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"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ma Ying-jeou government under fire again

As time moves forward, Ma's administration moves backward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!

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Monday, February 28, 2011

My thoughts on February 28, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lunar New Year in Taiwan: 2011

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!

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