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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

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Ma Ying-jeou government under fire again

As time moves forward, Ma's administration moves backward

A group of 39 observers of Taiwanese politics from around the world -- many of whom were part of an earlier series of open letters on the erosion of justice in Taiwan under the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) government -- is in the news yet again. This time, they're focusing on the indictment against former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Here's some of the main content [highlights mine]:
Dear President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九),

We the undersigned, international academics, analysts and writers from the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, have for many years been keen observers of political developments in Taiwan. We were delighted when Taiwan made its transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and we continue to care deeply for the country and its future as a free and democratic nation-state.

However, during the past three years, many of us have felt it necessary to address publicly our concerns to you about the erosion of justice and democracy in Taiwan, most recently in April this year regarding the charges of the "36,000 missing documents" against a number of prominent former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials. We raised these issues as international supporters of Taiwan's democracy.

At this time we express our deep concern about the charges against former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), often referred to as "the father of Taiwan's democracy," who was indicted on June 30 on charges of allegedly channeling US$7.8 million from secret diplomatic funds into the Taiwan Research Institute. These charges and their timing raise a number of questions that are related both to the case itself and the integrity of the judicial system in Taiwan.
After detailing the specific questions (which you can read at the link above) -- the first of which mentions that the charges stem from events which took place about 15 years ago -- the letter continues [highlights mine]:
Mr President, as head of state you bear overall responsibility for the state of affairs in Taiwan. In democratic systems, proper checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches are of the utmost importance. The executive and the legislative branches have a responsibility to exercise oversight and to balance activism in the judiciary, just as the judiciary serves a similar role with regard to the executive and legislative branches. Stating that your government abides by "judicial independence" is therefore not enough. It is essential that all participants in the judicial process — prosecutors, judges and lawyers — are fully imbued with the basic principle that the judiciary is scrupulously impartial and not given to any partisan preferences.

We, as members of the international academic community, are left with the impression that the indictments and practices of the judiciary in Taiwan over the past three years reflect a judicial system that is increasingly influenced by political considerations. There has been a regression in the accomplishments of Taiwan's momentous democratization of the 1990s and 2000s. As good friends of Taiwan, we are deeply unsettled by this. It undermines Taiwan's international image as a free and democratic nation.

Mr President, we therefore urge you and your government to ensure that the judicial system is held to the highest standards of objectivity and fairness. Taiwan has many challenges ahead of it and it cannot afford the political divisions created by the use of the judicial system for political purposes.

Respectfully yours,
[the undersigned]
You can say that again (and they probably will)!

Some of the prequels
Don't forget the earlier parts of this long-running series, listed here in chronological order:
* November 6, 2008: Scholars and writers from around the world publish an "Open letter on erosion of justice in Taiwan." The same letter -- as an online petition -- was signed by more than 2,000 people. (The petition is now closed.)

* November 25, 2008: Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) calls the open letter "inaccurate."

* December 2, 2008: "Eroding justice: Open letter No. 2" counters Wang Ching-feng's claims.

* January 8, 2009: Over a month later, Wang Ching-feng comes up with "clarif[ications]" regarding the open-letter writers' so-called "misunderstandings."

* January 21, 2009: "Eroding justice: Open letter No. 3" is addressed to President Ma Ying-jeou.

* January 24, 2009: Two more "US-based Taiwan experts add [their] names to open letter [No. 3]."

* January 25, 2009: President Ma claims the public had gained confidence in the judiciary in 2008 -- the exact opposite of what this Taiwan News article tells us they actually felt:
According to recent surveys conducted by Academia Sinica and the Web site Yahoo! Kimo, over 50 percent of the people do not believe in Taiwan's judicial system and over 75 percent have no confidence that the Judicial Yuan will undertake judicial reform [...]
* May 22, 2009: An estimable group of scholars and writers -- 26 in all, and each one with a deep understanding of Taiwan and the surrounding facts -- has composed an open letter addressed directly to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). The letter addresses the ever-increasing problems with judicial fairness, press freedom, the lack of transparency in the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) rapprochement with China, the loss of Taiwan's sovereignty, and the loss of human rights. The argument the letter makes is rock solid. It is based on demonstrable facts.

* November 9, 2009: Then there were 31. The Taiwan News publishes an "Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou by 30 international scholars" which reminds us that "a decrease of tension across the Taiwan Strait would indeed be welcome, but [...] that this should not be done at the expense of the hard-won democracy" and that "Taiwan should be more fully accepted by the international community as a full and equal partner." (Here's a version with 31 names on the web site of one of the signatories, Jerome F. Keating, Ph.D.)

* December 13, 2009: Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) submits the "GIO response to Nov. [9] open letter" to the Taipei Times.

* December 25, 2009: Richard Kagan, professor emeritus at Hamline University in St Paul, Minnesota and one of the signatories of the November 2009 letter, replies to Su Jun-pin's silliness in "GIO's response misses the point"

* January 8, 2010: Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) churns out A GIO response to Richard Kagan (one of the signatories of the November 9, 2009 "Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou by 30 international scholars") in which Su compares apples and oranges by imagining that other people don't know that China wants to annex Taiwan while the Taiwanese people don't want to be part of China, ignores what has happened to Hong Kong in the past 12 and a half years, talks about the "double-taxation" issue as if China won't still get those taxes from Taiwanese businesses, pretends to forget that Taiwan's Straits [sic] Exchange Foundation (海峽交流基金會) chairman and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice-chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) referred to himself as a "rubber stamp," complains that his government has no control over anything, ignores the KMT's continued attempts to take over Taiwan's Public TV (PTS, 公共電視), confuses gains in local elections with a balanced legislature and a president who listens to majority opinion without oppressing minorities or stupidly saying out loud that he "sees them as humans," and completely omits the fact that the talks regarding an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) -- which Chinese officials say "will certainly bring about complete unification of the motherland [sic] -- have been anything but transparent and have not been subject to legislative oversight. These things, Mr. Su, are clear signs of an erosion of both justice and democracy.

* February 9, 2010: Michael Danielsen, one of the signatories of the Open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou last November, rebuts Su Jun-pin's response to Richard Kagan last month by pointing out that Democratic liberty is fundamental, "look[ing] forward to actual steps [by Su and the Ma government] that go beyond mere words."

* April 11, 2011: Another open letter criticizes the government's charges that 17 former DPP officials are responsible for "'failing to return' about 36,000 documents during the DPP administration" which ended almost three years earlier.

* April 14, 2011: In what is hard not to perceive as intimidation, the Foreign Ministry says it's going to probe this latest open letter, with Ma officials implying along the way that some of the writers were not of sound mind.

* April 17, 2011: The Chinese-language Liberty Times (自由時報) notices the intimidation factor: "The Liberty Times Editorial: KMT uses law as a political weapon."

* April 22, 2011: The Taipei Times draws a similar conclusion: "EDITORIAL: Government starts to sound like PRC."
I can already imagine how the Ma government will respond the latest letter.

How long can this continue? As long as Taiwanese allow the Chinese KMT to hold political power, it will just keep going and going and going.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

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What's wrong with Taiwan’s current electoral system

A lesson for Taiwan's swing voters about the importance of legislative elections

Many people in Taiwan believe that as long as they have right to vote, then they live in a democratic society. Few people would further examine whether they are actually able to go to the polls under fair rules. Fair rules give election results that protect democracy while unfair rules put it in jeopardy.

This post refers to a published academic paper and to the current ROC Constitution in order to demonstrate to readers some problems with the current electoral system in Taiwan, one which actually gives permanent advantages to the pan-blue coalition in elections for the Legislative Yuan (LY). Unless corrective measures are taken, Taiwan's political institution is heading towards an unhealthy direction, i.e. it either selects a KMT president with a "rubber-stamp" Legislative Yuan -- which allows unchecked KMT executive power -- or ensures a DPP lame duck president who cannot carry out policies s/he wishes to implement.

For Taiwan's Legislative Election results see the links here.

For info on how the 2008 Legislative Yuan electoral districts were determined, read "Central Election Commission reclassifies electoral districts."

Many western countries conduct national census on population every 5 or 10 years (such as the census short form of the US or Canada) and through census it forms the basis for electoral district divisions. However, electoral district divisions in Taiwan are not based on a census, leaving room for problems such as votes of unequal value (over representation and under representation), and gerrymandering.

For how the new LY seat distribution rule was changed in 2008, see Note 1 under the "References" section below.

For data on voter turnout rates, see this link.

After the most recent legislative election in January 2008 in which the KMT won seats by a landslide majority (following the first implementation of the 2005 reforms, see Note 1), no one studied the most important reason behind the DPP's disappointing outcome in details better than a scholar named Daniel C. O'Neill. He presented a paper at the 2009 Midwest Political Science Association Conference in which he carefully observed the effect of electoral rules on the Democratic Progressive Party's performance in the 2004 and 2008 Legislative Elections in Taiwan.

In brief, the description about the DPP's poor performance in the 2008 LY election can be read starting from p.14 of the paper with illustration of table 4 and 5 on the percentages of vote share and seat share by the DPP and the pan-green coalition respectively. A slight drop of approximately 3 to 4 percentage points in vote share (from 43.5% in 2004 to 39.1% in 2008) for the pan-green coalition translates into a huge drop of 21 percentage-point share of legislative seats (from 44.9% in 2004 to 23.9% in 2008.)

On p.19 of the paper, O'Neill observed that in the 2004 LY election held under an SNTV (single non-transferable vote) electoral system, the DPP won 42% of the district seats with 36% of the vote (note: the figures used here are slightly different from the tables mentioned in the immediately preceding paragraph because it excludes the aboriginal districts from calculation per his note 8). In contrast, in 2008 under the MMM (mixed member majoritarian) system , the DPP's district vote share of over 38.7% earned the party fewer than 24% of the legislative seats. In other words, the DPP had a slightly larger vote share in 2008 than in 2004, but it resulted in an approximately 17 percentage-point drop in its share of legislative seats.

The KMT has a strong organizational base dating to the days of its authoritarian one-party rule of the island. Under the new MMM system, this organizational advantage has helped the party to achieve the plurality needed to win district elections. There are other "advantages" -- such as the KMT's asset-rich vote buying tactics and its connection to local criminal factions -- that facilitate KMT dominance in local elections.

For a study of vote buying in Taiwan's elections, see "Weighing a Shadow: Toward a Technique for Estimating the Effects of Vote-buying in Taiwan."

Seat determination in the LY is most troubled by the problem that each vote does not carry the same weight, meaning some districts are over-represented while other districts are under-represented. This is shown in table 6 on p. 22 of O'Neill's paper for the one-seat districts.

For population in each county see this link.

At the over representation extreme, Lienchiang County -- with a population of only 9,786 -- elects one legislator. Kinmen County and Penghu County, with populations of 79,884 and 91,942 respectively, also have one seat each. These low-density population districts -- i.e. offshore islands and east coast of Taiwan's mainland (Taitung County) -- traditionally KMT strongholds -- can elect legislators into the LY. On the other hand, the four one-seat districts with the greatest populations in Taiwan -- Hsinchu County, Yilan County, Hsinchu City, and Keelung City (475,928; 445,811; 395,239 and, 382,109 respectively) -- are examples of underrepresentation. There are also districts with the smallest population among the cities and counties with multiple seat representation, an example is Nantou County District 1 with 240,511 people, just 50.5% of the Hsinchu County district's population but with equal representation.

Historically, in early 19th century England and Wales, we saw the representation problem of the "rotten boroughs" after the industrial revolution moved the cluster of residents into the booming industrial towns, but the Reform Act of 1832 with later Reform Acts and Representation of the People Acts corrected some of the problems.

The six points of the People's Charter. This text is taken from a handbill handed out in the streets of Britain in 1838.
The six points of the People's Charter from a handbill handed out in the streets of Britain in 1838. Pay special attention to point five.
(From Think History!: Modern Times 1750-1990, by Caroline Beechener, Clive Griffiths, Amanda Jacob, ©2004, Pearson Education)

Now in the 21st century, Taiwan's democracy faces a similar issue of unequal representation. Isn't it time for a national census to determine the electoral districts? Drawing the electoral district borders should not be left until the last moment when strategic party planning for winning votes are hidden agenda for drawing the borders. Isn't it time for an effective delimitation to take place, one that is suitable for Taiwan's democracy to strive, before we even think about any elections and potential candidates and their policies?

The ROC Constitution on presidential recall and impeachment affecting election outcome

The DPP's presidential candidate in 2008, Frank Hsieh, did not even stand a chance against the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou because of the KMT's overwhelming majority in the LY election outcome two months earlier and the ROC Constitution for the impeachment of president practically eliminated Hsieh's chances. If Frank Hsieh had won the presidential election, he would have faced a hostile KMT majority in the LY that could initiate an impeachment shortly after his inauguration.

For details on presidential recall and impeachment read the excerpt in the "References" section below.

This important ROC Constitution governing presidential impeachment factor that had indeed affected the outcome of the 2008 presidential election was not mentioned by any of the foreign press at all. The mainstream media easily attributed Ma's win to Taiwanese welcoming his conciliatory China policy and to his promise to improve the economy. The media failed to observe that, on the contrary, Ma actually won the presidential campaign with the help of the LY election outcome earlier plus Ma's pre-election tactics of pretending to be a "true Taiwanese" -- growing up eating Taiwanese rice and speaking some Taiwanese to voters -- ready to defend Taiwan's interests and promising "no unification" during his term if elected. I believe the low turnout rate in the presidential election in 2008 can be attributed to this factor -- many pan green supporters simply didn't bother to vote because they thought if Hsieh could be impeached by the LY after winning, why should they bother to vote?

Without the backing of a majority in the legislature, a DPP (or pan-green) president will face a hostile LY that blocks any policies that he wishes to execute. (Remember which party's fault it was for not passing the arms purchase bill and for consequently weakening Taiwan's defense capabilities?) And worse, s/he would be facing the constant threat of impeachment by the LY, not to mention how an elected president could carry out his day-to-day duties. He would be spending all his time dealing with a hostile legislature that could initiate countless impeachment proceedings anytime it sees an opportunity (since the 2005 reform package did not set a limit on how many times such proceedings can take place).

The rules for impeachment of the ROC president say that it can only be initiated by the LY -- not by the people through a referendum. So even if half of the electorate in Taiwan wanted Ma to leave office after police mishandled protesters during Chen Yunlin's first visit to Taiwan and for his refusal of immediate foreign assistance during typhoon Morakot, as long as his party members occupied two-thirds of the LY seats, he'd be there to stay.

Do you think it is fair for the KMT party to receive about 56% of the popular votes but gain about 75% of the legislative seats? Do you think it is fair for a president that receives about 58% of the votes to have a 75% rubber-stamping legislative army to back his unchecked policies?

Isn't it time for the electoral system to undergo scrutiny so the supposedly democratic elections will one day become truly democratic?

I would like to offer a tentative electoral system that may be improved further with an objective of achieving a ratio of vote share to seat share to be as near as possible to 1:1. I believe that the indigenous people should be autonomous, and there should be no non-resident foreign representation in the LY.

1. Counties and cities are not to be divided into very small districts; the LY seats should be determined by proration according to the county or the city's population over the total population of Taiwan. And let the total number of legislators be 115 (just to be used for calculations in the following examples)

2. Very dense areas are to be subdivided while very low density areas should be combined as one district.

3. Multiple member first-past-the-post ballot should be implemented, the first number of candidates, in order of highest vote, corresponding to the number of positions to be filled are elected. If there are six vacancies in a district then the first six candidates with the highest vote are elected. A multiple selection ballot where more than one candidate can be voted for in which voters are allowed to cast a vote for as many candidates as there are vacant positions; the candidate(s) with the highest number of votes is elected.

4. Here are a few examples to illustrate the points above.

Example1:

Changhua county electoral district

1,312,491 / 23,164,457 x 115 = 6.51 rounding off to 7

So the county of Changhua will elect 7 legislators.

Voters in the Changhua county will have a multiple selection ballot where they can select any candidates they wish to represent Changhu in the LY up a maximum of 7.

The first 7 candidates receiving the highest ballots will be elected.

Example 2:

Penghu, Kinmen, Lienchiang combined into 1 electoral district.

200,549 / 23,164,457 x 115 = 0.996 rounding off to 1 (since the population is 96,387 + 94,205 + 10,002 = 200,549)

So these 3 areas combined will elect 1 legislator.

Voters in these 3 areas will have a ballot where they can select only 1 candidate they wish to represent them in the LY.

The candidate receiving the highest ballot will be elected.

Example 3:

New Taipei City will elect 3,876,070 / 23,164,457 x 115 = 19.243 rounding off to 19 legislators.

New Taipei City can be subdivided into three electoral districts. Two of the districts can elect six legislators per district, and the other district can elect seven legislators as long as the division of the district is such that the ratio of the population to the number of legislators in each district is kept nearly the same.

The division of districts in high density areas gives us the incentive that a simple-questionnaire population census every 10 years is crucial to the success of district divisions, and Taiwan should do it for itself, not "China tries to do it for us."

Two factors comprise the main obstacles to our attempt to correct our problematic electoral system. One is the KMT's deliberate ignorance for revamping the electoral system after the 2008 election -- wanting to stay as permanent majority in the LY-- and second is the erroneous belief by politicians around the globe that a new constitution in Taiwan (for the sake of Taiwan's democracy, Taiwan does need a new constitution) is a challenge to the "status quo," thus indirectly restricting the people in Taiwan to voting under a flawed ROC system.

If I have an old car that needs frequent maintenance and change of parts, I may as well dump the old car and buy a new one that works. This is the way I feel about what's wrong with our system after so many attempts to reform the ROC constitution that were initially imposed upon the Taiwanese people and continuously needs reviews and reforms but will never be amended well enough by the non-representative parliament. A parliament in which the KMT always held a majority cannot correctly amend the constitution -- they just go in circles! Our referendum law is but one example.

Voter turnout for LY election must improve

Unless the pan-green wins a majority in the legislative election next year, any talk about a DPP candidate winning the presidential election is futile if the KMT retains its majority in the LY to control the passing of bad laws and delaying the passage of good laws. Voters must realize the importance of exercising their voting rights in the LY election and show a big turnout contrary to past trends. In the past, voter turnout for LY elections has been low -- under 60% -- while voter turnout for the presidential election has been much higher -- no lower than 75%, and peaking at 82.69% in the 2000 presidential election.

Since the KMT-dominated LY will not initiate a review of the rules relating to elections, a review of our referendum rights is at task.

No wonder Taiwan's former president, Lee Teng-hui has the wisdom to call upon scrapping the ROC Constitution. "Lee calls for ROC Constitution to be scrapped"

So, wake up Taiwan! Let's talk about fair rules before we even talk about going into the polls. Without fair rules, how can we uphold democracy?

And, wake up politicians of the world! How can Taiwan's representation be subject to Beijing's approval for international presence (membership) when China's leaders (and therefore its representation) have not even been elected by its own people?

Only democracy can protect Taiwan, and only democracy (not economic engagement) can change China for the better!

References:

1. Note1: Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China (2005 Reform), Article 4 governs the rules on how LY seats are determined

2. My own observations just after the 2008 LY Election

3. Rules on recall and impeachment of ROC president -- the excerpt here is from a source in this link:
Recall of the State President or the State Vice President shall be initiated upon the proposal of the Legislative Yuan and shall be passed by more than one half of the valid ballots in a vote in which more than one half of the electorate in the free area of the Republic of China participate. The Legislative Yuan shall initiate the recall upon the proposal of no less than one-fourth of all members of the Legislative Yuan, and present the proposal with a clearly stated reason for such a recall to the Procedure Committee to have it included in the agenda to be sent to the YuanSitting. The Yuan Sitting shall, with no discussion required, refer the proposal to the Committee of the Entire Yuan for the latter to finish deliberation within 15 days. Prior to the deliberation by the Committee of the Entire Yuan, the Legislative Yuan shall notify the recalled subject to submit a written defense within seven days before the deliberation. When the Legislative Yuan receives the written defense, it shall distribute the report to each member. Should the recalled subject fail to submit the written defense, the Committee of the Entire Yuan may still continue the deliberation. After the deliberation, the Committee of the Entire Yuan shall submit the proposal to the Yuan Sitting for registered voting. Such a recall of the State President or the State Vice President is passed with no less than two-thirds of all the Legislative Yuan members concurring in the registered voting. The Committee of the Entire Yuan shall promulgate and inform the recalled subject of the voting result.

For the impeachment of the State President or the State Vice President, the Legislative Yuan must initiate it upon the proposal of more than half of the entire Yuan members; a written proposal with detailed reasons for such an impeachment must be referred to the Procedure Committee later to have it included in the agenda to be sent to the Yuan Sitting. No discussion is required, the Yuan Sitting shall refer the proposal to the Committee of the Entire Yuan for examination, during which the impeached subject may explain on the floor at the invitation of the Legislative Yuan. What follows the examination is an anonymous vote in the Yuan Sitting; should no less than two-thirds of all the Legislative Yuan members concur in the voting, an impeachment case then by resolution shall be submitted to the Grand Justices. Once the case is sustained at the Constitutional Court, the impeached subject shall forthwith resign.
4. Taiwan's current population statistics are based on this link.

5. Another interesting observation about Taiwan's elections by Jerome Keating: "The hidden face of Taiwan politics"

6. Understanding combined elections

7. Announcement of investigation by the Control Yuan of some "missing documents" by former DPP officials including Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) just one day before he declared his candidacy in the DPP presidential primary, but 1,036 days after Ma took the presidential office. What is Ma's intention?

(Some editing by Tim Maddog)

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

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Crossroads

The DPP is currently at a crossroads.  Ahead are critical intra-party primaries for the party's candidates for the 2012 Presidential Election. How each candidate addresses the issue of the party's position on relations to China will likely heavily impact their appeal to the public.  The leading candidates in this race are Chairwoman  Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).  Former Vice-President Annette Lu and Hsieh Chang-ting (謝長廷) have also announced their interest in, or intentions to, run.  Today, two articles in the Taipei Times examined each of the candidates positions and came to two different conclusions:

Editorial: The Meaning of Tsai's Formula
Chen Wen-hsien (陳文賢)(Professor at National Chengchi University’s Graduate Institute of History): DPP must make its sovereignty stance clear

The editorial nicely summarises the positions of the leading contenders on China:
Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) 
She used the Chinese phrases he er butong (和而不同) and he er qiu tong (和而求同).  Tsai’s phrasing is inspired by the Confucian Analects. To be precise, Book 13, verse 23, in which Confucius says: “The true gentleman seeks harmony, but reserves the right to disagree (he er butong, 和而不同); the base person agrees without necessarily seeking harmony (tong er buhe, 同而不和).”  When Tsai talks about seeking harmony, she is referring to the status quo, arguing that the discussion should start with recognizing Taiwan and its values, and from there seek to maintain and nurture relations with China. In this, she does not diverge from the DPP’s consistent position.  The second phrase, he er qiu tong, means “seeking agreement in a spirit of conciliation,” which is basically an extension of the first idea. It is a recognition that Taiwan and China have shared responsibilities and interests and should be seeking peaceful and stable relations and fostering development, not focusing on unification or independence. Not only is this consistent with the DPP’s 1999 Resolution on Taiwan’s Future, it also leaves room for cross-strait relations to develop. 
Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) 
Former premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) “Taiwan consensus” (台灣共識) holds that, after four direct presidential elections, Taiwan should be considered a sovereign, independent country, does not belong to the People’s Republic of China, and, according to the Constitution, is currently called the Republic of China. Any change to that would require the consent of the entire country, although such a change already enjoys a majority consensus. Su’s formulation benefits from its clarity and is in line with the “status quo” and the spirit of the DPP platform. The phrase is clear, compared with the opacity of Tsai’s concepts, but it won’t find many advocates in Beijing. 
Former Vice-President Annette Lu 
Lu’s “1996 consensus” says Taiwan became a sovereign nation when it held its first direct presidential election in 1996. Uncompromising in its stance, it appeals to the pro-independence faction, but has little chance of building a consensus outside the DPP. 
Hsieh Chang-ting (謝長廷) 
Former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) “constitutional consensus” (憲法共識) emphasizes the differences that exist between the respective political and legal systems. The pan-green camp has its issues with this idea, however, as the Constitution still seeks unification.
Chen's article more broadly covers what he thinks the DPP should do in the next few months if it wishes to appeal to a public he claims are ready for a broadly pro-Taiwan or 'proud of Taiwan' message:
The DPP should clearly state its support for Lee’s formula as representing Taiwan’s core interests. In so doing, it would be upholding the direction mapped out for Taiwan by these past Taiwan-oriented national leaders. 
It is only to be expected that China would react with threats and saber rattling. However, in this age of globalization, countries and economies are interdependent. If China resorted to force just because the DPP said Taiwan is a country, it would only harm its own interests and its belligerence would find no international support. 
So the key question is not what the DPP says about Taiwan’s national status; what matters is that the DPP should show greater wisdom and patience in communicating with countries that support Taiwan and in engaging with Beijing. 
The right way for the DPP to respond to these developments would be to stress its willingness to cooperate with Chinese people and government, on the basis of equality, to maintain peace and prosperity and to support China’s development into a democratic state.
If the DPP keeps avoiding the issue of Taiwan’s national status, it will neither gain the support of the international community nor the support of local voters. 
Apart from demanding that all DPP members and government officials should work and perform even better, the party needs to stick to its position that Taiwan is a democratic and just country that deserves to be respected by the international community. Such steadfastness would surely win the hearts of the public, so it can be voted back into office and ensure Taiwan’s survival.
Lu's 1996 Consensus could potentially chime with the public as it places an emphasis on Presidential elections as evidence of an practiced independent statehood that everyone actively shares.  The only problem is the person advocating it and her unpopularity both with the swing voters and light blues necessary for the DPP to win.  It is more concrete than Su's Taiwan Consensus and is far more accessible as an idea to the public than Hsieh's Constitutional Consensus.  However, Tsai's new approach, whilst vague, cautiously (and sensibly?) seeks a moderate ground for moderate voters - Tsai has chosen to play it safe and not bang the drum too loud.  This is perhaps because she fears that if her campaign alienates too many big power players along the way to an election victory then she might also find herself, like President Chen, effectively unable to implement her policies, especially if voters return a strongly KMT controlled Legislative Yuan.

Chen's article illustrates desire amongst some in the pan-green camp for maximising on the belittlement of Taiwan by the PRC and tapping into the latent Taiwan national identity balking at President Ma's fawning over China and his ideological fixation with all things Chinese.  It does not however come over as practical strategic advice for the party at this stage.  Reiterating that Taiwan is a democratic and just country is not a meme that would hurt Ma's campaign as he too has run on that platform before each of his elections.  Ma can also claim to wish for democracy in China and "willingness to cooperate with Chinese people and government, on the basis of equality, to maintain peace and prosperity".  That's exactly the smokescreen Ma and the KMT have used to mask their willingness to be subservient to the Chinese people and government, on the basis of the fictional '1992 Consensus' and equalities of political parties in negotiations to maintain peace (between parties) and prosperity (for the parties and sycophants that follow them).

This leaves me with the conclusion that for now, I still find Tsai's approach and leadership to be trustworthy and intelligent.  It's not perfect, may not even be excellent but it is the best the DPP have.  The DPP above all need to have a clean and fair contest in the primaries and then complete party solidarity behind the winner, whoever that may be.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

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My thoughts on February 28, 2011

Lest we forget the 228 Massacre (二二八大屠殺) of 1947

What am I thinking about on this 64th anniversary of one of the most horrific events in Taiwan's history?

I'm remembering with dismay that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is still in power -- even after behaving as colonizers for over six decades -- because they still use illicit methods to get elected. Here are some examples:
* Vote buying is rampant even within their own party's Central Standing Committee, but they keep putting the guilty ones right back in.

* In the January 2010 legislative by-elections, "Two of the three seats up for grabs […] in Taoyuan, Taichung and Taitung counties were left vacant by former KMT legislators found guilty of vote-buying," reminding us of their "tradition of buying votes."

* Lee Min-yung (李敏勇) reminds readers: "The roots of vote-buying can be found in the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) long hold on power and its system for distributing the spoils of government."

* Laurence Eyton enlightens in a 2004 piece in the Asia Times Online: "[The Chinese KMT] has traditionally used its wealth to engage in what it calls 'traditional electoral practices', ie vote buying […]"
I'm reminded that the Chinese KMT still uses thuggery to maintain their power. Here are some examples:
* When disgraced former Toronto-based Government Information Office (GIO) official Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英) returned to Taiwan, he was picked up at airport and "assisted" by thugs in black shirts assigned by Bamboo Union (竹聯幫) gang leader Chang An-le (張安樂).

* People wearing black T-shirts and vests bearing the name of the Matsu Temple (大天后宮) physically remove college students from a protest against the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) government's policies regarding students from China.

* Despite denials by police, experience should tell you who the guys in the black shirts helping to defend Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) are.

* Read my post about the movie "Formosa Betrayed," which dramatizes real incidents involving the Chinese KMT, including their use of gangsters to carry out the assassination of a political dissident on American soil.
I'm reminded that the Chinese KMT is still distorting history. Here are some examples:
* A Taipei Times editorial reminds readers about Ma's empty promises: "So much for saying that the memorial hall [renaming] issue was 'not a pressing matter.'"

* Here's a photo of a display from the renovated 228 Memorial Museum which paints former dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) as "recovering … order" instead of as being the perpetrator of the massacre.

* Exhibits at the newly-renovated museum paint peaceful protesters as "mobs."

* President Ma pretends that the Chinese KMT has "dealt with its past" to the same extent the government of Germany has done since World War II.

* On the blog of Taipei City councilor Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏) you can read some of the details (Hanzi) and see photos (containing Hanzi text and a little bit of English) and video (Taiwanese and Mandarin audio, Hanzi text and a little bit of English) detailing some of the changes to the museum.
And I'm reminded that while Chinese KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou -- elected as Taiwan's president in 2008 on a promise of "no unification, no independence and no use of force" (不統、不獨、不武) -- has long claimed to support democracy, he still doesn't. Here are some examples:
* Remember the days when Ma was publicly against direct presidential elections.

* Remember when the Chinese KMT boycotted their own referendum about Taiwan's participation in the United Nations.

* The Executive Yuan's (行政院) Referendum Review Committee (公投審議委員會) turned down proposed referendums on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China three times, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it had more than enough signatures and support in polls!

* In mid-2009, the Ma government reverted the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (臺灣民主紀念館) to its former name: the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (蔣中正紀念堂).
And I wouldn't be able to forget, no matter how hard I tried, that while Ma is in office as president of Taiwan, he primarily serves China. Here are some very recent examples:
* Ma wants people to stop calling China "China" and to call it "the mainland" or "the other side."

* A short time later, Beijing "praises" Ma for this.

* The Philippine government deports 14 Taiwanese suspects to China, basing the decision on a "one China" policy, yet Ma places zero blame on China.
People of Taiwan, when are you going to stop this from ever happening again?

If you have additional relevant examples to include in the topics above, please submit them in the comments below (use the HTML above the comment submission box for links) or via e-mail.

Further reading:
* Names and faces of some of the victims of the 228 Massacre (Hanzi)

* Wednesday, February 28, 2007 on Taiwan Matters!: Remembering two 228 Incidents (written before someone pointed out the obvious: that it should be referred to as the "228 Massacre" instead)

* Monday, March 1, 2004 on It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!: Hand-in-hand for peace (about my participation in the "228 Hand-in-Hand Rally" at 2:28 PM on Saturday, February 28, 2004)

* Monday, February 21, 2011 on Strait Talk: It's Taiwan, not China... Tales from Formosa, The Beautiful Island: "Formosa Displayed, Formosa Betrayed: Taiwan's 228 Museum Rewriting History?"

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Friday, February 11, 2011

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The 2013 Cross-Strait Crisis: Day 18 - Speech by President Ma

On Sunday the 17th of March 2013, President Ma Ying-jeou went on national television at 8pm in the evening to address the public and the approximately 7.5m protestors occupying the centers of Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Hsinchu and over 20 other towns.  

The protests had first begun over three core issues: widening wealth gap and uneven distribution of ECFA benefits, rising costs for energy, food and land, and the China friendly cross-strait policies of President Ma who had been reelected in 2012 on a platform of defending Taiwan's sovereignty and dignity and 'going to the world through the Mainland'.  The slight improvement in economic conditions in 2011 combined with a poor Presidential ticket from the largest opposition party, the pro-Taiwan DPP, had convinced enough Taiwanese to give Ma a second term despite their misgivings over the nature of the closer relations between the ROC and PRC, which were led to a large part by the KMT.  

The influx of Chinese people and goods into the country and the impact on the economy (exacerbated by the administration's unwillingness to define a clear difference between Taiwanese and Chinese citizens and their rights) had left a sour taste in the mouths of many formerly independent, swing and light blue voters.   On February 26th, Lin Chiu-wen was detained by Taipei police for waving an ROC flag at a visiting Chinese delegation.  That night, he died in custody.  Police refused to release the body or allow an independent autopsy.  The following day, the homes of several prominent Taiwanese bloggers covering the case were raided by police and the blog authors put into indefinite detention.  TV's experienced blackouts for extended periods whenever news stations tried to report on events.  

On February 28th, the Vice-President took visiting ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin to pay homage at the shrine of the Chiang's in Taoyuan county, the resulting pictures of a smiling Chen angering a large swathe of the population.  On March 3rd 2012, the President met with Chen Yunlin and 40 senior KMT and CCP officials to negotiate a peace treaty in which the ROC would on October 10th 2015 be transformed into the Republic of Greater China (SAR), officially designated as a state of a federated PRC, and the 2016 Presidential elections would be renamed Chief Executive Elections.  Upon hearing the news, Taiwanese rallied en masse in the centers of their cities, demanding that the peace treaty be scrapped, that the President resign immediately, that a new constitution be written for Taiwan and Taiwanese and that the crack down on civil liberties cease immediately.  

When that happened, the PRC ordered Ma to stamp out the protests or risk facing Chinese military action.  Within days of the first strikes and occupations, the PRC began an economic embargo of Taiwan followed a week later by threats to enforce order itself. By day 18 of the siege, President Ma finally addressed the nation.  Here is the text of his speech:
I am addressing the citizens of Republic of China today in Freedom Square and across the country. I am addressing you all from the heart, a father's dialogue with his sons and daughters. 
I am proud of you as the new Republic of China generation calling for a change to the better, dreaming and making the future. 
First and foremost, I am telling you that the blood of your martyrs and injured will not go in vain. I assure you that I will not relent in harshly punishing those responsible. I will hold those who persecuted our citizens accountable with the maximum deterrent sentences. 
I tell the families of those innocent victims that I suffered plenty for them, as much as they did. My heart was in pain because of what happened to them, as much as it pained their hearts. 
I am telling you that heeding to your voice, your message and demands is an irretraceable commitment. 
I am determined to live up to my promises with all firmness and honesty and I am totally determined to implement (them), without hesitation or reconsideration. 
This commitment springs from a strong conviction that your intentions are honest and pure and your action. Your demands are just and legitimate demands. 
The mistakes can be made in any political system and in any state. But, the most important is to recognise them and correct them as soon as possible and bring to account those who have committed them. 
I am telling you that as a president I find no shame in listening to my country's citizens and interacting with them. 
The big shame and embarrassment, which I have not done and never will do, would be listening to foreign dictations whatever may be the source or pretext.
'Defined vision' 
My sons, the citizens of Republic of China, brother citizens, I have unequivocally declared that I will not run for president in the next elections, satisfied with what I've offered my country in over 60 years during war and peace. 
I declared my commitment to that, as well as my equal commitment to carrying out my responsibility in protecting the constitution and the people's interests until power and responsibility are handed over to whoever is elected in next September, following free and candid elections with guarantees of freedom and candour. 
This is the oath I took before the Father of the Nation and my country and one which I will keep until we take the Republic of China and its people to a safe harbour. 
I have set a defined vision to come out of this crisis and to carry out what the citizens and the citizens have called for in a way which would respect the constitutional legitimacy and not undermine it. 
It will be carried out in a way that would bring stability to our society and achieve the demands of its citizens, and, at the same time, propose an agreed-upon framework for a peaceful transfer of power through responsible dialogue with all factions of society and with utmost sincerity and transparency. 
I presented this vision, committed to my responsibility in getting the nation out of these difficult times and continuing to achieve it first, hour by hour, anticipating the support and assistance of all those who are concerned about Republic of China and its people, so that we succeed in transforming it (the vision) into to a tangible reality, according to a broad and national agreement with a large base, with the courageous military forces guaranteeing its implementation. 
We have started indeed building a constructive national dialogue, including the Republic of China citizenss who led the calls for change, and all political forces. This dialogue has resulted in a tentative agreement of opinions and positions, putting our feet at the start of the right track to get out of the crisis and must continue to take it from the broad lines on what has been agreed upon to a clear road map and with a fixed agenda. 
From now to next September, day after day, we'll see the peaceful transition of power. 
Constitutional reforms
This national dialogue has focused on the setting up of a constitutional committee that will look into the required amendments of the constitution and the needed legislative reforms. 
It (the dialogue) also met about the setting up of a follow-up committee expected to follow up the sincere implementation of the promises that I have made before the people. 
I have made sure that the composition of the two committees is made of Republic of China figures that are known for their independence and experience, experts in constitutional law and judges. 
In addition to that, the loss of the martyrs of the sons of Republic of China in sad and tragic events has hurt our hearts and shaken the homeland's conscience. 
I immediately issued my instructions to complete the investigation about last week's events (the clashes between pro- and anti-Ma Ying-jeou demonstrators) and submit its results immediately to the general prosecutor for him to take the necessary legal deterrent measures. 
Yesterday, I got the first report on the top priority constitutional amendments proposed by the committee of justice system and law experts and that I have set up to look into the required constitutional and legislative amendments. 
In response to the proposals in the committee's report, and in compliance with the prerogatives of the president of the republic, in conformity with Article 189 of the constitution, I have submitted a request today asking for the amendment of six constitutional clauses: 76, 77, 88, 93 and 189, in addition to the annulment of clause 179. 
Moreover, I am asserting my readiness to submit, at a later time, an (additional) request to change any other clauses referred to me by the constitutional committee, according to the needs and justifications it sees fit. 
These top-priority amendments aim to ease the conditions for presidential nominations, and the fixing of limited terms of presidency to ensure the rotation of power, and the strengthening of the regulations of elections oversight to guarantee their freedom and fairness. 
It is in the judiciary's prerogative to decide about the validity and membership of MPs and amend the conditions and measures on the amendment of the constitution. 
The proposal to delete Article 179 from the constitution aims to achieve the required balance between the protection of the nation from the dangers of terrorism and safeguarding the civil rights and freedoms of the citizens which opens the door to the lifting of the emergency law following the return of calm and stability and the presence of suitable conditions to lift the state of emergency. 
'In one trench'
Brother citizens, the priority now is to bring back trust between Republic of China citizens, trust in our economy and our international reputation, and trust in protecting the change and movement that we have started from turning back or retreating. 
The Republic of China is going through difficult times which it is not right for us to allow continuing, as it will continue to cause us and our economy harm and losses, day after day, which will end in circumstances which those citizens who called for change and reform will become the first to be harmed by. 
The current moment is not to do with myself, it is not to do with Ma Ying-jeou, but is to do with Republic of China, its present and the future of its children. 
All Republic of China citizens are in one trench now, and it is on us to continue the national dialogue which we have started, with a team spirit, not one of division, and far from disagreement and infighting so that we can get Republic of China past its current crisis, and to restore trust in our economy, and tranquillity and peace to our citizens, and return the Republic of China’s streets to normal everyday life. 
I was as young as Republic of China's citizens today, when I learned the Republic of China military honour, allegiance and sacrifice for my country. 
I have spent a lifetime defending its soil and sovereignty. I witnessed its wars, with its defeats and victories. 
I lived the days of defeat and occupation, I also lived the days of the (retrocession) crossing, victory and liberation. 
It was the happiest day of my life when I raised the flag of Republic of China over Taipei. 
I faced death many times as a student, in America, and numerous other times. I never succumbed to foreign pressure or dictations. 
I kept the peace. I worked towards the stability and security of Republic of China. I worked hard for its revival and for its people. 
I never sought power or fake popularity. I trust that the overwhelming majority of the people know who Ma Ying-jeou is. It pains me to see how some of my countrymen are treating me today. 
'Immortal identity'
In any case, I am completely aware of the seriousness of the current hard turn of events as I am convinced that the Republic of China is crossing a landmark point in its history which imposes on all of all to weigh in the higher interests of our country and to put the Republic of China first above any and all considerations. 
I saw fit to delegate presidential jurisdictions to the vice-president as defined by the constitution. I am certain that Republic of China will overcome its crisis. 
The will of its people will not break. It will be back on its feet with the honesty and loyalty of its people, all its people. 
It will return the machinations and glee of those who were gleeful and machinated against it.  We, citizens of the Republic of China, will prove our ability to achieve the demands of the people with civilised and mature dialogue. 
We will prove that we are no-one's servants, that we do not take instructions from anyone, and that only the demands of the citizens and the pulse of the street take our decisions. 
We will prove all this with the spirit and tenacity of the great Chinese race, through the unity and cohesion of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor, and through our commitment to Republic of China's dignity as well as its unique and immortal identity, for it is the essence and the base of our presence for more than 7,000 years. 
This spirit will continue to live within us for as long as Republic of China and its people are present. It will live in every one of our peasants, workers and intellectuals. It will remain in the hearts of our old men, our citizens and our children, Han and Aboriginal. It will remain in the minds and conscience of all those Chinese yet unborn. 
I say again that I lived for the sake of this country, preserving its responsibility and trust. The Republic of China will remain above all and above everyone. 
It will remain so until I hand over this trust and pole. This is the goal, the objective, the responsibility and the duty. It is the beginning of life, its journey, and its end. 
It will remain a country dear to my heart. It will not part with me and I will not part with it until my passing. 
The Republic of China will remain immortal with its dignified people with their heads held high. 
May the Father of the Nation preserve the safety of Republic of China and watch over its people. 
May peace be upon you.
* The speech above is actually the one given by Hosni Mubarak to the Egyptian people and the protestors demanding his resignation on Thursday February 10th 2011.  I have only carried out a limited 'find and replace' of some high frequency words such as names of the country etc with a little cosmetic tidying and grammar correction.  The bulk of the speech (95%) is from the English translation from the BBC Website.  Eerie eh? 

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

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Lunar New Year in Taiwan: 2011

In Taiwan, you can even call it "Taiwanese New Year"!
I'm back from a long break in blogging with a slight variation of the "traditional" New Year post. To kick things off this time around, here's a musical video wishing you a Happy Taiwanese New Year (brought to my attention on Twitter by cyrixhero):


3:58 YouTube video: "快樂台灣年 Happy Taiwanese new year "

Thursday, February 3, 2011 (That's tomorrow!) is New Year's Day as celebrated by the citizens of several Asian countries as well as by many other people around the world. Too many English-speaking people use the term "Chinese New Year" to describe the holiday, despite the fact that the direct back-translation "中國新年" is rarely used by Mandarin speakers. Chinese people usually call the holiday "Lunar New Year" (農曆新年) or "Spring Festival" (春節).

Furthermore, the holiday doesn't belong solely to the Chinese.

Start with the person in the mirror
Why should you change the way you speak? Here's an example for your consideration.

Have you ever heard of the 228 Massacre? Like many others, I used to refer to it as the "228 Incident," but when someone reminded me about how that diminishes the fact that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) killed countless Taiwanese in that "incident," I immediately made the change in my speech and writing. What I don't get is how some people who I am certain are pro-Taiwan somehow cling to the phrase "Chinese New Year."

Are you that kind of person? If so, I hope you can ask yourself why you do that and if you can change.

Simplicity
Here's a clear and simple list of reasons to help you decide to make that change:
1. Lunar New Year is not exclusively Chinese.

2. Even Chinese people call the holiday "Lunar New Year," so you won't be hurting the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese by using that name.

3. Since you're reading this blog, there's a good chance that you are in Taiwan or that you are Taiwanese. (Maybe neither of those things applies to you -- you might just be interested in doing something to help Taiwan.)

4. Way too many people already do things which confuse others into believing that Taiwan's culture is a subset of China's.

5. You don't have to do things just because others do them or because they're habits.
Language is a virus (from outer space)
For some more background (you'll have to follow the links and do some more reading), here's a recap (with some spelling changes) of a couple of my earlier posts related to why many people prefer to call this holiday "Lunar New Year" (Taiwanese: Lông-li̍k sin-nî; Hanzi: 農曆新年; Hanyu pinyin: Nónglì xīnnián):
It doesn't just belong to the Chinese

Nor is it just "politically correct." Read about it in English and/or Chinese.

Happy Lunar New Year! 萬事如意! [bān-sū jû-ì! / wànshì rúyì!]

UPDATE:
Being in a bit of a rush to begin my vacation, I missed these links (all are presented in both English and Mandarin):* How the people of Vietnam celebrate Lunar New Year* How the people of South Korea celebrate Lunar New Year* How the people of Singapore celebrate Lunar New Year* How the people of Malaysia celebrate Lunar New Year
And here's an update on the Taiwanese Romanization which I derived by using a dictionary on the web site of Taiwan's Ministry of Education (MOE):
Lông-li̍k sin-nî khuài-lo̍k! (農曆新年快樂!) Bān-sū jû-ì! (萬事如意!)
If you're Taiwanese, stop inadvertently diluting your own culture. Remember (Ē -kì-tit/Ōe-kì-tit [要記得]): Every time you say "Lunar New Year," you're saying "No!" to those who want to promote China while diminishing Taiwan.

Related reading:
* Check out the Twitter search results for "Lunar New Year." I'm seeing Tweets there by people from Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other countries around the globe!

* See what Taiwan's Government Information Office (GIO) says about Lunar New Year.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Friday, December 31, 2010

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Frank Hsieh’s campaign genius, starting with the 2010 Taichung mayoral election campaign

After the Mayoral and city council election on 27th November, many have noticed and commented on the impressive performance by Su Jia-chyuan (e.g. Michael Turton and Nathan Batto) in the Taichung race, battling from polling 30% behind incumbent Jason Hu to losing by 3% of the votes. This was the closest the DPP ever got in mayoral election in Taichung. What has not been mentioned much was who turned Su's campaign around. The answer is Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

Before Hsieh put his weight behind Su's campaign, Su had managed to close the gap between himself and Hu to about 13% by making frequent visits to all the boroughs and villages. However, he was struggling to get much further. In late September, Hsieh, as DPP Chairperson of the Campaign Committee for the election, moved to Taichung and formally took over the campaign strategies. (There should have been prior meetings before this point to kick-start the process). From then on, Su's campaign became much more creative and certainly more visible to the press and to the public. Because Hu had been in office for nine years, Hsieh emphasised the need for Taichung to 'change' and started a series of press conferences/events called the 'Discovery' series (探索台中) to publicly question Hu's actions (or lack thereof) in office over the past nine years. This series contains 16 'episodes', examining what Hu campaign promises had broken and when Hu had been vague or untruthful. There was an illustration of how Hu usually responded to difficult questions by saying 'I don't know', 'I will not respond to this', 'Ask my campaign office' or 'It's very strange that anyone would ask the mayor about this'. This cast doubt in a lot of people's minds as to how involved and hardworking he really was as the mayor. Apart from those press conferences, Hsieh also held approximately 45 public events for Su, leaving Su a free hand to continue meeting with the local residents in Taichung.

This was not the only campaign Hsieh successfully ran, and every win he achieved or helped others achieve has been an important political milestone for Taiwan and for the DPP.

The 1994 Taipei City mayoral election

Hsieh immediately started serving as Chen Shui-bian's campaign chief for the Taipei mayoral election after losing narrowly in the first stage of the primary (i.e. party member votes). The main reason for this was the New Tide faction shifted their support to Chen the last minute. This hardly seemed fair to Hsieh because he had done more ground work (e.g. visiting places and meeting residents to see what they need and what the city needs) than Chen. Chen's strategies were more to do with getting media attention and gunning for faction support within the party. Hsieh might not have lost in the second stage (i.e. polling) but decided not to continue to save the party time and resources so that the DPP would have a better chance of winning. As soon as he started, he put all the support behind Chen and incorporated his people into the team. He did not hold back or secretly sabotage Chen's campaign. This is remembered by many as 'the Chang-Bian collaboration'. Many remember Hsieh as being really decent and sporting and see him as someone who embodies such spirit. Whenever someone in the DPP takes their defeat badly, supporters often urge them to 'be Frank Hsieh'.

As Nathan Batto commented on his blog:
'The 1994 Taipei City mayoral campaign is important not just because it brought about a change in political power and gave the DPP its first real chance to control resources, it also defined the New Party and brought about a realignment in the voting patterns of the capital city that persisted through the 1995 LY and 1996 NA elections.'
There were also other significant points. That was the first major DPP campaign that placed emphasis on hope for the future rather than the traditional victim perspective. The campaign slogan was 'Happiness, Hope, Chen Shui-bian' and the highlight was Hsieh's 'Daily Question' (每日一問) to Jaw Shaw-kong, the New Party candidate. As it was a three way race (i.e. DPP, KMT and the New Party) and Jaw seemed the strongest of the three to begin with, Hsieh's sharp and highly publicised questioning to Jaw quickly put Jaw in the defensive. This left Chen more time and energy to focus on the KMT candidate and sitting mayor, Huang Ta-chou (AKA Thomas Huang).

Some believe that even though Hsieh worked hard and was sincere, the campaign was actually dominated by Chen's most trusted aides rather than Hsieh. However, even if that was the case, years later, most Taiwanese may have now forgotten about other aspects of the campaign but still talk about Hsieh's 'Daily Question'. It's a bit like that most tennis fans remember McEnroe winning that classic tiebreak in the Wimbledon final but don't necessarily remember that Borg actually won that final.

The 1998 Kaohsiung City mayoral election

Hsieh has been one of the very few politicians willing to run in the most difficult (if not impossible) areas even when there is no apparent political upside. The 1998 Kaohsiung mayoral election was a classic example. Most people now remember Hsiao Bi-khim running for the Hualien chief recently. The difference is that Hsiao stepped up after the party started the search and no one else came forward whereas Hsieh, without prompting or much encouragement, took the initiative and ran with it.

At the time Hsieh announced his decision in 1996, he had encountered two major setbacks; one being the Taipei City mayoral election primary and the other being the 1996 presidential election as the vice-presidential candidate. Not many people in the DPP thought this was a good idea because Kaohsiung was dominated by the KMT and Hsieh had to take on a sitting KMT Mayor (Wu Den-yih). Because he resigned as a legislator to show his resolve for the 1996 presidential election, he was practically out of the political stage when losing the election. Most of his aides had taken other positions as a result. But he still went to Kaohsiung with a couple of assistants and started from scratch. At the time, the number of people he knew in Kaohsiung was less than 50.

A fatal blow came later that year when Taipei City Councillor, Chu Mei-feng, accused Sung Chi-li (the leader of a local religious group who claimed to have supernatural powers) of fraud in a press conference. As Hsieh was a legal consultant to the group, Chu implied that Hsieh was responsible in some way. Hsieh was later alleged to have received improper donations from this religious group for the 1996 campaign and his wife was also accused of fraud. The blue-friendly media went to town with this case and ridiculed Hsieh and his wife for being superstitious and dishonest. Years later, Sung has been found not guilty and those witnesses who implicated Hsieh and his wife have been convicted of perjury after it was found that the whole thing was orchestrated to destroy Hsieh. Hsieh also sued Chu for defamation and won. However, Hsieh's reputation was tarnished and life was upside down when it first happened. During a TV interview, his wife, in tears, said that she was willing to end their marriage to save his career. He immediately replied that he would rather give up his political career than leave her. In fact, he represented his wife in the court as her legal counsel for the charge brought against her.

Most people were convinced that this was the end of his political career. The press did not show much interest in him and very few people in the DPP showed any support. In fact, most people were trying to stay as far away from Hsieh as possible. He still worked hard for his campaign and took a rather hands-on approach. A young student blogged about some anecdotes. She was a high school student when she got to know Hsieh's assistants after they borrowed a venue in her school for a public event. She would often drop by their office for a chat afterwards. She commented that Hsieh not only listened to what the local residents had to say like a new neighbour but took them seriously. She said that she was amazed when she heard that Hsieh actually spent a couple of days going on buses in Kaohsiung himself (no entourage, no press following) just to see how bad the public transport was after she complained about it to him.

His career was only turned around by chance after he responded to the demand to see him in person from the serial killer holding a South African military attaché's family hostage in Taipei in 1997. Even though the killer was known to be volatile (not the calm and calculating type) and was clearly agitated at the time, Hsieh went in without a bulletproof vest to earn his trust and diffused this highly dangerous situation. As the killer had been on the run for a long time, breaking and entering, raping, and killing at the same time, Hsieh persuaded him to release the hostages and surrender without doing more harm, bringing an end to the terror for everyone who worried every night about when the killer might pop up. (See 'Hostage in Taipei: A True Story of Forgiveness and Hope' written by McGill Alexander, the military attaché.) After this, many saw Hsieh as being brave and reassessed their views about him. The public was gradually won over and he defeated Wu in that election.

As he proved himself to be a good mayor for Kaohsiung, he got re-elected in 2002. His vision for Kaohsiung was to play up its strength by highlighting it as a city of the ocean and he actively applied the idea of urban aesthetics when renovating the city.

The 2000 and the 2004 presidential elections

Hsien's impossible win in 1998 saved the DPP from being set back years as Chen Shui-bian lost in seeking his second term as the Taipei mayor. His good work in Kaohsiung paid off in many respects. Speaking of elections only, when Chen was running for President in 2000 and 2004, Hsieh successfully coordinated campaign efforts and resources in southern cities and counties so that the votes won in the south were enough to balance out those lost in the north and helped Chen get elected.

He was probably under more pressure from within the party than the outside, especially during the 2004 presidential election. As it was a head-to-head election and the DPP had more support in the south, his strategy was to stay low-key to the mainstream media but actively hold a lot of talks and forums locally so that the opponent could not easily see/work out what they were up to while the local residents were engaged. He was concerned that if it got 'overheated', the voters would be polarised and middle voters would be driven away from the DPP. However, many people in the DPP did not understand his concern and strategy and started accusing him of holding back. Someone went as far as predicting that Chen would lose by 30,000 votes in Kaohsiung city. Hsieh remained calm and simply told them to trust him. It was not until 20th March 2004, the election day, that those who doubted or accused him were convinced. Under his direction, Chen won by over 700,000 votes in the south. In Kaohsiung city alone, Chen won by over 100,000 votes. This was the first time in history that the green camp won by over 500,000 votes in the south.

The 2001 parliamentary election

Hsieh was the DPP chairperson between 2000 and 2002. He managed to bring all the factions together and worked with the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) rather than competing with them. At the time, Hsieh moved the DPP towards the middle and the TSU went for the 'dark green'. He was careful and wise in the nomination process and with Chen being the president and giving support, it was the first time the DPP had more seats (n=87) than other parties in history. If the TSU seats were also considered (n=13), the pan-green coalition reached its peak then.

The 2006 Taipei and Kaohsiung City mayoral elections

After Chen had been panned a lot in the media and his family were implicated in corruption cases, it was a very difficult time for the DPP in 2006. No one popular enough in the DPP wanted to run for Taipei mayor because the DPP had no chance. After Hsieh was pushed out as the premier in 2005, it was clear that his successor, Su Tseng-chang had Chen's support for the 2008 presidential race. All of sudden, someone in the DPP came up with the 'bright idea' of asking Hsieh to run for Taipei mayor. It was practically persuading him to commit political suicide, as the loss would take him out of quite possibly any future race and a win would lock him in Taipei for 4 years at least, leaving him no chance for the 2008 presidential election. Hsieh was initially reluctant because he had been Kaohsiung mayor for two terms but then agreed after supporters expressed their worry about the DPP's future if no heavyweight came forward. So while the other heavyweights were ducking for cover, Hsieh stepped up. For many, it made little sense when those who had never been a mayor for a major city could have had a go.

Due to the polarisation of the society, he emphasised the need for everyone to 'reconcile and coexist' (和解共生) in 2005, which he later elaborated as 'mutualism'. Before the 2006 campaign, the Red Shirt Army protested for weeks, demanding former President Chen to step down. The country was almost torn apart and there was a clear blue/green divide. There was a high level of mistrust. He therefore highlighted 'Love and Trust' as the theme as he felt that those needed to be rebuilt in order to stabilise the society.

His own campaign in Taipei got more attention than expected and he was also helping all the DPP city councillor candidates. He had a vision for the city – bidding for the 2020 Olympics and came up with a detailed plan to reinvent the city. The KMT had a lot of resources tied up in Taipei as a result of Hsieh's good campaign. He successfully prevented the KMT from pouring everything into Kaohsiung City, and at the same time, he campaigned for Chen Chu and mobilised his people to in the south to put all the support behind her. He was in effect carrying both campaigns. The result was that Chen Chu won; he lost but managed to win 41% of the votes, which was surprisingly good under the circumstances. The DPP only got 36% in the 2002 election. In addition, all the candidates he campaigned for got elected as councillors and against expectation, the number of DPP seats actually went up. These results saved the DPP from falling apart then. The respect he gained for those good results and the appreciation of his sacrifice (i.e. taking one for the party when no one else would) turned into real support for him in the primary for the 2008 presidential election. Against the odds and against Chen's wishes, Hsieh won the primary and got nominated.

What makes him great?

Hsieh's campaign abilities rested on several personal characteristics and factors. One was his creativity. His strategies often surprise people and are refreshing. The opponent usually doesn't know what to expect from him one minute to the next. This may also have something to do with his abilities to naturally interact with young people and learn from them. He seems the least 'set in his ways' compared to other politicians.

He has this rare confidence and willingness to challenge the most difficult, if not impossible, tasks. It seems that a part of him is adventurous or courageous while the other part being measured and realistic. Another quality was his 'nonzero' mindset, demonstrated in the way he chose to work with rather than antagonise the TSU. This approach maximised the influence of the pan-green coalition. He is also one of the few who would put their full support behind someone who seems rather unlikely to win. He was the most proactive in lending support to the 2010 Taichung mayoral candidate and those who did not receive a lot of party support in the 2009 3-in-1 election.

The more fundamental element in his success is always thinking the long term and beyond election success. If one compares what he has done in Kaohsiung to what Chen Shui-bian/Su Tseng-chang left for Taipei City/County, one can see that Hsieh left a lasting effect on the culture and turned Kaohsiung from a definite 'blue' area in 1998 to the most solid 'green' base now whereas Chen and Su, while creating a lot of visible changes, did not manage to penetrate the existing culture among the residents and cause significant changes in their political views/values. Such a difference, again, I believe is derived from Hsieh's more profound philosophy, which I hope to post about in the near future.

Now, some of you may want to ask why he didn't do so well in the 2008 presidential election. Well, I'll talk about this in the future. I am aware that I promised the same a year ago but haven't delivered. I haven't forgotten but I haven't really had the time to deal with the complexity of this question nor have I found the right time. Let's leave it for the moment. I'll come back with a short bio of Hsieh and his philosophy first.

Further references

'A Youngster from the Blacksmith Street: The Story of Frank Hsieh (打鐵街少年: 謝長廷的故事)'written by Kuo Chiung Li, published in 2005.

'Seeking Success in Adversity (逆中求勝)' written by Kuo Chiung Li, published in 2007.

(Many thanks to Jay who shared his views and observations)

(Also cross posted on In Claudia Jean's Eyes)

(Some editing by Tim Maddog.)

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