Saturday, January 31, 2009

New Years Photo Roundup

The New Year's for once the weather has been great, and I've been motoring around photographing things all week. Which was good, because it's been a slow news week....

Mark Forman, the Bluesman, and your trusty writer sped around Fengyuan looking at old stuff and new stuff.

I took him past this old house from the Japanese period. Note the gunports in the wall....

The rear of the house, the old stalls where pigs and chicken were raised once.

One of the old residents, who grew up here 70 years ago and went to the local Japanese school.

Three layers of a wall exposed.

Mark took me through some of the farms in the area, owned by friends of his.

Flowers for the market.

In Fengyuan we found this Japanese period home.

...and this modern-period resident.

The streets were packed with holiday shoppers.

Sausages entice customers.

Angels guarded my path.

The temple was busy but not packed.

Dragons watched as the incense burned.

Mark spotted the odd statues on the corners -- instead of being figures from Chinese myth and history, they are dressed in western style. There was one on each side of the temple.

In the alley beside the temple is a snack market that everyone in Fengyuan knows.

It's always packed in this market.

Goodies for sale everywhere.

An old man selling snacks.

"It's delicious! Try some!"

Brilliant colors for passing strangers.

This meat ball stand is always packed.

Depression? People out of work? Can't tell from the crowded streets.

Balloons always make an excellent picture.

New Year's means family, and family means photos. My daughter and my nieces.

Of course, family also means food.

Hungry yet?

After food, the kids experiment with fireworks.

A few days later was an outing to the museums on a gorgeous winter day. First the Art Museum.

...and then the Science Museum.

...and then to Caves to look for books.

My daughter, like many other customers, reads in the bookstore.

Not everyone had a happy day: motorists disagree over just who caused the accident...

Context is everything: Sutter at GWU

The Taipei Times today reported on Bob Sutter's words at a seminar on cross-strait relations at the Elliot School at GWU in Wash DC this week:
Robert Sutter, a professor with Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, made the remark at a seminar on cross-strait relations hosted by George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Sutter bluntly said that the US could give up on Taiwan if it chose to align itself with China.

It remains to be seen whether other voices will echo the remarks made by Sutter, who once worked for the CIA and the US Department of State.

Formerly known for criticizing Taiwan for showing a lack of willingness to invest in self-defense, Sutter said that Ma’s policies had been well received in the US and that he sincerely wished Ma success.

But, he added, both the US and Taiwan should think about what would happen if the government’s policies failed.

Cross-strait relations are highly disproportional, Sutter said, adding that while some progress has been made in cross-strait economic and trade development, there have been no concessions on China’s part in the principles guiding its military, diplomatic and economic policies. While Taiwan has made a lot of concessions, it has not received a proportional response from China, Sutter said. The Ma government needs to let China see that it has backup plans in the event Beijing does not make any concessions, he said.

The new US government needs to reassess the country’s relations with Taiwan, Sutter said. He asked what the US would do if Taiwan leans toward China and discrepancies occur between the strategic goals of the US and Taiwan.

Saying that, as a superpower, the US does not need Taiwan, Sutter told the seminar that if Taiwan thought it did not need help from the US, the US could take up Taiwan issues with Japan, or even China.
These were Sutter's words, but the context is everything, and I am still digesting reports from people who were there -- Rigger's analysis was surprisingly good, and I also hope to have Don Roger's presentation for my blog too. More tomorrow when I have a clearer picture.

Sutter, Rigger, it doesn't matter who is presenting. The problem with asking questions about "Ma's cross-strait policy" is that Ma isn't making the KMT's cross-strait decisions, the KMT Old Guard is.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daily Links, Jan 29, 2009

My son launches the Year of the Ox with fireworks.... Who's shooting off on the blogs today?

  • The China Beat calls for a truth and reconciliation commission for Taiwan as the guard of honor is reinstated in front of the Dead Dictator Memorial and the old plaque is returned. Good luck, Paul, I remember fruitless discussions of that I had back in 1991.

  • DEMO! argues that Jimmy Lai is an example to Taiwan businessmen.

  • Global Voices rounds up some of the info on the massive gas leak in Daliao.

  • Steve Crook and an animal activist discuss the Buddhist habit of mercy releases.

  • Fili explores Buddhism in Puli

  • Scott on the Examination Yuan under the KMT

  • Brian's erotic hypnosis discount expires Feb 1.

  • Remember, David has monday's links

  • CleverCLAIRE finds joy in KMT surveys

  • Taiwan Link on envisioning Taiwan's future

  • Lee Ming-tao's photos at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

  • Conspicuous consumption in Taiwan

  • Can't get along in Taiwan? Ask Roseanne!

  • MEDIA: Cambodia says no Taiwan officials allowed. Heritage Foundation with an excellent analysis of why China's growth figures are absurd. Taiwan's debt rating falls. Control Yuan disciplines military over the Taiwan Goal affair. Indian National Bose, who died in Taiwan in 1945, makes the news again. A 96 hour run kicks off in Taichung. Asia Times peeks into China's military mind. At least one of the weird UFO house sites in Taiwan is going to be rebuilt. It's true: technology makes you dumber. Maioli Hakka culture park to open in 2011. Now Hakkas can have their own kitsch history too! Except for being powerless, spineless, and a regional administrator, Ma Ying-jeou is exactly like Hu Jin-tao: he says that his administration "lead the world in coming up with a shopping-voucher program through which each citizen was given NT$3,600 in shopping vouchers to encourage them to spend more." That's more or less a quote folks -- I'll give you a moment to re-assemble your brains which I know have just exploded. Taipei Mayor Hau apologizes for the Makong Gondola flaws. Officials seize illegal animal products from China -- somehow they missed the pandas, though. Yet another forecast of basically 0% growth here for 2009. Reuters on the cross strait flights not being a bonanza. What a shock!

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Language Study: Polynesian Islanders Originated on Taiwan

    When people say "cradle of civilization" they usually mean the Levant, or the great river valleys of China. But Taiwan was the cradle of a very great civilization, that of the Polynesian explorers, who settled the Pacific in one of the great feats of navigation and migration in human history....Science Daily has the story:
    "Our results use cutting-edge computational methods derived from evolutionary biology on a large database of language data," says Dr Alexei Drummond of the Department of Computer Science. "By combining biological methods and linguistic data we are able to investigate big-picture questions about human origins".

    The results, published in the latest issue of the journal Science, show how the settlement of the Pacific proceeded in a series of expansion pulses and settlement pauses. The Austronesians arose in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago. Before entering the Philippines, they paused for around a thousand years, and then spread rapidly across the 7,000km from the Philippines to Polynesia in less than one thousand years. After settling Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, the Austronesians paused again for another thousand years, before finally spreading further into Polynesia eventually reaching as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island.
    The Science Daily site also provides links to several other articles in a similar vein.

    Adm Blair, Obama's Intel Guy, Testimony on Taiwan

    A friend passed me this:

    Questions for the Record for Admiral Dennis Blair
    upon nomination to be Director of National Intelligence
    January 22, 2009

    QUESTION: A number of negative comments about United States policy towards Taiwan have been attributed to you in the past—I believe at one time, you referred to Taiwan as the “turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations.” Since you retired, however, you have consistently spoken and written about the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act as a solid foundation for American policy in the region. You have also said in recent years that you believe that that policy is good for both Taiwan and China. What is your view on U.S. policy towards Taiwan?

    Answer: It is absolutely incorrect that I ever referred to Taiwan itself as the "turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations." Whoever gave this account to the press was maliciously attempting to portray me as a supporter of China at the expense of Taiwan. I did in fact use the too-colorful phrase "tossing a turd in the punchbowl" in a closed meeting in 2000, but the phrase referred to a specific action by a former Taiwanese government that had been taken without consulting the United States, that had led to a confrontation between the United States and China that neither had sought, and that did not benefit Taiwan. My characterization referred to a single, specific action by the Taiwanese government, certainly not Taiwan itself.

    I have never made negative comments about United States policy towards Taiwan in the past. I have stated opinions about statements and actions of particular American officials and administrations which I believed to be inconsistent with American policy, but I have always believed and stated that the Taiwan Relations Act is a solid foundation for American policy towards Taiwan. When I was CINCPAC, I took my specific responsibilities under the TRA seriously, and since I retired I have continued to believe and say that this legislation provides a sound basis for U.S. policy.

    QUESTION: If confirmed as the DNI, how do you intend to shape intelligence collection priorities in this region?

    ANSWER: If confirmed as DNI, I intend to place a priority on both China and Taiwan. As the TRA states, it is American policy that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means. American intelligence must understand the prospects and opportunities for a peaceful progress so that we can reinforce it. On the other hand, American intelligence must provide warning of a potential crisis or conflict in China-Taiwan relations so that we can take timely and well informed action.


    Sorry, I don't know what 2000 event he refers to. Blair has been widely painted as a panda hugger, and the first question appears to be a softball question designed to elicit a refutation of that claim.

    UPDATE: Some excellent comments below.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Tuesday News Round-up

    Sloooow news day here, as everyone is travelling to return to mom's house for Chinese New Year. Locally based Asia correspondent Jon Adams has an interesting article in CS Monitor this week discussing a Filipino worker activist in the Philippines, against the background of the economic crisis:

    In her office in this hectic part of Manila, Connie Regalado paints signs for a rally the following day. Her latest cause: calling on the government to do more for overseas Filipino workers who are losing their jobs due to the global economic slump.

    A couple days earlier, she and other activists went to the airport to pick up 82 such workers, who flew from Taiwan at their own expense. They'd been axed from semiconductor-factory and other low-end jobs, victims of downsizing. The government was also at the airport, boasting of "one-stop shop" services for the workers, inviting them to the presidential palace, even offering them an appearance on a TV game show.

    Ms. Regalado wasn't impressed. "It's a sham," said Regalado. "The 'one-stop shop' services aren't even palliative measures. There's no comprehensive plan to address the problem."

    That no-nonsense approach has guided Regalado over nearly two decades of activism. Cynical yet committed to social justice, Regalado has dedicated much of her adult career to improving the working conditions, political voice, and basic rights of overseas Filipino workers.

    People like this woman are an inspiration. He observes, further down, that more than 11,000 Filipino workers here in Taiwan can expect the ax this year as the cataclysm depression downturn deepens.

    A Taiwanese exchange student was injured in US shooting incident. That will do wonders for those worried parents who are scared to send their children to the US. Speaking of the US, while the Washington Post has had precious little on the Chen Shui-bian trial and the associated hu-ha in the international rights community, it does devote plenty of space to (yet another) I Went To The Temple For New Years travel tale. Isn't it time this subgenre was retired?

    Happy news? Taiwan companies scoop up record number of awards in international design competition.

    Companies from Taiwan won a total of 201 design awards in 2008 from global organizations such as red dot and International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) after winning 133 in 2007, according to the Taiwan Design Center (TDC).

    ....if only there was someone buying our innovative products out there. On the other hand, our DRAM makers are taking another big hit from Qimonda, a German chip firm which died owing Taiwan DRAM makers over a billion US dollars for products supplied.

    There have been a spate of articles on the alleged tougher line Obama will take with China (like this AP one) but as Bonnie Glaser noted in that article:

    "Everybody just needs to be a little patient on this," Glaser said. "I would not draw any premature conclusions that the administration has decided to take a tougher stance....

    The Taipei Times editorializes on what Taiwan would like to say to Obama...

    Finally, the South China Morning Post, usually reliably pro-KMT, called for a fair trial for Chen Shui-bian.

    The island is deeply divided over its relations with the mainland. Throughout his eight years as president, Chen espoused independence, and there is still much support in Taiwan for such a move. His successor, Ma Ying-jeou, has been instrumental in bringing about closer ties with Beijing since taking office in May. The charges against Chen are, in the circumstances, seen by his backers as being political rather than criminal.

    Taiwan's judicial system has long been criticised by human rights advocates. They have questioned the arrests and detention of other members of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party. Prosecutors have leaked sensitive information that has led to trial by media. Sectors of society are suspicious of the impartiality of some judges, even though the judiciary has repeatedly asserted its independence.

    There is no doubt that yesterday's guilty pleas damage the cause of the Chen family and others tied up in the corruption scandal. There is no more powerful evidence against a person than his or her own admission of guilt. But we may yet find that the pleas are part of a wider strategy. One strand of Confucian teaching advocates that family members must protect one another, no matter what the circumstances, but another says that justice must precede kinship. Many months of the case remain and only time will tell.

    Whatever the reason for the pleas, it is essential that justice is seen to be done. Politics must not have any part in the trials. Every effort has to be made to show that Taiwan has an independent judiciary. Only through the impartiality of judges and the transparency of the legal system can this happen. Taiwan's future depends on it.

    Of course the charges are political, and of course Chen is a lawbreaker. That, in a nutshell, is the problem.... but if the friends of the KMT are coming out with stuff like this (note that even SCMP uses the phrase "trial by media"), the perception is widespread that the trial is strongly politicized. The scales fell from the eyes of many when the KMT apparently removed a judge it didn't like.... or more likely, they faced an event that could not be spun or explained away.

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Blue-stained translations?

    Just enjoying this Washington Post article, this article on the mind-boggling growth of China's hydropower system and carbon emissions, and the gorgeously uncharacteristic New Year's weather, when my wife flipped me this piece on translation in the Liberty Times from last week. The writer argues that the China Times translations are biased, complaining about the translations of Jerome Cohen's letter condeming the swap of judges a couple of weeks ago in the Chen case, and observing that the translator appears to have softened criticisms of the KMT:


    Kong Jie Rong paid great attention to the development of the Chen case.He felt that the custody decision of the Court to detain Chen Shui-bian, is obvious "violation" of Article No. 653, but asked the "contradictions" over a sum. As for changing "adverse evidence" to "evidence of a crime", that is not only unprofessional, but also exposes the "darkness" in [his?] heart.

    So I went to check myself. The China Times translation and the English text are both here. In addition to some reparagraphing of Cohen's text, there's an interesting change in the second paragraph....

    ...The vibrant democracy for which so many in Taiwan have struggled is in trouble. Corruption threatens the integrity of the political system. This cancer cannot be controlled without a credible, fair and transparent judicial system to enforce the law....


    ....where it appears that strong English word cancer has been replaced with weaker trouble. Is this systematic? After all, the translator had no trouble retaining the word corruption though the reader might well see that as a reference to Chen. In that same paragraph....

    ...Their convictions after proceedings perceived to be fair would vindicate the values of clean government, deter potential wrongdoers and heighten confidence in courts that began to free themselves from decades of authoritarian Kuomintang government fewer than 20 years ago....


    The phrase decades of has disappeared from the text although autocratic was retained.

    Further down the translator appears to have mislaid the word embezzle:

    The battle between Taipei District Court Judge Chou Chan-chun's three-judge panel - which twice took the unusual step of ordering Chen's release without bail, pending trial - and Taiwan's High Court - which twice reversed that decision - only ended when the case against the Chen group, originally assigned by lot to Judge Chou's panel, was merged into the earlier prosecution of Chen's wife for embezzling special state funds.

    兩度裁定無保釋放陳的台北地 院周占春庭長的專庭與兩度駁回該庭裁定的台灣高等法院之間的爭議,以將經由抽籤分配給周庭長專庭審理的陳案之眾多公訴合併於蔡守訓庭長的專庭審理之陳與其 妻吳淑珍侵占國務機要費案作終結。

    ....which in the Chinese has now been replaced by invading and occupying the state funds. Moving on, Cohen's next paragraph notes:

    The dilemmas of a defendant's detention before final conviction plague every country. More distinctive to Taiwan are the unresolved mysteries surrounding the recent merger of the Chen group's case into the embezzlement case brought against his wife in 2006 - a time when Chen, although involved, still enjoyed presidential immunity from prosecution.


    The last sentence -- a time when Chen, although involved, still enjoyed presidential immunity from prosecution -- is completely missing, no doubt to save space, but then some of the mystery that Cohen identifies is reduced.

    Anyone can compare the two pieces, and there's plenty of stuff in there. Further on Cohen writes:

    Was this entire non-transparent process the court's response to angry public criticism of Judge Chou?


    Note how the Chinese translation completely drops angry public criticism and substitutes instead some of the media and KMT legislators strong criticism.

    As the writer of the Liberty Times case notes, there are too many of these to count, but he ends by saying:


    ....the messed-up translation of a question does not admit the politicization of Taiwan's judiciary: "Did any politician intimidate the court with secret threats?" was translated "Did any politician coerce the court?" Why did the word "secret"

    The entire China Times translation of that sentence reads: 有無政治人物脅迫該法院對案件為如此安排?"Secret" has indeed gone missing.

    As bonus for this week's translation puzzle hounds, in the Chinese of passage in Chen's new book the Financial Times translated last week, does the term "fenli zhuyizhe" (splittist) occur in the Chinese of this paragraph?
    Some people believe that if Taiwan makes concessions to China , China will respond benignly. This is a very naive fantasy. China cannot remove the missiles it has aimed at Taiwan , just as under the “one China ” principle it cannot accept separate interpretations of what one China means. China 's basic attitude towards Taiwan has already been set. It cannot be changed by people in Beijing but only by the 23m people in Taiwan . I admit that I seek not just de facto independence for Taiwan but also de jure independence. Therefore the criticisms levelled at me by China and the US during my eight years in office were not groundless. Just like they said, I am a splittist. I am a seeker and practitioner of de jure independence for Taiwan.
    ....I may have identified the wrong paragraph (p189), but in Chinese that sentence says: "I am just what they say, I am a 'Taiwan independence advocate' (taidu lunzhe). "Splittist" isn't in there.

    And don't forget to enjoy another unforgettable performance from the Justice Minister in the post below this one.

    More Judiciary Circus and prisoner humiliation

    Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng did it again. At a New Year's Eve Party for prisoners -- what was the Justice Minister doing at such a thing -- she taunted the prisoners by saying that if they came up on stage and hugged the State Prosecutor General, they'd get a parole. Taiwan Echo's tape reviews the previous incident where prosecutors mocked former President Chen Shui-bian as an aids victim and drug addict. The new circus starts after 2:30 into the video.

    There's something very twisted about mocking people you have power over. Hopefully in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle she will be removed and someone more balanced will replace her. And I'll continue to enjoy laughing at all the idiots who said prior to March that electing Ma would be putting the adults in charge.

    UPDATE: Today in his New Year's Speech President Ma said:
    Cross-strait tension had also eased, he said, adding that direct cross-strait transportation links were launched, the country’s international profile had been raised to a higher level and the public again had confidence in the judiciary.
    .....and Eastasia is still at war with Oceania.

    Saturday, January 24, 2009

    The US Speaks on Taiwan

    There's been much written on potential Obama policies here in East Asia, and the international media today focused on two small indicators. The first was Treasury nominee Tim Geither, who claimed that China was manipulating the yuan, and said that is what the President believed. Does that mean a new hard line on China? Probably not, since we are now 7 or 8 presidents into our engagement with China, and most have made similar noises, yet the sacrifice of long-term US strategic and economic interests to short-term business interests and the failure to push for democracy in China has continued unabated. This "hard line" is strictly for media consumption. It will have no effect on actual policy.

    More interesting from Taiwan's point of view was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement yesterday that the US will support observer status in the WHA for Taiwan.

    The administration of US President Barack Obama will continue to support Taiwan’s efforts to gain more international space, including becoming an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a recent statement.

    The statement was made in response to an inquiry from senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Johnny Isakson of Georgia on Clinton’s stance on Taiwan’s WHA bid if she was confirmed as Washington’s top diplomat.
    Wow! Taiwan can observe an assembly! A breakthrough!

    Secretary of State Clinton said that it was important that China give a little, and observer status in the WHA, totally meaningless, will nevertheless be a tiny tiny step that all involved can celebrate as a gigantic diplomatic success. "China has given Taiwan a little space!" This will also be trumpeted by the Ma Administration as a demonstration of the wisdom of its policy of selling Taiwan out to China. A key question of WHA participation of course will be what Taiwan is called and whether it is treated as part of China, or given some quasi-independent status.

    The real indicator of Obama policy is here: Clinton echoed the Bush foreign policy line that China ought to give Taiwan a little space, and that the US supports Taiwan's entry into the WHA. The foreign policy community loves the words stability and continuity, and that is what we are going to see from the Obama administration here in East Asia.

    Also on the US front, William Lowther reports from Washington that two more US-based Taiwan experts, Randall Schriver and Michael Yahuda from my alma mater GWU, have added their names to the open letter to Ma Ying-jeou on the erosion of justice here in Taiwan:

    Two important Taiwan experts based in Washington have added their names to the open letter published in the Taipei Times earlier this week expressing concern about what they see as an erosion of justice in Taiwan.

    The new signatories are former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver and George Washington University academic Michael Yahuda.

    In the original letter a group of international academics and writers urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to order an independent inquiry into the way police squashed protests during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).
    My thanks go out to both of them.

    For those interested in the new Obama world, International Affairs Forum has their latest read on it. It's a collection of essays on major areas of the world, and major issues. The China essay is by Harvey Feldman, the former ambassador here and a longtime observer of East Asia. He notes:
    Indeed, Mr. Bush can boast in foreign affairs that he has established a vastly improved relationship with China. But it will take major and continuing efforts in both Beijing and Washington to keep that relationship from deteriorating during 2009 as economic stress builds.
    Yes, well, that "improved relationship" came at the expense of Taiwan. It's easy to sacrifice old friends to make new friends -- real success would have been improving relations with China while not sacrificing Taiwan.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Pigeon Castle

    Pigeon racing is one of the passionately followed hobbies in Taiwan, and all across the island are monumental pigeon coops expressing its enthusiastic following and reflecting its lucrative rewards. Pigeon racing in Taiwan is widely considered the most competitive in the world.

    Was out on my scooter yesterday and thought "where does this road go?" It lead me to this gigantic pigeon coop in Tanzi north of Taichung.

    The pigeons are trained to fly in circles around the coop, as you can see from this picture and the first one. In the evenings on rooftops you can often see men standing and clapping next to these structures. They are working the pigeons.

    A closer look. The pigeons inside must be worth thousands of US dollars, and the coop is adjacent to a house and guarded by local Taiwan dogs, a breed known for their territoriality.

    Rounding up the Chen Shui-bian Case

    Yesterday's non-statement by Chen family members confused many:
    Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚), and former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) brother, Wu Ching-mao (吳景茂), told a judge during a pre-trial hearing at the Taipei District Court yesterday that they might have been involved in money laundering.

    A judge has to accept a statement before it can constitute a formal plea, a court spokesman said.

    “I didn’t differentiate clearly between laundering money and handling funds,” Chen Chih-chung told reporters in the lobby of the court building after the two-hour hearing.
    If the money is left-over campaign contributions, like the Chen side claims, then maybe they didn't launder money. So this is an admission that if Chen is guilty, then they are guilty. Which we all knew anyway....but Chen condemned his family when he sent millions through their accounts and then publicly admitted he hadn't paid the proper taxes on it. Also, I'm trying to recall whether the child of Blue heavyweight, Prez, and Veep candidate James Soong was called into court when he laundered money through her account and was eventually slammed with a massive tax fine. Can't recall that.....

    Meanwhile Chen Shui-bian's daughter Chen Hsing-yu wrote a letter to the Liberty Times claiming that Frank Hsieh had a minor stroke before the election, which may have contributed to the loss, and that Dad's money had been spread around the party:
    In addition to Hsieh’s health, Chen Hsing-yu said that her father asked her to keep quiet about donations he made to DPP members.

    She said those who had accepted money from her father did not state it on their income tax returns and she was curious about where the leftover money had gone. They all swore an oath that they had never accepted money from her father.

    She said that during the authoritarian era, all DPP members had dreams and ideals, but now they “lie, fabricate stories, abandon their dreams and sell their souls” to escape the crimes they have committed or hide their mistakes.

    She said she hoped her father would never forget his dreams because they had kept his family going over the years and she was proud of him and always would be.
    It's all old news, but it was good of her to rake over the coals again as Dad goes to trial. One thing that the Chen money explained when it was revealed last year was his grip on the party, which had seemed mysterious to many on the outside, including this writer. It also puts his claim that he was not interested in money because he accepted a reduced salary while in office in a totally new light -- it's ridiculous to anoint yourself a saint because you accepted a pay cut of thousands, if you rake in millions in campaign contributions/bribes.

    Chen Shui-bian's new book, called the The Cross of Taiwan, is available in a bookstore near you. A number of excerpts are out there, including this one in the Financial Times in which Chen says China is delaying unification, and that he is -- brace yourself -- a "splittist":
    Some people believe that if Taiwan makes concessions to China , China will respond benignly. This is a very naive fantasy. China cannot remove the missiles it has aimed at Taiwan , just as under the “one China ” principle it cannot accept separate interpretations of what one China means. China 's basic attitude towards Taiwan has already been set. It cannot be changed by people in Beijing but only by the 23m people in Taiwan . I admit that I seek not just de facto independence for Taiwan but also de jure independence. Therefore the criticisms levelled at me by China and the US during my eight years in office were not groundless. Just like they said, I am a splittist. I am a seeker and practitioner of de jure independence for Taiwan.
    No kidding? Chen supports independence. Who wudda thunk it? UPDATE: Does the term "fenli zhuyizhe" (splittist) occur in the Chinese of this paragraph?

    But, saving the best for last, Taiwan News carefully discusses what the recent legal moves mean, including the non-admission from Chen's family members that they couldn't tell the difference between helping Mom schlep cash out of Taiwan, and money laundering, as well as the two new charges piled on at the last minute by the prosecutors. Read carefully:
    The expression of regret by Chen Chih-chung and spouse Huang Jui-chin for ''being unable to distinguish the line between 'handling' funds and 'money laundering'' acknowledged violations of the technical rules for offshore remittances, but left undetermined the far more significant question of whether the nearly NT$1.8 billion that they promised to return to Taiwan were legitimately ''political contributions'' as Wu has insisted or ''ill-gotten'' proceeds from ''bribes.''

    This gap is vital for the decisive question of whether Taipei District Office (TDO) prosecutors can provide ''evidence beyond a reasonable doubt'' that Chen and his associates were ''corrupt.''


    Monday's first pretrial hearing of this "trial of the century" exposed this dilemma as TPO prosecutors added two new charges against Chen to the indictment filed in November by the Special Investigation Unit of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, namely "extorting property and demanding donations using official influence" and "profiteering" in relation to the procurement of land for a high technology TFT-LCD fabrication plant in Lungtan, Taoyuan County.

    The offence of "extortion through the use of influence" of property, assets or donations is covered in Article Four of the anti-corruption statute, while Article Six contains the crime of "intending to profit" through official functions that are not under the direct supervision of the official accused in knowing violation of his or her official powers for his or her own gain or the profit of other parties.

    The original indictment regarding the Lungtan case concerned accepting bribes for the exercise of official powers and carried a sentence of seven years or more, but the charge of using influence for extortion carries an even heavier punishments of 10 years or more in jail and a maximum NT$100 million fine while the indirect profiteering charge is a felony with a sentence of five years or more.

    While permitted under the Code of Criminal Procedures, legal analysts note that the addition of these heavier offences may lack legitimacy due to the possible connection with prior agitation by pro-KMT media and because the sudden addition of these two vaguely defined charges hints that the SIU's original indictment against Chen for bribery lacks solid direct evidence.

    Chen, who filed an plea of "not guilty" to all charges Monday, has repeatedly stressed that actual decisions about government land procurements are decided by the Executive Yuan and not the Office of the President and has claimed that he supported but had no power to decide the project, which he maintains was "for the benefit of the economy."

    If Chen had did not engage in any concrete action of accepting bribes, could not directly fulfill the implicit contract of a bribe by affecting a land procurement decision or did not have any collusion with other defendants, there would seem to be scant foundation to affix a bribery conviction.
    If you've been carefully following the case, all along there have been strong indications that the prosecutors don't have a case, the most outstanding being the press conference last year in which 8 prosecutors stood to announce that they would pursue the case to the end, practically an admission that no evidence had been turned up yet.

    The Longtan deal, in which Chen was supposedly bribed to swing a deal on land for a TFT-LCD plant in Taoyuan county, has a problem: Chen wasn't the decisionmaker, the Executive Yuan was. It would be stupid of the firm to bribe Chen when lower down, and presumably less expensive, decisionmakers inside the Executive Yuan could be bought. This weakness might be excusable if it were not the marker of an apparent pattern: when Dr. Ching Shieh was accused of price-fixing and kickbacks in the Tainan Science Park damping case, he actually had no control over the price -- just as Chen had no control over the land decision. Shieh was recently acquitted, and that case too looked a lot like a political vendetta.

    Jerome Cohen, in one of his recent letters, noted that in Chinese jurisprudence the issue is not the legitimacy of the legal process but the guilt or innocence of the accused. The "trial by media" that Chen is undergoing is effective because it appeals to this cultural preference.

    Chen's real crime, of course, was beating the KMT three times in open elections, once as mayor of Taipei, and twice as President. The KMT's obsession with revenge for those defeats appears to be the force behind the prosecutions. But Chen's allegations that the KMT's alliance with Beijing against Taiwan democracy is also driving things should be taken seriously: by exploring the special funds of the President, a good idea of who the DPP administration was giving money to in China will emerge -- and of course, now that the personal finances of Chen have been thoroughly explored, a pretty clear picture of the DPP's donor base must have been developed. Keep in mind that there's more to this than just a mere vendetta aimed at the ex-President of the other party....

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Daily Links, Jan 22, 2009

    What's being prepared in the blogworld today?
  • My friend Greg goes to a nature reserve in Taiwan in search of the rare clouded leopard.

  • A new Taiwanese travel site by a resident of Taichung.

  • Everyone is blogging on Iphones being big in Taiwan

  • Menu pages from the Sea Dragon Club way back when.

  • Laowiseass on old world losers

  • Voucher blogging from The Bushman, Ni Howdy, and of course, oops! who wudda thunk it? Vouchers go missing. At Global Post, good article from Jon Adams.

  • Good essay on the great Sinologist John Francis

  • Daily Bubble Tea goes to Cingjing Farm

  • Steve Crook with tale of Siraya language activist Jimmy Huang... and the list of museums in Taiwan.

  • A-gu has latest stats on foreign marriages in Taiwan

  • Fili with gorgeous pics and narrative of Chinese opera and music in Taipei

  • As Taiwan Matters notes, in China, down is up: Taiwan threatens China. Far Eastern Sweet Potato shakes his head at a similar piece from Bloomberg.

  • The Real Taiwan becomes another who finds the true meaning of Christmas in Taiwan

  • US Defense Command gives personal recollections of Carter's decision to switch the PRC here and here.

  • Kelake finds a new park in Hsinchu.
  • MEDIA: Manthorpe on the danger of getting close to China. Taiwan to get international health notifications direct from the WHO. New certification rules for all agricultural products. Greatest credit card data breach in history.... Taiwan DRAM makers in merger, bailout talks. Not News: A convicted KMT heavyweight is given bail before conviction (read: chance to flee). News: he is actually taken back into custody. Cool: Taiwanese extort money from pigeon owners -- and use pigeons to pick up ransoms. "Democracy Memorial Hall" plaque to be removed and replaced with Nameinflux Hall Dead Dictator Memorial Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. Record numbers filing for unemployment. CNN Ireport on the Chen trial. The French open an R&D center in Kaohsiung. Special transportation services for the crowds expected to ooh and ahh as the Capitulationist Raccoons at the Taipei Zoo eat....and sleep. Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Lai warns of the perils of massive Chinese imports -- no shit, sherlock, that is why every country around China restricts Chinese exports to itself. Beijing wants US to stop selling weapons to Taiwan. Lots of stuff out there on Chen Shui-bian case... post tomorrow.

    PUBLICATIONS: The latest Taiwan Communique is hot off the press: President Barack Obama takes office... What policies to pursue?... The KMT's political vendetta against the DPP... No fair trial for Chen Shui-bian... Scholars and writers reiterate concern... Ma administration rejects independent commission... "Wild Strawberry" students continue protest... Members of Congress write President Bush... A Trail of broken promises, by Prof. Don Rodgers... China's economic tailspin, by Gerrit van der Wees... Taiwan's endangered pink dolphins by Christina MacFarquhar, Taiwan... In memoriam Senator Claiborne Pell, by Tom Hughes... Taiwan's Statesman, Lee Teng-hui and Democracy by Richard Kagan, reviewed by Jerome Keating...

    EVENTS: Sanba Party: Aboriginal Invitational Live Music in Pingtung County
    Get ready for 2 nights of great music at the Aboriginal Invitational
    in Pingtung county.
    Visit the event listing on our site for all the details:
    Date: 1/26 & 1/27
    (Monday and Tuesday - 1st and 2nd day of Chinese New Year)

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Third Scholars Letter, Addressed to President Ma

    The third letter from the group of scholars...


    We the undersigned, scholars and writers from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, consider ourselves long-time supporters of a democratic Taiwan. We write to express our concern regarding the erosion of the judicial system in Taiwan during the past few months.

    On two previous occasions we have publicly expressed our concerns to Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), but the minister’s responses are troubling in their persistent failure to acknowledge that there even is a problem, and in their attitude of denial that the judicial process is flawed and partial. We trust that our raising our concerns with you as president will be treated as advice from international supporters of Taiwan’s democracy who care deeply about the country and its future as a free and democratic nation.

    First we may mention the fact that your administration has not yet acted upon recommendations — made both by Freedom House and Amnesty International — to conduct an independent inquiry into the events surrounding the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), and in particular the police behavior and infringements on basic freedoms. The establishment of a scrupulously neutral commission is essential if there is to be a fair and objective conclusion on the disturbances that occurred during the Chen Yunlin visit.....

    (Complete text in Taipei Times)

    UPDATE: Taiwan Documents is hosting the letter permanently. Too late for publication of the letter, Prof. Michael Yahuda of George Washington University also signed.

    Visiting the sins of the father on the children: inherited debt

    The recent news on inherited debt shows a very classic Taiwan problem -- a bad situation is identified, the law is "reformed", but the problem remains. The Taipei Times writes today:

    Despite amendments to the Civil Code last year to prevent children from inheriting debt, the Taiwan Fund for Families and Children (TFCF) found that more than 90 percent of children born into debt continued to suffer.

    “We had hoped that children would be spared the burden of inherited debt from deceased family members when the limited inheritance clause was added to the Civil Code on Jan. 4 last year,” TFCF executive director Miguel Wang (王明仁) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday. “A year has passed and sadly most children born into debt are still suffering from it.”

    The amendment stipulates that an inheritor may apply for a waiver within three months of a family member’s death if the deceased had more debt than assets. He or she can also only pay off a debt equivalent to the inherited assets.
    In 2007 the TFCF had predicted the laws, revised late in 2007, did not go far enough:
    More than 70 percent of people would still be living with inherited debt even if a proposed amendment to the Civil Code is passed, members of Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) said during a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

    According to an amendment to the Civil Code that passed its first reading at the legislature last week, people under the age of 20 will be automatically entitled to "limited debt inheritance" -- meaning that they would only have to repay any debts they have inherited by using the assets they have inherited, not from their own pocket.

    The proposed amendment to the code also applies for three years retroactively.

    The Civil Code allows "limited debt inheritance," but only if the person inheriting the debt makes a request within three months of the benefactor's death.

    "However, most people are ignorant of the law and they only find out they are in debt when they are pursued by creditors," TFCF social works division director Chou Hui-hsiang (周慧香) told the news conference.

    A survey of more than 1,700 households by the organization showed that 24.6 percent of children under 18 are more than NT$500,000 in debt and almost 80 percent of those indebted children are currently attending junior high school or younger.

    The revisions, passed in Dec of 2007, permitted limited relief, but were not made retroactive for persons whose family members had served as guarantors of debt. In an extreme case profiled in the article above, a Tsinghua student discovered in 2007 that he was liable for a debt contracted by his uncle in 1976, now worth over $50 million NT on 30 years of interest, because his father had stood as guarantor. Taiwan Review discussed the changes:

    Previously, the Civil Code stipulated that an heir must assume all rights and obligations pertaining to the property of the deceased. Activist groups and legislators claim it is unfair for people to be responsible for a debt that they did not incur, resulting in the creation of social injustice. The problem is that if heirs were not notified of the death, or did not know they had to take certain legal actions to waive the debts, they would be unwittingly responsible. This usually happens to economically disadvantaged women and their children, Legislator Huang Sue-ying pointed out in a Nov. 7 news conference, calling attention to this issue. Lin Lu-hong, the president of Taiwan Women's Link quoted an example of a 6-year-old boy sued by a bank that lent about US$10,000 to his recently deceased mother. Research conducted by the TFCF in November this year showed that one in five economically disadvantaged families have fallen victim to inherited debts.

    Another beneficial amendment stipulates that if one had been guarantor of others' debts, his or her heir only has to satisfy creditors to the value of the property acquired in the inheritance. According to the previous Civil Code, if a parent acted as the guarantor of a friend's debt, but the friend fled abroad to avoid repayment, the child would bear full responsibility. However, the new amendments do not apply if the debtor evades the debt while the guarantor is still alive.

    Despite all the reforms, crushing debt remains. An underreported issue is the connivance of banks: a few years ago the mother of a student of mine stole her ID and chop and went to five different banks and contracted for five credit cards, which she promptly maxed out, leaving her daughter deeply in debt. Hard to imagine how this woman, obviously much older than the ID, was permitted to contract for debt in her daughter's name, without the active cooperation of bank officials. In this case, the banks fought even these milquetoast revisions.....

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009


    Last week my friend Emily took me to the best burger joint in Taipei, Forkers (佛客). Address: 8, Alley 10, Ln 223, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, 台北市忠孝東路四段223巷10弄8號 (02) 2771-9285).

    Here is one of the appetizers, fresh-made nacho chips and mozzarella and artichoke dip. Yum.

    This is Joe, the friendly proprietor of Forkers.

    Pure hamburger heaven. Dishes are all under $400, with most in the $250-300 range, including a drink, and choice of two sides.

    The Hackburger. Pull up a chair to the bar by the cash register and get Joe to tell you the story of how this burger came to be.