Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday Gatherings in Taipei

I wandered around in Taipei to a couple of small gatherings on Saturday. At meet up organized by Jerome Keating (see post below this one) I had the pleasure of meeting Lynn Miles, the legendary activist and campaigner, whom I have long admired (pictured above). I snapped him in the middle of a discussion of DPP election prospects, which accounts for his cheerful and relaxed demeanor.

After lunch I wandered over to the 2-28 Memorial Park, where lawyer, environmental activist, and gadfly Robin Winkler was holding a subversive gardening activity in front of the National History Museum. Robin is one of the most intelligent and energetic people I know, a good man to fight City Hall with or lift a glass with.

Enjoying the gorgeous winter weather in Taipei.

Looking at the gaggle of gardeners, I asked Robin what the group was up to today. Robin said that this gardening activity is in celebration of International Buy Nothing Day. The idea, he said, is that human consumption is excessive, and so they should spend a day and not buy anything. "Hopefully people will say 'hmmm, do I really need to buy that?'" Robin described. What about the economy? Robin said that his group is thinking about the long-term economy, about a sustainability-oriented economy. "We view ourselves as long-term economists." He explained that Buy-Nothing day was started by Adbusters, a Canadian foundation, about 10 years ago. "There are buy-nothing days celebrated in Japan, Europe, all over the world."

About half the group, Robin continued, had just taken a two-week course in I-lan where they learned about urban gardens and sustainable economics. This was begun by an Australian about thirty years ago, Robin said, who got tired of resisting and went to the creation side. "Gandhi talks about in order to create change, you gotta have resistance, but you also gotta have something better in order for people to go into. So this is the creative side." Robin went on to give the example of a local French expat is talking about using Taiwan as a base for millions of dollars in exports of organic crops, using Taiwan's rich, fertile soil.

"We're using 2-28 park to highlight the way that in Taipei, we consume parks. The government consumes parks by putting in all this cement, and then before its useful life is up, they tear it out again and then give it to another construction company." Robin concluded by emphasizing the importance of gardening as a subversive political act. The most important thing you can do is to grow your own food, he said. In homage to that ethic, they did not apply for permission to put in a garden in front of the Natural History Museum.

Reporters wait in front of the place where Chen Shui-bian was under interrogation.

I headed over to Dead Dictator Memorial, currently known as Nameinflux Hall, to see the Wild Strawberry Student protests.

There was a decent crowd on hand to keep the small group of students company, and to cheer them on. One of the student leaders I spoke to said that they gotten a few hostile voices from the crowd, but others in the crowd had kept them at bay.

The demands.

The Wild Strawberries held an event last week in which they conducted a funeral for human rights. Here is the place where the Wake for Human Rights is being held, right under the shadow of one of the most notorious violators of human rights in history.

As if in echo of Robin Winkler's point about the subversiveness of gardening, the students told me they had planted a garden there as a symbol of their determination to stay.

Afterwards I went for a walk, and had the luck to catch a marching band practicing its evolutions under the watchful eye of the Dead Dictator.

I walked over to Nanjing E. Rd to meet a friend for dinner, and on the way passed Taipei citizens buying up hot foods like these delicious baked hu jiao bing....

...and xiao lung bao

Meet Up Summary: Su Tzen-ping on the Taiwan Media

Jerome Keating (left) with Su Tzen-ping.

Saturday's breakfast club meet up saw Su Tzen-ping, who served as Chariman of the Board of Taiwan's Central News Agency from July 2002 to June 2008. From 1988 on he was a reporter, researcher, department head and then editorin chief at the Independence Evening Post Group. From 1996 to 2000 he worked for the Taiwan Daily as chief editorial writer. In 2000 he was appointed the first non-mainlander DirectorGeneral (minister level) of the Government Information Office (GIO) and stayed there until the cabinet resuffle in Feb. 2002. After that he went to the Central News Agency for the regular six year term as Chairman.

The talk opened with a nod to the international audience, consisting of individuals from 'seven or eight countries".

Having worked in media for many years, Su Tzen-ping wanted to talk about three questions. First, how has Taiwanese media today? We can describe Taiwanese media as "free but discredited," he said. This year was the 20th anniversary of the newspaper ban was lifted. Before that, newspapers were restricted. New licenses for papers were not issued. Pages were limited to 3 sheets of newsprint, or 12 pages. Further, you could not print where you were not published -- if you published in Taipei, you couldn't print your paper in Kaohsiung. This limited the size and influence of the media. Referring to the lifting of the ban, he said with a smile: "On that special day, I became a journalist."

After that, there was a rapid process of development. Now we have eight 24 hour news channels in Taiwan. 24 hours, only news, he pointed out. Reporters without Borders has ranked Taiwan's press as the freest in Asia, in 2006 and 2007, is did Freedom House in 2007. He then made the point that polls show that the public here does not trust the media.

With this he answered his first question.

Second question: Taiwan has never had a tradition of good journalism. There was a brief period just after the KMT arrived in 1945, but after that the government, the party, and the military controlled the media. Su Tzen-ping discussed the media during the martial law period, including the famous Independence Evening Post, but even at that time, as an independent publisher, you had to compromise with the government. For example, "we had a KMT Chairman of the Board and a KMT director. Fortunately the publisher was able to designate his editor." There were only three TV channels, all government controlled. The radio was controlled by the government and the military, and there were private radio stations, owned by retired military people. That was the picture of the media before 1988. "In this situation it was really difficult to have independent or really good journalists." Su Tzen-ping referenced Antonio Chiang, the current Editor in Chief of Apple Daily. In those days he worked as the foreign correspondent for the China Times, but was forced out because he was too close to the pro-democracy tangwai politicians.

"It seems to me that we've never had a tradition of good journalism in Taiwan," Su observed.

After the ban, the papers still enjoyed a little political privilege, and it was a difficult market. But today, the real power of change is coming from the market and technology. First, the technology brings in cable channels, with 24 hour news, so the influence of television is greater. This changed the landscape of television news. New owners flowed into radio, and of course there are the illegal radio stations.

The newest victim of this market is the China Times. They were losing NT$100 million monthly, so they had no chance to survive. On the other side, the Liberty Times. After the lifting of the ban, a real estate tycoon bought the paper, originally a small Taichung paper, and made it big. Also, the Apple Daily, owned by Jimmy Lai from Hong Kong. Both claim that they have the biggest circulation in Taiwan. No one really knows what the circulation is, however. Now a successful Taiwanese businessman in China, Mr. Tsai, the head of the Wan Wan group, has purchased the China Times, and it isn't clear yet what he wants with the newspaper.

The political confrontation in Taiwan, said Su Tzen-ping, is severe. And because the media is in Taiwan is trapped between these two camps, so it is difficult to get the rid of the label of pan-Blue or pan-Green. "How about Apple Daily?" someone asked. "Apple Daily is a very strange combination," he said, to general laughter. It's primarily commercially oriented. "In my opinion, they have the best op-ed pages of any of the papers," he said. It's a combination of sensation news, impartial opinion pages, and very useful, convenient information for daily life. For example, he noted, you can easily find where there are special sales for today -- exact items and prices.

He used Apple Daily as an example. When Apple Daily invaded the market, he said, everyone said that there was no room for another newspaper. With this specific strategy, they succeeded. Today everyone criticizes the quality of the newspapers. "Maybe I think good quality news is a good strategy for a newspaper, perhaps a weekly," he said, hinting that perhaps he was considering opening a newspaper.

"But it is not a healthy working environment for journalists," he said, becoming serious after a round of jokes. "People ask me what I am doing after the CNA, and I tell them, I mostly work as a psychological consultant for frustrated journalists," he joked, to general laughter.

In the old days there were no independent journalist organizations, he went on to say. Associations were controlled by the government and they were simply the transmission belt for government authority. But for the last ten years we have had a "very active" organization in united journalists to fight for the rights and to protect journalists. Su Tzen-ping is a co-founder of the organization.

The purpose of this organization is not to fight for the pan-Blue or pan-Green camp, but to fight for the rights of journalist. They have done things, he said. For example, during the protests over the Chen Yunlin visit, the police tried to obtain pictures of protesters from the press to identify people who committed crimes. But the journalist association protested this to the police administration, since it can put journalists and photographers in danger. The police ignored us,just sending a low ranking official to accept the protest, said Su Tzen-ping in response to a question on the police reaction.

This concludes the presentation, he said. "There's a lot to do, but media is too important not to do anything."

In response to a question on circulation, he said he did not know circulation figures. Robin Winkler, a longtime lawyer and environmental activist, asked how to get the media to cover environmental issues. Su Tzen-ping responded by noting that this is a common problem for interest groups in Taiwan society. Sadly, I must note, in the modern political consensus, the "environment" is an "interest group." Su Tzen-ping advised Winkler that you have to "locate the media," those media and journalists who you can cooperate with. The media, he said, wants good stories.

On the list of Things Michael Never Wants To Hear Again, right near the top is the claim that Chinese aren't logical. Sure enough the next question, asking about the readers of newspapers and their education, came from a Christian missionary, who claimed that "most people in Taiwan I talk to are not logical." As if belief in Christianity is even within shouting distance of logical, or westerners have somehow taken out a patent on logic, or perhaps we possess special magic logic powers denied to the benighted denizens of Chinese culture. This was followed by a question observing that Chinese do not live in the same reality we do. I was very happy to hear this, since I had previously thought that all those missiles Beijing points at us were in this reality and not some other (yes, to paraphrase Nietzsche, even if it hasn't killed you yet, it is still real). That second question came from a media representative, because you know how media people have a special grip on reality. Su Tzen-ping handled these questions with calm agreement, observing that the readership must be improved, and that media organizations have pushed the Ministry to incorporate media courses in middle and high school. I have to say that I often admire the patience and serenity of the Taiwanese in response to egregious western ethnocentricity.

I then asked what I personally had come to hear: whether he had any thoughts on the CNA under the new adminstration, but he had none that he would share with us.

In response to a question on the future of the media, he pointed out that Jimmy Lai really wanted to get his hands on CTI, China Times' cable partner, in order to form the news channel segment of an integrated media. The Q&A session then became a discussion of the problem of getting beyond the Blue/Green divide, which led to some stimulating private conversations.

Jerome often gets great guests at his meetups. Many thanks for your hard work, Jerome, and to Su Tzen-ping for sharing.

The Establishment on US-Taiwan Relations

One of the hallmarks of Establishment thinking on the US side is the way it disparages independence and the way it simply waves its historical revisionism wand to make the hard-won gains 2000-2008 period disappear. For example, former AIT official here Syd Goldsmith wrote a formulaic Establishment piece on how the new Ma Administration promises relief for Obama....

There is nothing substantial besides fear and pro-independence opposition to suggest that any Taiwan president would acquiesce in Beijing's demands to recognize the so-called one China principle or accept a Hong Kong-style special administrative region settlement anytime soon. The demands of domestic stability will impel Ma to stick with the political status quo while he pursues agreements in other economic areas where understandings with Beijing reportedly have been reached.

The real significance of these historic direct links agreements is that it is becoming less urgent for both China and Taiwan to pursue political goals in their relationship. Instead, we might be witnessing the beginning of an era of cross-strait relations conducted in much the way that normal diplomatic relationships are conducted. Perhaps the era of outrage - Beijing demanding capitulation and Taipei screaming de jure independence - will be overtaken by what could be a continuing search for the benefits of increased interdependence.

Goldsmith writes: There is nothing substantial besides fear and pro-independence opposition to suggest that any Taiwan president would acquiesce in Beijing's demands to recognize the so-called one China principle or accept a Hong Kong-style special administrative region settlement anytime soon. Yes, that's right. Ma never downgraded Taiwan's status to that of a "region" and has no open, formal commitment to annex the island to China either on his own part or his party's. The recent wave of arrests of DPP politicians, as well as re-integration of the KMT with the government and the military in the best party-state style, that never occurred either. Ma never accepted the non-existent "1992 consensus" as the basis for negotiations, reversing a decade of pro-Taiwan diplomatic gains. According to Goldsmith, pro-independence paranoia invented these events. Note also that Goldsmith gives us the trope that pro-democracy and pro-independence types are irrational. It's irrational to want freedom and independence when there is money to be made! Silly independence types! It goes without saying that Goldsmith presents no evidence to support his claims that Ma does not threaten Taiwan's current de facto independence from China. Instead, readers are invited to believe it as an article of faith that all rational individuals adhere to.

But more importantly, observe how Goldsmith simply makes eight years of progress on China relations disappear into the phrase "era of outrage" in which Beijing and Taipei behaved irrationally. The reality is that cross-strait links blossomed under the DPP -- investment in China was legalized, direct flights occurred, rules for Chinese investment erected, exchanges of all sorts took place, and Taiwan investment in China may have crossed the $200 billion mark. Those irrational and paranoid DPP politicians negotiated an opening to China not seen since Taiwan was a colonial holding of the Qing. There would have been even greater opening, but -- and here's the utter refutation of the Establishment position argued for by Goldsmith -- it was China, not Taiwan, that chose not to negotiate. The Chinese simply waited hoping for Ma to win the election, since he was likely to be more pliable than the pro-Taiwan DPP. As reality has shown. The "era of outrage" was actually an "era of engagement" that the current KMT administration is building on in its negotiations with China, in which the world's busiest air route was between a city in China and a city in Taiwan.

Of course, Goldsmith ignores the fact that Ma is not running the negotiations with China -- and thus, speaking to the point of view of Ma ignores the reality that other KMT bigwigs like Chairman Wu Po-hsiung and Honorary Chairman Lien Chan are playing their own pro-China game, and have been since the DPP era. If only reality didn't have that annoying habit of being messy and complex.....

The world that Goldsmith posits is a hollow candy shell completely at odds with actual history. But it does have that chewy false dichotomy filling to it that the media finds so satisfying.

Very different from Goldsmith's piece is former Taiwan Representative to the US Joseph Wu writing for the conservative Jamestown Foundation. Wu was the last DPP appointee to the US post. After reviewing how the recent arms sale points to subtle changes in the US-China-Taiwan relationship, Wu observes:

Taiwan's domestic politics are severely divided over the course of the government's ongoing rapprochement with China. President Ma has not made any efforts to seek domestic reconciliation or attempt to communicate with the opposition over his intentions on cross-Strait policy. In fact, Ma’s statements and actions angered many people who believe that Taiwan should keep China at arm’s length. Taiwan appears to be more divided than before in the months since Ma’s inauguration, as evidenced by several large-scale, anti-government/a nti-China demonstrations. Consequently, Taiwan's status has been relatively weakened in facing the subtle and not so subtle threats from authoritarian China. A divided and weakened Taiwan severely threatens Taiwan’s national security, and is, by extension, not in the interests of the United States or Japan, its key ally in East Asia. All interested parties should therefore encourage the KMT to engage the opposition DPP in formulating its policy across the Taiwan Strait.
Wu has put his finger on several of the major issues: Ma has not attempted to conciliate Taiwan society, and thus the Chen Yunlin visit has resulted in a Taiwan that is exactly where China wants it: bitterly divided, the pro-democracy side weak, the pro-China side strong, and unable to identify or achieve actions in the interests of Taiwan. Note also that Wu specifically notes how this affects Japan -- it is common in shorter US writings to ignore Japan in the Taiwan security equation -- yet any attack on Taiwan from China will most likely require pushing planes and boats through Japanese air and sea space. Moreover, were China to come into possession of Taiwan, the next logical step is for it to move on the Senkaku Islands, currently Japanese territory but claimed by China since 1968. And the US and Japan have conducted naval exercises there under the US-Japan security arrangements.....

In other words of Goldsmith, a weakened, divided Taiwan captained by an Administration that is pro-China is a good thing for US security arrangements in Asia; while in the world of Joseph Wu, it is a bad thing for US security arrangements in Asia. Probably Wu is just another paranoid, irrational independence and democracy supporter.

Direct Shipping in December

Even as China executes a medical scientist accused of spying for Taiwan -- with nary a public word from the Ma Ying-jeou government -- DPA reports that direct shipping between China and Taiwan will being in mid-December...
Taipei - Taiwan and China will hold the last round of consultations next week to prepare for launching direct shipping in mid-December, a newspaper said Saturday. The United Daily News (UDN) said that China's Cross-Strait Shipping Association will send a delegation to Taiwan on December 2 to discuss technicalities of direct shipping with Taiwan's shipping officials.

[details like rates, times etc to be ironed out]

The talks are also expected to discuss if Taiwanese ships registered in foreign countries can join the direct shipping.

Under the pact signed on November 4, only Taiwanese and Chinese ships are allowed to sail directly across the Taiwan Strait, so that the profits of cross-strait cooperation will not be shared by foreigners.

However, since 477 Taiwan freighters - or 96 per cent of Taiwan's cargo/container ship fleet - fly foreign flags, Taipei asked China to allow foreign-registered Taiwan freighters to join the cross-strait direct shipping service.
At present, if they stick to the agreement to limit shipping to own-flagged ships, all of the business will belong to China. Note also that if only Taiwan and China-flagged ships are to ply the Strait, then effectively, it is a domestic route.

Of Food

That place on the right is Little India in Taichung, now I think the best place in the area to get Indian food. The old chef from the Andrew is working there, and the food is glorious -- the naans fresh made, and the curries have six or seven shrimps instead of three like some other Indian places I could name. It is located behind the Splendor Hotel where the old Kohinoor used to be, near Bollywood, Spice Shop I, and Kebabish. A friend also informs me that at Bombay Masala, which occupies the old Andrew place behind Sogo in Taichung, you can get an ample set meal with soup, salad, dessert and main course + all you can eat naan/rice for only $369. Haven't eaten there yet.

Weird goings on in the small town where I live: all meat has vanished from local shops as the whole town has gone vegetarian for three days as part of some temple celebration. I'd BBQ in protest, but there isn't a slab of ribs to be had here for love or money.

Anyone notice our suddenly contracted supply of milk? Quite often lowfat is hard to find now. Milk got a double whammy -- lots of the stuff sold as "fresh" was actually reconstituted with powder from you-know-where and that disappeared from the market when the melamine scandal hit, affecting the supply side. Demand for fresh milk has increased as people have switched away from powdered, again because of melamine fears. In the couple of weeks following the melamine scare milk was hard to find indeed, but the shortage appears to have eased somewhat.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

L'État, c'est moi"

I hope every civil servant will keep in mind: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The KMT will honor its sincere commitment to accountability in governance. The new government will be for all the people, remain non-partisan and uphold administrative neutrality. -- Ma Ying-jeou, inaugural speech

Back in July the KMT elected a new Central Standing Committee, a key policymaking body for the Party. The China Post, after recounting who won, observed:

The CSC used to wield power over adopting major national policies and appointments of senior officials to public offices.

Senior Cabinet officials used to take around one-third of the CSC seats.

But none of the incumbent Cabinet members are represented in the new panel this year after President Ma Ying-jeou adopted a new policy of delicately divide the party and the government as part of his alleged aim to make the government serve all people regardless their party lines.

However, the new approach has more or less invited antagonism from the party establishment and lawmakers that are displeased by Ma’s policy of keeping an arms-length distance from his own party.

In the first two paragraphs, the China Post notes that in the old days the CSC was the power behind the Party-State, the old style government. By integrating the cabinet heads into the Central Standing Committee, and having the CSC appoint them, the KMT made sure that the Party and the government were essentially the same thing, and that the Party maintained its grip on the government.

But in comes Ma Ying-jeou, dedicated reformer, dedicated to keeping the party and state apart. How long did that last?

Until this week.

KNN -- the Kuomingtang News Network -- and no, that's not a parody -- had an article up the other day on some of the changes in the KMT structure. The first item of note was the fact that KMT Chair Wu Po-hsiung appointed five more vice-chairpersons to bring the total to eight:

Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung’s nomination of five appointees as the party’s new vice chairpersons was approved at the meeting. The new vice chairpersons include John Chiang, KMT legislator, Wu Den-yi, KMT Secretary-General, Tseng Yung-chuan, Vice Speaker of Legislative Yuan, Eric Chu, Taoyuan County Executive, and Huang Ming-hui (female), Chiayi City Mayor. The five additional vice chairpersons give the KMT representation in the legislature and local governments.

Take a gander at the last sentence -- a frank observation that the purpose of the move is to integrate the party leadership with the local governments. Further down the article declaims:

In addition, the meeting approved amendments to the Party Constitution as follows: 1) add six more “designated members” to the Central Standing Committee appointed by the Chairman, five for cabinet-level heads and one reserved for the president of the KMT National Youth Federation;

What happened to Party and State separation? Apparently, it got lost in the integration of the cabinet heads with the Party. As I've said before, just regard Ma's inaugural speech as a 1800 backwards road map of the future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Taiwanese Doctors, Chinese Organ Harvesting

There are things that are so terrible, and yet so outlandish, that the mind rejects them as impossible -- not based on any review of evidence or testimony, but because they threaten to upset the easygoing apple carts of everyday assumption. As Ethan Gutmann reminds in this penetrating, deeply moving article on organ harvesting in China:
For various reasons, some valid, some shameful, the credibility of persecuted refugees has often been doubted in the West. In 1939, a British Foreign Office official, politely speaking for the majority, described the Jews as not, perhaps, entirely reliable witnesses. During the Great Leap Forward, emaciated refugees from the mainland poured into Hong Kong, yammering about deserted villages and cannibalism. Sober Western journalists ignored these accounts as subjective and biased.
The banal Molochs of mechanized holocaust are operating again, miraculously transmuting the dying of healthy young people into a living for organ transplant doctors -- and a life for the unhealthy wealthy. Gutmann writes:
Taiwanese doctors who arranged for patients to receive transplants on the mainland claim that there was no oversight of the system, no central Chinese database of organs and medical histories of donors, no red tape to diminish medical profits. So the real question was, at $62,000 for a fresh kidney, why would Chinese hospitals waste any body they could get their hands on?

Yet what initially drew most fire from skeptics was the claim that organs were being harvested from people before they died. For all the Falun Gong theatrics, this claim was not so outlandish either. Any medical expert knows that a recipient is far less likely to reject a live organ; and any transplant dealer will confirm that buyers will pay more for one. Until recently, high volume Chinese transplant centers openly advertised the use of live donors on their websites.

It helps that brain death is not legally recognized in China; only when the heart stops beating is the patient actually considered dead. That means doctors can shoot a prisoner in the head, as it were, surgically, then remove the organs before the heart stops beating. Or they can administer anesthesia, remove the organs, and when the operation is nearing completion introduce a heart-stopping drug--the latest method. Either way, the prisoner has been executed, and harvesting is just fun along the way. In fact, according to doctors I have spoken to recently, all well versed in current mainland practices, live-organ harvesting of death-row prisoners in the course of execution is routine.

The real problem was that the charges came from Falun Gong--always the unplanned child of the dissident community. Unlike the Tiananmen student leaders and other Chinese prisoners of conscience who had settled into Western exile, Falun Gong marched to a distinctly Chinese drum. With its roots in a spiritual tradition from the Chinese heartland, Falun Gong would never have built a version of the Statue of Liberty and paraded it around for CNN. Indeed, to Western observers, Falun Gong public relations carried some of the uncouthness of Communist party culture: a perception that practitioners tended to exaggerate, to create torture tableaux straight out of a Cultural Revolution opera, to spout slogans rather than facts.
It is a long article, burning with a barely concealed outrage tethered by journalistic habit and a grim wit, but it should be read. And brought to the attention of the highest levels of the State Department and the incoming Obama Administration. For how many more times must the St. Louis be refused to dock? Listen as he speaks....

Liu Guifu is a 48-year-old woman recently arrived in Bangkok. She got a soup-to-nuts physical--really a series of them--in Beijing Women's Labor Camp in 2007. She was also diagnosed as schizophrenic and possibly given drugs.

But she remembers her exams pretty well. She was given three urine tests in a single month. She was told to drink fluids and refrain from urinating until she got to the hospital. Was this testing for diabetes or drugs? It can't be ruled out. But neither can kidney-function assessment. And three major blood samples were drawn in the same month, at a cost of about $1,000. Was the labor camp concerned about Liu's health? Or the health of a particular organ? Perhaps an organ that was being tissue-matched with a high-ranking cadre or a rich foreign customer?

The critical fact is that Liu was both a member of a nontransformed Falun Gong brigade with a history of being used for organs and was considered mentally ill. She was useless, the closest approximation we have to a nameless practitioner, one of the ones who never gave their names or provinces to the authorities and so lost their meager social protections.

There were certainly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of practitioners identified by numbers only. I've heard that number two hundred and something was a talented young female artist with nice skin, but I don't really know. None of them made it out of China alive.

None of them likely will. Tibetan sources estimate that 5,000 protesters disappeared in this year's crackdown. Many have been sent to Qinghai, a potential center of organ harvesting. But that's speculative. Both the Taiwanese doctors who investigate organ harvesting and those who arrange transplants for their Taiwanese patients agree on one point: The closing ceremony of the Olympics made it once again open season for harvesting.

Some in the human rights community will read that last assertion with skepticism. Until there is countervailing evidence, however, I'll bet on bargain-basement prices for organs in China. I confess, I feel a touch of burnout myself at this thought. It's an occupational hazard.

It's why I told that one-night-in-Bangkok joke to get you to read beyond the first paragraph. Yet what's really laughable is the foot-dragging, formalistic, faintly embarrassed response of so many to the murder of prisoners of conscience for the purpose of harvesting their organs. That's an evil crime.

I emailed Gutmann about his interviews with the Taiwanese doctors who have an intimate knowledge of this trade, and he said:
According to our interviews (Ethan Gutmann and Leeshai Lemish) from July 2008 for my forthcoming book: Resurrection: the Untold Story of the Clash between Falun Gong and the Chinese State--from 1995-1999 about 100 Taiwanese patients were going to China each year for kidney transplants. The boom starts around 2000, hitting about 360 per year by 2002. It slows down for SARS, but by 2005 about 450 people went from Taiwan to China to do kidney or liver transplants. By July 2008, the price had pretty much doubled. According to the Taiwanese doctors who often go to China and interact with the doctors there: If there is no international pressure, after the Olympics the price will go back down to "normal" levels--just too much of a profit to be made for mainland doctors."
Gutmann refers to the work of Canadian MPs Kilgour and Matas, whose excellent website on the topic of organ harvesting, complete with their report, is here.

Read it. And weep.

Leiden Grant for Book Writing on Taiwan, Scholarships

A scooter takes a midnight ride across the campus of NCKU.

For those of you with PHDs and wanting to write that great Taiwan book you've been waiting for the opportunity to write (not the one on betel nut girls, the other one), Leiden U offers you an opportunity due 15 Jan 2009, along with a couple of post-docs:

November 25, 2008

Writing Up Grant on Modern Taiwan
From: H-Net Announcements <announce@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU>

Writing Up Grant on modern Taiwan

Grant Deadline: 2009-01-15
Date Submitted: 2008-11-17
Announcement ID: 165218

The Modern East Asia Research Centre (MEARC) at Leiden University, the Netherlands, offers a grant meant for recent PhD graduates who have focused on the study of modern Taiwan in Comparative East Asian Perspective, in the disciplines of politics, history or philosophy. Grant receivers are supposed to transform their dissertation into a book during a period of twelve consecutive months, in which they are to live in Leiden.

The grant consist of a lump sum of Euro 20.000.

MEARC was founded in 2006. MEARC's purpose is to support, showcase and stimulate genuinely disciplinary and comparative research in the disciplines of politics, history and philosophy on modern East Asia in the period since the beginning of the 19th century until today.

Applicant's qualifications: Candidates must hold a PhD degree. Preference will be given to candidates with: 1) a recent PhD degree in Chinese or Taiwanese Studies, and a demonstrable specialisation in modern history, political science or philosophy; or alternatively, a PhD in history, political science, or philosophy, and demonstrable specialization on modern China or Taiwan; 2) outstanding research qualities manifested in a high-quality dissertation; 3) an excellent command of modern Chinese (mandarin) and good command of English.

Application procedure: Applications can be sent by regular mail. Applications should be accompanied by curriculum vitae, abstract of the dissertation, a preliminary book outline and max. two representative publications. Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Esther Truijen
MEARC (Leiden University)
Postbus 9515
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands

Visit the website at


Two scholarships for post-PhD research in/on Taiwan

Grant Deadline: 2009-01-15
Date Submitted: 2008-11-17
Announcement ID: 165217

The Modern East Asia Research Centre (MEARC) at Leiden University, the Netherlands, offers two scholarships to facilitate field research conducted in Taiwan. Scholarship receivers are expected to focus on the study of modern Taiwan in Comparative East Asian Perspective.
MEARC was founded in 2006. MEARC's purpose is to support, showcase and stimulate genuinely disciplinary and comparative research in the disciplines of politics, history and philosophy on modern East Asia in the period since the beginning of the 19th century until today.

Applicant’s qualifications: 1) Candidates must hold a PhD degree and be affiliated with an European academic institution. 2) Preference will be given to candidates with: -a PhD in Chinese or Taiwanese Studies, and a demonstrable specialisation in modern history, political science or philosophy; or alternatively, a PhD in history, political science, or philosophy, and demonstrable specialization on modern China or Taiwan; -outstanding research qualities; -a letter of invitation from a Taiwanese partner institution.

Scholarship includes:
* A Europe - Taiwan roundtrip economy flight ticket; * A daily research subsidy of two hundred US Dollars for up to the maximum
period of three weeks, including the days of arrival and departure.

Application procedure: Applications should be sent by regular mail Applications should be accompanied by a research plan, a list of publications, max. two representative publications and a curriculum vitae. Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Ms. Esther Truijen
MEARC (Leiden University)
Postbus 9515
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands

Visit the website at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jeffrey Koo Jr. returns to testify against Chen

My Lord, may I also remind my learned friend that his witness, by her own admission, has already violated so many oaths that I am surprised the Testament did not LEAP FROM HER HAND when she was sworn here today! I doubt if anything is to be gained by questioning you any further! That will be all, Frau Helm!

There was an explosion of things in the media today on the behavior of the Special Investigation Panel (SIP), Chen Shui-bian, and the arrival of fugitive Jeffrey Koo from Japan to testify that he gave an NT $400 million sweetener to Chen Shui-bian's wife Wu Shu-jen to make a land purchase go....let's begin with the Taipei Times report:

Former Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控) vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) returned to Taiwan yesterday after being on the run for almost two years. He was immediately handcuffed and escorted to the Supreme Prosecutor Office’s Special Investigation Panel (SIP) for questioning. All investigations involving Koo, who returned to Taiwan from Japan on his private plane around 9:45am, will now be handled by the SIP, a chief investigator said.

SIP spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) said that after talking to State Public Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明), it was decided that the probes, including one into Koo’s suspected role in a questionable financial deal and another into his possible role in alleged corruption involving the former first family, would be handled by the SIP.

Koo has been on the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office wanted list since December 2006 after twice failing to appear to answer questions regarding his role in Chinatrust Financial’s investment in Mega Financial Holding Co (兆豐金控) through its Hong Kong branch.

What's the issue? The article continues further down:

Prosecutors were also anxious to talk to Koo about the sale of a piece of land in Taoyuan County owned by a development company controlled by Koo and his family, through which former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), is alleged to have received NT$400 million (US$12 million) in kickbacks.

Jeffrey Koo Jr’s alleged involvement in the deal came to light on Nov. 14, when Taiwan Cement Corp (台泥) chairman Leslie Koo (辜成允), his uncle, told prosecutors that his nephew had introduced him to the former first lady’s friend Tsai Ming-cher (蔡明哲), who instructed Leslie Koo on where to wire a NT$400 million “commission” on the land purchase.

So obvious is the appearance of a deal between prosecutors and Koo that the government was forced to deny that it had cut a deal to get Jeff Koo Jr. to return after being on the run in Japan and the US for two years. Since KMTers rarely return to face prosecution (whereas President Chen stuck around to face prosecution by a hostile administration) it is hard for many to believe that arrangements have not been made.

Some history: the Koos are an old family with a long history of "collaboration" with the authorities to advance the familial interests. Originally from Lukang (the old homestead is now the Folk Museum there), the patriarch of the family, Ku (Koo) Hsien-jung, opened the doors to the incoming Japanese in 1895 and helped them pacify the northern part of the island. He was rewarded with gifts of land and made investments across many industries, sitting on the boards of most of the island's corporations in the prewar period. Politically connected and powerful, he was the first Taiwanese to sit in the Japanese House of Peers. At the end of the Japanese period his companies were forcibly merged into larger Japanese firms and he was left with his landholdings and investments. In the postwar period the landholdings were forcibly converted under the land reform into shares of Taiwan Cement, and his son, the famous Koo Chen-fu, became head of the corporation, eventually making the company one of the most important on the island, gaining a seat on the Central Standing Committee of the KMT and becoming one of the most powerful men in Taiwan.

In other words, Jeffrey Koo Jr is a junior member of one of the most powerful families on the island with intimate connections to the KMT. Readers will have to make their own judgments about whether such a person came back out of the goodness of his heart to admit to and then testify to a crime which just by coincidence happens to bear on the guilt of the former President whom the current ruling party appears to be obsessed with destroying.

The Taipei Times had some good commentary today on the prosecutions. Local magazine editor Chin Heng-wei observed:

From Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Su to Chen Shui-bian, a climate of political character assassination is brewing. Is every prosecutor in Taiwan going to sink into this mire?

Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) of the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office, for one, has seen more than he can take. Speaking at a symposium on prosecution reform, Chen said that the prosecutorial system should avoid clustering the accused into particular groups.

Judge Lu Tai-lang (呂太郎), however, said: “All the people arrested by the prosecutors share the same party affiliation.”

No wonder the SIP has become known as the “Chen Shui-bian Investigation Panel.” Frighteningly and lamentably, the prosecutors handling these cases have not just surrendered to Ma and his clique, but have become his willing pawns.

In May this year, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the Prosecutors’ Reform Association, prosecutor Yang Ta-chih (楊大智) said: “In the decade that has passed since the founding of the Prosecutors’ Reform Association, we started with the KMT in power, followed by eight years of Democratic Progressive Party government, and now we have the KMT in power again. Ten years ago political interference in the judicial process was blatant. Now the big problem is the way some prosecutors put themselves at the beck and call of politicians.”
President Chen's lawyer today was back trying to get the detention ended on the grounds that the reasons for it no longer apply. The government, bending over backwards as always to avoid the appearance of political persecution, is investigating Chen's lawyer, ostensibly for reading a poem from Chen to his wife aloud to the media without obtaining permission from the court.

UPDATE: The media is reporting that despite Koo being a proven flight risk (having fled once before), he was given no travel ban, and set free on bail (the 4th highest in Taiwan history). As opposed to Chen Shui-bian, who was detained without any charges being filed, and the other DPP detainees.

Cunsumption Pumption, what's your function?

Cool stuff is happening all around us in Taiwan. For example, here's a story about run of the river hydropower being tested in I-lan.

Devised by a renowned inventor, Liu Cheng-shih, the millwheel- shaped hydropower facility can generate electricity using the weak water flow in rice paddy irrigation systems, which would represent a new clean energy source suitable for agriculture and poultry farming.

Liu said a mini power facility costs about NT$10 million (about US$300,000) and takes two months to install, but the cost can be recovered in six to seven years.

Meanwhile, Liu noted, the minimum required span between two mini-hydroelectric generators is only 12 meters, which means that if all irrigation systems in Taiwan adopt the mini hydro station, more than 30,000 sets can be put in place.
Alas, there's only so much cool stuff going on...

The papers here announced the latest twist in the struggle to define the voucher program, a vote buying project stimulus program that will distribute $3,600 to every citizen on the island, now the object of much derisive discussion here on The Beautiful Isle. The government has said that foreign spouses will get vouchers! The government seems to have realized that thousands of locals (160,000, according to the article) are married to non-citizens, yea, even unto short, pudgy, balding bloggers. Yesterday the news was saying that Hong Kong was considering a voucher program as well, after looking at Taiwan's. I think they ought to make our vouchers exchangeable for theirs; then we can engage in currency speculation along with our investments in gold. The CNA was reporting today that the voucher program will be handled as a separate budget from the NT$420 billion infrastructure stimulus program now under contemplation, as the DPP had threatened a boycott if the two were stuck together. And if you need a second job, Kaohsiung is currently holding auditions for street performer licenses. More stimulus projects: the goverment is planning to begin development of all that empty land around several HSR stations in 2009.

Reply to the Open Letter on the Erosion of Justice

The Minister of Justice, Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), wrote a reply to those scholars and experts who signed the Open Letter on the Erosion of Justice in Taiwan:

As required by law, when the present and former DPP government officials were interrogated by the prosecutors, they were all informed of the charges that had been brought against them. They were also informed of their rights to retain counsel and to remain silent. After they were detained, they had the right and ability to communicate with their attorneys to seek legal assistance. None of them was held incommunicado without charges.

After they were arrested, they were immediately, within 24 hours at most, brought before judge(s) to determine whether they should be detained before trial for the crimes they were charged with. This is a standard procedure that was strictly followed by all of the prosecutors involved.

Therefore, in the cases in question, the prosecutors did not contravene the writ of habeas corpus or violate due process, justice, or the rule of law. Even the defense attorneys of the DPP officials did not accuse the prosecutors of doing what the open letter claims they did. These facts are indisputable and serve as proof of the prosecutors’ compliance with due process and the law as well as respect for the writ of habeas corpus.

The open letter further states that “the prosecutors’ offices apparently leak detrimental information to the press” with the intention of conducting a “trial by press.” The confidentiality of investigations, however, is explicitly required by our Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法). Information relating to ongoing investigations can be disclosed only by the spokespersons of prosecutor’s offices. Any prosecutor who discloses information without authorization will be internally disciplined as well as be subject to criminal prosecution.
Wang's commitment to the truth can be gleaned from the fact that she is the convener of that idiotic 319 Truth Commission into the attempted assassination of Chen Shui-bian by a Blue nutcase -- trying to prove that Chen somehow staged the whole thing. She also served on the Clean Government Committee of the KMT for several years.

Meanwhile a Federation of 155 human rights organizations around the world expressed its concern on the situation here. The international pressure on the island appears to be bearing fruit, as some of the detainees were released last week, among them Dr. Jim Lee, the former director of the Hsinchu Science Park, detained on 27 October, 2008.

Another apparent victim of prosecutors run amok spoke out this weekend on the issue of detentions in Taiwan:

Shieh Ching-jyh, a U.S.-trained rocket scientist who served as deputy minister of the Cabinet-level NSC from 2000 through May 2006, made the remarks at a year-end fundraiser organized by the New York Taiwan Center, a private Taiwanese-American pro-independence group.

Shieh was arrested May 23, 2006 and was held incommunicado for 59 days without being formally indicted as prosecutors were preparing their case against him. He was later indicted on corruption charges in December 2006 for allegedly helping a friend win a contract for a construction project in the Southern Taiwan Science Park in Tainan County to reduce vibrations that might be caused by the high speed bullet trains when they pass the park.

Prosecutors recommended a 15-year prison term plus a fine of NT$30 million for Sheih, but the Taipei District Court finally gave him an "innocence" verdit in August 2008. He has written his experience and thoughts in his new book, released only 2 days ago.

Shieh, who was blacklisted and barred from returning to Taiwan during Taiwan's infamous martial law era, said that Taiwan's judicial system -- which allows prosecutors to detain suspects without charge -- is unreasonable and bucks the general world trend of respecting citizens' human rights.

According to Shieh, Taiwan's prosecution authorities often arrest and detain suspects with no visitation rights on the grounds that the suspects might destroy evidence or collude with potential co-defendants in tampering with evidence if allowed to remain at large.

"Under this sort of system, prosecutors can detain suspects arbitrarily without providing convincing evidence to back their suspicions or allegations," Shieh said.

Noting that such arbitrary detention, even though legal under Taiwan's system, infringes upon the detainee's basic human rights, Shieh said that even if the detainee is later acquitted, his or her reputation has been seriously marred.

Shieh was also critical of the rampant problem of "trial by media" that is so common in Taiwan, complaining that some prosecutors often handle their cases in terms of the amount of media reports they can garner.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Meet Up Saturday the 29th, EATS CFP extended to Nov 30

Jerome has the news on the next meetup, which is the 29th, not the 28th as some of us thought:

Topic: Taiwanese Media: Behind the Scenes.

Saturday November 29, 10 am

Speaker: Tzen-ping Su who served as Chariman of the Board of Taiwan's Central News Agency from July 2002 to June 2008.

Tzen-ping graduated from the Department of Economics at National Taiwan University and obtained a further degreee of Diplom-Volkswirt from the University ofFrankfurt in Germany.

He taught Economics at Soochow University, then worked forthe German Trade Office as senior staff and then became a journalist. From 1988 on he was a reporter, researcher, department head and then editorin chief at the Independence Evening Post Group. From 1996 to 2000 he worked for the Taiwan Daily as chief editorial writer.

In 2000 he was appointed the first non-mainlander DirectorGeneral (minister level) of the Government Information Office (GIO) and stayed there until the cabinet resuffle in Feb. 2002. After that he went to the Central News Agency for the regular six year term as Chairman.

He was also a co-initiatorand once president of the Association of Taiwanese Journalists, the first independent journalistorganization in Taiwan and now a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

With those credentials he can give us a good look behind the scenes of the media situation in Taiwan..

The venue is the same as it has been for the past months. The meeting location is the restaurant 婷婷翠玉 at 174 AnHe Road, Section Two. (rough translation of name is Tender, Pretty Green Jade.) You will be able to tell the restaurant by the lace curtains on the window--it was used in a TV commercial a while back. (We will have the downstairs room--breakfast cost will range between NT$100 and NT$150. Phone if lost 2736-8510.

Restaurant is between Far Eastern Plaza Mall/Hotel and HePing East Road--about a half a block north of the corner of HePing East Road Sec. 3 and AnHe Road. or a half a block south of Far Eastern Plaza on the AnHe Road side.

Take the MRT Mucha Line to the Liuchangli Station exit there, and walk west on HePing East Road 3/4 of a block till you reach where AnHe Road dead-ends into it.Then go north on AnHe Road; it is a half a block up on the west side of that street.

Or take any bus down HePing East Road and get off at the first stop that is east of Tun Hua South Road. That will put you at the corner of HePing and AnHe. You can also take a bus down Tun Hua South Road to the stop right across from Far Eastern Plaza and walk over to AnHe Road. Or if you take the 235 bus east, it turns off of HePing onto AnHe Road and the first stop is right across from the restaurant.

To keep me abreast of headcount; anyone who had not yet notified me please do so (jkeating AT


Dafydd Fell passes around the news about a paper deadline extension:

Dear All,

I am writing to let you know that we are extending the deadline for abstract submission for the Sixth European Association of Taiwan Studies conference to November 30. Please see the revised Call for Papers below.

Best Wishes

Dafydd Fell
SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies

Sixth Conference of the European Association of Taiwan Studies Call For Papers
The European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS) will hold its sixth annual conference on 16-18 April 2009. The conference is co-organized by Center of East Asian Studies, Autonoma University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain and the Centre of Taiwan Studies, School of Oriental and
African Studies (SOAS).

Venue: Madrid.
The organizers particularly welcome abstracts on the following themes:
1. "Taiwanese Democracy: A Model for Mainland China and Hong Kong?" in the field of Domestic Politics and Democracy
2. "Social Realism" in the field of Literature
3. "1949-2009: 60 years of the ROC" in the field of History and Social Sciences
4. "A New Start? " in Cross Strait Relations
5. "Historical Linguistics" in the field of Language
6. "The impact of changes of ruling parties on Taiwan: Divided versus Unified Government"
7. "The Role of the Media in Taiwan's politics and society"

We particularly invite submissions on these themes for the consideration of an interdisciplinary panel. Panel proposals are not accepted. Please indicate the theme that you submit your abstract to.

Masters and 1st year Ph.D. students enrolled in a Taiwan Studies Programme at a European university are especially encouraged to apply to present their research in the EATS MA panel.

In addition, we will consider outstanding submissions in the following disciplinary areas:
1. Economics and Business
2. Anthropology and Religion
3. Politics, Law and International Relations
4. History and Geography
5. Cultural and Area Studies

Please submit a 250-300 word abstract by 30 November 2008. Please e-mail your abstract to

We will announce the accepted abstracts on 24 December 2008.

Participants who present papers and affiliated with European institutions will be eligible for travel grants. Details will be announced.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Economic Round-up

At last the sigh of recession: the land
Wells from the water, the beasts depart, the man
Whose shocked speech must conjure a landscape
As of some country where the dead years keep
A circle of silence, a drying vista of ruin,
Musters himself, rises, and stumbling after
The dwindling beasts, under the all-colored
Paper rainbow, whose arc he sees as promise...
-- WS Merwin

Ma save us! The Recession Monster cometh, as the newspapers were all reporting yesterday:

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said that GDP shrank 1.02 percent in the third quarter from a year ago and could contract another 1.73 percent in the fourth quarter, dragging down this year's full-year growth rate to 1.87 percent, from the 4.3 percent it estimated in August.

As the economic contraction is expected to persist into the first quarter of next year, the DGBAS slashed its GDP growth forecast for next year by more than half to 2.12 percent from the 5.08 percent it predicted in August in the face of slumping exports and tight consumer spending.
Party time is over: in 2006, 2007, and 2008 economic growth rates accelerated, and in just six months since Ma has been elected, growth rates have plummeted to a seven year low. Great work by my two favorite Administrations, those of Ma and Bush. Reality has also hit Ma's promises on Chinese tourists and on income:
The voucher plan is forecast to lift the economy by 0.64 percentage points next year, while Chinese tourists are expected to contribute an extra 0.5 percentage points.

The DGBAS put the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan at 3,000 a day next year — although the number averaged 273 in the third quarter and is expected to rise to 500 in the last quarter.

Annual per capita income is estimated at US$18,020 this year and to fall to US$17,651 next year, the report said.
Remember, during the election one of Ma's promises was to raise per capita income to US$30,000 annually. Then it became $30,000 eight years. At present, Ma would have to double incomes in seven years to do that. Even if we have 7% growth for the next seven years, and the population doesn't grow, we won't be able to do that.

Further observe that they are still in Cargo Cult mode -- Chinese tourists will flood in to save the economy! With Japan, an important source of tourists for Taiwan, moving into recession, Chinese tourism may become more important. Too bad things are not looking up in China either. Maybe we'll reach a thousand tourists a day....

The driver of growth here for the last few years has been tech exports. Sure enough, "Taiwan's tech sector in peril", says the NYTimes in the International Herald Tribune.
The souring world economy has spotlighted the weaknesses in Taiwan's semiconductor and flat-panel screen industries, which trail rivals from South Korea and Japan in technology, customer base, scale and currency valuation. The shortfall has become particularly evident during the recent supply glut and, now, a decline in orders from the United States and Europe.

Some Taiwanese technology companies remain in good shape to ride out the downturn. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. , or TSMC, retains a leading edge in chip-making technology, for example, and contract electronics giants like Hon Hai are somewhat insulated by their big economies of scale.

But the smaller players in lower-margin businesses are vulnerable, analysts say, companies like the memory-chip maker ProMOS and the flat-panel makers Chi Mei Optoelectronics and Chunghwa Picture Tubes.

For now, the gravest concern is focused on memory-chip makers. Taiwanese firms account for 40 percent of worldwide production of latest-generation dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, chips, compared with 30 percent to 35 percent for South Korean companies, according to the market researcher DRAMeXchange, based in Taiwan.
What's the problem with the memory chip makers?

Memory-chip companies are at a disadvantage in technology, analysts say, because they lease technology from South Korean and Japanese manufacturers and in exchange provide those foreign companies with DRAM chips at below-market cost. That saves research and development and other costs in good times. But it is a punishing pricing arrangement in bad times, when memory chips are selling on the open market at below the cost of production.

"If you don't have technology, you can't drive down costs," said Joyce Yang, an analyst at DRAMeXchange.

The article gives a good look at Taiwan and some of the policy choices the government faces.

Speaking of policy, the government gave out the latest set of restrictions on the voucher plan.

Also forbidden is the use of vouchers to purchase non-business services. For instance, patients can’t use vouchers to see doctors.

“Moreover,” Chen Tain-jy, chairman of Council of Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) told the press, “nobody is allowed to buy or sell vouchers.” In other words, collection of vouchers to purchase an expensive item, such as a car, is prohibited.

Otherwise, all nationals of Taiwan, old and young, can pay for anything anywhere with their vouchers, like cash.

Even vendors are allowed to accept vouchers. You can buy a bowl of beef noodles from one of them and pay for it with one of your vouchers.

But, Chen said, licensed vendors alone can accept vouchers. All they have to do is to reuse them somewhere else where what is known as a unified invoice is issued as receipt.

Unlicensed vendors, though not officially allowed, can accept them and reuse them just like their licensed counterparts.

“You can stay in a hotel or visit a karaoke bar and pay with vouchers,” Chen said. “Of course, you can even buy gold as an investment.”

One can also purchase caregiver services; the caregiver can reuse the voucher.

Vouchers will be available in a book of nine, according to the CEPD. There will be six NT$500 vouchers and three NT$200 vouchers in a book.

" as an investment." Taoyuan Nights sent me an amused email yesterday: isn't buying investments a saving? And thus, entirely contrary to what the voucher is supposed to be doing?

Freedom House Calls for Inquiry into Clashes

Freedom House had some tough words to say on behalf of Taiwan this week (emphasis mine):

"A public investigation of the violence—which involved both sides—will send a critical message that the new government of President Ma Ying-jeou is interested in upholding the democratic values of transparency and accountability," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "The inquiry should examine evidence on both sides and recommend any needed reforms to police practices and the legal framework governing demonstrations."

Hundreds of university students are currently staging a sit-in in Taipei's Freedom Square and several other cities to protest the government's handling of the incident. During Chen’s visit, police reportedly used heavy-handed tactics—including physical assault, arbitrary detention and destruction of property—to prevent Chen from seeing symbols of Taiwanese or Tibetan independence, as well as broader demonstrations against the Chinese regime. Demonstrators also employed violence against police, throwing rocks and petrol bombs outside Chen's hotel on November 6.

The clashes reveal a need for police to undergo crowd control training that adheres to the standards used in other democracies. Likewise, demonstrators and political advocacy groups must recommit themselves to orderly protests that avoid violence under any circumstances.

The inquiry commission should examine controversial passages in Taiwan's Assembly and Parade Law, such as restrictions on where people are allowed to demonstrate, and determine whether they need to be liberalized to protect citizens' rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The commission should also investigate claims that police are selectively enforcing the law.

The visit by Chen, the most senior Chinese official to visit Taiwan since it split from China in 1949, and the recent arrests of several opposition party figures are raising concerns that that President Ma and his Kuomintang Party may rollback democratic freedoms.

They hit on everything -- police behavior, student protests, general fears about democracy. Nice work, guys.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daily Links, Nov 20, 2008

So what's being sprayed across the blogs out there?
  • Chinese Consumer Connection, Clyde Warden's podcasts on marketing in local culture, with a certain pudgy, balding blogger on marketing wine in Taiwan, and with Robert Reynolds holding forth in an excellent podcast on centralization vs deregulation in the educational system and elsewhere in local society.

  • Interview with Taiwanese-American actor Kevin Yu.

  • Fili on hong kong myths.

  • The China Beat on the Wild Strawberries.

  • The Mouse-Eared Kiwi does SYS.

  • Patrick on an old Tainan treat.

  • The Foreigner on the Obama Administration.

  • Old Taiwan photos from LIFE.

  • Latin American blog looks at Taiwan's struggle to maintain its "allies" in the Americas.

  • A-gu argues Ma does not want to sell out Taiwan to China, but will unintentionally.

  • D. Corey confronts Chinese students in America bent on stamping out pro-Taiwan statements.

  • Robert long and eloquent on the health care system here and the barbarism that is the US system.

  • Jerome on Annette Lu's statement on the recent detentions.

  • Stephanie at Tea Masters blogs on Da Yu Ling Oolong.

  • Mark goes to the same baseball game I did.

  • David on human rights here.

  • The Wild East: Revolutionary Agriculture right outside Taipei.

  • Everything of Niao-sung, photos of a small town in southern Taiwan, in English and in Chinese. A labor of love.

  • Kelake on micro-blogs.

  • The China Beat on the growing mess in China. Will nationalism + depression = war?

  • MEDIA: A very garbled view of Taiwan's history from Romania. An essay from a mainlander who discovers she is a global citizen in one of China's representative offices in the US. China says US is "needling" China with arms sales to Taiwan. US moves 60% of sub fleet to Pacific to offset China's growing threat. Who are the other 40% aimed at? And isn't China our benevolent strategic partner? An interview with the new Taiwan representative to Japan. Way cool: Taiwan, Lockheed in OTEC project in Hawaii. 29 Taiwanese fishermen missing after burnt out boat found off NZ. Adult children of foreigners to be able to stay in Taiwan. Because Taipei consumes a wildly disproportionate share of the nation's budget, other places are combining together to become "special municipalities" or "special regions" like Taipei. Now Kaohsiung is thinking about it. Giant economic stimulus on the way. Taiwan economy contracts in the 3rd quarter. Chen Shui-bian hospitalized. Call President stupid, get 30 days off.

    EVENTS: Don't forget, Tuesday Heritage hosts Dr. Shieh to talk about his experiences in an apparent political prosecution.

    Obama's New Policy Team: Sutphen

    Obama's new White House Deputy Chief of Staff is Mona Sutphen, who works for Stonebridge International, the big consulting firm that does a rousing business with China. Here is an article she co-wrote from a year ago in the LA Times. It gives a good idea of how the US foreign policy establishment views China, and probably the major premises of an Obama foreign policy. An excerpt:

    Embrace China
    The burgeoning powerhouse often is painted as a threat to the U.S. It should be viewed more as a partner.

    By Nina Hachigian and Mona Sutphen
    December 22, 2007


    John Q. Public has it more right than the politicos. America’s relationship with China is not zero-sum. Like other world powers – India, Russia, Japan and the European Union – China is more partner than threat. Many of our security interests overlap.

    China actually helps us protect our shores from radiological terrorist attacks by allowing the U.S. to station inspectors in the ports of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the key departure points for more than 3 million shipping containers headed to the West Coast each year. Like it or not, we also rely on China – ground zero for avian influenza and other potential pandemics – to spot and contain outbreaks. Without Beijing’s deep involvement and cooperation, the U.S. will never persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Together, the U.S. and China represent both the problem and the solution to the global climate crisis.

    As it gains influence, China no doubt will continue to give solace to America’s detractors, such as Hugo Chavez, and to derail U.S. plans that do not further its interests, as in the case of U.N. sanctions against Iran. But China is not a direct military threat, nor could it be for decades to come. Moreover, because China and the U.S. posses nuclear weapons, mutual deterrence will discourage a clash, as it did during the Cold War. Even with the status of Taiwan, which remains the most dangerous flash point, there is ample room for peaceful outcomes. Direct confrontation between the U.S. and China could certainly occur – it would not be the first time a war made no sense – but what a disaster that would be for the world economy and global stability.

    Even on the economic front, where the news is full of reports of how China manipulates its currency, buys our companies and takes our jobs, the big picture is positive. Overall, its economic growth buoys our own. Trade with China has been responsible for measurable if modest growth in our GDP. Morgan Stanley estimates that China’s cheap exports have extended the paychecks of low-income Americans to the tune of $600 billion over 10 years.

    Many of the criticisms don’t really hold up. All of foreign outsourcing is only responsible for about 2% of the jobs lost in the U.S. If the U.S. is to avert recession, it will be in part because of the dynamism of economies like China’s – and because the Chinese are willing to invest in American companies.

    Finally, China is not an ideological competitor. It doesn’t have a coherent ideology to export even if it wanted to, beyond, perhaps, “Show me the money.” Beijing trades with despicable regimes, but it certainly isn’t alone in that regard. We rightly deplore how China represses its citizens, and the U.S. should call Beijing to task forcefully, but we have to acknowledge that our leverage to influence its internal political evolution is very limited.

    We cannot rule out that China will become a hostile aggressor one day, and our military must stay prepared for that distant threat. For now, though, the challenge is this: How can we channel China’s energy into solving the raft of pressing global problems? How can we get Beijing to pay for the privilege of having a seat at the big power table?

    China’s growth will cause some Americans to lose their jobs or get paid less. But it is America’s job to ensure that our working class is equipped to deal with these disruptions – not China’s. And it is America’s job to address the problems that hamper our nation’s ability to thrive in a world with multiple strong powers: our broken education system, expensive and inadequate healthcare, budget deficit, crumbling infrastructure and an addiction to oil. All these are problems we have to solve ourselves.

    In an election year, it is always tempting for politicians to point the finger at another country. But American voters shouldn’t buy it. We should stay focused on the country we have the power to change.
    China is our partner -- like Japan and the European Union! Wowweee!

    It is not our ideological competitor because it has no ideology to export, claims Sutphen. Which misses the point that China, and our willingness to do business with it while ignoring its odious authoritarianism, simply legitimates other political regimes which are open for business as authoritarian governments. China floating by itself in space somewhere may not have an exportable political ideology, but when we let it into the international system, that most certainly provides support for a certain political ideology -- one which constantly undermines our authority as a beacon of democracy. If Obama intends to restore our moral authority in the world, taking a strong position on human rights in China would be a good start. But we all know that nothing of the sort will happen during the Obama administration, just as it didn't during any of the six previous administrations.

    MEDIA: Note the LA Times blurb on them:
    Nina Hachigian is a director for California at the Center for American Progress. Mona Sutphen is a managing director at the business consulting firm Stonebridge International. They co-wrote the forthcoming book “The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise.”
    The LA Times manages to mention that Sutphen works for Stonebridge without mentioning that its major business focus is.....China. Sutphen is one of many Obama Asia staffers who work for that firm.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Vouching toward Bedlam

    The US Postal Service annexes Taiwan to China. Was there a change in policy I missed?

    The voucher plan details are slowly emerging, showing how the government plans to shower cash all over Taiwan....

    Under the plan, by Lunar New Year on Jan. 24 each citizen can receive vouchers worth a total of NT$3,600 from his or her household registration office by showing documents that prove citizenship.

    The expiration date of the vouchers will be Dec. 31 next year, while the face amount of each voucher note has yet to be determined.

    Liu said that the program did not exclude the wealthy because it is designed to “stimulate more consumption to get the economy going” and “not to provide social assistance.”

    “Wealthy people or people who are not in need of the vouchers can get a tax break by donating the vouchers to charities,” Liu said.

    The government expected to see an increase of 0.64 percent in next year’s GDP based on the assumption that all the vouchers are used to purchase goods and services and are not converted to cash and deposited in bank accounts.

    We taxpayers but non-citizens cannot get one. Noting that the voucher plan has to get around laws that sensibly limit public debt to capital expenditures -- in other words, debt that creates useful stuff. One legislator noted:

    The KMT administration has already allocated NT$300 billion to source its 12 major construction projects in debt financing, and it proposed an NT$82.9 billion budget for the coupon plan, so the government will have around NT$400 billion in debt financing only six months in office, Tsai said.

    A number of groups, including the DPP, have argued that a cash gift or tax credit might be better idea. The vouchers are only usable at legally registered businesses, so many small businesses will be left in the cold. The Taipei Times pointed out:

    The KMT marketed Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as an economic wunderkind when he and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) ran for office. With Taiwan facing a serious global and domestic economic challenge, how ironic it is that tough times should feature yesterday’s men sprouting confused policies.

    The other irony is that the KMT legislative caucus recently denied the Democratic Progressive Party caucus a tax cut, saying that there wasn’t enough money. Now it is saying that there is enough money — in the form of mounting debt for our children — and all this during a global financial earthquake.
    Isn't it good to know "the adults are in charge"? And why are we taking on debt to spark the economy -- isn't our lurch toward China supposed to result in a rain of Chinese investment to stimulate growth? Guess the Chinese tourists are all flying Amelia Earhart Airlines.... If the KMT Administration were a fish, it would be flounder.

    Even more confusing are the rules. My wife and I read with vast amusement one set of explanations from a media outlet that said you couldn't sell them (but you could give them away) while another media outlet said that there would be no problem selling them through internet auction. Could criminals use them? The rabidly Blue United Daily News posed this question as "Could Chen Shui-bian use them? -- Yes." So much for journalistic detachment.

    If a stimulus is desired, a much greater effect could be had simply by spending the quatloos on infrastructure. Effects vary, but at the end of the day, infrastructure spending leaves the economy with useful things like roads, bridges, and ports that continue to generate economic activity years into the future. The voucher plan? Our kids will be paying the interest on it, years into the future.

    UPDATE: Enjoy this fellow with eight wives and 32 kids, getting $150K worth of vouchers.

    Strawberry Fils Forever

    The Wild Strawberries student movement, still ongoing, has three demands -- an apology from President Ma, resignations of the police and security chiefs, and amending of the Assembly and Parade Law. The first two are highly unlikely to occur, but the third was a possibility. A few days ago the KMT had a caucus which they billed as an "open forum" at which some "NGOs" appeared...
    Although they agreed that the pre-approval system has its defects and should be replaced with a pre-notice system, many KMT lawmakers were still worried the change could bring social chaos.

    “The pre-approval system could be changed to the pre-notice system, but there should still be some kind of application and check process,” KMT Legislator Wu Ching-chih (吳清池) told the public hearing. “For the sake of social stability, adequate restrictions should still be implemented, otherwise [demonstrations] may lead to anarchic situations. It’s very dangerous.”

    The chairwoman of the Taipei International Cultural Exchange Association for Professional Women, Ling Yu-ying (凌瑜英), expressed strong opposition to amending the Assembly and Parade Law.
    With "social opinions" like this, you can imagine the results, reported by the Wild Strawberries in their press release of Nov 18:
    The Executive Yuan has raised the issue of revisions to the Assembly and Parade Law recently. However, the new version adopts a “compulsory notification system” whose content preserves restrictions including “assembling without notification is illegal”, “establishing forbidden areas”, “police have the right to alter the time, place, and form of the parade”, “the police can command dissolution of the parade without explicit standards”, and “the criminal and administrative sanctions relating to assembly”. Namely, the revision contains no practical improvements, only the change of name from “permission” to “notification”.
    I am reminded of the period right after martial law was lifted, when the KMT passed a new national security law that was martial law in all but name. Hopefully the DPP and concerned KMT lawmakers can move to make meaningful revisions to the law.

    Meanwhile the Strawberries, numbers dwindling, are planning to build a "strawberry tower." I stopped by the NCKU protests on Monday and was told that parents are putting lots of pressure on the students in the university not to participate. "Concerned parents" are also bombarding the counseling center with demands that the counselors do something about the "mentally ill "students demonstrating. I do know a few students whose parents encouraged them to get out and do something. Public support has been overwhelming, with many stopping by to leave donations of food and equipment. The students have become a cause of "chaos" and like any cause of distortion in the social order, the pressure gradient to conform becomes steeper as time passes. One of the many bizarre bits of fallout from the definition of order in Chinese society is that peaceful student demonstrators are a cause of "social disorder", but mad drivers and construction vehicles blocking streets are of no concern...