Sunday, October 30, 2011

Joseph Wu: Peace = Unification; Road Maps for Peace

Lots of calls for consensus on cross strait relations, with DPP heavyweight Joseph Wu making a number of good points in a commentary in the TT:

China has clearly expressed its view on the resolution of the “Taiwan problem” in the roadmap laid down by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in his six-point statement at the end of 2008.

In the roadmap, Hu said that the two sides should, based on the “one China” principle, negotiate the formal end of the civil war and sign a peace agreement. The two sides could then discuss the political framework before unification as well as the issue of mutual military trust.

According to this roadmap, the “one China” principle and a formal end of the civil war become preconditions for a peace agreement. Apparently, the result of the peace agreement will be unidirectional: Taiwan neutralized and on the irreversible road to unification.

Ma has neither repudiated China’s method of resolving the Taiwan issue nor explained his position on the “one China” principle or the ending of the civil war as preconditions for talks on a peace agreement. In fact, he asserted that he saw genuine goodwill in the six-point statement in a video conference in April 2009.
Wu also notes that the peace agreement is a backward step -- President Lee ended the state of emergency, essentially ending the "civil war". To sign a peace agreement is in essence to recognize a state of war, at least on Taiwan's side, that was terminated two decades ago. It's a good example of the way that ideology governs Ma's perception of reality. Wu also emphasizes that no "peace agreement" can be made unless Taipei says Taiwan is part of China and all its people are Chinese. Peace = unification.

A friend of mine steered me toward this paper written two years ago by a pro-China Taiwan academic whose peace proposal is eerily similar to what Ma is putting forth. In this proposal, the KMT government on Taiwan accepts that Taiwan is part of China and everyone on the island is Chinese. After that the threat of force ends. Hahaha. There seems to be a widespread fantasy that after the two parties agree on "peace" Beijing will put up its sword -- but as I have said many times, those missiles are aimed at observers in foreign capitals, especially Washington and Tokyo, as well as at the pro-Taiwan side in local politics. Note that the missile build-up has continued despite Ma's ascension.

If Ma is elected, do you think he will declare "I have a mandate!" and move forward with a peace agreement because his election shows the public supports it? Oy ve.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Piggy Bank Inspiration

There's been a slew of political stories I hope to comment on tomorrow, but tonight the most heartwarming has to be The Piggy Banks of Underage Evil. I'll let the China Post carry the ball on this one:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) started sending plastic piggy banks to Tsai's campaign offices around the island, asking supporters to buy them, get them filled with donations, and send them back.


The fundraising idea was inspired by a recent incident in which three children donated their piggy banks to fund Tsai's campaign.

But after the government watchdog expressed concern that underage people are not allowed to make political donations, the DPP returned the donations to the children.
The piggy banks actually came out of an incident in which three children, guided by their mother and grandfather, donated their piggy banks to the Tsai campaign (TT report). Horrified by this blatant violation of the campaign laws which say that donations can only be accepted from adults, the Control Yuan swung into action and apparently threatened the DPP's accounting department with an investigation. Which the Control Yuan says was just a simple reminder (and someone on the platform when the kids were there should have said something). The DPP retorted that the Control Yuan was turning a blind eye to what it said were far more serious violations of government neutrality by KMT officials. The DPP returned the donations, with apologies, and then exploiting the incident's publicity, had 100,000 piggy banks manufactured and are now sending them out to supporters around the island nation to collect small donations for the party. Brilliant.
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3X600m: Riding in the Simaxianshan area of Miaoli

An epic day in the mountains of Miaoli to the northeast. My friend Domenic Alonge and I rode up to Xiangbi in Miaoli. Originally we planned to climb Zhongxiang Rd and cross the ridge at 1100 meters, descending to Dahu and then returning on 3. But we got to Xiangbi too late, so instead we rode back to the bridge and then went back to Dongshih via Dongqi Rd (a map of the ride). It was a stunningly gorgeous day of blue skies and imposing peaks, every picture seemed like a postcard. The area above the river is a forest reserve and recreational area.  I'd been there before, but for some reason hadn't been back. I'd been missing a lot -- the Simaxianshan area is one of the loveliest in Taiwan.

Our ride began at the McDees in Tanzih by the train station. We cycled up through Fengyuan and down the Dongfeng Bike Path and over to 3. Climbing the ridge up 3, we passed this awesome fellow and then waited for him at the top so we could grab a picture. Simply fantastic.

Outside Jhuolan we turned east and followed the river.

Though the road climbs up, the incline is quite gentle.

There are several signs for "communes" in the area. I think they mean "community".

It doesn't get any clearer than this.

Dom finds another "commune", the Tai-an.

As we crossed the first bridge, I took this shot upstream. On one hand, it's gorgeous, on the other, you can see that the riverbed is constantly being reshaped by gravel operations.

Another road to explore, but not today. Here we bought some persimmons and then hopped on our bikes to cross another bridge.

A local cyclist stops to buy persimmons. I always look forward to persimmon season; they are totally addictive.

There are a number of villages along the river, many of which are Atayal. Until the dam at Shihlin, there is a steady stream of coffee shops, small eateries and bike rest stops.

It reminded me of riding the Northern Cross-Island Highway.

Along the way we passed several of these simple cable car systems that transport goods and people across the river.

On its way across the river.

The area is a rich fruit-growing region. The white spots are bags used to cover the fruit and protect it.

Splendid views of the river gorge as we continued to climb.

The Shihlin Dam.

The map indicated that the road was out in the area that I wanted to ride to.

Dom plots lunch.

The reservoir.

Dom powers above the reservoir. Here a more serious climb begins.

At this altitude, nearly 600 meters, the golden orb spiders appear to form colonies. Large agglomerations of innumerable webs could be seen in many places along the route.

Finally we reached Xiangbi ("elephant nose") at over 600 meters. Lunch!

We had lunch at this little store whose owner operated a tiny eatery next door. She had four energetic kids.

Lunch -- simple and delicious. At this point we decided to turn back. We had arrived much later than I had calculated, sadly. Dom and I planned a return for a two day ride in the area.

Looking over the vineyards back down the river gorge.

The family.

A local farmer gives us some encouragement.

Both Dom and I decided the views were even better coming back.

Dom, a strong rider with great endurance, pushes uphill.

A cable car against the mountain vastness.

A last look before we went over Dongqi Road back to Dongshih.

The bridge back to Jhuolan, where we would instead turn south and climb up to Baibufan village.

I'd been on Dongqi Road before, but never so far north. Three switchbacks take you quickly up to the ridge. Here I am resting after the second switchback just below Baibufan, a 16% grade monster. The first one is 12%. The third, a mere pup of 10%, felt like a relief.

Dom broods, persimmon in hand. Although I had thought it was only about 400 meters high here, we were at 570 with no top in sight.

Up we went, crossing 600 meters in altitude....

Finally we reached the top at ~625 meters. Whee! Downhill all the way to Dongshih town. A lovely ride through farm and hill country.

We reached Dongshih and then crossed the bridge and climbed back up to Sinshe. From there we took the side route away from the main road, 129, through the farms and hills and by the lake, just below the ridge. After that we climbed up to 600 meters for the third and final time, and rolled down stunning 88 from Shuijing back to Fenghsing Road and home. 108 kms, with well over a thousand meters of climbing. An incredibly beautiful day of unforgettable scenery. Can't wait for my next trip in the area.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

MAJOR: Another attack on press freedom??

Freedom House picked this up last week via the Taipei Times:
Lin Chauyi, a reporter at the internet news outlet New Talk and head of the Association of Taiwanese Journalists (ATJ), was sued by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) whip and legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang for defamation on October 14. Lin had written an article on September 2 about Hsieh's "political interference" in a controversial cable television deal. According to the report, the legislator had met members of Taiwan's National Communications Commission before it held a September 6 public hearing, and pressured them to approve Want Want Broadband's bid to purchase China Network Systems (CNS), Taiwan's second-largest cable television provider. Want Want Broadband is a subsidiary of Want Want Group, which is known for its friendly relations with the Chinese government and state-run media outlets (see CMB No. 34), raising concerns that its acquisition of CNS would limit Taiwanese viewers' access to diverse television content. At the plaintiff's request, Lin faced a provisional seizure of NT$2.5 million (US$82,600), which was approved by the Taipei district court; one-third of his monthly salary will be withheld until the amount is covered. After other media outlets and civil society groups, including Want Want–owned China Times and the ATJ, condemned Hsieh for violating press freedom, Hsieh said on October 19 that he would settle the lawsuit if the reporter admitted "that he failed to carry out a thorough verification of the information." Immediately after Hsieh's statement, New Talk said its fact-based investigation was "open to public scrutiny." It added that Hsieh had requested provisional seizure of assets from both Lin and New Talk chairman Su Chengping, for a total amount of NT$5 million (US$165,300), though only the request regarding Lin has thus far been approved.
Let's see that on the instant replay:
1. News report says legislator pressured National Communications Commission (originally erected to be a KMT end run around the GIO during Chen Administration) to approve WantWant's purchase of CNS. WantWant, though Taiwan-owned, is a rabid supporter of Beijing (Newtalk's report in Chinese says Hsieh pressured the NCC twice).
2. Legislator (KMT whip, not some nobody) sues reporter who is also the head of the Association of Taiwanese Journalists for defamation for reporting this. Is this a game of "let's send a signal to journalists"?
3. Legislator requests, and the court (incredibly and rarely) grants, that the journalist's salary be docked 1/3 until $82,500 US dollars is paid off before the freakin' trial. Not just a lawsuit, but also an attack on the journalists ability to support himself and his family. Is this a game of "let's send a signal to journalists"?
4. Even WantWant owned media protests this apparent assault on press freedom.
Newtalk (please go here and read the whole excellent analysis) points out that this lawsuit looks like a clear violation of UN press freedoms. Defamation remains a criminal act in Taiwan -- recall that President Chen Shui-bian did eight months for libeling Elmer Fung during the martial law period. Newtalk argues that having signed the international covenants on rights, the government is now subject to their stipulations....
Citizens and news workers might have anticipated that the question of decriminalization of libel might have been raised in the wake of the incorporation into our domestic law of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights effective December 10, 2009.

However, Article 310 and the question of whether defamation should be decriminalized have not been included in the review of Taiwan`s legal code and administrative regulations now being conducted under the auspices of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Human Rights chaired by Vice President Vincent Siew.

Part of the reason for this omission may be the fact that Taiwan`s Constitutional Court found in its Interpretation No. 507 of July 7, 2000 that Article 310 does not violate the constitutional right of freedom of speech in Article 11 on the grounds that the criminalization of defamation is "a necessary countermeasure" to "protect individual legal interests" and "to prevent the infringement of the freedom and rights of other persons."

The Constitution Court determined that "if the law allowed anyone to avoid penalty for defamation by offering monetary compensation, it would be tantamount to issuing them a license to defame."
Newtalk further notes:
Specifically, Article 47 mandates that "defamation laws must be crafted with care to ensure...that they do not serve, in practice, to stifle freedom of expression."

Moreover, the HRC`s interpretation mandates that "states parties should consider the decriminalization of defamation and, in any case, the application of the criminal law should only be countenanced in the most serious of cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty."

In addition, Article 47 stated that "at least with regard to comments about public figures, consideration should be given to avoiding penalizing or otherwise rendering unlawful untrue statements that have been published in error but without malice" and that "a public interest in the subject matter of the criticism should be recognized as a defence" and adds that "care should be taken by States parties to avoid excessively punitive measures and penalties."
The Association of Taiwanese Journalists has a response up on their website. TT reported that ATJ said:
In a statement issued on Tuesday night, the association said that while anyone mentioned in a news report may make a response to that report, no one should threaten journalists through lawsuits or provisional seizure measures “which may frighten individual journalists, leading to violation of freedom of speech and a shrinking freedom of the press.”
Worth observing: the original article included balancing information from Hsieh's assistant denying the claim that Hsieh had pressured the NCC.

Keep in the mind that the furor over press freedom in this case should not obscure the fact that this is fallout from a more important issue, the KMT's apparent enablement of China's relentless assault on Taiwan's media freedom and diversity. Let's not forget which party regularly eulogizes Singapore as an example of how things should be run.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

October Election Poster Pics

Another collection of campaign posters I spotted around Taiwan in September and October. This one here has an amusing pun on DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's name.

In Hsinchu town a KMT candidate proclaims "We love Taiwan!"

"This time, you have a an even better choice" the sign says. Above a KMT candidate mentions that construction-industrial state staple, road work.

A KMT candidate all in pink.

Ma, Wu and a local candidate peer down at a local city. I've noticed that President Ma is common on legislative election posters, unlike the previous two elections where his unpopular visage could scarcely be found. So I asked around, and one story I've heard is that the KMT is handing out more cash to legislative candidates who put Ma on their signs. Dunno if it is true.

Just outside Hengchun in Pingtung.

Kinda of a strange picture -- active on the one hand, but it looks like he is getting mad at someone, on the other.

Changhua candidates.

Outside Dulan in Taitung, a candidate promises to make Taitung his priority.

Another poster of the same candidate in downtown Taitung city.

Nice poses -- a DPP doctor looking trustworthy with a stethescope, a KMT candidate with a bike, not actually on it. Bikes seem less prevalent this time around -- the candidates don't seem to have decided which symbolic leisure and sports equipment will represent politicians this time around.

This candidate tries a track metaphor, which not only adds sport, but puts this candidate out in front of the race.

Another attempt to find a sport.

A sound truck adds color.

Ma and friends loom over an intersection.

Ma and even more friends totally dominate an intersection outside Jhuolan in Miaoli.

Radical t-shirt. Why?

DPP candidates near Hsinshe in Taichung. I don't particularly like the TAIWAN NEXT phrase itself, but the logo is eye-catching and energetic.

Wish there was better public data on whether and how DPP local candidates are riding Tsai's coattails.

Tsai and Su together at last.

"Realizing justice, going forth into the world". I think.

"For the next generation.... blah blah blah."

The candidate's name is the character meaning car, so the sign puns: "A good car is on the road!"

Candidates seem younger this time around.

Nice pic.

Another Changhua candidate.

A positive, traditional note.

Dom and candidate pose.

Decide the future, now!
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