Thursday, July 05, 2007

Freedom House Smokes KMT Crack

Blogger Feiren alerted me to the new country report on Taiwan from Freedom House. It is clear from the text that the report compilers simply regurgitate pan-Blue propaganda, and are either comprehensively incompetent or seriously malicious. Take a look at this nonsense:
Taiwan's political rights rating declined from 1 to 2 due to concerns about corruption, particularly links among politicians, business, and organized crime.


The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered a resounding defeat in the December 2005 local elections, which reflected growing public frustration with the political gridlock in Taiwan. Following revelations that members of his family and close political aides were being investigated in a series of corruption cases, President Chen Shui-bian was forced to delegate some of his powers to Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang. Despite large-scale, ongoing demonstrations demanding his resignation and approval ratings in the single digits, Chen remained firmly committed to staying on until the end of his term in May 2008.

In a single paragraph, Freedom House:

  • states that Chen delegated his powers to the premier though that was a brief headline that flared and died (never happened and was in fact impossible)

  • repeats partisan propaganda that Chen's popularity was in the single digits

  • thinks the anti-Chen demonstrations were actions of popular will rather than partisan political maneuvering aimed at the foreign media (successfully, in this case!)

  • refers to the political gridlock without referring to the causes

  • In fact, Taiwan's political rights rating fell even though political rights have expanded significantly throughout the President's tenure. Can't wait to see the details of this report, where the devil obviously resides!

    After a short description of history. The report describes:

    Chen Shui-bian's victory in the 2000 presidential race, as a candidate of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), ended 55 years of KMT rule. Chen and his vice presidential running mate Lu Hsiu-lien won reelection in March 2004 by a margin of only 0.2 percentage points after both were injured in an apparent assassination attempt. Although the opposition alleged that the shooting was staged in order to gain sympathy votes, two lawsuits challenging Chen's win were rejected by Taiwan's high court.

    Note the word apparent in front of the description of the assassination attempt. No evidence exists that it was anything but a real assassination attempt. The use of the term "apparent" is a signal of the political slant of the author's sources.

    After failing to capture a majority in the December 2004 legislative elections, the DPP suffered a resounding defeat in the December 2005 local elections, with the KMT gaining control of 14 out of 23 local governments. The results reflected growing public frustration with the political gridlock that had resulted from two different, strongly opposed parties controlling the executive and legislative branches of government. The DPP had also failed to live up to its promise to offer an alternative to "dirty politics,"and instead came to be racked by infighting and corruption scandals. Although the DPP regained some ground at the end of 2006, retaining the seat of mayor of Kaohsiung and doing better than expected in Taipei, the December 9 elections were marred by accusations of vote buying and bribery on both sides. The Ministry of Justice regarded the charges as "very serious issues"and reported that 81 vote buying and bribery cases related to the mayoral elections and 509 cases related to the city councilor elections were under investigation.
    In May 2006, Chen was forced to delegate some of his powers to Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang following revelations that members of his family and close political aides were being investigated in a series of corruption scandals. Chen had also been questioned in an ongoing investigation into the misappropriation of funds from his office. Despite large-scale demonstrations demanding his resignation and approval ratings in the single digits, Chen remained firmly committed to serving out his term, which ends in May 2008. He survived two attempts by opposition legislators to recall him in June and November, as they were unable to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to launch constitutional recall procedures, which would entail a public referendum and review by the Council of Grand Justices. Following the corruption indictment of First Lady Wu Shu-chen in November, Chen declared that he would only resign if she were actually convicted.

    The author simply regurgitates KMT propaganda on the anti-Chen demonstrations and Chen's approval ratings. Note the series of anti-DPP political judgments in the paragraph below:

    The December 2005 election defeat also made it clear that the DPP had to formulate a more effective response to the opposition's conciliatory policy toward the PRC, under which the leaders of the two main opposition parties, the KMT and People First Party, had visited Beijing earlier in 2005. Despite China's March 2005 promulgation of an antisecession law providing for the use of "non-peaceful means"against Taiwan if efforts to achieve a peaceful reunification were "completely exhausted,"the opposition's policy had apparently resonated with the electorate. Nevertheless, polls consistently showed that more than 80 percent of Taiwan's people would prefer to maintain the status quo in cross-strait relations.

    It's curious that the author apparently feels the behavior of President Chen is a threat to democracy, but does not feel that oppositions parties in cooperation with Beijing are a threat to democracy -- in fact, it declines to identify the anti-succession law as a negative event toward democracy, and lauds the policy of the pro-China parties.

    In two major speeches in January 2006, Chen risked Beijing's ire by signaling a return to his pro-independence roots. He called for a referendum on a new constitution by 2008, with no subjects barred from consideration; advocated applying to join the United Nations under the name "Taiwan”; and announced tightened rules on investment in mainland China. Despite intense public and private pressure from the United States not to take further measures that would threaten the status quo, Chen in February abolished the National Unification Council, a largely symbolic act demonstrating that reunification with the mainland was no longer a policy goal of Taiwan's government.

    Throughout this piece there is a focus on the actions of President Chen. What does that signal to you?

    In contrast to the bellicose rhetoric with which it had previously responded to such moves, the PRC has recently adopted a far more nuanced approach to Taiwanese politics. Beijing was apparently confident that Chen's pro-independence initiatives had little chance of passing in the KMT-controlled legislature, and that front-runner Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT would soon replace Chen in the 2008 presidential election.

    ....and Ma the front runner makes an appearance too! Note that while the article focuses on Chen in detail, it never mentions Ma's own indictment and the far greater corruption of the KMT. Now check out this wildly pro-KMT paragraph:

    The Taiwanese press is "vigorous and active,"according to the 2006 human rights report issued by the U.S. State Department. Print media are completely independent, but electronic media and broadcast television stations were subject to government influence through the authority of the Government Information Office (GIO) to regulate programming and the licensing process until mid-2006, when a new oversight body was established. Criticism of the GIO's handling of license renewal and revocation had ramped up in 2005, when TVBS, a Hong Kong–owned satellite television station known for its coverage of corruption and other government scandals, was fined for violating a law restricting foreign ownership to less than 50 percent. Following charges that the government was restricting press freedom, the GIO refrained from taking further action against TVBS. Given that most Taiwanese can access about 100 cable television stations, the state's influence on the media is, on balance, minimal. Moreover, legislation approved in 2003 bars the government, political parties, and political party officials from owning or running media organizations. It also ordered the creation of a National Communications Commission (NCC) to replace the GIO in overseeing the operations of the broadcast media. The legislation to create the NCC as an independent body under the Executive Yuan was passed in October 2005 and the body convened for the first time in February 2006. Although the U.S. State Department report noted that some homosexual rights advocacy groups have reported monitoring and interference in online chat-rooms by the Taiwan authorities, there are generally no restrictions on internet access.

    Funniest sentence ever: when TVBS, a Hong Kong–owned satellite television station known for its coverage of corruption and other government scandals. TVBS is rabidly pro-KMT, but the article does not make that clear. The article makes no mention of the bias of the NCC and its unconstitutionality either. Clearly either the author or the source are pro-KMT.

    And one sad truth: the plight of women:
    Taiwanese women have made impressive gains in business in recent years, but they continue to face job discrimination in the private sector. Rape and domestic violence remain problems despite government programs to protect women and the work of numerous NGOs to improve women's rights. Although the law allows authorities to investigate complaints of domestic violence and to prosecute rape suspects without the victims formally pressing charges, cultural norms inhibit many women from reporting these crimes. The Ministry of the Interior reported that 6,601 charges of rape or sexual assault were filed in 2006; of these, only 1,825 were tried and resulted in 1,535 convictions. According to the U.S. State Department report, experts estimate the actual number of rapes to be 10 times the official number.

    Shameful that Freedom House has chosen to come down on the anti-democracy side in its report on Taiwan's freedoms. Freedom House's staff directory is here; drop them a line and let them know how awful their report is.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    It's ironic that on Freedom House's main page, it says that it is "a non-profit, nonpartisan organization, is a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world."

    To be honest, the overwhelming amount of press that seem to take a pan-blue slant, it's not surprising that this is the best they could come up with.