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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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Wu to be suspended; KMT to evade own regulations

The DPP will likely suspend the President's wife, whose corruption trial starts on Dec 15.

The Central Review Committee, the watchdog of the Democratic Progressive Party, will discuss on Thursday suspending the party membership of Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), Legislator Kao Chih-peng told AFP.

"Since the motion has been raised, we have to deal with the issue in accordance with the party's regulations," said Kao, convener of the committee.

Tsai Huang-lang (蔡煌瑯), DPP deputy secretary general, expected the committee to approve the suspension, the state-funded Central News Agency - said.

"According to party rules, memberships of those charged with corruption will be suspended and anyone convicted by a district court will be expelled from the party. There is no exception," Tsai told the CNA.

Meanwhile, even as the DPP fulfills the spirit of its own rules, the KMT is floating trial balloons on evading the party rules on KMT candidates so that Great White Hope Ma Ying-jeou, currently chairman and mayor of Taipei, can run in 2008. Several legislators have suggested that he run as an independent if he has to leave the KMT. Currently KMT rules prohibit indicted candidates from running as KMT candidates in elections.

The island's main opposition Kuomintang yesterday stressed that its leader Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has never considered entering the 2008 presidential contest as an independent candidate or withdrawing from the political arena if he is indicted over alleged misuse of the mayoral special allowance and resigns from the post of KMT chairman.

KMT Lawmakers Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) and Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) suggested that even if Ma is indicted over special allowances case and relinquishes his chairman post he should insist on taking part in the next presidential election in 2008 as a KMT's nominee or even an independent candidate.


It would be fascinating to see what would happen if Ma ran as an independent. Remember that Ma has very little support from the party insiders.

Speculation: the prosecutor heading up the Chen family investigation is close to Lee Teng-hui, who probably still has links to members of the KMT party machine, which he cultivated during his tenure as President as a counter to the deep Blues who wanted to snuff democratization out in the cradle. The Deep Blue ideologues now support Ma Ying-jeou. What if Lee and Chen are taking out Chen Shui-bian -- in any case a lame duck with no political future -- so that they can legitimately go after Ma Ying-jeou, the chief threat at the moment to the future of a democratic and independent Taiwan? If Chen Shui-bian falls, no one can claim that a Ma Ying-jeou indictment is politically motivated. Meanwhile the KMT Party Machine watches benignly, waiting to put forward its candidates for the Presidency in 2008, Lien and Wang.

Just some paranoid speculation.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

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PFP to Bring down Premier?

The third attempt by the KMT and PFP to recall Chen failed yesterday, as WaPo reports.

President Chen Shui-bian easily survived an impeachment vote in Taiwan's legislature Friday despite his wife's indictment on embezzlement charges and a prosecutor's statement that Chen could be indicted as well if he did not have presidential immunity.

The vote signaled that Chen, a combative champion of Taiwanese independence, is likely to remain in office until the end of his second four-year term in 2008 unless new irregularities are brought to light or new charges are filed.

I'd cheer, but the result was foregone, and the recall has accomplished its twin goals of continuing to focus the legislative agenda on trivialities instead of on passing legislation the island desperately needs, and on embarrassing the President in the run-up to the Dec 9 Mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung. In both places the KMT candidates are showing decided leads over their DPP counterparts. Why the TSU is in those elections is beyond me.

The Washington Post article noted:

Chen, in a televised speech two days later, argued that the money in question was used for "secret diplomatic work," suggesting it went to pay off foreign leaders and lobbyists to further Taiwan's quest for diplomatic recognition. The rules governing receipts for such expenditures are complicated and unclear, he maintained, and at no time did he divert money for his own use. He said he would resign only if his wife was convicted.

Chen did not explain how his wife came to be involved in gathering receipts for such expenditures. The two have worked closely together since they married in 1975 and struggled side by side during the 1980s for native Taiwanese rights during martial law under the Nationalist Party government.

Ma Yingjeou, the Nationalist leader and the party's putative candidate for president in 2008, has reaped political benefits from the uproar for the past six months. But over the last 10 days, Ma, who is mayor of Taipei, has himself been accused of misusing official funds and has been interrogated by prosecutors. While Ma has denied the allegations, he acknowledged that a clerk in his office forged receipts to claim expenses.

"Chen did not explain...." Actually Chen explained very clearly; the Post reporter didn't listen. Chen used his family receipts because changes to the accounting rules in 2002 required him to submit receipts for money spent. Since his family's receipts were the only ones he had access to, naturally, he used those. Submission of fake receipts for money spent in good faith is the norm in Taiwan.

This article is pretty good, giving some background on the First Lady and the President that is helpful to understanding who and what they are. Kudos for that. Unfortunately that last sentence is a disservice to Mayor Ma. Proper contextualization would require noting that the official who handled the receipts had substituted fake ones for real ones which still existed -- in other words, no money had been embezzled that way. Note that the article is silent on the far more dangerous fact that Ma had downloaded official money into his own account -- probably because to explain how that had come about would require a very long and involved article. Too bad. Chen's position - and Ma's -- becomes much more understandable once the reader realizes that 6,500 officials here have slush funds from the government, half of which they can place in their own personal accounts and not provide receipts for.

The Taipei Times reported that the PFP has reverted to its next plan of bringing down the Premier.

Following the recall vote, PFP spokesman Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) told a press conference that the PFP caucus would propose a measure to topple the Cabinet because the Cabinet cannot function well, given that it has been defending the president, who was "embroiled in corruption scandals."

Lee also criticized the KMT caucus for spending too much time in dealing with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) mayoral special allowance case and "forgetting the recall motion." He urged the KMT caucus to join the PFP in pushing a no-confidence proposal.

The PFP's plan, which has been under discussion since the summer, is to bring down the premier since the president cannot be recalled with the current legislature. The president will dissolve the legislature once the premier has been recalled, meaning new legislative elections. Once the new legislature is in place, the PFP will then....recall the president.

The problems Constitutional and political are manifold. The legislature is being shrunk under the reforms, and new legislative districts have not been voted on by the legislature, one of the many pressing items the legislature has neglected in order to perform the important work of recalling Chen. If the legislature is dissolved, it can't vote on the new districts, and new elections cannot be held. Result: no government anywhere on the island. However, officials have commented that districting is largely a political issue that can be solved with some appropriate winking at the laws and dickering among the parties, in the event that President Chen actually chooses to dismiss the legislature if the premier is recalled.

The second issue is that the new legislature is half the size of the old one, meaning that half the legislature is going to lose its seats. The conventional wisdom is that the small parties will quickly die a horrible death, leaving the legislature divided between the DPP and the KMT. Since nobody is anxious to lose a lucrative seat, it is likely that nothing will come of the PFP's proposal. Still, the fact that they can argue for something so clearly insane shows you just how little the Blues actually care for the Beautiful Island.

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MoD wants submarines, says China will have CVs

Foreign defense experts are entirely convinced that the most important weapon Taiwan can purchase in the current arms package is submarines. However, at the moment, the submarines offered by the US are three times the world price. So it's a hard sell, which was why the Chen Administration was out yesterday attempting to get the public to accept the sub purchase....

Taiwan must upgrade and expand its submarine warfare capabilities if it is to prevent China, which will have its first aircraft carrier battle group by 2020, from surrounding the island from the east with its blue-water navy in the future, a high-ranking defense official said.

Chen Yung-kang (陳永康), director of the Ministry of Defense's Integrated Assessment Office, said the group would consist of 11 warships, with the recently acquired Varyag aircraft carrier and a Kiev-class helicopter carrier -- both Soviet-era vessels -- serving as its centerpiece.

Seven surface ships and two nuclear attack submarines will make up the remaining nine vessels, Chen said.

The Varyag is discussed in detail here. Globalsecurity has a very useful page on Chinese carriers. It is farfetched to imagine that a rebuilt 1980s-era carrier will ever form the core of a Chinese Navy battlegroup in 2020, but the Chinese may simply use it to gain experience for the development of later carriers.

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Blatant propaganda from Beijing

This trashy propaganda is characteristic of right-wing zealots who are interested only in slander and character assassination of those whose views or philosophies differ from or are in contradiction to theirs.
- American poet Amiri Baraka, purportedly writing about something completely different


There are some who call me... Nostra-Timmus?
In a post early Saturday morning, I "foresaw" the inevitable:
And don't forget, when you read that President Chen "survived a third recall attempt" in Saturday's papers, it means little more than he "walked on barely warm coals while wearing fireproof boots."
Lo and behold, a comment by Kerim Friedman (Keywords) led me to a reeking, (admittedly day-old), full rubbish bin from Jonathan Watts in Guardian Unlimited which ran under a red banner absurdly reading "Special Report China" and which bore a lede that was about as jam-packed with propaganda as it could possibly be:
The Taiwanese president survived with just one MP's support and his weakness could make him dangerous, writes Jonathan Watts
That's pretty base. How low can Watts go?
As I pointed out in my reply to Kerim, this Watts character is based in Beijing, and the propaganda that comes through his article couldn't be any thicker if his true love were to be found in the pockets of the Chinese Communist Party. That's four points of five-star propaganda -- just in the intro!

But, guess what. The propaganda does grow even thicker as Watts strokes it for every last gooey drop.

Put away your handkerchiefs, and get out your vomit bags
Here I've extracted just the propaganda -- and for the sake of your health, this is only from the first half of the article:
Pyrrhic victories ... painful ... humiliating distinction ... support of only one member ...

Bruised, unpopular and outmanoeuvred ... increasingly wobbly - and possibly dangerous ...

[...]

... Mr Chen can take no comfort in the manner of his survival. A majority of parliamentarians voted against him. ... Only one came out solidly on the side of the president with a "no" vote.

... a new low point for Mr Chen ... calamitous year ... his wife charged with corruption, his approval rating slip below 20% and many of his most powerful overseas supporters in the US turn their backs on him.

It is a far cry from 2000 ... Hopes were high then that he would end the corrupt practices of the previous Kuomintang administration ...
There are actually six more paragraphs of this nonsense. (Go read the whole thing to see how little I actually removed from those early paragraphs, but be sure to rehydrate at some point along the way.)

There's simply too much in there to take it apart in detail, but if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know what's innuendo (indictment doesn't equal guilt, the charges are based on selective leaks by rather corrupt political opponents, the "questionable" receipts were supposedly used to account for funds spent on secret diplomatic missions, the Ministry of Audit said to use those receipts before they said not to, etc.), what's distortion (the low "approval rating" comes from polls done by pan-blue media outlets, the "majority" who voted to recall Chen was 100% partisan, 100 legislators either abstained from voting or purposely cast invalid ballots, there was a huge corruption conviction of a Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] legislator on Friday which has been several years in the making, etc.), and what are outright lies. (Could Watts name a single "powerful overseas supporter" who turned their back on Chen? "[D]angerous"? Get the fuck outta here!)

Just open up your eyes, and you'll see
Saturday's Taipei Times presents their editors' impression that Beijing is being "silent" on the Chen recall idiocy. They're obviously not looking in the right places. Despite the omission of "Beijing" in the dateline of Watts' piece, the "rhetoric with Chinese characteristics" is as plain as the nose on my face.

Watts' brighter side?
I have actually seen some writing by Watts that is somewhat critical of Beijing (which is probably difficult to do under the circumstances -- here's more of his writing), but it's abundantly clear that he shouldn't be writing about anything related to Taiwan, because the CCP leaders could hardly have done a better job smearing Chen Shui-bian.

Take Action!
Instead of keeping your feelings bottled up inside or going to your window and screaming "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" read Watts' article for yourself, draw your own conclusions, and only after doing so of your own volition, feel free to make use of the information below to verbally express your feelings. Also, try to be more polite than Watts was honest, as it won't be him with whom you're communicating.

Guardian Unlimited
userhelp@guardian.co.uk
119 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3ER
United Kingdom
PHONE: 020-7278 2332

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

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

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Third attempt to recall Taiwan president Chen fails

On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.'
- baseball coach Earl Weaver, ejected from more games than anyone in Major League history


Third time still unlucky
(or maybe it's got nothing to do with luck)

The third attempt in less than six months by Taiwan's opposition pan-blues to recall President Chen Shui-bian, purportedly due to allegations of corruption, has failed miserably. Only 118 legislators voted in favor of recalling Chen, once again falling way short of the 2/3 required for the motion to be put to a public referendum.

Ironically, one of those very people shouting the faux "anti-corruption" slogans in the Legislative Yuan Friday was sentenced the very same day to 19 years in prison for corruption, theft, and breach of trust in relation to amounts over NT$1 billion.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator and former Miaoli County Commissioner Her Jyh-huei (何智輝) was convicted on charges related to a NT$1.1 billion loan obtained by using land valued at NT$100 million as collateral. Not so long ago, Her had fled to China to avoid being investigated (he returned in order to form the unconstitutional, kangaroo-court-like "319 Truth Commission" [MORE: 1, 2]), and in an apparent attempt to influence the outcome of his case, registered to become a member of the Legislative Yuan's Judiciary Committee (司法委員會). As recently as 2004, the beleaguered Taipei mayor/KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou, currently under investigation for abuse of his "special allowance fund," supported Her's candidacy when running for legislative office, calling him "honest and simple" (淳樸). Birds of a feather and all that.

Third time, still not charmed
According to an article by the AP's Peter Enav in Guardian Unlimited, "lawmakers from Chen's Democratic Progressive Party did not participate in the poll [and] 12 members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union - a DPP ally - deliberately spoiled their ballots" this time. Note the clear partisan lines in addition to Her's conviction on much more serious charges, and you will see that the recall attempts have absolutely nothing to do with opposing corruption.

Give up!
Even though the first attempt came up with 119 votes in favor of the recall, and the second time around only got 116 votes, Chen's stubborn sore-loser opponents just don't know when to throw in the towel. The third attempt got only two more than the second attempt but one vote fewer than the first try, yet the pan-blues are already saying that they want to go for four-in-a-row. Remember, they need 28 more votes than they got this time in order for the motion to pass, and then it has to be put to a public referendum.

Enough, already! Even after 2 months of organized street protests, there is no general support for the anti-Chen crowd's anti-democratic efforts. The pan-blue legislators are also wasting millions, if not billions, of Taiwanese taxpayer dollars by dilly-dallying around in the Legislative Yuan with this nonsense instead of passing legislation to move Taiwan's democracy forward and keep it safe from China's threats.

And don't forget, when you read that President Chen "survived a third recall attempt" in Saturday's papers, it means little more than he "walked on barely warm coals while wearing fireproof boots."

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

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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Judicial System Courtesy of Kennedy

I was in the bookstore yesterday and saw the most recent Taiwan Review, with an excellent discussion of Prosecutors, by Brian Kennedy. Kennedy has been in Taiwan for many years and practices law here, and is one of the most knowledgeable and astute observers of the legal system here. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be up on the TR website yet. Also on tap this month is AmCham's Topics, which has Kennedy on the nation's judges. Excellent work, Brian! And don't miss this Taiwan Review article from September by Kennedy on the death penalty.


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Ripples in a Slush Pond

Taiwan News reports on the demolition of the island's politics by the slush fund scandal:

With Ma coming under a barrage of attacks from DPP figures, the KMT retaliated yesterday, challenging DPP heads of central and local government agencies over their use of the special allowance.

KMT Tainan City Councilor Hsieh Lung-chieh filed a formal complaint yesterday with the Tainan District Prosecutors' Office against Tainan City Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財). Hsieh alleged that Hsu embezzled his mayoral special allowance, enabling his wealth to increase by NT$26.34 million from December 1999 to March 2006. Hsu later denied the allegations.

Moreover, Hsieh and KMT lawmaker Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) charged that when DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling - one of those leading the charge against Ma - headed the information office and cultural affairs department of the Kaohsiung City Government, she remitted NT$1.8 million from her special allowance to her personal account and spent the money on personal items.

They also accused her of abusing an NT$100 million subsidy allocated for the cultural affairs department.

Another KMT Tainan City councilor, Lin Kuo-cheng, alleged that Kuan's husband, Hsu Yang-ming, also remitted his special allowance of NT$264,000 per year to his personal account when he served as Tainan deputy mayor and even occupied a room of a labor center owned by the Tainan City Government without paying rent for four years.

Hopefully it will occur to someone that the slush fund system needs to be abolished. It's as if both sides had been following MAD for the past six years, and now, since one side launched its missiles, the other side has to as well. Welcome to nuclear winter -- it's going to get hot before it gets cold.

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Will the KMT Bring Down Ma?

The KMT is fundamentally a divided party in the midst of a crisis that dates back to the death of Chiang Ching-guo, and nothing illustrates this better than the constant whispering against Ma Ying-jeou. Consider the recent spate of media reports in the Chinese and English press about how the KMT is going to run Lien Chan (again!) for the Presidency in 2008, with either Wang or Ma at his side:

According to the newspaper report, plan A would be for Lien and Ma to pair up for the presidential election. The KMT would then push a constitutional amendment and change the governmental system to a parliamentary one so that the main authority would be the premier.

As part of that supposed plan, the prime candidate for the post of premier would be Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Plan B would pair Lien and Wang for the presidential ticket, with Ma becoming premier once the KMT returned to power.

Huang said he he had not heard of such plans and urged KMT members to stick together during the current crisis, referring to Ma's alleged involvement in the misuse of the Taipei mayor's special allowance fund.

The KMT has denied that any of this discussion has taken place, but the denials do not sound very convincing, at least to my ear. Note several things I've discussed before -- the fundamental split here is between the Deep Blue ideologues, whose man at the moment is KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, and the KMT Machine politicians like current legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and two-time presidential loser Lien Chan, now the Party's Grand Old Man. At the moment the group of KMT legislators known as the "southern legislators" (read Taiwanese KMT) is allied to the machine politicians (David at Jujuflop reported on them earlier this year) against the "Ma troop" -- the pro-Ma KMT legislators in the legislature. Wang is also very close to pan-Blue ally and PFP Chairman James Soong, who has been very critical of Ma, his main rival for Deep Blue support, and who has a deep base of support within the rival KMT. How does Ma stand with the KMT Machine? After Ma was elected Chairman in July of 2005, the Taipei Times noted:

Ma has long been isolated from the party's central administration, said analysts, pointing out that many of the party's upper-level officials, from over 60 of its legislators to high-level administrative officers such as the party's Central Executive Committee head Chang Che-shen (張哲琛), expressed support for Wang during his campaign.
The Machine does not like Ma -- and many will take note of the fact that Ma's favorite lost the KMT nomination for mayor, beaten by Hau Lung-bin, whose father is the corrupt old KMT authoritarian Hau Pei-tsun, who tried to stop Lee Teng-hui's democratization program. And now that Ma has shown poor judgment in handling the mayoral funds (I've always said that streak of arrogance of his might be his downfall) the whispering against him within the KMT will only be gain traction. Recall too that Ma beat Wang badly in the KMT chairmanship election last year, and Wang has been itching for revenge. Further, recall that Wang is not an elected politician -- he holds his position in the legislature because he was appointed as one of the KMT's at-large candidates, a tribute to his excellent standing with the Party insiders, who are mostly Machine politicians. When the legislature shrinks in 2007, Wang might have a much harder time gaining a seat. Hence his interest in securing another future.

Another issue, somewhat separate, relates to the KMT's struggle to destroy the Presidency. President Lee made two important changes in the 1990s. First, he made the Presidency directly-elected -- to prevent rival Hau Pei-tsun from defeating him in an election controlled by Party insiders -- and second, he made the premier appointed by the President instead of appointed out of the legislature. By doing so, he accrued more power to the Presidency. A directly-elected President and a Presidential system gives the advantage to the DPP, which does well at the national level, while a parliamentary system with the Premier selected by the Parliament gives the advantage the KMT, which still controls the local level elections. Observe then, that the KMT's plan, according to the media, would be:

"The KMT would then push a constitutional amendment and change the governmental system to a parliamentary one so that the main authority would be the premier."
Just as I've been saying all along.

Finally, as a longtime democracy supporter, I continue to marvel at the Blue (KMT + PFP) capacity to snatch defeat from potential victory. In 2000 and 2004 they blew elections they were heavily favored to win by running Lien Chan, who running as the KMT candidate in 2000 barely mustered a quarter of the vote. Lien is probably the most widely detested major politician in Taiwan, widely perceived as ugly and uncongenial, and identified as a wife beater several years ago. The KMT could hardly do worse than to pick Lien as its candidate for 2008. But with Ma now taking hits, first from the Shih Ming-te anti-Chen campaign, which exposed Ma as irresolute and hypocritical, and now from the receipt forgery case, Ma may be looking vulnerable to KMT insiders. Look for more ghosts from the Machine making nightmares for Ma Ying-jeou.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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China is not friendly to Taiwan

"Tin soldier," said the goblin, "don't wish for what does not belong to you."
- Hans Christian Anderson, The Brave Tin Soldier

Now the valley cried with anger; mount your horses, draw your sword,
and they killed the mountain people, so they won their just reward.
Now they stood beside the treasure on the mountain, dark and red,
turned the stone and looked beneath it. "Peace on earth" was all it said.

- Coven (Lambert/Potter), One Tin Soldier


China in the bullshit shop
An Agence France-Presse (AFP) piece, published by Channel News Asia and others on Sunday carries this deceptive headline:
Taiwan envoy says China 'friendly' at APEC meet
If only that were true! Here's what the body of this item tells the reader while supplying further reinforcement of that propaganda with a smiling photo of Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) alongside:
HANOI -- Taiwan's envoy to a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders said Sunday that the president of China -- which considers the island to be part of its territory -- has been "friendly" to him in their meetings.

Taiwanese tycoon Morris Chang, sent to represent Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, said that he had "a lot" of contact with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Hanoi.

[...]

"President Hu's attitude was very friendly, warm and constructive," he said, but declined to provide any detail about their discussions.

[...]

Unlike other APEC members, Taiwan did not send its government leader to Vietnam to avoid offending China, which considers it part of its territory and insists it is called 'Chinese Taipei' at the APEC summit.
First of all, China is not friendly to Taiwan, and they weren't being friendly to Taiwan at the APEC summit. Hu -- in meetings -- was "friendly" to Morris Chang (張忠謀), a non-governmental representative whose money he'd love to have a bit of. It would also fit Hu's anti-democracy background to be "friendly" to someone who was chosen as a leader rather than elected to a government office, and it would make sense for an envoy sent by President Chen to let loose a few platitudes, er, be diplomatic. But is China friendly to Taiwan? The very clear answer is, "No -- if you read past the headlines and pay attention, it most certainly isn't!" If you noticed that the article mentions twice about what China "considers" Taiwan to be, then you're way ahead of most readers.

Listen children to a story
Once upon a time (way back in 1996), China was reported to have "merely" 40 missiles targeting Taiwan -- an independently-ruled island nation which elects its president by popular vote, and which -- I might add -- poses absolutely no threat to the military giant across the Strait. By 2000, the number of missiles targeting Taiwan had increased fivefold to 200. Just 4 years later, that number doubled to 400. Two years later, there were 700 missiles targeting Taiwan. I think a 4-year-old child could see the pattern here.

But that's not the end of the story. The figure of 784 is from January of this year. In the ensuing 10 months, the number has reportedly increased to 900. A high-school algebra student would recognize the exponential nature of this increase in objects whose purpose is to kill people and destroy things.

Here's a visual, in case all those numbers are making you dizzy.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Go ahead and hate your neighbor
What if, when an ambulance came to your house to rescue family members in need, your neighbor said, "That's my property, and I won't grant you permission to enter"? Wouldn't it be appropriate to "hate your neighbor"? That's effectively what happened during the SARS crisis of 2003, when China blocked assistance from the World Health Organization for a month and a half while hiding the effects of the disease within their own borders. And surely the entire planet hasn't yet forgotten about China's "anti-secession" law (which ludicrously "legislates" the arbitrary use of "non-peaceful means" against a foreign country, namely the sovereign Taiwan). Is hatred of that truly "Sinophobia," as some people like to call it?

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Yu Shyi-kun should have put the silly "ethnic divisiveness" argument to rest -- or at least knocked a big dent in it -- when he described himself recently as a "Taiwanese of Chinese ethnicity" [my translation of "華裔台灣人"]. It is clear that the hatred which exists in this context is not about ethnicity but about politics. Unfortunately, many people on the anti-Taiwan/anti-democracy side of that argument will cloud the issue with false portrayals such as this.

Where the truth lies
China blocks Taiwan's participation in world bodies at every turn. This happens as a result of the economic terrorism exacted by its "one-China policy". Its detrimental influence is seen in so-called "news reports" from around the world which regularly diminish Taiwan and blow smoke up China's ass.

This nonsense needs to be put entirely to sleep. China is not "friendly" towards Taiwan, but if you believe it is, you're likely to believe just about anything.

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

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Monday, November 20, 2006

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Institutions and Slush Funds

I've been talking recently about the problems inherent in having officials who get slush funds from the government that they can put in their personal accounts, but the Chen/Ma Slush Fund Affair also highlights another issue so common in Taiwan: unclarity of laws and conflicting regulations. The pro-Green Taipei Times today had a commentary from Liu Wen-shi, an adviser of the Ministry of the Interior and executive secretary of the ministry's Laws and Regulations Committee. He noted:
This means that the key to this case is what the law demands of the president. This is also the point that society hopes the courts will clarify. However, all we have heard are suspicions surrounding one receipt, or where another receipt ended up.

The indictment is an impressive 30,000 characters in length, but only a little more than 100 or so address this issue.

Moreover, the only basis referred to is the Management Guidelines for The Disposal of Expenditure Vouchers (支出憑證處理要點). No law is cited, nor is any jurisprudential explanation given. Indeed, in this "legal" document with such a serious impact on the reputation on a head of state, we do not even see the word "law."

The predecessor to the management guidelines -- rules for certification of expenditure vouchers (支出憑證證明規則) -- was established by the Ministry of Audit in 1989 based on the Audit Law (審計法).

In 2002, however, authority was transferred to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), which replaced the rules with the management guidelines that were merely a set of administrative regulations. Not only did this document lack legal authority, but the method by which a budget should be compiled, and how expenses should be verified and written off, was left entirely to the discretion of the DGBAS.

In this case, the basis for the state's right punish improper use of the fund is a procedure that allows budget and accounting officials to make changes and adjustments with little notice.

Leaving aside the issue of whether this infringes on the basic principle that delegated authority should have a clearly defined source, even if the guidelines were to be considered a link in the accounting system mentioned in the Accounting Law (會計法), and even if we look at item three in the management guidelines, which say that "[the person] applying for expense reimbursement should ... vouch for the truthfulness of the actual expenditure," the guidelines do not restrict reimbursements on the basis of invoices alone.

Any receipt or document received as proof of an expense is acceptable. In particular, the guidelines' statement of purpose indicates that they are concerned with substance and not with form. In other words, the actual existence of vouchers is what is important, and not the kind of voucher. This is also the viewpoint expressed in the indictment.

One of the consequences of living in a society where there is no rule of law is that the law is often murky, because it is used as a club to punish those the authorities may not like. A legacy of the KMT era is this lack of clarity and conflicting laws, as well as weak enforcement mechanisms, overlapping jurisdictions, and feeble administrative and legal institutions (if you have a chance see Kennedy and Guo's excellent article in this month's AmCham Topics on judges. Kennedy also has a good article on prosecutors in the Dec Taiwan Review). In the authoritarian era institutions were weak because individuals were powerful; if you wanted to know what to do, you got a directive from the Authoritarian-in-chief. Now individuals are (rightly) constrained by laws, but institutions remain weak. In the Chen case we see all this at work -- the rules were drafted by the Budget Office and are only weakly related to the Accounting Laws, they are administrative regs, so it is arguable whether they can be regarded as "laws", and so on. The second-to-last paragraph above, with its cascade of "even if..." shows how tenuous the legal case is against Ma and Chen.

The confusion is also expressed in this Taipei Times article on the differing views of the budget office and the auditing ministry:

Acting on the claim made by fashion designer Ligi Lee (李慧芬), who alleged in June that the Presidential Office submitted fake receipts to gain reimbursement from the fund, the Ministry of Audit sent auditors to the President Office to investigate the fund's use.

After four visits in two months, the ministry reported to the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office in July that it suspected the Presidential Office of misusing the fund.

The ministry also reported to the Control Yuan, complaining that the Presidential Office had obstructed its auditing process by refusing to provide documents it deemed sensitive and confidential.

The ministry also said it was innappropriate for the Presidential Office to assign someone who was not a certified accountant to handle the special account.

The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), however, has a different view of the nature and function of the fund.

DGBAS defined the fund as a "special fund" and "secret fund" and as such it is not necessary to produce receipts or invoices if the fund is used for confidential purposes.

Accounting and Statistics Director-General Hsu Jan-yau (許璋瑤) said his department did not send auditors to check on the use of the fund because it "trusted and respected the national leader."

Chen has said that it was unfair to hold him accountable for the fund's poor controls since he merely followed the practice exercised by his predecessors.

Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor at Tamkang University's Department of public administration, agreed that Chen should not be held solely responsible for the ill-designed system, but the administration should have taken the initiative to change the modus operandi as soon as it discovered the flaw.

All this then comes back to the problem of "order" -- if only we had clearer laws, these things wouldn't have happened. The problem is not clarity of laws, but the fact that politicians have access to special accounts in the first place. Why do 6,500 officials have what are essentially personal slush funds? Ever wonder why the bureaucracy loves the KMT so much? Now you know: the government showered money on favored bureaucrats and winked when it disappeared. Does the system lead to corruption? Silly question.....

Meanwhile, Kenneth Lin (林向愷), an economics professor at National Taiwan University, criticized the Cabinet's new measure requiring receipts detailing all expenditures from the funds as "inflexible" and "a step backward."

Chen Chun-kai (陳君愷), an associate professor of history at Fu Jen University, agreed, saying it is a common practice to use fake receipts to claim reimbursements from government funds.


Observe how the debate is over what kind of supervision the slush funds should have, not whether there should be such things in the first place. Also of interest to those interested in the political protection Ma gets from his buddies in the bureaucracy is the Ministry of Audit's initial failure to find anything wrong with Ma's receipts and to certify them as OK.

Finally, the Chen-Ma affair illustrates, as always, official impunity at its finest. For the last couple of days the pro-Green Chinese language Liberty Times has been kvetching about the fact that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and his receipts are being investigated by a prosecutor who is the mayor's good friend:

Commentators yesterday questioned the impartiality of the prosecutor investigating the alleged misuse of Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) special allowance fund, saying the investigator's friendship with the mayor created a conflict of interests.

Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) should hand over the investigation to another prosecutor, the experts said.

"Ma was the witness at Hou's wedding ceremony, which indicates their good relations," senior adviser to the president Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) told the Chinese-language Liberty Times,(the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) yesterday.

Peng said that according to the Criminal Procedure Code (刑事訴訟法), prosecutors should avoid involvement in an investigation if there is a concern of bias. He added that he was surprised that Hou has not applied to transfer the investigation to another prosecutor.

Lin Ching-tsung (林慶宗), a prosecutor with the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, yesterday told the Taipei Times that although the Criminal Procedure Code requires prosecutors to transfer an investigation when there is a risk of bias, the law does not clearly define what kind of situations prosecutors should avoid. Therefore, he said, opinions often differ on the issue.

Peng Ming-min, in case anyone has forgotten, was the DPP presidential candidate in 1996 and is one of the most important figures of the old democracy and independence movement. He seems to have faded from the public eye...

...meanwhile we have the prosecutor refusing to refuse himself in what appears to be a clear case of appearance of a conflict of interest. In Chinese culture it is shame, not guilt, that acts as the negative motivator, and the DPP and the Green press are clearly out to shame the prosecutor into proper behavior.

Good luck!

(crossposted at The View from Taiwan)

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

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The differences between the cases of Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian

Curiouser and curiouser

In reference to the disparity between comments a couple of months ago saying that Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) finances were clean as a whistle and the current situation regarding his special allowance fund where the stink is so thick you can see it, the Ministry of Audit's vacillating spokesperson Wang Yung-hsing (王永興) said recently, "越說越複雜" ("The more that's said, the more complicated it gets"). The thing is, however, that the more complicated it gets for the KMT -- actually for all of the pan-blues and all of the anti-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) crowd -- the more clearly the public can see the pure hatred, the lack of reason, and the double standards upon which the opposition crowd's actions are based.

One of the big differences here is that the accusations against President Chen are focused on the items whose receipts were used to cover expenditures of the "state affairs fund," but not even prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) has said that the money in question went into the president's pockets. No, that case is all about a lack of evidence, yet the anti-Chen crowd has been demanding for the president to step down because that's the only thing which will satisfy their vampiric thirst.

Enter the horseshit
There's a Mandarin phrase similar to Wang's above that suits Ma's special allowance fund. It goes "越描越黑" ("The more one tries to cover up a scandal, the more it stinks"). As pro-democracy author Jerome F. Keating has said, the accusations have opened up a Pandora's Box for the accusers. Let's take a look at the contradictions they have revealed about themselves.

Back in June of this year, more than four months before the indictments were even issued against the First Lady and three presidential aides, Ma himself said that President Chen would "die a horrible death" if he didn't voluntarily step down at that time. [Here's a Google cache of an article containing the original quote in Mandarin.] The shoe is on the other foot now, and Ma has said that even if he's indicted himself, he would only give up his KMT chairmanship. Cutting through the thick odor of that deep pile of horseshit, I can still clearly smell the stench of a double standard.

Exit the gecko's tail
Taipei City staffer Yu Wen (余文) has been referred to as the "gecko's tail" (from the Mandarin phrase "斷尾求生" or "Sever tail, save life"). In order to escape a predator's grip, a gecko will gladly let go of its tail. Yu, despite having to submit an average of only four receipts per day, claims that receipts for larger amounts were substituted for purchase of smaller amounts in order to reduce paperwork. Ma has called this a mere "administrative defect" for which he apologized, and he hopes we'll all just ignore the obvious.

It is being said by many that by diverting blame to Yu and saying "Oops," Ma is using the gecko's strategy to save his ass. Here's the kicker (from the article about the "defect") which reveals to careful observers that this is merely a diversion:
"Although I knew nothing about it and so far there is no evidence to prove [my staffer] pocketed the money, I still need to shoulder administrative, political and moral responsibility for this blemish ... I offer my sincere apologies to Taipei residents," Ma told a press conference at Taipei City Hall.
Red herring/straw man alert! I don't believe anyone is accusing Yu of pocketing any money. But there's still the looming question of the other NT$170,000/month which requires no receipts that Mayor Ma has been sucking up for nearly 8 years. While he's over a month shy of that duration, the full amount would come to NT$16,320,000.

紅包拿來! ("Where's my red envelope?")
What about the other NT$170,000/month? Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Shu-te (李述德) claims that about NT$80,000/month was used "to reward staff members," according to an article in Friday's Taipei Times. (Ah, the perks of working for these people!) Over a period of 8 years, that would be another NT$7,680,000 that was used not for administrative purposes, but rather to pad the pockets of those in City Hall. Add that to the previous number, and we now have almost NT$24,000,000 of government money going into the pockets of Ma and his employees. There's no question about this -- it is what has been admitted by Ma and his staff. Remember, the accusations being flung in the direction of President Chen have to do with receipts amounting to NT$14,800,408. Again, even if it's only this portion of Ma's money that has problems, there's still a huge double standard at work.

Mayor's Office Director Cheng An-kuo (鄭安國), whose resignation Ma accepted on Wednesday, admitted that all of that money went directly into Ma's personal bank account. It looks like the tailless gecko is now missing its forelimbs.

Taipei Information Department Director Lo Chih-cheng (羅智成) also admitted to some key points during an on-air phone call to SET's (三立電視) "Talking Show" (大話新聞). First, he admitted that Ma deposited the NT$170,000/month which didn't require receipts into his personal account. He also admitted that Ma subsequently declared that money as part of his personal assets in a statement to the Examination Yuan, though he said he didn't know how much it was altogether. Bye bye, hind legs! Remember, Chen Shui-bian denies similar charges, and no evidence exists that he has pocketed any of the money. The question is all about why he used receipts for things from magazines to diamonds to cover those expenses, and the very simple answer is that the Ministry of Audit told him to do so (before telling him much later not to do so).

Another way Ma is trying to avoid the "jaws of death" is by saying he'll donate NT$15,000,000 to charity. How amusing! If I stole your money and then donated a portion of it (no matter how large) to charity, I would be totally avoiding two things: 1) paying back the victim; and 2) atoning for the crime. The law requires that Ma return the unused portion of those funds to an account specifically for the purpose of collecting that remaining money, and Ma apparently did not follow this law. He also seems to have gotten in the "charitable" mood just within the past few days. Can you say "cover-up"?

No longer in possession of a tail which can be easily detached (since no one else can take the blame for putting the money in Ma's personal account) or even of any more limbs, Ma's head would appear to be on the chopping block. [Troll repellent: this is a metaphor regarding his political career.]

Taking responsibility
Actually, even if Ma would resign to feign "responsibility" for this (something I suggested not so long ago), it would amount to nothing more than a show on his part. There's less than a month remaining until the mayoral election. The main point is not that he needs to step down or go to jail -- it's simply that he needs to apply the same standards to his opponents or shut the fuck up.

Remember, there haven't been any rotting corpses discovered on the balconies of the Presidential Office under Chen's administration, but there has been one at Taipei's City Hall under Ma's watch. That's something that deserves much more attention.

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

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

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Ma's Office Director Resigns

The idiotic slush fund policy continues, like some mad Godzilla, to wreak havoc with people's careers. Yesterday's victim was the Director of the Office of Taipei Mayor Ma. The relevant passage:

Yu Wen (余文), a Taipei City staffer who handled reimbursements for the allowance, was found by the city government last month to have substituted receipts for smaller amounts with personal receipts for larger amounts in a bid to reduce his paperwork.

In an attempt to simplify the reimbursement procedure for amounts ranging between NT$10,000 and NT$20,000 -- usually between 50 and 100 receipts each month -- Yu substituted his own receipts for larger amounts for several of the smaller ones, Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Shu-te (李述德) said.

This was not discovered until prosecutors began investigating Ma's use of the special fund, and as a result 3,754 receipts, totaling around NT$800,000, had been "exchanged" in this way since 2003, Lee added.
But the original receipts exist, so there was no embezzlement. Hey, no kidding. As I noted in my long discussion over at tVfT, who hasn't submitted a false receipt in a good cause? Yesterday the BBC was reporting that the KMT is planning to raise more problems with the slush funds, which are going to be an inexhaustible source of political trouble -- we're looking at mutual assured destruction.

Not that the Blues care, of course. As always, one Blue goal is to ensure that Taiwan is governed as badly as possible.

UPDATE: The China Post agrees:

All high public office holders, regardless of their political party affiliation, are afraid they may be the next targets of Taiwan's reborn McCarthyists.

Taiwan will wind up in political chaos, if parties do not put an end to their muck-raking against each other in time, observers believe.

"When nobody feels safe from reckless charges of corruption," a political analyst said, "how can the government operate normally?"

But observers are pessimistic about Taiwan's political future.

With legislative elections scheduled for the end of next year and the presidential race for the spring of 2008, the frenzy whipped up by the anti-corruption McCarthyism cannot be wished away.
The article also claims that Ma's personal account has grown by $300,000 a month since 1998.

Ma is charged with remitting the half that needs no proof to his personal account, which grew by an average of NT$300,000 a month since he assumed office as mayor of Taipei in 1998.



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Mike Chinoy distorts Taiwan's democracy

Appeal to the mustache

Mike Chinoy has reared his big head again, and as usual, the lies that accompany his presence are also big. At the very top of the index page of AsiaMedia today, there is an article about Taiwan which portrays Chinoy as the sage of all things Asian and media-related ("former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief," "veteran journalists," "has lived in and reported on Asia for nearly thirty years and won an Emmy and Peabody award for his 1989 coverage of the violence in Tiananmen Square"). This is a faulty "appeal to authority" because both Chinoy's authority and his claims are called into question by the facts.

Here's Chinoy's whopper:
Chinoy said that the contentious nature of politics in Taiwan hurts the country's progess. A reigning party will unlikely gain support from an opposing party for the sake of political power. An event such as U.S. president George Bush's acknowledgment of the Democrats' victory in last Tuesday's midterm election, for example, would never happen in Taiwan. Chinoy explained, "In Taiwan, such gestures would be almost inconceivable. It's one of the darker and more worrying signs [in Taiwan's democratic process]."
Carefully note how Chinoy paints Taiwan's democracy as both "dark" and "worrying" -- exactly the kind of portrayal China thrives on. If you are under the false impression that Chinoy knows more than you and is opening your eyes with his vast knowledge, there's one thing that will readily knock that misconception on its ass -- the truth. Open your eyes wide, and see for yourself what he's not telling you.



7'34" YouTube video: "1998阿扁台北市長落選珍貴影片"
[My translation: "1998 A-bian Taipei mayoral election loss, video rarity"]
Click "Play" at lower left to load the video here.
Click on the screen to open the video in a new browser window.
(I suggest hitting "Pause" until the video loads fully.)
Click here to download the latest version of Adobe Flash.
Click here for YouTube help.


Yes, dear reader. Not only can it happen here -- it has already happened! Even if you don't speak Chinese, you can see that when Chen Shui-bian lost the Taipei mayoral election in 1998, he did so in an incredibly graceful manner. You can also see that his supporters behaved calmly and rationally and accepted the results of that election which left Taipei in the hands of Ma Ying-jeou, who is currently ("Surprise, surprise, surprise!!") being investigated on the same type of corruption allegations which he has been flinging in the direction of President Chen for the past two months.

It ain't the first time, baby
I couldn't find any video of it right off, but Chen did pretty much the same thing after the legislative elections in December 2004. Coincidentally (?), I was also writing about Chinoy's bullshit right around that time, too.

Taiwan's ugly other side
On the other hand, if you dishonestly equate Taiwan with the despicable KMT, Chinoy might have a point. But that's not the reality, despite the media's frequent phrasings which make it seem like that's the case.

For the sake of comparison, let's see what happened when the pan-blue ticket failed to regain office for the second time in a row in what was only Taiwan's third direct presidential election in history as well as the third loss in a row for pro-unification candidates.



2'04" YouTube video: "換掉"
[My translation: "Get them out of here"]


Even if you don't understand Chinese or Taiwanese, you should still be able to spot the difference immediately. For the benefit of readers who lack those language abilities, Lien Chan is seen in the beginning of the video stirring up his supporters with shouts of "Annul the election!" shortly after TV news reported that he lost. His vice-presidential running mate James Soong is then seen rousing the rabble with the violent declaration that he wants them to accompany him to go "Break into the Presidential Office!" Their incitement led to weeks of riots by their supporters, scenes of which appear throughout the above video. The images are accompanied by a Taiwanese-language parody of Alex To's song "脫掉" ("Take it off") which replaces the main chorus with the words "趕快換掉" ("Get the f*** rid of them").

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Another thing to keep in mind is that these guys, who've been crying for their mommyland since they lost their civil war in China back in 1949 -- identify themselves as "Chinese."

No, dear reader, the KMT does not -- by any means -- equal Taiwan.

What is happening in his head?
Does Mike Chinoy equate Taiwan with the KMT? Judging by both his past and present distortions, one could easily draw that conclusion.

It's interesting to note that Chinoy is also currently employed by Taiwan-based ETTV. It makes me wonder just how many steps (or should I say "how few"?) it would take for the money to travel between the KMT and Chinoy's pockets. [See UPDATE, below.]

Related note
The current index page of AsiaMedia links to my letter to the editor I wrote on November 11, 2006.

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Here's what I sent to them. (Note: The online version was edited slightly.):
RE: http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=57058
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TAIWAN: It's time to go, say newspapers

Taipei Times and newspapers call for Chen's resignation
- - -

What a deceptive headline! Despite being based in Taiwan, how can you imply that the *China* Post or the *China* Times are "Taiwan's" newspapers? The Taipei Times, as the body of the article says, merely "appears to nudge" Chen in that direction. Appearances can be quite deceiving. This editorial cartoon tells quite a different story:
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/photo/2006/11/08/2005061019
[Pan-blue media toward Pres. Chen: "Guilty, guilty, guilty"]

Providing links to the sources of such quotes (and not just to their index page) would allow readers to judge for themselves if such comments are accurate.
I'm quite surprised they published it at all, much less linked to it from their index page. Still, it was pretty awful to begin with for them to say that somebody (the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post) said that somebody else (China Post, China Times) said something ("We've hated you forever, and we still hate you") about somebody (Chen Shui-bian) -- and didn't provide nearly enough specifics. In fact, the part about the Taipei Times was plainly deceptive, as the editorial cartoon from 4 days later demonstrates. In that cartoon, they point out clearly that it's the pan-blue media who have declared Chen "guilty."

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that ETTV is the channel which gave the largest false lead to Lien Chan and James Soong before official results came out in Taiwan's 2004 Presidential Election. The chairman of parent company Eastern Multimedia, Gary Wang, is a former KMT legislator whose father Wang You-tseng was a member of the KMT's Central Standing Committee as recently as July 2006. Mike Chinoy had left CNN earlier this year to work for the Pacific Council on International Policy [Board of Directors, Contributors, FAQ, Members, Mission] as an Edgerton Fellow [The Edgerton Foundation].

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

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

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New US Congress: What's in store for Taiwan?

Only time will tell, but I saw a couple of articles today that look at how the new Democratic US Congress will view Taiwan and China. First, there is an AFP article by P. Parameswaran, entitled: China to come under tighter scrutiny by new US Congress. It doesn't say much about Taiwan, but there is this nugget about Robert Hathaway of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, who says: "I think the most noticeable impact of the Congressional elections is likely to be on US China policy." The article goes on to imply that, at least according to Hathaway, Democrats have Taiwan on their mind:

Evaluating the Republican Party's loss of control of the House of Representatives and Senate in last Tuesday's legislative elections, he said the Democrats were likely to pressure the Bush administration to be "more confrontational" with China on trade, human rights, religious freedom and Taiwan-related issues.

"And I think that's where we are likely to see the biggest difference as a result of the elections in terms of Asia," he said.

In the run-up to the US elections, some Democrats lambasted Bush for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs as a result of a tidal wave of cheap imports, resulting from what they say is a vastly undervalued Chinese currency.

Then, Taipei Times has an article by Charles Snyder: [Analysis] Impact of Democrats' win unclear. While the article points to an uncertain future, it does offer some evidence of a hopeful future. For one, it argues that the soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is pro-Taiwan:

Taiwan supporters are looking at Nevada Senator Harry Reid, now the minority leader and in line to become the majority leader, to give Taiwan more time than did the current leader,

While Reid's main strength is in domestic issues, he has spoken out strongly in favor of Taiwan in the past.

Speaking in favor of Taiwan's participation in the WHO during the SARS pandemic in 2003, Reid praised President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"Under President Chen's strong leadership, Taiwan has remained true to its democratic value and has continued to be a model for its neighbors in the region," he said on the Senate floor. "The WHO's refusal to grant membership or even observer status to Taiwan has ... placed the health of all 23 million Taiwanese in jeopardy."

Last year, as Bush was en route to the APEC summit in South Korea, Reid, in a letter, called Bush's China policies "ad hoc, inconsistent and essentially aimless," adding that "China's non-democratic government has taken actions and pursued policies that understandably stoke concerns and fears in America."

The article is less positive about Joe Biden, who will likely become the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee:

Biden is known for a pro-China stance and for not particularly liking Taiwan.

Although Biden has said in the past that he is one of the remaining congressman who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979, and still agreed with that decision, his backing for Taiwan is limited.

Perhaps the biggest cause for hope in Taiwan, looking at the new political landscape in America, is the ascension of Sherrod Brown from the House of Representatives to the Senate. I wrote about Brown earlier on this site, but Snyder has the goods:

A big plus for Taiwan, its lobbyists feel, is the victory of former Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chair, representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio, to a Senate seat. Brown could give a boost to the Senate caucus, which was largely inactive under Allen.

Democratic co-chair Ti Johnson will have a greater role in guiding the bipartisan caucus now, but Brown could become an important member.

Taiwan supporters might even push for Brown to get a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee, taking the position now occupied by Maryland Democrat Paul Sarbanes, who is retiring.

Replacing Allen as the Republican co-chair of the Senate caucus could be John Kyl of Arizona, one of Taiwan's biggest boosters in the Senate, who holds the powerful post of Republican Policy Committee chairman. Kyl is already a member of the 25-man caucus.

Replacing Brown as one of the four House caucus co-chairs could be Democratic Representative Robert Andrews, a vocal defender of Taiwan's interest, especially in seeking to get a US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.

I'm not really sure what this all means in the long run, especially with Bush still serving as president, but one thing does seem clear to me: these two articles are putting the initial dents in the tired old meme (here's another one, Tim) that Republicans are Taiwan's only friends in America. It is about time that someone puts that one to rest, and that more Democratic friends, besides the right wing fringe, come to the fore.

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