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

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Chinese speak Mandarin and other bullshit

Yahoo! News has a Washington Post article called "China Alters Language On Taiwan." [UPDATE: Link to original WaPo article.]

Instead of endlessly repeating "one China, one China, one China," James Soong and Hu Jintao now want to switch the echo to "two sides, one China" ("liang2 an4, yi1 ge0 zhong1 guo2") as a result of a Thursday meeting between the two Taiwan-haters.

Big difference, huh?

The article contains this big ugly fucking lie:
The disputes over wording may appear arcane and trivial to outsiders, but the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait regard them with utmost seriousness and sometimes threaten to go to war over them.
Um, no! This is exactly the sort of thing for which Taiwan needs a mechanism like MediaMatters.org, the Daily Howler, or FAIR.

China is the only side that constantly threatens to go to war. Taiwan occasionally says that it will "defend" itself, but I think you have to go way back to the "retake the mainland" fantasy days of the KMT to find any such threat from this side of the Strait.

Mock the vote
Later today, there will be an election for something or other. Not too many people seem to know what the hell it is. Wanna know why?

Instead of detailed coverage of the issues at stake, the past two weeks' news has been saturated with details about Soong's excursion to China and the recent suicide of actor/comedian Ni Min-jan.

To find out more about the details on the election, I had to dig up an April 25, 2005 editorial in the Taipei Times which provided this succinct summation:
The assembly is being elected to vote on constitutional amendments to halve the number of legislative seats, adopting a single-member district, two-vote system for the legislative elections and abolishing the institution of the National Assembly.
So what do you think the Taipei Times did after that? They complained less than a week ago that people still "do not know much about the election" and then failed to further clarify anything.

It's a classic case of the "media two-step." First, the media mostly ignored the election, then Friday evening, they were still "reporting" about how ignorant everybody is. Aren't they something?!

I had to go elsewhere to find out more.

After spending over an hour with my wife, a Chinese-English dictionary, and the FAQ from the Central Election Commission's (CEC) web site, here's what I can understand.

The Legislative Yuan wants to temporarily (for one month only) re-establish the formerly abolished National Assembly, whose main job -- before Taiwan's citizens could vote -- was choosing the president and vice-president. They also had the responsibility of constitutional reform. The Legislative Yuan would first recommend changes before the National Assembly had a crack at 'em, and they were each sort of a check and balance on the other. One more big power held by the National Assembly was the ability to impeach the president and vice-president.

The CEC's FAQ spells out the details of the proposed constitutional reforms a little more clearly than the Taipei Times did above (translation mine):
1) halve the seats in the Legislative Yuan from 225 to 113
2) increase legislators' terms from 3 years to 4
3) 2 votes per legislative area [whatever that actually means]
4) this National Assembly will self-destruct [we mean it this time!], and the Legislative Yuan will have the right to initiate referenda
5) the Grand Justices will have the right to impeach the president and vice-president
In today's election, voters must choose a single party which will either support or oppose all five of the above items. That's pretty fucked up. The DPP and the KMT support the above reforms, while the smaller Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and New Party oppose them. The makeup of the 300-member National Assembly will be determined by the percentage of votes each party gets. For example, if the TSU were to get 20 percent of the votes, the first 60 people on their list would be in the Assembly.

Aye, there's the rub
By putting reforms 1, 2, and 3 into the constitution instead of simply changing the election law, subsequent reforms will be more difficult. It should be obvious from the poor planning of this election that this is a huge mistake.

Item 4 takes away the right of citizens to initiate referenda. The Taiwanese refer to the type of referenda that would result as "birdcage referenda." The citizens are like birds in a cage who must depend on their owners to initiate the act that will set them free. Ain't gonna happen. Whether 10,000 or 10 million people petition for a referendum, the decision to actually put it to a public vote will be determined by the proportional makeup of the Legislative Yuan. Think "squeezing blood from a stone."

The problem with reform number 5 is that the Grand Justices are appointed by the president. Their primary function is interpretation of constitutional law.

Is that loopy enough for you?

Anyway, now you're armed and ready if anyone brings up any of the above topics at the dinner table.

UPDATE: According to the early Saturday edition of the Chinese-language Liberty Times, could ya fucking believe that the legislature has still not determined how many votes it'll take for the National Assembly to pass the freakin' reforms?!?! I suppose they're waiting for the outcome of today's election is in order to "move the goalposts"? (Refer to the title of this blog.)
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