Saturday, November 08, 2008

"Painful to live in fear, isn't it?"

Now Fear has come again
To live with us
In poisoned intimacy like pus...

I struggled all week on how to write on the Chen Yunlin visit. I struggled not because I did not know what to say, but because I did not want to speak. And so I will let others summarize the events of this week: the detentions, the arrival of Chen Yunlin, the agreements, and the meaning of the protests, and above all, the creeping fear that so many of us now feel as we watch what is happening.

JOHN MANTHORPE, VANCOUVER SUN: At least seven senior members of the Democratic Progressive Party administration of former president Chen Shui-bian are being held under draconian "investigative detention" laws that allow prosecutors to hold suspects for up to four months without charge.

Prosecutors claim they believe the detained officials have been involved in corruption and might destroy evidence if not imprisoned.

But DPP leaders and other observers accuse the new Kuomintang administration of using the judicial system to purge the political stage of its opponents, smearing the reputations of the detained DPP officials by leaking unsupported allegations to the media, and using the detentions to try to extract confessions.

Those detained include a former senior official in Chen's office, the former interior minister Yu Cheng-hsien, former deputy prime minister Chiou I-jen, the former deputy environment minister Dr. James Lee, two DPP municipal officials and a county magistrate.

TING-YI TSAI, ASIAN WSJ: "Chen Yunlin will act like Santa Claus," said Wu Yu-shan, director of Academia Sinica's Institute of Political Science in Taipei. "But the problem is whether the gifts could create obvious benefit to the economy under the current difficult economic environment."

Mr. Ma took office five months ago, promising a new era of peace and economic normalization with China, after years of contentious relations under his predecessor Chen Shui-bian. But his approval ratings have plummeted since, and he has faced growing challenges within Taiwan to his accommodating stance toward Beijing. According to a poll conducted by the Global Views survey center, Mr. Ma's support rate has slipped to 23.6% from 60.5% in April.

JON ADAMS, CSMONITOR: Tuesday's agreements scrap cross-strait barriers erected in 1949 by rival Chinese regimes that refused to recognize each other's existence. The deals extend cross-strait passenger flights and shorten travel times. Before, all flights had to go through Hong Kong airspace.

Direct cargo flights will make it easier for Taiwan businesses to ship equipment and components to the mainland. Direct shipping links will remove the previously needed stop at Hong Kong or another intermediate port. "It's going to save a lot of transportation costs for Taiwan businesses," says Wu Chung-shu, dean of the college of management at Taiwan's National Dong Hwa University. "They're happy to see the government have a more open attitude."

Still, cross-strait links may not much blunt the global downturn's impact on Taiwan's export-dependent economy. "Improving cross-strait links will not totally insulate Taiwan from the current downside risks of a US recession," wrote Standard Chartered's Taiwan economist Tony Phoo in a report earlier this year. "Taiwan remains one of the most exposed in the region to a US-led global slowdown."

Realtime protest broadcasts
It started already. (1 pm, Nov, 8th, 2008, Saturday)

This one will start 2 pm, Nov, 9th, 2008, Sunday

TAIWAN NEWS: However, Tsai, who was MAC chairman from 2000-2004, stated that what the Ma government had gained in the SEF-ARATS agreements "were what we almost gained but they did not gain any more and at the cost of accepting political conditions including agreeing to Beijing's 'one China principle' and defining Taiwan as a 'region' and not a state."

Tsai stated that the four agreements would tie Taiwan closer to the PRC economy and expose Taiwan to the "increasing risks and uncertainties of the China market" and predicted that only a relatively small portion of Taiwan society will benefit from the new pacts.

The DPP chairwoman warned that if the Ma government does not effectively adopt complementary measures, Taiwan's domestic-market oriented industries, small businesses, middle and lower classes and farmers "will be harmed, incomes and wages will become stagnant and only unemployment will rise."

"This is the reason why the DPP was cautious in handling China policy as we supported liberalization but also believed we had to adopt complementary measures to reduce the negative impact on ordinary citizens and to accelerate industrial restructuring," Tsai said.

Former DPP MAC chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said the Ma government had failed to gain access to cross-strait shipping for foreign flag carriers or ships flying "flags of convenience" in the cross-strait marine transportation agreement, which he described as "vague" and operationally defined cross-strait shipping as Chinese "domestic" routes.

Chen Ming-tong also noted the air passenger agreement damaged Taiwan's national security by re-routing "northern line" flights from Taiwan to Shanghai and other locations to avoid monitoring by the Japan air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and by excessively shortening air warning times and by effectively defining cross-strait routes as "domestic" by allowing PRC airlines to fly directly to domestic Taiwan airports instead of landing first at the international airports of Taoyuan and Kaohsiung.

FAPA STATEMENT ON CHEN YUNLIN VISIT: The Ma administration knows that the majority of the Taiwanese people do not support a rapid pro-China policy. Yet his administration decided to go ahead with hosting the meeting between Chen and Taiwan’s SEF chief Chiang Pin-kung. This decision is to deliberately provoke the Taiwanese people, divide the Taiwanese society and attack Taiwan’s fragile and hard-fought democracy. We strongly condemn the KMT government’s China policies and protest the government for denying Taiwan’s sovereignty and ignoring Taiwan’s human rights, freedom and democracy.

TAIWAN NEWS: Although Ma and other KMT leaders denounced the "violence" of these unarmed citizens, it is in fact the KMT's monopolization of secret cross-strait negotiations without legislative, media or citizen oversight and its obstruction of the peaceful expression of dissent that forced the people to the streets to protest the KMT's use of state violence.

JOHNNY NEIHU: Now, alas, my buddies in uniform are being sent to clean up a political mess. But it can’t be cleaned up this way for too long, or we will have a police state.

As if in preparation, senior DPP identities are being arrested and locked up in a Singapore-style purge-by-judiciary. Not just the Chen Shui-bian gang, but also sitting elected representatives. Like Singapore, there is just enough legal process to satisfy ignorant foreign media, but way too much for local newspapers and TV stations to be bothered with.

After I turned off the TV, I had a sense of foreboding because I now know how it’s going to play out. Every step of what parachute-packing foreign correspondents call “cross-strait detente” or “rapprochement” or “easing of tensions” will, by necessity, include encroachment on domestic civil liberties — and therefore political liberties — at the reluctant hands of Taiwan’s finest. I also know that there are a lot of people who will fight to stop this from happening.

We’re on our way, dear reader. Will you join me on this journey?


Anonymous said...

Dear Michael:

I need no imagination to help me remember what's to come; lived through it before. But now the last of all evils that we as parents want our children to experience is to become their life experience as well.

This is true nightmare.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Is this the sign from God that it's time we apply this natural manure?

Sorrow...beyond words.

I wrote this today. God save our children, for we have failed.

Anonymous said...

Excellent compilation of some of the most salient quotes about the last few days' events.

The Singapore one is particularly ominous as the way the ruling government uses state resources to reward and punish political supporters, in addition to allowing the judiciary to be used as a weapon against those it doesn't approve of, is something more people should know about.

Hold on is right!

tipping888 said...

Dear Michael,

I'd say that Taiwan is under an "unspoken martial law". Taiwanese need to fight against KMT to win back what they once had - the freedom of expression.

Arrests continue, people's fears arise. If you turn on TV, you will find those pro-unification talk show moderators and guests now behave like KMT's accomplices, urging government to arrest those who fight against them and those who stand out to express different opinions.

Ma's administration even put their dirty hands into Internet, asking several Internet Service Providers to handout targeted users IPs. (I put one government document on my personal blog as an evidence).

It's time for people who love this freedom soil to stand together and voice for Taiwan.

Haitien said...

Hi Michael,

The student protests are nonpartisan in nature, and aimed at revising the Assembly and Parade Law such that organizers of future protests need only submit a notification to the relevant authorities (as opposed to the current system where the government may refuse to issue a permit after reviewing the protesters' goals).

It would be nice if you could clarify that this protest is completely separate from the DPP ones on 11/6. The student protests were organized on 11/5 in response to the unconstitutional actions taken by the police in suppressing the free speech rights of peaceful individuals protesting Chen Yunlin's visit. The news media spin cycle is already going into overdrive trying to spin this whole thing as a partisan cause.

It should be noted that although both the KMT and the DPP supported amending the Assembly and Parade Law while in the opposition, both parties lost interest in doing so once being elected to the presidency. The actions by the Ma administration in the run up to Chen Yunlin's visit were a particularly egregious abuse of free speech rights, and served as the catalyst for this student movement, but the reluctance to fix the abuse prone portions of the Assembly and Parade Law extends to both parties.


Anonymous said...

Overseas Chinese communities everywhere are very proud of China, whereas a community living on a island close to the Chinese mainland is scared. I believe some Taiwanese are guilty of scaremongering and demagogy. Let's turn challenges into opportunities. Besides, Taiwan is living on borrowed time. The KMT paid for that time, and Taiwan should be grateful for that. In the worse case scenario, Taiwan will become like HK. Anyone who has been in HK knows that it is not a bad place to live. It's time that the Taiwan issue is settled: make Taiwan a country or integral part of China. It's better for Taiwan and everyone else, because living in nowhere land, or in a fictional country called the ROC is only causing uncertainty and clashes. When will that choice be made and how much longer can it be postponed?

Anonymous said...

To anonymous of 9:50pm

Because I am a Hongkong/ Chinese people, I have no right to judge whether Taiwan should join China.

There is no such thing "scaremongering" and "demagogy" when China is keep claiming sovereignty over Taiwan, threatening the right to use force, which is something like as if what happen when German is claiming the right on Austria before WW2, even German and Austria are similar race and language. What China doing is exactly the same as Germany on Austria and Czech.

Anonymous said...

"When will that choice be made and how much longer can it be postponed?"

I find your points in sharp contrast to each other and you highlight the key issue very clearly...

There is no opportunity for choice. The right of Taiwan's citizens to choose their future as a part of "the glorious Chinese motherland" or dejure independence under any name they choose is being ignored. The Chinese are allowed to use terror weapons and implied violence to coerce Taiwanese to forfeit their rights and liberties. Choice?! That is exactly what we are fighting for... a CHOICE in the matter.

Anonymous said...

Direct flights are great - especially for commuters. Cargo flights would be more economical not having to transit in Hong Kong as well. Overall a benefit. But don't be fooled. China customs is an unbelievable bureaucracy that operates as an entrepreneurial entity. Cargo shipments going into China may get there a few hours faster but considering that most inbound shipments are delayed by 1 to 2 weeks by China customs the actual savings will be marginal and realized in transportation cost only.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:50 PM - "Overseas Chinese" is right. But we're talking about Taiwan here, so what the "Overseas Chinese" think is about as important as what "Overseas Germans" or "Overseas Russians" think about Taiwan.

In other words, we don't care what "Overseas Chinse" or what any other type of Chinese people think - Taiwan is about Taiwan only. It might be hard to imagine, but get this into your head - Taiwan is not China, Taiwanese is not Chinese, we don't want to be a part of your "Greater Chinese Family".

Why? Because being Taiwanese is much better than being Chinese, and we're proud of it too!

Anonymous said...

“Overseas Chinese communities everywhere are very proud of China, whereas a community living on a island close to the Chinese mainland is scared.“

I assume you feel "Overseas Chinese" and so-called "Hua Ren" somehow understand the Taiwanese experience and should therefore better inform Taiwanese on how great they can feel if they get on board. I was just wondering if you realize the OC groups are the result of a political process instigated by the KMT and they have completely different experiences and understandings that can not and should not be applied to Taiwan. A mythologized, imagined "one-ness" doesn't give them a clue.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has been in HK knows that it is not a bad place to live.

Anyone who lives in Hong Kong should be very worried if Taiwan is taken over. The PRC has treated HK with kid gloves since
'97 because they know the Taiwanese are watching what happens there with keen interest.

The CCP realize a heaving hand in HK would only help the TI people in Taiwan. Once Taiwan is taken over by the CCP, the hammer will come down on Hong Kong.

Levitator ﹝浮客﹞ said...


I've posted English translations of letters and statements from the investment forum thing. It's a real scandal. Please check out my blog:

channing said...

Taiwan is not China, Taiwanese is not Chinese, we don't want to be a part of your "Greater Chinese Family".

Great job. Try to get the remaining 22,999,999 Taiwanese to agree with you. I suggest starting in Tainan as that's where you'll get any decent success (don't forget to speak in Taiwanese). You may want to remember that overseas Taiwanese all identify themselves as Huaqiao, as do Han-race people residing in Singapore, Malaysia, etc.

Taiwan deserves better than its current situation, but promoting xenophobia and bigotry towards the term "Chinese" does not yield a moral high ground, nor will it help you establish a Republic of Taiwan.

Politics is politics; friendship and family transcend the petty political partisanship.

Anonymous said...

"but promoting xenophobia and bigotry towards the term "Chinese"...


I would posit that you have it up side down. The term "Chinese" is problematic for it's xenophobia, bigotry, racialist origins in nationalist nomenculture, it is almost completely undefinable in any real sense, yet suffers from reductionism, essentialism and seeks to divide peoples based on moderism and authenicity.

channing said...

Sure, you have a valid point, but from this perspective the same problem applies to the term "Taiwanese," and even "American." What do they mean, and what moral grounds do people have to monopolize their definitions to achieve political brownie points?

Anonymous said...

To 3:02 AM: if you think the Taiwan issue can be resolved without the consent of the other 1.3 billion people living on the other side of the Straits, you are wrong. A viable solution can only stand when there is consensus. This means that Taiwan will not be a country, nor a province of China. God knows what Taiwan might become. The only hope is that there will be a win-win situation without losers.

Anonymous said...


Sorry to burst your bubble but overseas Taiwanese in Japan and the US identify very strongly as Taiwanese. They are very strong supporters of Taiwan, and were instrumental actually, in the democratization of Taiwan. Their college educated children are even more, and many waisheng children in the US become strongly pro-Taiwan independence.

Yeah, I know about the Chinatown folk that are die-hard KMT supporters--but those kind were never in Taiwan very long in the first place--Taiwan was just an island vacation prior to immigration to the US or they came directly from China/Hong Kong.

Anonymous said...

To 7:11 PM: There is no such thing as "Taiwan issue". Taiwan is an issue only for Taiwan people. This is our terminology and excuse to colonize Taiwan, and stop using that terms unless you want Taiwan people hate us Chinese more.

NONE said...


Anon 3:12 here...

Yes, every label is a form of erecting distinctions between one-ness and the other, but if you look into the construction of "Chinese" you will find that it is a modern invention that was born from the available concepts of racialism and social darwinism of the early 20th Century. In effect, Sun Yat sen needed to find a formula to create/invent a "national people" while denying the Manchu their claims to the government. Sun, and those he drew his ideology from, combined some local folk beliefs of racialism with popular "Western" concepts of social darwinism to give Chinese nationalism a basis in "science".

The invention of "Chinese" was crafted to conflate the "national people" with "Han" to mean "Chinese" and essentialize the Chinese identity in terms of biology and "blood" descent and thus deny the Manchus the ability to be "national people". This strategy ran counter to the inclusiveness of Han sought by the Manchus, in which Han identity was based on Confucian cultural behavior.

The nationalist concept of the "national Chinese people" made use of many of the popular beliefs in biological determinism to delineate the national people as superior, on par with "white races" and further defined darker peoples of being of the "degraded races". Under this NEW paradigm, the Chinese people (national people) were Han by blood and were moblized by government policies to "defend the race" these ideas of racial purity further were employed by the ROC and later the PRC as reason to colonize the "inferior" or "backward" peoples of the former Qing dynasty.

These Chinese nationalist ideas discussed above are still alive and well today, living within the heart of Chinese nationalism and the constitutions and government organs of both the PRC and the ROC.

The invention of the "Chinese" as a product of Chinese nationalism movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has resulted in an identity which is inherently tied to an outdated, biggoted and racialist and ethno-nationalist movement that continues to colonize and "modernize" others.

Some Taiwanese have taken the existing Chinese nationalist construction and simply constructed a localized version of Chinese nationalism that is equally exclusive and ethno-nationalist; replacing Chinese with Taiwanese, substituting Mandarin with Hoklo, substituting state defines national high culture with localized forms of essentialized "Taiwanese culture" in almost the same manner Sarah Palin a few weeks back was cackling about the "real America".

Despite these ethno-nationalists, the advantage for discussing Taiwan and Taiwanese as something different and seperate from your Greater Chinese ideology and in terms which are non-Chinese (in addition to the flaws listed above), is the much more accurate and open reality of structural differences. Taiwan as an imagined community. The structural differences between Taiwan, China and "Hua Qiao" communities creates communities of culture. Culture has many definition, but the key ingredient is something "shared". Do to the different structural pathways to achieving one's goals in Taiwan and China and the USA (government, taxation, power structures, media, education, social status, class, gender...etc...) the experiences are widely different and create different communities that avoid the traps of biological determinism and racialism discussed above.

Taiwanese and Taiwaneseness has not been nailed down yet by ideology (despite the four ethnic groups concept) and is still open to negotiation that enables the term to be more inclusive with a basis in the imagined community and not in the authenic or unauthentic qualities of human DNA.

I strongly encourage everyone to take a step back before using the label "Chinese" and really consider what it means or doesn't mean.

Here's what Sun Yat Sen has to say on the matter:

>Considering the law of survival of ancient and modern races, if we want to save China and to preserve the Chinese race, we must certainly promote Nationalism. To make this principle luminous for China's salvation, we must first understand it clearly. The Chinese race totals four hundred million people; of mingled races there are only a few hundred million Mongols, a million or so Manchus, a few million Tibetans, and over a million Mohammedan Turks. These alien races do not number more than 10 million, so that, for the most part, the Chinese people are of the Han or Chinese race with common blood, common religion, and common customs-a single, pure race.
>Sun Yat-sen in San Min Zhu Yi (1927)
>Furthermore he attempts to give racialism validity in science:
>Mankind is divided first into five main races-white, black, red, yellow, brown. Dividing further, we have many sub-races, as the Asiatc races- Mongolian, Malay, Japanese, Manchurian and Chinese. The forces which developed these races were, in general, natural forces, but when we try to analyze them we find they are very complex. The greatest force is common blood. Chinese belong to the yellow race because they come from the blood stock of the yellow race. The blood of ancestors is transmitted by heredity down through the race, making blood kinship a powerful force.

channing said...

Anon, I live in a city in the Silicon Valley where over 40% of the population is from Taiwan--at one point even the mayor was a Taiwanese. Trust me, I know when a Taiwanese uses the term "Huaren" and "Huaqiao". This term and the term "Taiwanese" are separate and in no way mutually exclusive. See, aside from the college student activist demographic sectors, we allow the terms Chinese and Taiwanese to coexist like family.

And to the other anon who thinks HK is a terrible place and will be crushed once Taiwan becomes part of China...please, dream on. If by your wildest TI wet dreams mainland China doesn't improve its governance by 2047, the Basic Law would likely be renewed for another 30-50 years. Beijing isn't stupid enough to sweep aside the talents of a major world city for petty ideological brownie points. They at least know how to learn a bit from their greatest assets; open liberal places like HK and TW are greatly beneficial to the growth of China.

...hey, maybe that's why they haven't invaded Taiwan!

We're not in the Cold War anymore, and China is not only throwing a charm offensive; it's a country with unprecedented challenges trying to improve and assert itself, be it socioeconomic reform or controversial ambitions such as Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

". Trust me, I know when a Taiwanese uses the term "Huaren" and "Huaqiao". This term and the term "Taiwanese" are separate and in no way mutually exclusive. See, aside from the college student activist demographic sectors, we allow the terms Chinese and Taiwanese to coexist like family."

The construction of "Hua Ren" or "Hua Qiao" is tied directly to the Chinese nationalist movement and is simply an organ of Chinese nationalism. The republican Chinese nationalists attempted to create these communities from disparate communities of immigrants from Qing China. These groups and peoples had little or nothing to do with each other and were, in most cases, unaware of other groups of these immigrants or their locations... they were "unimaginable". Sun needed cash to finance his revolution and employed his race driven tropes to mobilize these groups. Despite the early travels of Sun Yat sen, the invention of "Hua Qiao" did not take hold until later efforts of the KMT to use Hua Qiao groups for Chinese nationalist indoctrination. Hua Qiao organizations have been used to continually promote Chinese nationalism and maintain ethno-political organizations abroad with the aim of furthering Sun's goals of Chinese nationalism, including tridemism, patriotism, national culturalism and citizenship.

Another factor that makes these ethno-political communities so different and unique to themselves, is not that these people are united by sharing a "common Chinese history" or "Chinese customs" (in-fact many of these people come from vastly different communities speaking mutually unintelligible languages) , but rather the social structure of their resident communities. These groups and group identities have more to do with their response to negotiating pathways to power within foreign countries that have often erected barriers against peoples they term as "un-authentic". The unity of a group identity offers protection and assistance when discrimination by other residents might block pathways for the individual.

Using the American example, at the same time the "Hua Qiao" communities were being constructed, other immigrant communities had also constructed community identities to leverage their collectivities against the existing power holders. Croatian, Italian, Polish and German workers organized lodges that operated in the same way. Those organizations brought together people under a shared identity to respond to power structures and not pre-existing culture. Those European groups are nearly extinct as the second and third and fourth generations have matriculated into American society. This process has been helped by the lack of obstacles needed to attain authenticity. It was further aided by the lack of political motivation from the home country.

American structures of ethnicity and perceived authenticity are changing as highlighted by the recent election. In the future there may no longer be structural barriers for non-white people to respond to and negotiate. Hua Qiao communities may be unnecessary. In studies of immigrants from what is now China, researchers have found that when there are no limits to assimilation and acculturation, these immigrants rapidly lost their distinct community and assimilated into local societies. In the communities where a local Hua Qiao organizations were active, these croups maintained a separate identity and replaced their traditional cultures and customs with Chinese nationalist high culture. These groups are very fluid and negotiable, but they are in no way permanent. They can be entered as quickly as they can be departed.

Anonymous said...

Oh... and I almost forgot... Another function of maintaining these groups for some people is to give them a reason to transcend prior social positions by becoming big fish in a smaller pond or assume other leadership positions (and the perks of those positions) that would otherwise be denied. What is of central the structure of the society they are operating in and not their place of origin.