijing became irate. The People's Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece that serves as a window into the thinking of Beijing's insular leadership, published an exceptional broadside against New Delhi on June 11. It described India's "tough posture" as "dangerous," and asked India to "consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China." China is not afraid of India, the editorial taunted, while mocking India for failing to keep pace with China's economic growth. The editorial reminded New Delhi that Beijing had friends in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal but most importantly, it left no doubt about Beijing's future position on Arunachal Pradesh: "China won't make any compromises in its border disputes with India."
This is exactly the same tone that China takes with Taiwan: the Peaceful Riser(tm) erupts with threats and taunts. You could replace "India" with "Taiwan" in that paragraph and not miss a beat... right down to the same stupid visa and status games:
This is not the first time China has lost its cool over the border issue. Back in 2006, China's Ambassador to India ignited a political firestorm when he declared the "whole state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory... we are claiming all of that. That is our position." Later, on two separate occasions, China denied visas to Indian officials from Arunachal Pradesh, explaining Chinese citizens didn't require visas to travel to their own country.


China has been applying pressures as well. This March, China broke with Asian tradition and tried to block a $2.9 billion loan to India at the Asian Development Bank, furious that the loan would fund a $60 million flood-management program in Arunachal Pradesh. (Last week China was overruled with help from the U.S., and the loan went through.) Before that, Beijing clumsily attempted to torpedo the U.S.-India nuclear deal from its seat at the Nuclear Suppliers Group. And of course, China remains an opponent of India's bid to join the United Nations Security Council and a staunch ally of India's nemesis, Pakistan.
Thank all gods China is a Peaceful Riser(tm) and not a belligerent, expansionist power intent on grabbing pieces of its neighbor's territories, eh? Smith also notes:
But what riles India most is China's incursion into its backyard and the belief China is surrounding the subcontinent with its "string of pearls" -- Chinese "investments" in naval bases, commercial ports and listening posts along the southern coast of Asia. There are port facilities in Bangladesh and radar and refueling stations in Burma. Thailand, Cambodia and Pakistan now all host Chinese "projects;" China's crown jewel is the Pakistani deepwater port of Gwadar.

Then there are Sri Lanka and Nepal, India's immediate neighbors, where civil wars have opened space for Beijing to peddle influence. A bloody insurgency by Maoist rebels in Nepal gave way in 2006 to power-sharing agreement now on the brink of collapse. China has openly supported the Maoists against the royalist establishment backed by India. In Sri Lanka, meanwhile, the decades-long civil war between the Hindu Tamil minority and the Buddhist Sinhalese majority was decisively ended by the latter May, but not before Beijing could gain a foothold in the island-nation. Appalled by the brutality of the fighting, India had scaled back its arms sales to Colombo in recent years. China happily filled the vacuum, in return gaining access to the port at Hambontota on the island's southern coast.
In addition to all this, Smith also says that China supports Maoist rebels in India. Note that India does none of these things to China -- there are no Indian bases on the Senkakus or in Korea. Maybe New Delhi ought to expand its contacts with Japan, including joint defense exercises...

Meanwhile a PLA general has publicly suggested that China build bases in the South China Sea, and China's moves there are causing tensions to rise with Vietnam "in recent months":
In recent months, tensions flared between China and Vietnam, which is one of the claimants contesting sovereignty over the islands, and Hanoi reportedly signed a $1.8 billion deal with Russia for six Kilo-class submarines in what analysts say appears to be the strongest response sent by Hanoi toward Beijing for what it increasingly sees as China's encroachment on the South China Sea islands (Ria Novosti, April 27). The submarines, which are designed for anti-sub and anti-ship warfare, could help protect Vietnamese claims in the South China Sea by denying access to its more than 2,000 miles of coastline.
In addition to heating up things with India and Vietnam, China is also putting pressure on the Philippines. In case you thought that the Smith article was just another right-wing assault by neocons intent on fomenting a Cold War with China, note that both Left (Japan Focus) and Right (Jamestown Foundation) hosted Ian Storey's article on increased Chinese pressure on the Philippines over China's nonsense claims to local islands:
Developments in the South China Sea during the first quarter of 2009 reinforced several trends that have been apparent over the past two years. First, the Spratly Islands dispute has once again come to dominate Sino-Philippine relations, despite attempts by Beijing and Manila to move beyond it. Second, China has adopted a more assertive posture toward its territorial and maritime boundary claims in the South China Sea than at any time since the late 1990s. Third, the 2002 breakthrough agreement between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to manage tensions in the South China Sea is in danger of becoming irrelevant. Fourth, the USNS Impeccable incident on March 8 highlighted the growing strategic importance of the South China Sea for the United States and China, and reawakened concerns in ASEAN capitals that the region may one day become the principal theater wherein Sino-U.S. maritime rivalry is played out.
See? Anyplace else along the China border, rational observers point to the problem of increased Chinese pressure on neighboring states. But when it comes to Taiwan, the problem is that Taiwan provokes China. Can't wait until our analyst class starts shouting at New Delhi to stop provoking China over Arunachal Pradesh the way Chen Shui-bian "provoked" China.

The other lesson to be learned here is the failure to make the cross-regional connections between Beijing's expansionist policies in the Strait and elsewhere. The election of Ma Ying-jeou did not 'reduce tension.' Rather, the KMT's move to put Taiwan into China's orbit, thus 'reducing Taiwan-China tensions', has given China the confidence and opportunity to ramp up tension elsewhere.

Tensions are not reduced. They are merely displaced. And the more tension is 'reduced' here in the Beijing-Taipei, the more it will appear elsewhere. Because the cause of "tension" isn't Taiwan's democracy, but China's expansionism.

Daily Links:
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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dems Abroad Events July 1 and 4th, U of Oregon Taiwan film fest

Democrats Abroad Taiwan is hosting several events in early July. Would love to see you there!

July 1 is movie night at Yuma Bar and Grill. We're showing All the President's Men. Yuma has excellent food, beer on tap, and plenty of space in its comfortable basement. Yuma is located right near the Zhongxiao Dunhua metro station. Get out on the south side of Zhongxiao at exit 3, and walk down Zhonghsiao to lane 216. Turn right, go down to the first alley (no. 11), then left (Dingtaifung restaurant with many outdoor tables is on the corner). Yuma is at the end of the block, just around the corner from Alleycat's.

On the Fourth of July Dems Abroad is hosting its first annual July 4 Fundraiser in Kaohsiung! Music, drinks, and a raffle with prizes start at 8 pm. The address is 169 Jianguo Rd B1. Tickets are $400 and get the holder a free beer and are numbered, automatically entering you in the raffle -- the prizes are political goodies our Chairman picked up in DC on a recent trip. If you want a ticket, please contact me at the email address on the sidebar.

Also on the Fourth, at the annual AmCham shindig up at Taipei, I'll be manning a table for US citizen voter registration. Register, and make sure your vote counts!

The Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies Present

Documenting Taiwan on Film: Methods and Issues in New Documentaries
Workshop and Film Screenings

July 6 - 8, 2009 University of Oregon

All daytime sessions will be held in the Knight Library Browsing Room. All evening film screenings will be held in Willamette Hall, Room 110. These events are free and open to the public. For more info, please visit http://caps.uoregon.edu/twd09.php or call 346-1521.

Workshop Schedule

Day One: Monday, July 6, 2009

Session I:

9:00-10:15 Daw-ming Lee, "The Politics of Seeing in Jump, Boys!" (Graduate Institute of Filmmaking, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan) 10:15-10:30 - Coffee break
10:30-11:45 Sylvia Li-chun Lin, “Recreating the White Terror on Screen” (University of Notre Dame)
Session II:
13:00-14:15 Kuei-fen Chiu, “Media Technologies and the Making of the Human Subject in Contemporary Taiwanese Documentary Films” (Chung-hsing University, Taiwan)
14:15-15:30 Bert Scruggs, “Longing for Authenticity and the Question of Indigenization: Exploring Yan Lanquan and Zhuang Yiceng's Wu mi le (Let it Be)” (University of California, Irvine)

15:30-15:45 - Coffee break

15:45-17:00 Hsiu-Chuang Deppman, “Peasants and Localism in Let It Be” (Oberlin College, USA)

19:00-21:30 Film Screenings; Q & A with Director Mayaw Biho (Willamette Hall, Room 110) “Children in Heaven” (14 min.) “As Life, As Pacang” (26 min.) “Carry the Paramount of Jade Mountain on My Back” (46 min.)

Day Two: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Session III:
Christopher Lupke, “Documenting Political Dissent: The Gongliao Fourth Nuclear Reactor as Example” (Washington State University, USA)

10:15-10:30 - Coffee break

10:30-11:45 Li-hsin Kuo, “Sentimentalism and the Bent for Collective 'Inward-looking': A Preliminary Analysis of Mainstream Taiwanese Documentary” (National Chengchi University, Taiwan)

Session IV:

13:00-14:15 Tze-lan Deborah Sang, “Imagining Global Modernity through Taiwanese Documentary Films” (EALL, University of Oregon)

14:15-15:30 Guo-Juin Hong, “Voices and Their Discursive Dis/Content in New Taiwan Documentary” (Duke University, USA)

15:30-15:45 - Coffee break

Roundtable Discussion Commentator: Sharon Sherman (English, University of Oregon)

Film screenings; Q & A with director Mayaw Biho (Willamette Hall, Room 110) “Dear Rice Wine, You Are Defeated” (26 min.) “National Bandit: A Beautiful Mistake” (56 min.) Excerpts from Malakacaway (“The Rice Wine Filler,” 70 min.)

Film Summaries

Children of Heaven (1997/14 min./Betacam) Underneath the Sanying Bridge lies a shantytown of indigenous people. Every year they are charged with violating the Water Law and forcibly removed from the houses they have built. Nevertheless, after the houses are torn down, the residents return to the same place and build their simple huts again. This process has repeated itself numerous times over the course of many years. For the residents and their children, their routine seems like "playing house." Yet the question of indigenous people's right of abode remains unresolved.

As Life, As Pangcah (1998/28 min./Betacam) A calm, reflective oral history results from this intimate dialogue between a 93-year-old Pangcah tribal chieftain and an indigenous filmmaker. Through word and song, the elder recounts the ways of the Pangcah and his frustrated attempts to defend traditional culture against Taiwan’s encroaching modernity.
Carry the Paramount of Jade Mountain on My Back (2002/46 min./Betacam) Jade Mountain is Taiwan's highest peak. For decades, the Tungpu Bunun aborigines have been hired as guides and porters by city-dwelling mountaineers who wish to conquer Jade Mountain. This documentary records their unique contribution to mountain climbing in Taiwan.

Dear Rice Wine, You are Defeated (1998/24 min./Betacam) In Taiwan, younger members of the Pangcah tribe question the centuries-old tradition of Pacakat – the drinking of powerful rice wine to mark the advancement in rank in their community. While the observance of Pacakat can be dangerous, it also celebrates Pangcah tribal identity.

National Bandits: A Beautiful Mistake (2000/56 min./Betacam) The elderly Bununs of Tung-Pu have habitually referred to workers at the Vu Mountain National Park as “national bandits” instead of “national park employees.” In the eyes of these old Bununs, the designation of this land as national park has robbed them of most of their ancestral territories, leaving only a very small portion for them to live and farm on. In April 1999, the Ministry of Interior began plans for another National Park called Nun-Dan. This time, the people of multiple tribes refused to be silent.

Malakacaway--The Rice Wine Filler (2009/70min.) The Pangcah people live along the east coast of Taiwan facing the Pacific Ocean. Some Pangcah tribes have been able to keep their traditional culture and ways of living, the most famous example being the Makutaay Tribe. They hold Ilisin (Annual Ceremony) the traditional way every year. The most challenging job belongs to a group of men called “Malakacaway,” who are responsible for fundraising, rice-collecting, accounting, and most importantly and painfully, Patakit (toasting everyone with rice wine over and over again during the five-day ceremony). This is how the Makutaay tribe trains its youngsters to become mature members of the tribe.

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!

Assault on (the Taiwan Foundation for) Democracy

Sheesh! I stop blogging for a month and suddenly everything goes to pot, from Nicholas Kristoff making laughable claims about Ma Ying-jeou, to Jerome Cohen, Ma's law school mentor, lamenting the depressing state of affairs here, to Want Want Corp. sending chilling letters to local media commentators about their remarks on its takeover of the China Times media group, to the attempt by the KMT to change the management of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy that has serious implications for the future.

Taiwan News described the "crimes" of the TFD in its editorial today:
In the run-up to yesterday's board meeting, numerous media reported "a senior presidential official" had demanded the replacement of TFD President and National Sun Yat-sen political scientist Professor Lin Wen-cheng, a long-time associate of TFD Chairman and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, by a former KMT lawmaker and the cashiering of two TFD vice presidents affiliated with the opposition Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party.

According to reports in the pro-KMT United Daily News, the "senior presidential official" had complained that the TFD had "supported Tibetan independence," entered into "murky ties" with Chinese dissidents, "had relations" with Cuba and had "used the government's money" to entice foreign human rights or democracy advocate non-governmental organizations to "attack" the KMT government.
Imagine that -- a Democracy Foundation actually working for democracy in China. The nerve of these people! Naturally that could not be permitted to go on. The criticism that the Foundation used government money to attack the government actually reveals how the KMT thinks of itself -- the Foundation uses taxpayer money, as someone smart pointed out to me, to criticize the actions of the government. Both the government and the money belong to the people, not the party in power.

Back to the Taipei Times report on the KMT's attempt to reshuffle the management of the TFD to make it more China-friendly. The paper observes:
He also dismissed speculation that a government plan to make major changes was dropped because of pressure from Washington, saying that Lin chose to remain in his post because the TFD is highly respected at home and abroad.

US Congressman Robert Andrews recently wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama expressing concern over the growing controversy over the TFD's future.

It has been widely reported that the Ma administration intended to make major changes to the foundation's governing board and to stop it from offering financial support to pro-democracy movements in China, Tibet and Cuba.

The letter asked Obama to “urge” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration to “let the TFD do its useful work the way it had done over the past six years.”

Carl Gershman, president of the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, had also written to Ma, calling on him not to interfere with the structure and policies of the foundation.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) yesterday declined to comment, saying only that the foundation’s personnel reshuffle was made in accordance with its charter.

A presidential aide, who asked to remain anonymous, said National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起) had intervened in the personnel reshuffle.
First, the scuttlebutt is that the letter from Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the US was effective. The Taiwan News editorial notes that as well.

Second, the compromises in which Maysing Yang and others were retained are temporary. They will likely be eased out at the end of the year. Then, as one observer of the mess noted, the government will just step in and say, well, the TFD having done its work, time to move on, shut the thing down....

Third, the ruckus over the TFD may well be a form of cover for other events taking place behind the scenes. Another story making the rounds is that many of the thinktanks are quietly being reconfigured for more pro-China stances even as the move against the TFD attracts all the attention.

Fourth, the Taipei Times identifies NSC head Su Chi as the mover behind these events. Rumor has it that he was the one who complained about the pro-democracy stance of the TFD. But recall that Ma and Su Chi are old high school buddies and came up through the KMT together. Is Su Chi the tongs that Ma uses to handle the democracy rollback without burning himself? Or is he Rasputin to Ma's Tsar Nicholas?

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!

Out Biking Pics

Typhoon rain in the hills east of Fengyuan.

Many thanks to all who stopped by to say hello or sent me an email. You guys make it all worthwhile....

What have I been doing? Been biking a lot lately. Now I'm rested. Time to blog again.... especially with the ominous new developments at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (as always click on any pic to be taken to its Flickr page).

Yesterday I went up 88 between Fengyuan and Hsinshe, which rises about 500 meters in about 10 kilometers, a good workout in preparation for doing the Northern Cross Island Highway (Rte 7 between Sanxia and Luodong) this weekend. If you want to come, drop me a line.

My friend Michael Fahey took me through the bike paths in Taipei last week.

...and up to Mucha.....

.....among the graves there.

My son and Michael.

Made a panorama of one of the views.

I went through Shihgang on my way to Dongshih the other day and found these professionals hanging noodles out to dry.

Clearly she's had lots of practice.

Bringing out more.

On a trip up Tatu Mountain in Taichung I took this shot of the HSR crossing the road.

From the bridge into Dongshih, park on one side, gravel operations on the other.

Also did east coast again with the family. Here is a lovely panorama I created of the area just south of Shitiping, by the famous Red Bridge.

Every major river in Taiwan hosts such gravel operations. Here is one outside Taidong.

I stopped to have a chat with the denizens of a local drinking party on the east coast. The high point of this interaction was the woman who asked me how to say tsuo ai in English. The timely arrival of my family saved me from having to answer.

Hope to see you on a bike with me on the east coast soon!

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!