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Stick that in your clipboards and paste it, you so-called "lazy journalists"!

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Saturday, September 30, 2006


Ancestor Worship and Politics

One of my biggest contentions (perhaps not so out of the ordinary) for the past several years has been that in traditional society there was little separation between religion and politics, which in contemporary society are perceived as separate fields. To this day, the links are everyway--from presidents getting advice from their higher fathers and evangelical ministers telling their flock how to vote to political leaders going to church or lighting incense in front of a popular deity.

In pre-modern China, the emperor was perceived as the Son of Heaven, the link between Heaven, Earth, and Humans. He was expected to fulfill the charge of Heaven--its Mandate. A big part of this was properly performing rituals aimed at harmonizing the balance of forces in the cosmos--forces that governed human society, as well as geological, meteorological, astronomical patterns.

Certain emperors, especially dynastic-founders, were known to have conducted something called the imperial tour of inspection, whereby the emperor would travel to different regions of his realm (those areas his armies had conquered), worship at the shrines of local deities and heroes, set up stalae inscriptions, and spread his charisma.

Anyone who has been to a well-planned political rally has some sense of this. I was there when Clinton (like a rock star) and Kerry came to Philadelphia in 2004 and when Howard Dean came in 2003. There is an excitement and a feeling of being part of something big, what Dean's then campaign advisor, Joe Trippi, termed the perfect wave. I wrote about this back in June 2005, in a post I called "The Cultic Qualities of American Politics."

I'm sure the people demonstrating in front of the Presidential Office building in Taipei are having a similar experience. Indeed, the language used by Shih Ming-teh and other anti-Chen campaign organizers strikes me as similar to that used by Trippi and other American progressives. Think: a million voices against corruption. Shih's language also has the ring of Crashing the Gates, by progressive American bloggers, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Jermome Armstrong.

I am not saying these two movements--American progressive and anti-Chen--are the same. Although both are targeted at national leaders, the forming is working within a democratic political frame; the latter is attempting to subvert the legal constraints of the electoral system. These movements resonate on a rhetorical level--I think comparisons end there.

I am also not saying that either of these movements is one and the same as the imperial tour of inspection in ancient China, though I imagine witnesses of the first emperor's imperial entourage as it passed through what is now Zhejiang Province--Chiang Kai-shek's homeland, but at the time the farthest boundary of the empire--must have looked on in awe, like paparazzi flocking around movie stars. And there is an issue of social engineering in all of the above.

When I started writing this post, I had a different goal in mind, since it has followed these multiple, winding paths. I wanted to compare how different politicians in Taiwan defined ancestor worship, or how their worship reflected their political views. I first thought about this some months ago when I read the wikipedia selection about James Soong's trip to China:

Soong's whirlwind 9 day, 5 city "Bridge Laying" tour began on May 5th, with a trip to the traditional Chinese capital of Xi'an. There, he visited the tomb memorial for the Yellow Emperor, a near-mythical historical figure from whom the Chinese believe they are descended. He then visited Nanjing, the former capital of the Republic of China, where he visited the tomb of ROC founder Sun Yat-sen. After a brief visit to Shanghai, Soong made an emotional return to his ancestral home in Hunan province. Soong and his family visited and honored the grave of his maternal grandmother buried in Xiangtan in a widely televised emotional ceremony. Choosing to appear as familiar as possible to his mainland hosts, Soong spoke his greetings in the local dialect in each of the cities that he visited.

Beyond sentimental visits, the important political aspect of his tour comes from his visit to Beijing. There, he shook hands with the general secretary of the Communist Party of China Hu Jintao, only the second major political figure from Taiwan to ever do so. The carefully scripted red-carpet ceremony was identical to the previous greeting for KMT Chairman Lien Chan. The key out-come of the meeting was the publication of a shared political platform between the Communist Party and Soong's People's First Party. Finally, Soong lectured at Qinghua University, an echo of Lien's lecture at Beijing University four weeks prior.

Soong's visit was designed to emphasize his belief in common shared roots for the Chinese people, a reflection of his pro-unification sentiment. He specifically chose to honor the historical ancestor of the Chinese people, the contemporary father of the Republic of China, and then his own direct ancestors in that precise order. His public comments addressed this continuous theme as well, receiving rapturous support from his mainland audience. The political consensus borne of the visit between the PFP and the CPC called for practical actions towards establishing links between Taiwan and mainland China, while firmly resisting Taiwanese independence.

Compare this with President Chen Shui-bian's celebration of the 320th birthday of his first ancestor to journey from China to Taiwan, which he and his family held in Kuantien Township, Tainan back in July:

Chen said that he participated in the ceremony not only to remind himself not to forget where he came from, but more importantly to acknowledge his forefather's choice in making Taiwan a permanent home for the succeeding generations, a statement from the presidential office said yesterday.

He said that in the last six years, he had always carried a note with him bearing the name of the place where his ancestor lived in Fujian before coming to Taiwan.

"His [the president's] ancestors moved to Taiwan 300 years ago owing to a series of natural calamities in Fujian in the 1700s. But since the first arrival of his ancestor 300 years ago, none of the Chen family have moved back to China as they've already settled and recognized Taiwan as their homeland," the presidential statement said.

Making comparisons to other historical migrations such as the English settling in the US and later calling themselves Americans, Chen said this spirit is the same as his Chinese ancestors leaving China and deciding to make Taiwan their permanent home.

The president commended the Taiwanese people, a majority of whom are descended from Chinese who arrived from the southeastern coast of China during the last three centuries, not to forget their family origins and to treasure their current home.

The president also took the occasion to say that he was still in search of the exact location of the village where his ancestor came from.

He said he remembered that his family came from Ciyao village in Fujian Province's Shaoan County, which was printed on a memorial tablet of his ancestors on the family altar at his home in Tainan.

The Chen family clan started compiling a genealogy book in June last year and has confirmed that the clan has lived for 13 generations in Taiwan.

The genealogy book is expected to be completed in October this year, according to a Central News Agency report yesterday.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The Economist Misses a Chance

The Economist became the latest in a long line of foreign media to miss the boat on the Shih Ming-teh protests with a poorly-informed article on the "protests." Look at the subheading:

Masses in Taiwan protest against the government

Weeks have elapsed since the beginning of the anti-Chen campaign. There have been innumerable blogposts, discussions on academic lists, and articles in the local and international press that have clearly identified the supporters of Shih as predominantly Blue. Bo Tedards, a longtime observer of our local political life, pinned the butterfly to the display stand quite neatly:

Surely they would be even more satisfied if a nice upstanding general would take power? Indeed so. Having visited the demonstrations several times on varying days and times, it is apparent that a majority of them are the very same people who used to support the New Party.

This group, which emerged from the old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) "non-mainstream" faction, was strongly pro- military, and to this day its successors have many deep ties with the armed forces.

The non-mainstream faction was a set of Deep Blues who opposed Lee Teng-hui's accession to power and nearly staged a coup against him. In the 1996 Presidential election, they ran Premier Hau Pei-tsun as their candidate against the mainstream KMT Lee Teng-hui and the DPP's Peng, losing badly. The "protests" are simply one way to strike back at Chen Shui-bian, a native Taiwanese and supporter of independence. This is not about corruption. It is about the Blues' obsessive hatred of Chen.

The opening sentence frames the issue in a pro-Blue manner:

“RED terror” on the streets of Taipei is how Taiwan's ruling party has, with predictable hyperbole, described days of protests aimed at toppling the island's president, Chen Shui-bian, because of alleged corruption.

The reality is that the protesters aren't the least bit concerned about corruption, as Jerome Keating pointed out today in the Taipei Times:

Last Thursday, Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li (許財利) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was sentenced to seven years in prison and deprived of his civil rights for eight years after being found guilty of corruption. He had used his position to facilitate a land deal for his own profit.

Last December, when Hsu was running for re-election, he was already under suspicion, but Taipei Mayor and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) campaigned for him anyway and he won. In May, Hsu was formally indicted.

What was Ma's reaction? He refused to revoke Hsu's KMT membership because, he said, being indicted does not constitute guilt.

It is true: Indictment does not constitute guilt. Remember that as Point One.

In the meantime, former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), that paid pan-blue lackey, has been leading his Red Guard and a core group of KMT supporters in a campaign to topple an elected president.

The supposed theme of their anti-Chen campaign is "anti-corruption."

But is the president guilty of anything? No.

Has the president been indicted for anything? No.

Still, at Shih's and the pan-blue camp's insistence, a president who has not even been indicted must step down from office. Remember that as Point Two.

The presence of corrupt politicians addressing the protesters has been discussed numerous times on this and other blogs, as well as in the pro-Green media. Instead of exploring what the protests are about, the Economist simply presents the Blue framing without comment. Perhaps that would have been excusable three weeks ago, but not at this late date, when so much has been laid bare around the net. The Economist then goes on to note:

Few expect Mr Chen to capitulate readily to the demands of the demonstrators, who are led by Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of Mr Chen's own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a long-time critic of the president.

Here again is a thumbnail of the narrative that Jason identified, worth repeating again:

Sadly, this article is one of many cookie-cutter pieces designed to “fit” a narrative that editors seem to have already written: the “Mad Chen”, frustrated by his inability to plunge Taiwan into a war of independence with China, turns to corruption with the help of his Lady MacBeth while the rest of the country suffers in silence. Meanwhile, the selfless freedom fighter Shih returns from the political wilderness to valiantly fight on against his now-fallen student for the good of the Republic.

Toss another bad bit of presentation onto the pile No mention of the fact that Shih left the DPP and joined a pro-Blue thinktank with other pro-Blue turncoats from the DPP. Certainly Shih is a long-time critic of the President -- because for a long time he's been a Blue! Despite the fact that this information has been publicly available, in newspapers, on blogs, and elsewhere, not a single foreign reporter has managed to mention it. They prefer the neat black-and-white narrative of Shih the Reformer, rather than the more interesting and sordid truth of Shih the Failure and Sell-out.

The rest of the article is a moderately decent analysis of the politics of the issue.

China would like the KMT to take back the presidency. But it fears that an embattled Mr Chen might try to shore up his popularity by pushing the island further towards formal independence from China. Mr Chen said last week that he was considering calling a referendum on whether to try to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan, instead of Republic of China, as the island still calls itself.

How Mr. Chen would push the island toward formal independence is a mystery, inasmuch as the legislature is controlled by the Blues and would never permit it. The interesting thing about this article is the phrase "formal independence." It is also used in the planted article in the Washington Post last week:

The months-old allegations that his wife, other relatives and key aides exploited their positions for illegal financial gain have weakened his leadership. The situation has raised questions about whether Chen will have the confidence to push for formal independence for the self-ruled island of 23 million, a move China has threatened to oppose with military force.

Look at those two phrases:

pushing the island further towards formal independence
push for formal independence

Is Jane Rickards the author of this article? Rickards is not a disinterested foreign correspondent, but an English reporter for the pro-KMT China Post. Perhaps the writer has only relied on the Rickards article as a source -- that would also explain the bias. Certainly the spectre of Mad Chen the Crazed Independence Monster is a bit of pro-KMT propaganda. The only question is why it gets repeated here.

Once again, I can't wait for the media gods to send us reporters who care about the island, who know about it, and who are willing to write robustly about it. Until then, we will have to amuse ourselves shredding the ill-informed crap that the international media regularly cooks up on Taiwan.


Saturday, September 23, 2006


Media links...

  • The Beeb reports that Italy is urging an end to the arms embargo on China.

  • The Nation has a great article on the nuts who run the Washington Times, and possible replacement editors. The Washington Times has been a staunch friend of Taiwan

  • Taiwan News argues that Shih's campaign to oust Chen has reached a crossroads

  • Paul Lin in the Taipei Times comments that Ho De-fen's sacking was a turning point for the anti-Chen campaign. As I noted right here at TM! a while back......

  • NSB finds no evidence that China backs Shih. Hey no shit. Did anyone think the Chinese were that stupid? I hope the DPP legislators will shut up about it now.

  • __________________________________________________

    Friday, September 22, 2006


    921 quake victims still suffer, thanks to Mayor Ma

    It's the 7th anniversary of 921 earthquake disaster yesterday. On September 21st, 1999, a huge earthquake struck mid-Taiwan, resulted in tremendous loss of lives and wealth. Many buildings collapsed, and even geography was changed.

    Surprisingly, I couldn't find any news media over the net talking about this disaster. Comparing to the way American mourn their loss in 911, Taiwanese seem relatively absent-minded (or, cold-blooded?).

    I can only find a report that is remotely related to 921: 921 7th anniversity, Tong-Hsing residents: belated justice is not in sight . In Taipei, far away from the epicenter, Tong-Hsing building ("East Star" building, 東星大樓) was the only one building that collapsed during 921. It resulted in the loss of 87 lives. What is ironic is, it has been 7 years, yet the government led by Ma Ying-jeou couldn't even solve the issue of a single building. Not only the building hasn't been rebuilt yet, but also the compensation to the victims is still pending.

    In contrary to Ma's impotence, a collapsed building located in Taipei Country has been rebuilt 4 years ago.

    Here are some paragraphs:

    921七週年 東星住戶:等不到遲來正義
    921 7th anniversity, Tong-Hsing residents: belated justice is not in sight

    中央社 2006-09-21 12:51
    It's the 7th anniversary of 921 earthquake. The only building that collapsed in Taipei hasn't yet been rebuilt, the national compensation to the victims' family is still pending. Chen Jian-Hua (陳建華), victim's family, said that their situation is like the orphans abandoned by justice, living is worst than the 87 victims who died in the event.

    "Tong-Hsing residents are not spacemen!" Chen, who lost his mother and younger brother in 921, said that 7 years has past since 921. Long-Ger (龍閣), a building that collapsed in Taipei County during 921, has long been rebuilt, but waiting for 4 extra years (after Long-Ger's rebuild), Tong-Hsing residents are still suffering the rain shower in the old debris.

    Chen said, 921 has brought to the victims' family too much unforgotten sorrow. "Family separated, home broken, especially the long and complicated process of national compensation court, if not for the volunteer aid of lawyers Cheng Wen-Long() and Tsai Chih-Yang(), we didn't have chance to win the district court."

    However, in the eve of the 7th anniversary, the Supreme Court denied the national compensation and issued a re-consideration, which delivered a huge impact on Tong-Hsing residents. Chen said, "Wait for 7 years for the belated justice, we are like the helpless spacemen, like orphans abandoned by justice." He thinks that the 87 victims can not rest in peace even today.

    陳建華表示,台北市政府工務局 (Public Works Departments of Taipei City Government) 因審照不實,造成廠商偷工減料,使東星大樓瞬間毀滅性倒塌,已經讓罹難者家屬流盡了眼淚,而另一項打擊,讓受災戶傷痛加深。
    According to Chen, Public Works Departments of Taipei City Government didn't carry out the building code, allowing the construction company chances to use cheaper materials, resulted in the sudden deadly collapse of Tong-Hsing building. It already caused the survivors to run out of their tears. The current impact (the pending of national compensation) causes even more harm to the victim family.

    As Ma has been beautified by media for years, people always think of Ma Ying-Jeou as the most promising candidate for the 2008 president campaign. Can you imagine handing over the entire country to a politician who can't even solve the issue of one single building for 7 years ?

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    Wednesday, September 20, 2006


    Sept 20, 2006, Daily Links

    What mess! Coup in Thailand, and protesters count coup on each other here.

  • Jim in Japan points out this report in the Daily Yomiuri on Japan effectively upgrading its relations with Taiwan
  • The View from Taiwan blogs on Tom Plate's article on the overblown presentation on the China threat. Sun Bin comments on it too.
  • Several blogs, including the View, the Foreigner, and Chewin in the Chung, were quick to pick up on the possibility of the largely pro-Blue officer corps moving against the President here, whom they detest, stimulated by the Thai coup to remove the apparently corrupt Thaksin.
  • Jerome Keating has a whole series of essays on the Shih Ming-teh-led Blue protests. Good stuff.
  • Media: Reports of violence in Tainan and Kaohsiung when pro-Blue and pro-Green protesters clashed.

  • __________________________________________________

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006


    Taiwan: Catalyst for Change in China

    I'll leave it to someone with better skills at analysis to comment on the implications and assumptions of this commentary by Fei-ling Wang in the Christian Science Monitor, but these words caught my notice:

    Since the time of its first emperor, Qin Shihuang, China had been under centralized, authoritarian rule. But when the ROC was formed in 1912, hopes were high for democratic political change. However, external and internal wars, self-serving warlords, and abysmal ROC leaders tragically retarded China's political progress. In 1949, a peasant rebellion influenced by communist ideology created the PRC and drove the ROC offshore to Taiwan. Mao Zedong, the self-proclaimed new Qin Shihuang, perpetuated and intensified mainland China's despotic political tradition.

    Apparently Wang, a professor of international affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, doesn't recognize the long periods of de-centralization throughout Chinese history. He says that since Qin Shihuang, "China had been under centralized, authoritarian rule." Well, what about the long period of division between the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the Sui/Tang unification? What about the period between the Tang and Song dynasties? What about the various regional rulers (often viewed as rebels) who challenged the authority of the Central State. From a Song Dynasty perspective, the rulers of the first Vietnamese dynasty would have been quite similar to Taiwan's independence advocates.

    Now, I have no illusions that the majority of rulers during the "Central State's" inter-dynastic periods were any more democratic-minded than Qin Shihuang, but the idea that all of China was for thousands of years under centralized rule is also an illusion. I am also skeptical about the level of penetration of the Chinese court's authority even at the height of China's dynastic periods, especially in peripheral areas.

    And where was Taiwan when Qin Shihuang unified all-under-heaven? What was it? Who lived there? Was it even an asterix in any of the official histories? Was it within the domain of the Chinese worldview, part of the Nine Continents? I am curious how Professor Wang would answer these questions.

    The notion of unification--so important to China's official elite--is one that goes back well before the first emperor, probably to the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, when several states emerged in the midst of the Zhou Kingdom's disintegration, all vying for power. Even then, there were those who advocated (and fought) against unification.

    Throughout the entire history of the discourse about unification, where was Taiwan? It didn't factor into discussions, at least in written ones, if anyone in China even new about its existence. It first came within the orbit of the Great Qing State only during the period of Western colonialism. That it is even an issue today is a mere by-product of a civil war that did not involve the people who inhabited this beautiful island. It was then that the new KMT rulers imported the idea, and applied it as a reaction to their loss of the mainland (though I am curious about what people were saying during the Japanese colonial period).

    Interestingly, Wang says there is an "an emerging consensus among the Taiwanese elite to make conditional unification with China a firm future choice." I suppose Wang's view of "Taiwanese elite" is blue.


    Monday, September 18, 2006


    New Frame

    Instead of One China/Two Systems (or two interpretations, etc.), think:

    One China/One Taiwan Peacefully Co-existing

    Instead of Status Quo, think:



    Sunday, September 17, 2006


    BBC continues Taiwan deception

    Says Chen Shui-bian is just a "leader" and
    tens/hundreds of thousands are merely "thousands"

    After three posts [1, 2, 3] and several complaints to the BBC about their harmful coverage of Taiwan, they're still at it.

    The day after the 916 rally on Ketagalan Boulevard to support Taiwan's president Chen Shui-bian, another article with no byline appears, written in a style which observant readers would realize is designed to not provoke China, a country whose unelected leaders constantly behave like 3-year-olds who've just had all of their toys taken away.

    Reading through the head-lie
    The headline of today's imbalanced piece reads "Thousands rally for Taiwan leader." The people who won't see anything but the headline far outnumber those who will actually read the article, and that's the impression that will remain.

    The subhead tells us something a bit different:
    Tens of thousands of Taiwanese have taken to the streets of the capital, Taipei, in support of their embattled President, Chen Shui-bian
    But there's more. The remainder of the article refers to Chen as "the president" two more times and as "Mr Chen" a total of five times.

    Let X = X
    Chen Shui-bian is Taiwan's president. He's the democratically-elected president of Taiwan, the nation. Hu Jintao is an unelected "leader" of a country ruled by authoritarians. Shih Ming-teh is an unelected leader of a mob that wants to use extralegal means to "depose" President Chen (see how easy it is to type?), despite having legal means at his disposal. Even school children can be "class leaders."

    Titles have meaning. If you called your physician Mr./Ms. Chen instead of Dr. Chen (or whatever his/her surname actually is), he or she would naturally feel strange. Even the infamous literary character Dr. Jekyll is addressed with either the appropriate title or none at all, but never as "Mr. Jekyll."

    How many "thousands" is 100,000? I'm sure even the editors at BBC could answer that. While 100,000 is still a number of thousands, words mean things, context changes meaning, and care should be exercised by media professionals.

    Even if we go with the figure of 60,000 provided by police [NOTE: Sunday's Taipei Times tells us that police "refused to offer any figure" and "that from now on it would not release such statistics."], the BBC headline downplays what happened in reality. If we read further, the article diminishes the importance of Saturday's pan-green rally by making a comparison to the red-shirted rallies the previous day in which people were mobilized by the Shih camp.

    The numbers apparently are important to some people.

    The BBC doesn't even let us see with our own eyes how many people were there. In the image accompanying their article, you can count 2-1/2 faces and a single hand from each of two more people. Therefore, we can only see five people in the photo. Sunday's Taipei Times gives us a much better photo, although they make the exact same "mistake" with the numbers in their head-lie. (I bet a computer program could do a decent job of telling us how many people are in such a photo.)

    Each time they report about demonstrations, instead of playing games with the numbers, why not offer the readers a photograph that shows as much of the crowd as possible -- like from a helicopter -- and let us determine the numbers for ourselves? Could it be that they have ulterior motives?

    Misunderstood characters: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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    Unfortunate experience

    On Friday I met some long-time friends--a couple with two very cute little daughters. He is local Taiwanese and works for a multi-national corporation. We have been friends since 1996. His wife is a Mainlander. She was his girlfriend when we first met. I attended their wedding in 1998 before I returned to America. It was a Christian service since he had converted to Christianity to fit into her family.

    A couple of weeks ago, he told me her father is a strong James Soong supporter, and this was a big point of contention between them. I don't know much about the views of his family, though he once told me he supports Ma Ying-jeou. I suspect people view Ma as middleground and those in the big business community especially see the DPP as holding up full economic integration between Taiwan and China.

    Anyway, on Friday I walked out of the metro station and got into their car. We soon started talking about the anti-Chen protests. I jokingly asked if they would be participating in the sit-in, as I do with most people I meet. I guess I want to discover people's reactions.

    Prior to Friday, everyone I have asked has responded that they would not attend. Many people have expressed disappointment in Chen Shui-bian, even commmitted supporters, mainly because he hasn't in their minds fulfilled his campaign promises, but this did not cause them to support Shih Ming-teh's campaign to oust the president.

    One person at the National Library, who himself is Mainlander, answered my question whether he supported the protest and the talk of conscience revolution and waging an uprising: "No, I am too anarchistic...and maybe too selfish. They are just so conservative (baoshou)." Others have expressed dissatisfaction with Chen but even more anger and worry with respect to the protesters.

    Friday was different. My friends, who usually appear politically moderate, kept saying they wished they could go, but they couldn't because of their daughters. Within moments of getting into the car, I heard: "Depose Chen!" It was repeated several times as we ate dinner.

    Now, it is very difficult to shake opinions once they are formed. Mine are formed as are theirs. I can't help but see these protests as the political tactics of the opposition, while they only see the scandals of the first family. Would it have helped if I had said there is no evidence that the president has done anything illegal?

    Throughout dinner I remained quiet because I felt uncomfortable and didn't know how to respond. What amazed me was how universal they believed the anti-Chen movement to be. When we got back into the car the radio reported that 500,000 were gathered in front of the Presidential Office Building. From the sounded of the continuous narrative you would think that the whole of Taipei was surging with a mass protest, that the people were truely rising up in opposition to the evil President Chen.

    When I entered the metro station that night, there were indeed many red-shirts. They claim they are wearing red shirts to express their anger. They walked in packs and from time to time shouted: "Depose Chen!" There were a lot of them, but were they everyone? Clearly not. Their voices were louder, but most people were just going about their daily lives, returning from whatever event occupied their evening, or on their way to Friday's entertainment.

    There were splotches of red but not a red mass.

    All I can say is that there have been bigger demonstrations against the Iraq War in cities around the world, but the media coverage is never so extensive and constant, if they are even reported. In Taiwan, we here day after day about the anti-Chen protests. They have been big (at least some days), but the power of the camera and a neverending narrative have amplified them to the level of a mass protest in the manner of the storming of the bastille. This is a representation that his been propagated around the world and has even convinced normally-sceptical scholars and reporters.



    The side of 916 Taiwan's media won't show you

    They don't get it because they don't want to

    As expected, there was unfortunate violence associated with Saturday's rally to support democracy and Taiwan's president Chen Shui-bian. A man wearing a "Taiwan Nation" (台灣國) shirt was attacked by people wearing red shirts even as he left the Taipei train station under police protection. On Friday evening, opponents of President Chen had moved their "sit-in" to the train station to intimidate people arriving for the pro-Chen rally on Saturday. It's surprising that we didn't see more of this. Perhaps the media was looking the other way.

    At the scene of the rally on Ketagalan Boulevard, a CTI anchor had to be whisked away as the crowd around his platform got riled up. As he fled the scene with the help of police and DPP legislator Wang Shih-cheng (王世堅), it looked like one person may have landed a blow to the back of the anchor's head. Pan-blue media showed the footage every 10 or 15 minutes for the rest of the day. A cameraman for FTV (usually seen as being pro-green) on the scene was foolishly wearing a red jacket and had a "Depose Chen" sticker on his camera. Unsurprisingly, he was not welcomed by the people there.

    In all of these cases, the reactions seem unjustified, but we certainly can't count on the media to tell us the full story in any case.

    [UPDATE: Here's some video of the cameraman where you can see the sticker on his camera, found on Wang Ben-hu's (汪笨湖) BBS.]

    My wife relates that an anchor on ETTV described the people at the rally as being comprised mostly of betel nut chewers, people with foul mouths, and others who came because they were paid or for free boxed lunches. (I should remind readers of the free massages said to be available at Shih Ming-teh's "sit-in.")

    [UPDATE #2: Wang Ben-hu's BBS comes to the rescue again by linking to cartoonist Yufu's (漁夫) blog where he put up some nice video showing that the crowd included lots of young, educated, non-violent people. The video is accompanied by the pro-Taiwan song, "Taiwan is Our Baby." My wife helped me dig up an article on the ETToday web site which pretends to be news, but comes across as little more than a factually-challenged editorial. It says (my translation) that "60% of the crowd was male... Half of the men were aged 40 - 50; of the other half, 2/3 are above the age of 50... Among the 40 - 50 group, most Chen supporters were smokers and betel nut chewers, and their conversation was full of vulgarities... There were many gangsters with tattoos... Of course, there were refined people there, but their numbers were few... Half of the female Chen supporters were middle-aged... The numbers can be attributed to the DPP's male chauvinism..."]

    It's nicer on the green side
    But if you've ever been to a pro-green rally, you would find most of the above a bit peculiar. Pro-green rallies are full of life, energy, music, and families. The people who attend come from all walks of life. Teachers and students, farmers and housewives, doctors and lawyers, bloggers and readers, but the common denominator is that they're mostly friendly and aren't the least bit confrontational -- unless provoked.

    If you're interested in seeing some footage shot on Ketagalan Blvd. on Saturday that's different from the distorted pan-blue media coverage, I found a 30'15" Windows Media video (77.6 MB, in Taiwanese and Mandarin) via a comment on Wang Ben-hu's (汪笨湖) web site, where you can now also watch his web-only show.

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

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    Saturday, September 16, 2006


    Will Chen Resign?

    An Agence France Press report on yesterday's fun notes:

    But the lingering political concerns continued to overshadow the island's stock market on Tuesday with share prices closing more than one percent down.

    Nevertheless, only 16 percent of almost 1,000 people surveyed Monday by the TVBS cable news network said they believed Chen could survive the challenge and 60 percent said they supported the campaign.

    On Tuesday thousands of angry protesters, wearing red to mark their anger, chanted anti-Chen slogans and flashed thumbs down signs. Numbers were well down on the 200,000 that filled the streets of Taipei on Saturday to start the campaign.

    Chen has been under pressure to resign after his son-in-law Chao Chien-ming was detained and indicted on suspicion of insider trading and taking bribes. Chen has publicly apologized for Chao's actions but said he would not resign.

    Prosecutors are also looking at whether Chen misused funds intended for national affairs and questioned him last month.

    In June he survived an unprecedented parliament vote to topple him after the move failed to win the backing of two-thirds of all lawmakers. If passed, it would have triggered a national referendum on Chen's future.

    His wife Wu Shu-chen is also under investigation for allegedly accepting department store gift certificates in exchange for lobbying efforts.

    The report shows why so many of us here are so disgusted with the foreign press. The article uses a poll from TVBS, anti-Chen and owned 100% by Hong Kong Chinese. Needless to say, the reader is not apprised of this relationship. It also uses the 200,000 figure for the first day, without noting, as less partisan reports did, that the 200K is from the march organizers (the police estimate was less than half that). It also fails in that it gives no background on Shih, and no background to its own statements -- that no investigation has turned up evidence of Chen engaging in wrongdoing. I have this dream that the foreign media will one day report on Taiwan honestly and in depth.

    One wild-card that hasn't appeared in the foreign media is the status of Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen. She checked into the hospital the other day apparently weighing less than 30 kilos (has she come out?). If she dies, that could be a major factor in making him step down.



    Circling the Presidential Office

    Last night, I watched the local Hong Kong news coverage of Friday’s encirclement of the Presidential Office by the Anti-Chen protestors. Both Hong Kong’s broadcast stations had teams of reporters covering the event and as expected, the reporting was essentially pan-blue propaganda. Shih Ming-teh and the organizers of the so-called "Million Voices Against Corruption Campaign” are doing such a fine job that Chinese leaders confidently remained silent and say that the protest is merely a local Taiwan matter.

    As the march continued, the Hong Kong stations were repeating campaign numbers saying that 500,000 participated, then 750,000 and finally claiming one million participated in the protest.

    One interesting aspect of the slant was a subtle attempt to imply that the Taiwan protest is similar to the Hong Kong protests against then Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. Coverage showed families with young children marching and shouting slogans. They interviewed intelligent and rational people urging to topple the ‘corrupt’ Chen Shui-bian government by pressuring for his resignation. They portray this as an action of the people seeking justice and fairness by marching for democracy against a corrupt government. They show non-political types marching for the first time and with their children for them to learn valuable civic lessons – these were the same themes of the Hong Kong protests that ultimately forced Tung to resign his office.

    Of course, there was no mention of the behind the scene orchestration by the pan-blue machinery and that Shih Ming-teh is in deep in their pocket. Also unheard was the prevalence of black gold politics within the blue camp and the refusal of the organizers to deal with this ingrained problem if this is indeed a campaign against government corruption.

    The campaign is simply presented as Taiwan's version of the anti-Tung Chee-hwa movement. Even the chants are similar. In Hong Kong, we shouted “Tung Chee-hwa Step Down” while the Taiwan version is “Ah-Bian Step Down”. Throughout the evening, there were news updates with live pictures of the march; most of the news broadcasts focused on this story. When other news was read, the stations split the television screen and continued to show live images of the march during the entire broadcast.

    This coverage leads the average Hong Kong person to become sympathetic to the protestors’ cause and conviction that Chen is corrupt. In Hong Kong, the protest of 2003 started a groundswell that ultimately led to Tung’s replacement. The reports suggest that such momentum already exists among the Taiwanese public and it too will lead to the downfall of an evil president.

    The most obvious difference between the two situations is not discussed. In Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa was chosen by a committee of 800 hand-picked by Beijing. In Taiwan, President Chen was elected by the people of Taiwan. No one asks the obvious question that if President Chen is as corrupt as claimed, why not move to impeach him under the constitution? Instead of sit-ins and protests, they can simply pressure the Legislative Yuan to impeach Chen for his alleged wrongdoings or simply let the current judicial investigations to take their course. These are safeguards built into the constitution to remove corrupt leaders. Hong Kong’s Basic Law (our mini-constitution under one country-two systems rule) does not provide for impeachment or removal of the Chief Executive by the Legislative Council for misconduct. Thus, Hong Kong's political system offers few avenues for the public to express displeasure so protesting and marching are ways we express our views. But this is not the case in Taiwan! People can vote out corrupt political leaders and they can pressure their legislators to recall or impeach their president. Why disrupt Taiwan society by blocking streets and calling for general strikes? Just call their legislators to initiate impeachment if things are so bad. That such public display is used reflect the complete political nature of the campaign.

    Another thought came to mind as I watch the highlights of Shih Ming-teh’s speech is that he may be thinking of using this campaign as a springboard to the presidency. Of course he knows that such a move means he will lose his pan-blue support. Yet, I get the impression that in his current euphoria, he thinks he can harness ‘people power’ to gain the presidency. Regardless of success or (most likely) failure of his campaign against President Chen, hitching to an anti-corruption platform as a champion of democracy (and using what remains of his $100 million campaign chest), he may think that his current stardom may allow him to make a political comeback all the way to the presidency without pan-blue financial support. In fact, he may even turn his anti-corruption theme against the hand that has been feeding him in recent years. Is it a brilliant strategy or just a delusion? Never a dull moment in Taiwan politics!




    For Fun Only

    Don't miss Johnny Neihu's hack on the pro-Blue protest:

    Meanwhile, Shih and his gang have trotted out just about every washed-up singer, painfully earnest high school student, drug-addled English teacher and underexposed actor they can find, turning Ketagalan Boulevard into a Woodstock for Wankers.

    But soon, they'll have to cast their eyes abroad for more fodder. Here's a tip: when you see former US child star Gary Coleman and the dinosaurs of pop Air Supply on stage in crimson garb with extended thumbs, you'll know the rally is near its last gasp. Or when you here the crowd chanting "A-bian xiatai" to the tune of Macarena (I clearly heard a version to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic, so all things are possible).

    Some have tried to compare Shih campaign to the historic "People Power" movement that ousted Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, but if so then it's history repeating itself as farce, in the hackneyed words of the original "Red" (that's Karl Marx, for my younger readers).

    In fact, gazing over the crowd of ridiculous mask-wearers, red ribbon tiers, Nazca-line dreamers, dressed-up dogs, goofy teens skipping school, has-been entertainers, gyrating middle-aged men, balloon-clad "warriors" and toothless geezers holding up placards with incoherent insults in "English," it becomes clear that what we are witnessing is far beyond "People Power." Call it "Dork Power."

    But will Dork Power bring down the president? I wouldn't bet vital organs on it, unless they find evidence that he's killed a baby.



    KMT, DPP Clash over Improvements in the Crime Rate

    Back in March the View from Taiwan blogged on Premier Su's ridiculous claim that he would lower the crime rate. The Taipei Times noted:

    Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has promised not only to step down as premier if the crime rate does not fall in six months, but also to leave politics altogether. There's a riskiness in such politicking that will not help Su in his drive for the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential nomination. This strategy has since been sanctioned by the Presidential Office.

    The whole affair was asinine, and Su's promise absurd. The KMT called him on it yesterday:

    KMT legislators called a press conference yesterday demanding Su's resignation for being unable to deliver on his promise. The KMT legislators said that three different surveys had shown that more than half of the respondents didn't believe that public order had improved.

    "According to the three surveys, the rate of people's satisfaction with public order has been on the downside, proving that Su has failed to keep his promise," said Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), head of the KMT's policy coordination department.

    One survey conducted by Shih Hsin University said that the public's satisfaction rate had fallen to 30.2 percent this month from 33.2 percent in March while the dissatisfaction rate rose from 50.4 percent in March to 58.8 percent, Tseng said.

    However, Vice Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) yesterday told legislators that the improvement in public order had been satisfactory over the past six months.

    The Green Taiwan Solidarity Union, always ready hack on fellow Green DPP, joined the KMT in criticizing Su. Meanwhile the Su's supporters fought back:

    However, Vice Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) yesterday told legislators that the improvement in public order had been satisfactory over the past six months.

    "Public order has been slowly improving, even though there is still room for improvement," Chien said during a meeting with Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislators.

    Chien issued a report which illustrated that much improvement had been made in public order around the nation in eight key areas.

    "In terms of major criminal cases, the incident rate between March and September fell by 15 percent while the clear-up rate increased by 5.08 percent compared with the same period last year," said Hung Sheng-kun, deputy director-general of National Police Agency.

    Hung added, "Meanwhile, there was significant reduction (32.36 percent) in the rate of automobile theft and a 21.11 percent reduction in motorcycle theft over the same period when compared with the same period of last year."

    The problem here is basically that there are no good numbers. The statistics are constructions and orders for their construction come down from top. Hence, anyone who wanted to "reduce" crime need only send down quotas for lower crime figures, a common tactic for both parties. Policemen in Taiwan are well known for burying cases, so much so that it became an embarrassment that forced the government to begin a receipt system so that the public would have evidence from the police that a case exists. As anthropologist Jeff Martin put it in his excellent presentation on the police:

    "You have to recognize that the policeman himself is just a pawn in this much larger political game," Jeff said. The policeman have no particular stake in the theft of your motorcycle, but somewhere above their heads is "some idiot who has said that if the crime rate goes up, I will resign." There is no way to effectively decrease the scooter theft rate, and no way to increase the recovery rate. The only way to influence the crime rate short of a miracle, is to influence the crime statistics. These become "very real political pressures," he explained, on the local substation commanders. "If your substation reports more than 15 motorcycles stolen this month, you are not getting a promotion." Essentially, Jeff said, laughing, this becomes "you have 15 motorcycle theft reports -- use them wisely."

    Nor are the opinion polls any better, since my experience with the locals is that they are reflexively critical of the government, to the point of unreason (never mind that anything that passes through a political party's hands cannot be trusted). Only an in-depth, interview-based crime survey by a neutral sociological organization could produce a reasonable picture of crime in Taiwan -- and as far as I know, nothing like that exists. At the moment, I would argue, no one knows what the crime rate is in Taiwan...



    Non-partisan protesters?

    I ran into some of the protesters yesterday in Taichung. They were apparently waiting for buses, and had decorated a footbridge.

    The meeting site appears to be an interesting statement on the real politics of the "protest" up in Taipei. The wall behind the protesters is the Confucius Temple in Taichung, which is also the Martyr's Shrine to the soldiers who died for the Republic of China fighting the Japanese -- in other words, the "non-partisan" protesters met at a KMT landmark.



    Sizzling fresh links for you to chew on

    A few small links before we start our weekend:

    Journalist Ian Williams (AKA the Deadline Pundit) does a bang-up job examining the issues and precedents that affect Taiwan’s bid to join the UN.

    One half of the pan-blue alliance’s Dynastic Duo, Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) gets pelted by an egg at the “anti Chen” rally by one of the thousands of whack jobs currently encamped on Ketagalan Ave. (Article in Chinese).

    Like all fans of Monty Python, I bet there are eels in China’s new hovercraft.

    The KMT re-launches the Central Daily News in electronic format for businessmen in China. What, like they already don't have enough bullshit media over there?

    Officials at the Taekwondo World Cup in Bangkok had to separate Taiwanese and Chinese competitors for fear that they, uh, might actually start fighting.

    Asia Times Online rightly rips Taiwan’s idiotic 2006 UN ad campaign a new one.


    Friday, September 15, 2006


    Liberty Times on Cultural Revolution in Taiwan

    The popular blog ESWN, generally contemptuous of Taiwan's democracy, has a rare piece translated from the pro-Green Liberty Times:

    "The revelatory materials in Taiwan are rather like the "Doubt everything; bring down everything" during the Cultural Revolution. Anyone who supports Taiwan independence is attacked and must apologize, just like the "five black types." What kind of democracy is this? This type of populism is being manipulated by the Chinese Communists. Although Taiwan does not have a Mao Zedong, the shadows of the Chinese Communists are everywhere. In Taiwan, it was not easy to find a political figure such as Shi Ming-teh, who has never been to China. Therefore, he is a rarity. But during this entire movement, Chen Yu-hao and many pro-unification politicians, together with many performing artists and gangsters with China backgrounds, caused Shih Ming-teh to change colors. So the Cultural Revolution is coming back through Shih. But can Shih Ming-teh really assume power?"

    We've blogged before on Lin Cheng-chieh and his beating of a pro-democracy mainlander on a TV talk show, and his connections to China and to the notorious gangster Chang An-lo.

    Shih has sowed the wind....



    Violence and Red Guards....in Taipei

    Well, as I feared, the bad news keeps rolling out of the faux "people's protest" in Taipei. Taiwan News reports that gangs are already. hard at work among the crowd:

    The CIB and the city's police authority have been extremely cautious in their plans for keeping the upcoming parade under control. Local media disclosed that members of most criminal rings in northern Taiwan have colluded to cause turmoil at the rally by attacking one of the official buildings the parade will pass by. As the parade will pass the buildings of many government agencies, including the Presidential Office, the reportedly planned attacks have shocked the community and brought considerable pressure on local law enforcement officials.

    Kao said police have found that members of certain criminal rings are already taking part in the ongoing sit-in held by Shih and his comrades on Ketagalan Boulevard against Chen. "Some of them even play a role in maintaining the event's order," Kao said.

    Yesterday there were reports of people wearing green being beaten, and a large number of people who have to pass through protest areas told media personnel they wear red to avoid violence against themselves. A China Times columnist said marchers should attack the Presidential building, and there were many calls for violent attacks on government buildings reported in the media. There were also threats that the Shih campaign protesters would lay siege to the train station and attack protesters coming in today for the pro-Chen protest. Shih meanwhile tried to separate himself from what he has launched:

    In response to the alleged planned violence, Shih and his colleagues have already urged members participating in today's parade to remain peaceful throughout the march. But they have also made it clear that should there be any attacks initiated by people involved in the event, the organizers will not be responsible as the parade is separate from individual acts of violence.

    Sure, Shih. He also said that Chen would "bear all responsibility" for any violence -- meaning that Shih expects it now. Meanwhile a 12 year old boy got up and read an anti-Chen poem to the crowd to loud cheers, causing many observers to remark on the affinity to Mao's Red Guard era.

    The presence of gangsters is a strong signal that the protest is a partisan pro-Blue job, since the Taipei gangs are overwhelmingly pro-Blue. The Taiwan News and other Green media have pointed out that the protest is a partisan political hack job:

    However, the most troubling question is whether Shih or the other leaders of the "Depose Chen" action genuinely have control over their own headquarters and whether the headquarters genuinely has the capability to maintain discipline and control among "Depose Chen" supporters.

    Numerous incidents, including threats against reporters, recurrent attacks on passers-by, mob censorship in the so-called "Citizens Forum" and signs of the presence of gang members, give rise to serious concern.

    Moreover, a revealing contrast was the hounding of a "Depose Chen" spokesman for using the term "Taiwan Country" on September 9 and the enthusiastic welcome given yesterday afternoon by Shih and the red-shirted crowd for an imitator of the late autocrat Chiang Ching-kuo who led the crowd in shouting slogans such as "Long Live the Republic of China!" and "Long Live the Chinese Nationalist Party!"

    You'd have to be pretty naive to take seriously the "non-partisan" label for this made-for-media event.

    I said earlier that violence might break out because it favors many different political agendas. Here's hoping Mayor Ma sets aside his partisan political stance and puts a stop to it. Ma could be one of the chief losers if the crowd is used as a cover for politically-motivated gangster violence. And Taiwan would be the biggest loser of all. Meanwhile, Shih, always shooting off his mouth, said in response to the DPP counter-demonstration today:

    Responding to reports that the DPP has resolved to mobilize people to attend a Taiwan Society-initiated rally tomorrow at the same location where supporters of Shih's anti-corruption campaign have been gathering since last Saturday, Shih criticized DPP officials, saying only Nazis and Mussolini mobilize crowds.




    BBC still not getting Taiwan right

    Still making unconvincing excuses

    After two posts (on both INDIAC and Taiwan Matters!) about Catherine Gluck's very one-sided BBC article which failed to challenge the lies spoon-fed to her by Shih Ming-teh's crazed anti-democratic campaign in Taipei to "depose" the democratically-elected president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, the BBC still hasn't posted any comments to the original article and is still pretending that they're trying hard to get it right.

    I'm still not buying it.

    Smoke and mirrors won't do
    In response to my e-mail back to the BBC about the still-missing comments, I received another e-mail, this time from Samanthi Dissanayake. At first glance, the e-mail appears to display genuine concern and interest, but it takes only a slightly closer look to see a less attractive side.

    Let's do a point-by-point analysis of Dissanayake's letter.
    Dear Tim,

    Thanks very much for your emails. I'm sorry that you didn't see any comments posted. Actually, when we put a postform on a story it is largely because we want to collect people's views and experiences for a more substantial piece - so it would amount to more than comments posted at the end of an article.
    First, I didn't just "not see" any comments. They really weren't there! Next, what was Gluck's 31-paragraph article -- some kind of a "quick take"? It seems to have done "substantial" damage, nonetheless.

    Dissanayake continues:
    In this situation, we avoid putting comments up on the story immediately, because we want to use some of the best comments and people for a longer-form piece.
    Again, she treats Gluck's article on an anti-democratic attempt to depose a democratically-elected president as relatively unimportant. The choice of the word "immediately" also rings hollow. A whole week has passed since Gluck's article -- practically an eternity in the news business -- and Shih's mendacious campaign of hate has been cheered on by Taiwan's pan-blue media for a whole month now. And while Dissanayake might want to save "some of the best comments," I'm confident that there were enough comments submitted to that article that they could have put up 40 or 50 without even touching "the best" ones.

    Let's see what else she has to say about things which don't exist.
    When we put up a debate that is also on the Have Your Say page, then we do have the ability to post up most of the comments sent in. Perhaps we should have done a debate in this instance.
    As I already mentioned, there are exactly zero comments below the original article, and there are only four Asia stories on the "Have Your Say" page. (Continue reading to see about the "debate" part.)
    I am very interested in doing some kind of piece on the political situation in Taiwan and this involves exactly the sort of conversations you recommend we have with people outside Taipei.
    They just failed miserably at uncovering the truth about what's going on in Taiwan. They failed so badly, it looked like it was on purpose! Why would I trust them to do a better job this time? Does Dissanayake have special knowledge of Taiwan's situation that she can bring? What does she know about Taiwan? Anything that would let her write (or even edit) a serious piece on Taiwan politics? Let's check, shall we?

    A Google search for [Samanthi Dissanayake Taiwan] only comes up with five hits, none of which seem to show that she has actually even written anything about Taiwan at all. Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, but those results are not too promising. Let's try an image search.

    A Google image search for [Samanthi Dissanayake] brings up three hits, all related to Hong Kong.

    Even using BBC's own search function to look for [Samanthi Dissanayake Taiwan] brings up nothing where she writes about Taiwan. Does the BBC expect to fix the damage done by an unquestioning reporter by replacing her with one who has no experience reporting on Taiwan, or are they doing it on purpose, expecting most people to not notice?

    Further searching brought me to a page by someone who received a similar reply from Dissanayake, but the author of that post seems to have bought her story in the long run. I'm certainly more skeptical than that of the reasons for the unbalanced reports.

    Getting back to her e-mail to me, she still fails to impress:
    I will certainly be getting back to a number of people who emailed the debate to get a sense of their views. We are very eager to represent the variety of opinion there.
    Wait! I thought she just said "we should have done a debate." And why is the part about "getting back to" these people still being stated in the future tense? She's already ignored them for an entire week.

    Nearing the end of the e-mail, she's still ignoring the obvious:
    I was wondering if you would also be willing to talk to me? Are you in Taiwan? What are you doing there?
    This was contained in the bottom of her reply in the section which quoted my previous e-mail:
    - - -
    > >From: Tim Maddog
    > >Email address: [myname] [at] hotmail [dot] com
    > >Country: Taiwan
    >Tim Maddog, Taiwan
    - - -

    Notice the extreme lack of attention to detail there. Does it look like she did a bit of skimming? Does she expect me to trust her to do an accurate piece on anything?

    In closing, I get this:
    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes,

    BBC News website
    Be careful what you wish for. You might get an earful.

    I think I will write back and let her read this post -- and this and this and this and this.

    Details that need attention: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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    Thursday, September 14, 2006


    Recommended: AToL's look at the anti-Chen protests

    Just in case you haven’t gotten your Shih Ming-teh fix yet today, I highly recommend Tsai Ting-I's insightful piece from earlier this week on the “Depose Chen” movement in Asia Times Online. Tsai examines the protests and the missteps on both sides that has resulted in the current karnival on Ketagalan Avenue with an even hand.

    Tsai does a good job explaining the ongoing investigations of the president and his family, but Tsai really hits the nail on the head with this:
    “The local media's numerous speculative and often exaggerated reports have sparked public anger. And Chen further fueled the indignation over the cases after he broke the silence to defend himself. He questioned the origin of the opposition Kuomintang's huge assets and cited another politician's wife's failure to declare her jewelry assets. In doing so, he gave the impression of trying to "justify" his misdeeds by citing others' wrongdoings.”

    Bingo. Throw in a presidential office that has fumbled the public relations ball, a bitter former rival with a flair for theatrics (the part about Shih preparing a will was so cheesy that it sent coffee shooting out my nose), plenty of support (moral or otherwise) from the opposition, and a bevy of hyperventilating academics and we have ourselves a real party.

    You can read the rest on your own here.


    Wednesday, September 13, 2006


    Hints of Violence

    Let's hope this doesn't happen....


    According to the report, Chen and his family would most likely be escorted to a safe house managed by the NSB in Taipei's suburbs if the protest becomes unruly.

    "The National Security Bureau did not confirm or deny the plans," the newspaper reported. It claimed that the retreat would be a last resort to safeguard the president and his family.

    The Taipei City police department yesterday approved an application by the leader of the protest, former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Shih Ming-teh, and several pan-blue lawmakers to stage a march Friday through the streets of Taipei to begin at 6 p.m. and end at midnight on Ketagalan Boulevard.

    The city police approved the application for the march subject to 13 conditions that include bans on carrying torches and wearing masks.

    The police said that the ban on masks is to ensure that they could properly identify people if the protest turns violent.

    The police also turned down a request for the protesters to march close to the president's office and residence, and gave orders for a certain distance to be maintained as the demonstrators march on nearby streets.

    Radical threats

    The conditions were set in light of threats by some radical supporters of Shih's anti-Chen movement to storm the president's office or residence during the march to force Chen to submit to their demands that he step down.

    The threats have apparently given Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) some cause for concern, as well.

    "Now that the police department has given the green light for the march to be held, it must be well prepared" to control the situation, he said.

    He also called on the organizers of the protest to maintain order during Friday's march, cajoling demonstrators with the view that "the activity would win more public support if it is kept within the confines of the law and is nonviolent."



    BBC angers all who care about Taiwan

    They sure look like they're doing it on purpose

    On Monday afternoon, I blogged (on both INDIAC and Taiwan Matters!) about a very one-sided BBC article which failed to challenge several blatant falsehoods spoon-fed to them by purely partisan participants of Shih Ming-teh's absurd campaign in Taipei to "depose" the democratically-elected president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian. By unquestioningly dishing this poison back to its readers, the BBC has done a terrible disservice to the whole nation of Taiwan.

    Let's look once more at one of the biggest spoonfuls:
    "We don't want any partisan support. We try to keep this as pure as possible, as a movement of the people," said Emile Sheng, professor of politics at Soochow University, who has joined the protest camp as a media spokesman.
    And let's look again and again at a photo from the actual event and see if we can spot any "partisan support" or anybody who looks excessively happy about getting such support lavished upon him:

    Not a SPECK of green... except for all that friggin' envy
    "We're not partisans,
    we just play 'em in our roles
    as chairmen of the anti-Chen parties"

    Doh! It's PFP chairman James Soong
    and KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou
    making a Shih Ming-teh sandwich!

    Caught red-handed
    I was but one among a throng of commenters who submitted our thoughts on the article, but strangely, none of our comments appeared below that post hours and even days later. The scenario grows worse below, but even at this relatively early stage, I knew that something was terribly amiss and that it was time for further action.
    I submitted this feedback to the BBC:
    I and several others have tried to add comments to the Caroline Gluck piece "Protests against Chen gain ground" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5323466.stm], yet not a single comment has appeared. I submitted my own comment over 24 hours ago. According to the socialforce.org web site in Taiwan, there are many complaints about the inaccuracy of the article. [http://www.socialforce.org/phpBB/topic_15415.html] Please let me know something, as I strive for accuracy in my own writings.

    Here's the reply I got from the BBC Tuesday night:
    Thank you for contacting us about the article. We are sorry that readers' comments were not added at the time the article appeared, as they should have been. Please send any complaints about the article to this address, and they will be forwarded to the relevant editor.
    This was far from being satisfactory. I wrote back immediately:
    What does this mean?:
    - - -
    >[...] Please send any complaints about the article to
    >this address, and they will be forwarded to the relevant editor.
    - - -

    Which "this address"? The one I just wrote to? I still don't see any comments below the article I complained about? Is something preventing you from doing so now? Better late than never, but if you don't put any of those comments there, the many already-disappointed readers will only become even more so.

    Please forward my comments (quoted below) [above, in this post] to "the relevant editor" at least once, and let's see if you can do something to counter the perception that the BBC is participating in a coordinated media effort to smear the Chen Shui-bian government. You need someone who's outside of Taipei to tell you about the feelings of the average Taiwanese toward Shih Ming-teh. You need to understand the opposition parties' hold on the media in Taiwan and the way it affects the public's perception of events. The pan-blue media is a 24-hour-a-day Chen-smearing machine.

    You also really need someone who can read Mandarin to look at this:

    That's just a sampling of the people who are closely watching what you're writing.

    They're "sorry that readers' comments were not added at the time the article appeared." Does that mean that they'll do it now? Better think again!

    More than 12 hours after receiving that mail, not one comment has yet been published, and it's pretty certain they won't ever be. How can I be sure? The comment submission form has been completely removed from the page. (I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong on this. BBC?) Are you suspicious yet?

    Your turn
    Give 'em your feedback on both the article [URL] and on their handling of the comments. You know the routine. Keep it polite, but be direct. Present your case in your own words. Don't expect them to change, but for sure, make them aware that you're paying close attention, that you know what they're up to, and that you're not buying the crap for one moment.

    Feedback loops: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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    Rounding up the news...

    The Shih campaign is riding the tiger, and is now stuck in a mode where they will have to have ever more grandiose ideas to retain their position in the public eye. Lately they've been playing coy with the idea of calling a general strike:

    On the possibility of a nation-wide strike, Shih said the issue was still under discussion and would not be decided until at least Friday, as his movement's members shared different opinions on the matter.

    Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆) said yesterday that he had contacted union leaders of state-run businesses to see if their groups would respond to a possible nationwide strike call.

    He said union leaders told him that they did not intend to take part in such a strike. He also said the ministry was strongly opposed the idea of a nationwide strike.

    The article cites the Green Ho De-fen as a protest spokesman; apparently she is back after media reports that she had been removed last week. Or else the reports were wrong. Ho had been an advocate of bipartisan approaches. Meanwhile a pro-independence group is calling for 100,000 people to show up Saturday to counter protest the Blue-led anti-Chen protest:

    A pro-independence group yesterday called on 100,000 people to participate in Saturday's rally on Ketagalan Boulevard to counter the sit-in initiated by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

    Chet Yang (楊文嘉), secretary-general of the Taiwan Society, said the group planned to invite high-ranking officials from the Presidential Office, Executive Yuan and DPP legislative caucus as well as pioneers of the nation's democratic development to attend the event.

    I think they'll be lucky to get 5,000. Chen is not what anyone would call popular, and that weekend the colleges all start up, so many people will be traveling, especially young people.

    The Shih campaign is also calling for a city-encircling campaign for Sept 15.

    A leader of a campaign to depose President Chen Shui-bian urged people in central and southern Taiwan yesterday to make a one-day trip to Taipei Sept. 15 to join a "city-encircling" march slated for that day to demonstrate a determined public will in demanding Chen's resignation.

    The irony should not be missed and may well be intentional: former President Lee Teng-hui compared himself to Moses and Chen to Joshua. Recall that the Biblical Joshua took Jericho by surrounding it and blowing horns.

    In other non-news, China blocked Taiwan into the UN again, and criticized a Japanese official who came for a visit and *gasp* met Chen Shui-bian.

    Just so we're not all Shih, all the time, here, Jason at Wandering to Tamshui clued me in that the British Magazine Prospect is reporting that the Washington Times may be in for big changes...

    The Republican right may be losing its most devoted media ally. The Washington Times editor-in-chief Wes Pruden and managing editor Fran Coombs, who have yanked the Reverend Moon-owned paper to the far right, are in trouble. Word is out that the leftist Nation is preparing an exposé on racism and sexism at the paper. The Times has published pieces by Coombs's wife Marian Kester quoting BNP chief Nick Griffin as an expert on Muslim culture. And Pruden is the son of the chaplain of the Citizens' Council in Little Rock, Arkansas, a segregationist group. When Eisenhower sent troops to protect nine black teenagers attempting to enrol at the local high school in 1957, the Reverend Pruden told the mob, "That's what we gotta fight: niggers, communists and cops." The Moonies, who have spent over $1.1bn on the loss-making Times in the 25 years they have owned it, have been fretting about the newspaper's attacks on the UN (which they like) and on North Korea, where the South Korea-based Moonies have big investments. They have now quietly set up a search committee to seek replacements. A strong contender is said to be Maggie Thatcher's former aide John O'Sullivan.

    As a good liberal, I can't stand the WashTimes, but this may prove to be a problem for Taiwan, as the Washington Times has been one Taiwan's most reliable media supporters.

    The arms package continues to cause problems. Experts said that if the US sold subs to Taiwan, China might get angry. Imagine, China getting angry at US arms sales to Taiwan. Who wudda thunk it? No wonder they are experts.....

    China is likely to regard the submarines as offensive weapons, rather than defensive ones, but U.S. Representative Rob Simmons, who has adopted the order as a pet project, says these concerns are "Ludicrous." China's massive submarine fleet dwarfs the four submarines sought by Taiwan.

    Simmons is the Congresscritter for the area that includes Electric Boat. The KMT has said it will green-light the PC3 Orions:

    On reports the main opposition Kuomintang will give the green light only to purchasing one of three items on the shopping list -- the P-3C anti-submarine aircraft -- Yeh expressed doubt this alone would be able to enhance the nation's overall defense capabilities.

    DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung also said the United States has begun to doubt Taiwan's determination to defend itself, and is impatient with the long-stalled procurement.

    "If the budgets for military procurement can't pass the legislative in the session, it would seriously undermine Taiwan-U.S. relations," he reaffirmed.

    KMT Legislator Lu Hsiu-yen paraphrased a U.S. Defense Department official in charge of Taiwan affairs in saying the U.S. hopes the legislature will pass the military procurement package by the end of October, hinting it "could be an ultimatum."

    There has been some discussion that the Orions, which are no longer made, will be made in Japan. Perhaps the KMT is sending a sop to Japan. Or hoping that the KMT can stave off more ire from the US. Or perhaps it is protecting China, as the Orions are the least important of the arms projects and no threat to China at all, being large, slow, anti-submarine aircraft that are useless without control of the air. Give us more fighters, guys.