Dec 11, 2008

Police forces end to nonviolent student sit-ins in Taipei!

Timing couldn't have been more ironic:
In the night after the 60-year declaration of universal human rights on December 10, at around 3 to 4 a.m., the expressedly non-violent student protesters of the Wild Strawberry Movement were forced by the police to leave their home for one month, Liberty Square (the former CKS Memorial Hall). This move made President Ma's speech of the day look awkward:
"Thanks to the government's continued efforts to uphold human rights, Taiwan has now become "the world's freest country" in terms of the people's right to assembly, which [Ma] said was very well demonstrated by several protests at the ceremony in support of a variety of causes."

This is what a friend from Taiwan wrote:
Note also that the eviction fell right into a time when plans for a more coordinated collaboration with Tibetan activists (e.g. for inviting the Dalai Lama to Taiwan) were being mulled over. My friend explicitly says that the reason policemen stated for evicting the students was "helping the Tibetans".
I am not sure whether anyone anticipated a move like that at the moment. But sad it is, indeed. I feel like it should be clear for everybody to see what this government is trying to accomplish, only that media in the west go out of their way to stress its "pragmatism" towards China and not mention hell about what is happening bit by bit: the vanishing of what used to be one of the worlds premier democratisation processes, a prime example for political theory until just recently. And this is truely sad, especially with the symbolic date serving as symbolic background. I'm confused whether Ma did it purposedly right then. Since actions speak louder than words, their symbolic meaning are crashing his smooth rhetoric, and this is frightening.
What else can you do when there is no opposition left? Presidency, Government, Police and Military, and a huge part of the media are working hand in hand with the ruling party to re-establish the one-party state of old. This is what I fear.
And it will have an impact on democratisation processes around the world.

Dec 7, 2008

What the Wild Strawberry Movement reminds me of

I have once had bright hopes that I could actually be witnessing a politics-changing movement. That was back in 2003, when we demonstrated against the war in Iraq on every Monday for about 7 weeks or so. At high, there were around 45,000 people participating in Leipzig only. But somehow, we grew tired, and our spirits faded. After all, you could see less and less people coming to our Monday's demonstrations. Sometimes, I wonder if at least we could change the hearts of those who walked with us. If no change in policy-making was possible, this would be some success already. But ever since, I did not see people change their behaviour. Maybe changes take their time.

Next occasion were our student protests against the introduction of study fees in Germany in the Winter of 2003/04. Those were pretty effective, since we up to date have no regular fees in Saxony. We even boycotted the university for one whole term, creating our own seminars in public places etc. That would be a great thing to see in Taiwan, too! We found a lot of friends and like-minded people those days, and we became creative in every way. Somehow, this transcended our normal form of existence as being the weakest part of the line that makes up the system of university education. However - this is almost 5 years past now, and I still see some of my fellow protesters around (it was my first term back then), and we share a special common bandage. But everyone needed to move on and get back to their studies, too. University politics are too difficult to handle just as bypart to continuing a regular student life.
I am still waiting for the next opportunity to try and change the system again. Meanwhile, I pray (not literally) for every other student movement that tries that way. I would like to be part of it. I wish you all the power and energy it takes.
It is important that you continue your movement. Who else will?

Ma doesn't want the Dalai Lama in Taiwan...

...but that doesn't mean that he won't come, does it?
Ma's rebuff of the Dalai Lama coming to Taiwan is good news because:
It will enhance international attention to what is happening in Taiwan. In his inauguration speech, Ma welcomed the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan anytime. Now, Taiwan students and NGOs are thinking about inviting him on their behalf.
According to Lynn Miles, fighting for democracy and human rights in Taiwan since the 70s, this is the way politics should be done by the people:
People! This is what we must all be doing -- taking the movement to the people. People-to-people connections, once consumated, can put an end to this tired, year-in-and-year out chasing after corrupt politicians who are already in someone else's pocket long before we even get past their secretaries.

Wild Strawberries offers us an excellent opportuunity to do this people-to-people grassroots work. Student organizations should be at the top of our list, and human rights NGOs, and so on.

Governments do not speak in the name of the people they are supposed to represent. When it comes to this, evidence can be found in the matter on Taiwan:
Consider this. Virtually all of the world's peoples outside of China recognize Taiwan as a country. Go anywhere in the world and if someone asks you what country you are from, and you say "Taiwan," that is the end of the matter. Pure and simple. So what you have is the people of the world recognizing Taiwan, on the one hand, while their governments do not recognize Taiwan on the other. How then can we call them democracies? They have all been corrupted by the big-money power!

That is why we need to change things on our own! For if we want to see things change, we need to be the change we want to see!

International Scholars' Open Letter, Responding to Taiwan's Justice Minister

Open Letter no. 2 was published in the Taipei Times on 2 December:

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs

552 7th Street. SE. Washington, DC 20003

Support Democracy, Support Taiwan.

For Immediate Release
December 2, 2008, 2008
Contact: Iris Ho at 202.547.3686

On Friday November 28th a group of prominent international scholars and writers sent an open letter to Taiwan's Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng, expressing continued concern about political arrests and detentions in Taiwan. The group was responding to an open letter from the Minister, which was published in the Taipei Times on Tuesday, November 25th.

In the response, the scholars and writers stated: "Based on the information available to us, however, we remain concerned about choices made by prosecutors in applying existing legal authority and strongly believe in the need for reform." The letter went on to detail concerns about "preventive detention", detention without formal charges, the absence of lawyer-client confidentiality, leaks by prosecutors to the press, and political bias in the judicial system.

The scholars and writers expressed fear that the current judicial procedures being used in Taiwan is endangering the country's democratization, and is damaging the goodwill that Taiwan has developed internationally. They concluded by expressing the hope and expectation that Taiwan's government will quickly correct the present injustices, and move towards reform of the judicial system.


November 28th 2008

The Honorable Wang Ching-feng

Minister of Justice

130 Chung-Ching S. Rd, Sec 1

Taipei, Taiwan

Dear Minister Wang,

In an open letter to the Taipei Times, published on November 25th 2008, you responded to our joint statement regarding the erosion of justice in Taiwan. We appreciate your acknowledgement of the sincerity of our concerns, and are grateful to receive a prompt and serious reply. Based on the information available to us, however, we remain concerned about choices made by prosecutors in applying existing legal authority and strongly believe in the need for reform. Please allow us to highlight a number of specific points:

1. The procedure of "preventive detention." This procedure is obviously intended for serious criminal cases in which the suspect is likely to flee the country. In his November 13th article in the South China Morning Post, Professor Jerome Cohen states that "it ought to be invoked rarely."

Yet, during the past weeks, it has been used across the board, and it has been used only against present and former members of the DPP government. This casts severe doubts on the impartiality of the judicial system. We also wish to point out that the people involved were detained under deplorable circumstances, and that they were not even allowed to see relatives.

2. The open letter contains the argument that when they were detained, the present and former DPP government officials "were all informed of the charges that had been brought against them." This is simply not correct: when they were detained, they were subject to lengthy interrogations – in some cases for up to 20 hours – which bore the character of a "fishing expedition", and do not represent a formal indictment in any legal sense. In most cases the prosecutors had had months of time to collect information: if they did have sufficient evidence of wrong-doing, they should formally have charged the persons and let them have their day in a scrupulously impartial court of law. That would be the desirable procedure under the rule of law in a democratic society.

3. The open letter also states that the persons involved had "the right and ability to communicate with their attorneys to seek legal assistance." It neglects to mention that in all cases where people were detained, the discussions with the lawyers were recorded and videotaped, while a guard took notes. This information was then immediately transmitted to the respective prosecutors. We don't need to point out that this is a grave infringement on international norms regarding the lawyer-client privilege, and makes mounting an adequate defense problematic at best.

4. On the issue of leaks to the press, the letter states that under the Code of Criminal Procedure information on ongoing investigations can only be disclosed by spokespersons of the prosecutor's offices and that unauthorized disclosure is subject to criminal prosecution. The fact of the matter is that during the past weeks, the media has been filled with information on the ongoing investigations which could only have come from the prosecutors. We may point out one example, but there are numerous others:

Only a few hours after former Foreign Minister Mark Chen was questioned on November 3rd, the Apple Daily (a local tabloid) ran an article that "the prosecutors are thinking of charging Dr. Chen in relation to the case."

The issue of violation of the principle of secret investigation was also raised by Shih Lin District Court Judge Hung Ing-hua, who strongly criticized the present situation and procedures followed by your Ministry in an article in the Liberty Times on November 17th 2008.

We may also mention that we find it highly peculiar that no steps whatsoever have been taken against the various prosecutors who leaked information, while we just learned that the Ministry of Justice is now taking steps against Mr. Cheng Wen-long, the lawyer for former President Chen Shui-bian, who presumably "leaked" information to the press. The Ministry sent a formal request to the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office asking the office to investigate and prosecute, and also sent a formal request to Taiwan Lawyer's Association and asked the association to review the case and see whether Cheng should have his license revoked.

It is our understanding that the statements Mr. Cheng made were in relation to former President Chen's views on Taiwan's situation and its future, and an expression of love for his wife, but did not have any bearing on the case against him. We hope you realize that if the Ministry proceeds along these lines, this will be perceived as a direct confirmation of the strong political bias of the judicial system.

5. The letter states that it is untrue that Taiwan's judicial system is susceptible to political manipulation. If this is the case, how can it be explained that in the past weeks, only DPP officials have been detained and given inhumane treatment such as handcuffing and lengthy questioning, while obvious cases of corruption by members of the KMT – including in the Legislative Yuan -- are left untouched by the prosecutors or at best stalled in the judicial process?

We may also refer to expressions of concern by Prof. Jerome Cohen and by lawyer Nigel Li, who expressed his deep concerns about the preventive detentions in an editorial in the China Times on November 9th 2008. In his editorial, Mr. Li praised the remarks made by prosecutor Chen Rui-ren, who was part of the legal team prosecuting the special fund cases, that the prosecutors' offices should "avoid the appearance of targeting only one particular political group."

The fact that the Special Investigation Task Force was set up under the DPP Administration or that the prosecutor general was nominated by President Chen is not at issue here. The problem is that the present system is being used in a very partial fashion.

We may add that the fact that you yourself have publicly discussed the content of the cases does create a serious imbalance in the playing field, and undermines the basic dictum that a person should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Under the present circumstances it is hard to see how the persons involved – including former President Chen Shui-bian – can have a fair trial in Taiwan.

6. Lastly, the statement by the US State Department is interpreted in the letter as an "endorsement" of Taiwan's legal system and the procedures followed. It should be noted that in international diplomatic language, the term "we have every expectation" means "we are concerned and we will watch the situation closely."

For the past two decades, Taiwan has faced a difficult situation internationally. What has given Taiwan important credibility in democratic countries around the world has been its democratization. We fear that the current judicial procedures being used in Taiwan endanger this democratization, and endanger the goodwill that Taiwan has developed internationally.

In conclusion: we do remain deeply disturbed by the erosion of justice in Taiwan, and express the sincere hope and expectation that your government will maintain fair and impartial judicial practices and quickly correct the present injustices. As an editorial in the November 20th issue of the London-based Economist indicated, Taiwan is "hungry for justice", and we also hope that your government will be willing to initiate judicial reform which would move Taiwan towards a fully fair and impartial judicial system which earns the respect and admiration from other democratic countries around the world.

Respectfully yours,

Signatories of the November 4th Joint Statement

  1. Nat Bellocchi, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan
  2. Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington DC
  3. Stéphane Corcuff, Associate Professor of Political Science, China and Taiwan Studies, University of Lyon, France
  4. Gordon G. Chang, author, "The Coming Collapse of China."
  5. David Curtis Wright, Associate Professor of History, University of Calgary
  6. June Teufel Dreyer, Professor of Political Science, University of Miami, Florida
  7. Edward Friedman, Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  8. Mark Harrison, Senior Lecturer, Head of Chinese School of Asian Languages and Studies, University of Tasmania, , Australia
  9. Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  10. Richard C. Kagan, Professor Emeritus of History, Hamline University, St. Paul Minnesota
  11. Jerome F. Keating, Associate Professor, National Taipei University (Ret.). Author, "Island in the Stream, a quick case study of Taiwan's complex history" and other works on Taiwan
  12. Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
  13. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
  14. Donald Rodgers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Austin College, Texas
  15. Terence Russell, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Manitoba
  16. Scott Simon, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa
  17. Michael Stainton, York Center for Asia Research, Toronto
  18. Peter Tague, Professor of Law, Georgetown University
  19. John J. Tkacik Jr., Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, Washington DC
  20. Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond, Virginia
  21. Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
  22. Gerrit van der Wees, Editor Taiwan Communiqué, Washington DC
  23. Stephen Yates, President of DC Asia Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs

AI urging Taiwan Police to avoid using force at protests



AI Index No: ASA 38/001/2008

3 December 2008

Taiwan: Police should avoid using excessive force at upcoming protests

Amnesty International has urged Taiwan's police force to comply with international guidelines on the use of force and crowd control at the planned student protests on Sunday 7 December.

The organization also joins calls for the Control Yuan, the body mandated by the Taiwan Constitution with supervisory power over the Executive branch, to conduct an independent inquiry into alleged excessive police force during November's protests.

The Wild Strawberry Student Movement has staged sit-ins since 6 November to protest against what they consider the use of excessive force during the Taiwan visit of Chen Yunlin, chairman of the China-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. Civil society groups in Taiwan are investigating multiple claims that individuals suffered head injuries and broken fingers at the hands of police during the protests.

According to police reports on 8 November, approximately 10,000 police officers had been deployed during Chen's visit; 149 police officers and 200-300 individuals were injured; 18 were arrested.

Taiwanese civil society groups claim that police have applied the Assembly and Parade Law arbitrarily to silence dissent. According to the students' spokesperson, they will not seek police approval, as required by the law, but will only "report" their plans to law enforcement authorities, in line with amendments advocated by the Movement.

The Movement is organizing the protest on Sunday 7 December to criticize the government's failure to amend the Assembly and Parade Law.

Amnesty International said Taiwan's Control Yuan should address the serious concerns raised by civil society in Taiwan and the government should cease the practice of using the Assembly and Parade Law to deny freedom of assembly and allow individuals to protest peacefully. Amnesty International also called on Taiwanese police and judicial authorities to ensure that they investigate any protesters accused of engaging in violence in a fair, transparent, and timely manner in compliance with international standards.


On 3-7 November 2008, Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, led a 60-member delegation from the People's Republic of China to visit Taiwan and meet with President Ma Ying-jeou.

The police barred protesters displaying Taiwanese and Tibetan flags and anti-China slogans along the routes taken by the envoy and confiscated or damaged some of these items. The police also closed a shop near the hotel where Chen Yunlin had dinner with Kuomintang honorary chairman Lien Chan when the shop loudly broadcast music from an album titled 'Songs of Taiwan'.

There were additional reports of arbitrary detention and police brutality, some of which, according to the police, were in response to the violence of protesters.

Following the visit, hundreds of students have staged sit-ins across Taiwan protesting the police's handling of the protests and demanding amendments to the Assembly and Parade Law, which has been misused to prevent protests.

On 6 November the students started their sit-ins outside the offices of the Executive Yuan or (Executive branch), where they were eventually removed by police on the grounds of illegal assembly. They continued the sit-ins at the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall and organized a daily demonstration calling for immediate amendments to the Assembly and Parade Law, apologies from the president and head of government and the resignations of the heads of the police and national security.

On 18 November Taipei police announced a list of 66 "troublemakers", who had allegedly thrown gas bombs and stones at the police and spat at the Taichung mayor. There were also reports that the police had pressured journalists and their supervisors to hand over video tapes to identify suspects who allegedly took part in the violence.


Public Document

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Dec 2, 2008

Strawberries Going Wild

Protesting the exaggerated and inappropriate actions taken by the Ma administration while hosting Chinese cross-straits envoy Chen Yunlin in Taiwan (huge police forces blocking protesters from coming any close to where the envoy met with high Taiwanese politicians, use of violence by the police forces, ban on showing ROC- and Tibetan flags, imprisonment of leading opposition politicians, etc.), has led Taiwan's students circa one month ago to form the "Wild Strawberries Movement". The movement has groups in six cities: Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Hsinchu, Chiayi, and Taichung. Their means is peaceful protest, most profoundly do they wish to hold out in a sit-in strike to pressure politicians to take on democracy and the people they represent more seriously. In the media, the Wild Strawberries have been misrepresented from the beginning, in what resembles a campaign to denounce their political engagement as being led by the opposition (i.e., the DPP) - despite their ever-repeated party neutrality and criticism towards all established parties. The KMT and pan-blue media here show just exactly the same will to manipulate public opinion and generate deep polarisation in between the people as they criticized the former Chen administration of.

This is the homepage:

(The Name:)
Their name seems deliberately chosen, for the young generation in Taiwan is somewhat pejoratively being called "strawberries" often (since they are said to be spoiled and unable to bear any sort of stress). Now Taiwan's students try to show that they have well recognised the signs of the present happenings: The fear that Taiwan's democratic environment and human rights situation might soon deteriorate (if they have not already).

The Wild Strawberries have urged President Ma and Prime Minister Liou to apologize for the actions taken by government and police during the time of the Chen-visit to Taiwan. They also ask the directors of National Police Agency and National Security Bureau, respectively, to step down from their offices, and for the law concerning the right to assemble (dating from Martial Law times and strictly restricting such assemblings) to be revised by the Legislative Yuan.
I hope for the Berries-Students to be at least as successfull as their predecessors who were protesting in 1990, one year after the CCP had crushed a student revolt so profundly and suddenly. In 1990, the KMT didn't dare take such action against peacefully demonstrating students. Eventually, the students' protests paved the way for ameliorating the constitution, being another stone on the way that led to democratisation. Only, our fear is that Ma will play on time and wait until the protesters spirit has vanished, so to refrain from any changes in his style of politics other than rhetoric (and his rhetoric being this and that, anyway).

A few days ago, they uploaded a video introducing their movement:

(The Future:)
To work against frustration (mostly deriving from being almost completely ignored by the government) and gather new spirit in working towards a change, the movement is about to set a new step:
On December 7th, they are going to rally a few thousand people (hopefully) to march towards the Presidental Office, in obvious violation of the old Law on Assembling and without a police permit. Thus they are hoping to enhance the political debate about revising the law. Whether or not police forces will crush the "illegal" demonstration will be of significant influence for the future of that law. This should be a way to evoke reaction by the government (to "coax them out of their shell"), in one way or another, and prevent the protests from dying from inactivity and idleness.

There is also a lot more brand new information on some English-speaking blogs in Taiwan, for instance on "the view from Taiwan" and "David on Formosa". Especially the Taipei Times had some nice editorials on the student protests (example). Don't forget the protesters website and their effort to keep it updated several times a day, all in English.

An English Statement can be found here.
On this occasion, Anti-Flag spontaneously springs to mind: "You can kill the protester, but you can't kill the protest! You can murder the rebell, but you can't murder the rebellion!"

All I can wish for is: May your protest be longlived and bright, may it bring about the change we want to see!

Following is their statement in German:

Protestiert Gegen Polizeibrutalitaet!! Verteidigt Freiheit und Menschenrecht. (Statment in German)

Angefangen am 3. November, mit dem Besuch von Chen Yunlin, hat die Polizei zahlreiche Aktionen gegen Demonstranten durchgeführt, darunter die Beschlagnahmung und Zerstoerung von Eigentum, physische Gewalt, und sogar Verhaftungen. Die große Mehrheit der betroffenen Demonstranten befand sich nicht einmal in der Nähe von Chen Yunlin.

Durch Berichte in den Medien haben wir den Ernst der Situation erkannt. Es geht nicht nur um Details bei der Strafverfolgung, noch handelt es sich einfach um einen Konflikt zwischen Anhaengern verschiedener politischer Parteien. Es geht vielmehr um Polizeigewalt, die vom Staat gefördert wird und die die Zivilgesellschaft beschaedigt.

Alle diese Aktionen, die Menschenrechte und demokratische Werte ignorieren, erinnern an das Kriegsrecht. Aber der Premier Liu weicht seiner Verantwortung mit unklaren Entschuldigungen aus. Diese Reaktionen der Regierung empören und beschaemen uns.

Wir fragen uns: Muss Taiwan seine Standards bei Freiheit und Demokratie bis auf das Niveau von China senken, um mit China wirtschaftlich kooperieren zu können?

Innerhalb weniger Tage sind Freiheit und Demokratie, für die die Taiwanesen so hart gekaempft haben, durch die Polizeiaktionen ernsthaft beschaedigt worden. Unsere Regierung ignoriert dies und veranstaltet stattdessen Empfaenge und Bankette für den Gast aus China.

Wir sind eine Gruppe von Universitaetsprofessoren, Studenten, und Bürgern, die sich Sorgen um die zukünftige Entwicklung Taiwans machen. Unser Protest ist überparteilich und unabhaengig von anderen politischen Organisationen.

Wir werden weiter friedlich demonstrieren, bis unsere Forderungen erfüllt werden. Unsere Forderungen sind:

Präident Ma Ying-Jeou und Premierminister Liu Chao-Shiuan müssen sich öffentlich bei allen Bürgern für die Vorkommnisse entschuldigen.

Der Generaldirektor der nationalen Polizei, Wang Cho-Chiun, und der Direktor der Staatssicherheitsbehörde, Tsai Chao-Ming, müssen zurücktreten.

Das Parlament muss das Versammlungsgesetz, das die Versammlungsfreiheit der Menschen einschränkt, revidieren.

Nov 25, 2008

amnesty international Taiwan - Small Places Tour

Small Places Tour ist eine Kollaboration von amnesty international Taiwan 國際特赦組織台灣總會mit mehreren taiwanischen Bands, u.a. den Postrock-Heroen Sugarplum Ferry 甜梅號 und Aphasia 阿飛西雅, die im November und Dezember an verschiedenen Orten auf der Insel gemeinsame Auftritte organisieren, so z.B. in der bekannten Venue "The Wall" in Taipei. Angefangen worden ist diese weltweite Aktion meines Wissens übrigens von amnesty international Canada.

Nun hat eine der beteiligten Bands namens Echo 回聲樂團 ein Werbevideo für die Small Places Tour produziert, das wie ich finde auch hohen künstlerischen Ansprüchen genügt. Über die Musik kann man streiten, ist halt catchy Taiwan Pop/Rock.

Nov 6, 2008

International Scholars Concerned about Erosion of Taiwan's Justice

This is severe. Quoting a statement that has been published on the Website of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs FAPA

and signed by almost any outstanding Taiwan researchers throughout the US, and some from Europe and Australia.

This development needs more public and media awareness! It may sound obscure, but all evidence indicates that it is time for us to stand up for Taiwanese Democracy. It is by no means secure from violation! Some information here:

but look for more!


For Immediate Release

November 4, 2008

Contact: Iris Ho




November 4, 2008


US, European and Australian scholars and writers express concern about prosecutions in Taiwan

The undersigned, scholars and writers from the US, Europe and Australia wish to express their deep concern about the recent series of detentions in Taiwan of present and former DPP government officials. To date there have been at least seven such cases (See list below).


It is obvious that there have been cases of corruption in Taiwan, but these have occurred in both political camps. The political neutrality of the judicial system is an essential element in a democracy. It is also essential that any accused are considered innocent until proven guilty in the court of law.


We also believe that the procedures followed by the prosecutor's offices are severely flawed: while one or two of the accused have been formally charged, the majority is being held incommunicado without being charged. This is a severe contravention of the writ of habeas corpus and a basic violation of due process, justice and the rule of law.


In the meantime, the prosecutor's offices evidently leak detrimental information to the press. This kind of "trial by press" is a violation of the basic standards of judicial procedures. It also gives the distinct impression that the Kuomintang authorities are using the judicial system to get even with members of the former DPP government. In addition, the people who are being held incommunicado are of course unable to defend themselves against the misreporting and the leaks in the news media.


We do firmly believe that any alleged wrongdoings must be dealt with in a fair and open manner in an impartial court. Justice through the rule of law is essential to Taiwan's efforts to consolidate democracy and protect fundamental human rights.


We do not want to see Taiwan's hard-earned democracy jeopardized in this manner. Taiwan can justifiably be proud of its transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It would be sad for Taiwan and detrimental to its international image if the progress which was made during the past 20 years would be erased. Taiwan needs to move forward, not backwards to the unfair and unjust procedures as practiced during the dark days of Martial Law (1947-87).

我們不願見到台灣辛苦得來的民主陷入如此困境。台灣因 為在八零年代後期與九零年早期成功轉型為民主國家,而引以為傲。如果過去二十年來的民主進展從此抺煞,這不僅將令人難過,台灣的國際形象也將受到嚴害傷 害。台灣必須向前邁進,而不應是開倒車回到過去戒嚴黑暗時代的不公與不義。



Nat Bellocchi, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan  
Julian Baum, former Taiwan Bureau Chief, Far Eastern Economic Review
Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington DC
David Prager Branner, Director at Large (East Asia), American Oriental Society
Gordon G. Chang, author, "The Coming Collapse of China."
June Teufel Dreyer, Professor of Political Science, University of Miami, Florida
Edward Friedman, Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Bruce Jacobs, Professor of Asian Languages and Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Richard C. Kagan, Professor Emeritus of History, Hamline University, St. Paul Minnesota
Jerome F. Keating, Associate Professor, National Taipei University (Ret.). Author, "Island in the Stream, a quick case study of Taiwan's complex history" and other works on Taiwan
Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
Donald Rodgers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Austin College, Texas
Terence Russell, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Manitoba
Scott Simon, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa
John J. Tkacik Jr., Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, Washington DC
Gerrit van der Wees, Editor Taiwan Communiqué, Washington DC
Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond, Virginia
Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
Stephen Yates, President of DC Asia Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs

Specific cases of concern:
-- The arrest and detention on October 15th of former Interior minister Yu Cheng-hsien;

-- The arrest and detention on October 27th of former Hsinchu Science Park Director and Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Dr. James Lee;

-- The arrest and detention on October 29th of DPP Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen;

-- The indictment on October 30th of DPP Tainan City Councilor Wang Ting-yu;

-- The arrest and detention on October 31st of former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general and Deputy Prime Minister Chiou I-jen;

-- The questioning of former Foreign Minister Dr. Mark Chen on November 3rd and insinuations in the press that he might be charged and arrested.

-- The arrest and detention on November 4th of DPP Yunlin County Magistrate Ms. Su Chih-fen.

Oct 8, 2008

Alive and kicking

... I am. Currently investing more creative energy into my jobs at the university (preparing a tutorial on scientific research methods), being elected member of my faculty's student union, and this.
Things are going really great for our Sinology student's paper "Dianmo" 點墨, better than we could have hoped for. A lot of people offered their willingness to contribute articles, among them very interesting insights into the life of a German doctor working with the minority peoples in Yunnan, articles on Aids-orphaned kids in China and jokes in a cultural context, interviews with German expert and romancier Tilman Spengler, recipes and Chinese underground music bands.
There is much to expect yet, for we almost cannot squeeze all the articles offered to us in one issue. But that allows for duration into the foreseeable future, making our completely self-organized paper not the matter of one day only - hopefully.
Dianmo was founded 19 March, 2008, and has soon to see its 3rd issues (end of October). The name is derived from the saying 胸無點墨, literally to not have a drop of ink in one's chest, that is, to be totally uneducated (and thus uncultivated).
In my opinion, our best asset is pursuing things in a very inclusionist way. Everyone who wants to is welcome to contribute. The paper is thus more and more becoming a German-wide matter, with people from Köln, Berlin, Weimar... participating. To guarantee stability within this "open source"-approach, all threads connect at the center which is the permanent editorial staff, all students of Sinology at the University of Leipzig. While the idea is to be traced back to the original initiative of my good friend Frank Andreß, credits for the incredibly professional layout go to Thomas Baier (info here).
Comments and ideas are dearly welcomed any time!
We encourage everyone to help us make this a better paper!

Oct 7, 2008

Why "neutrality" is no option

Foreign English teachers seemingly do have special rights attached to their position just by nature of their position, but please don't let just everyone who looks foreign have a say in public newspapers...
I am referring to David Pendery's piece in October 5th's Taipei Times, and editorial entitled "Neutrality is Taiwan's best option", the main argument being that a "neutral, non-violent stance" make it more probable for Taiwan to not be threatened by the PRC, the interior logic being that the PRC must feel offended by today's aggressive Taiwan and would thus welcome the generosity of a peace treaty offered by mighty evil ROC. A second part of the argument points out that international pressure on the PRC would be much too high to make military aggression against Taiwan a veritable option.
This just turns the actual situation upside down.
Looming behind this discussion is the possibility of war. With the discussion now largely at loggerheads, I believe that alternative solutions should be considered. Enter the neutrality and non-violence sanctioned here.

Admittedly these suggestions are problematic. Along with a constitutional amendment based on Japan’s — which states that the people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes” — Taiwanese disarmament would have to take place. Though a dramatic move, this is by no means out of the question, having already been adopted by a select group of other peaceful, progressive nations. Of course, harsh international realities and threats cannot be ignored, and the maintenance of a viable national police or self-defense force would be necessary. This may acceptably be combined with a peaceful national posture.

In the short term, threats from China would probably not disappear, but in time we might well find that the nation would find its more aggressive tendencies limited. Were China to threaten a nation that had renounced war, for example, it would probably be subject to a storm of criticism and pressure from other nations. As well, other nations could likely support Taiwan politically and militarily, and pressure China to soften its stance if a neutral, non-violent stance were adopted. These developments could require China to pragmatically re-think it’s current positions vis-a-vis Taiwan.

Some will label this stance a capitulation, appeasement. In answer we say that the same was said of great non-violent peacemakers like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And as for those who want to dismiss these leaders with notions of hard-nosed realism and pragmatism ... good luck.

Now guess what will actually happen in case this policy were adopted... Since cross-Strait relations in the eyes of the PRC are not state-to-state relations, a disarming Taiwan could only prove in their mind that the island people have finally come to their mind and left all this secession-poison and terrorism against the integrity of the sole Chinese state behind them. Taiwan would be swallowed up by its "rightful" owner, since no arms would be there to defend the arriving army any longer. Of course no one would ask any Taiwanese for their say on it, since all Taiwanese clearly are ethnic Chinese and there can only be one empire under heaven to represent them. The "just-as-distant possibility of unification with China" would just not be that distant any more...
So what about the International Community? In my eyes, it is pretty clear to see what stance it had on the matter for over 30 years. Since most nations (well, it might as well be all of them) have officially adopted the "One China"-principle, there would be no legal obligation to object on a transfer of the island to the mainland - since even the Taiwanese have made clear that that was what they wanted (by allowing to disarm). Economy rules out morals. Right now, and for the future to come, every nations-with-a-say interest in the Chinese market will outrule its moral support for a fellow democracy like Taiwans by far. Do you want this to be the end of the line?
Just to be sure: I despise militarism, and I would welcome worldwide disarmament right away, but not at the cost of rationally giving up on my rights and my freedom.
Comparing Taiwanese disarmament to Gandhi and Martin Luther King just doesn't work at all. They employed an utterly non-violent and peaceful approach as the only reasonably tool at hand, for they acted from a position out of nothing. There was nothing to lose by Non-violence, so to speak. This is clearly not the case for Taiwan, which already has an established democratic political system and grants its citizens a lot of freedom. Since Taiwans arms clearly are not aggressive military weapons, there is also no point in evolving politics in an even less "violent" way. From as far as I know, Taiwan already has a "peaceful nation posture" and contains only "self-defence forces" (honestly, what use would there be in attacking anyone from Taiwan?). Taiwan simply has too much to lose to take an "idealist" position just to gamble and see what the outcome may be.

May 11, 2008

Taiwan und die Demokratie

Kurzer Artikel in einer amerikanischen Studentenzeitung, der sich endlich für eine Unterstützung der DEMOKRATIE Taiwan ausspricht.

Auf höchster politischer Ebene geht es viel zu selten um die "Systemfrage" (zugunsten wirtschaftlicher , strategischer, geopolitischer Erwartungen). Dabei sollte uns die weltweite Erosion von Demokratien zu denken geben. Die Demokratie ist nur eine Weltanschauung, mit ihren Wurzeln in der europäischen Aufklärung (und in der christlichen Tradition). Und gerade weil sie nur ein mögliches System unter vielen ist, können wir nicht anteinahmslos ihr gegenüber dastehen, sondern müssen uns als überzeugte Demokraten, die wir am Erhalt unserer politischen Mitbeteiligung interessiert sind, eindeutig positionieren!

Das soll ja nicht heißen, wir würden China abweisen oder als Feind betrachten. Es muss doch aber wohl selbst innerhalb Chinas möglich sein, dass es verschiedene Formen politischer Mitbestimmung gibt! China ist ja nicht per se antidemokratisch.
Eine Demokratie, die einem autoritären Regime untersteht, ist jedoch keine Demokratie mehr. Das faktische Vorhandensein von zwei politischen Systemen China, von zwei unabhängigen "chinesischen" Staaten (chinesischer Kulturraum, meinetwegen) muss ebensowenig zwangsläufig und in alle Ewigkeit eine Teilung bedeuten. Zusammenkommen können die Teile aber erst, wenn sich eines oder beide Systeme aneinander anpassen.
Ich fürchte, dass bei der VR-Führung diese Sicht der Realität zweifellos nicht auf Gegenliebe stößt, obwohl sie sich sehr wohl bewusst ist, dass sie faktisch keine Macht direkt über Taiwan hat. Dabei böte eine Entspannung große Chancen. Die zukünftige Möglichkeit einer Wiedervereinigung wäre ja ausgeschlossen. Außerdem wären Frieden und Stabilität der beste Motor für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und eine Intensivierung der Beziehungen. Beziehungen, mit denen China sicher eher ein gemeinsames Empfinden und "chinesische" Gefühle bei den Inselbewohnern etablieren könnte. Viel eher als mit der gegenwärtigen Droh- und Ausschlusspolitik. Diese führt absehbar nur zu einer Eskalation des Konfliktes in der ein oder anderen Weise (von Protestwahlergebnissen bis hin zum leider nicht unmöglichen Krieg). Nichts stärkt die langsame, natürliche Entwicklung hin zu einem festen taiwanischen Selbstverständnis mehr als die irrationale VR-chinesische Politik - je nach Umfrageart betrachten sich zwischen 40 und 95% der Bevölkerung als "taiwanisch". Der Artikel spricht interessanterweise von einem "konditionalen" Verständnis der Taiwaner: Unabhängigkeit WENN friedlich, Vereinigung WENN demokratisch.
Momentan stehen weder Option 1 noch 2 zur Verfügung. Tritt jedoch 1 ein, braucht es 2 nicht, und umgekehrt. Und was machen wir solange, bis sich China demokratisiert?
(denn das ist wohl der einzige Schlüssel zur Lösung dieser Probleme...)

Dass auf Taiwan lange nicht alles Gold ist, was demokratisch funkelt und glänzt, versteht sich von selbst. Da jedoch zuletzt vermehrt Skandale und Kritik an der "Dollardiplomatie" Taiwans (der einzige Weg, sich internationale Unterstützung zu sichern - solange, bis China den Reisbeutel ganz weit aufmacht - und ein absolut kritikabler!) von sich reden machten, sei auf Michael Turtons Blog aus Taichung verwiesen, der das Ganze immer ganz genüsslich und absolut demokratisch aufarbeitet. Daneben viel über Ma Ying-jeou und warum nicht er das eigentlich Problem ist, sondern dieselben KMT-Hardliner aus martial law-Zeiten, deren Macht im Hintergrund bedrohlich und unerkannt ist. (Erinnern wir uns an die "hohen" Ämter Deng Xiaopings in der 80ern und 90ern...)

Mar 21, 2008

Neues aus Taiwan

Überblick über die Hintergründe des Konfliktes Taiwan-China im deutschlandfunk.

War die Freude der Taiwaner 1945 wirklich "riesengroß, dass sie endlich (!!!) in den Schoß des Mutterlandes zurückkamen"??? Hab ich da was verpasst?

Ansonsten recht ausgeglichener Beitrag, viele Expertenstimmen.
Länge: 18 Minuten

Und das eindeutige Bekenntnis Steinmeiers, Tibet und Taiwan seien Bestandteil des chinesischen Territoriums, ist eine riesengroße Sauerei!

Mar 20, 2008

Über die psychologische Notwendigkeit der taiwanischen vollen Unabhängigkeit

Weil es mir sehr am Herzen liegt und am Samstag schon auf Taiwan der neue Präsident gewählt und über ein UN-Beitritts-Referendum abgestimmt wird, hier eine Antwort-Email an einen Freund, der überlegt, dort zu studieren.

Es geht um die Frag, ob Taiwan unabhängig sein sollte oder nicht, und warum.

Dies ist mein Herzblut, ich hoffe, damit einige Herzen erweichen zu können... :)

Natürlich, die Mehrheit der Taiwaner denkt wahrscheinlich wie du, denkt Sicherheit:
Warum den status quo aufs Spiel setzen, wo sich damit doch so fein Geld verdienen lässt? Anders formuliert: Aus Angst, Desinteresse oder der Hoffnung darauf, dass sich schon nichts ändern wird, gehen sie nicht bis zum äußersten, sondern nur den halben Weg - nicht warm und nicht kalt, nicht Fisch und nicht Fleisch, wie wir sagen würden. Was als Wahren der "Mitte" im Chinesischen aber durchaus veritable Option ist.

Ich sehe das Problem vor allem als eines psychologischer Art. Hast du schon einmal überlegt, welche Legitimationslücken einer Demokratie erwachsen, die rein wirtschaftlichen Interessen hintangestellt wird?
Einer Demokratie zumal, die aus sich selbst heraus originiert und dennoch weltweit kein eindeutiges Bekenntnis, keine eindeutige Anerkennung von den anderen demokratischen Teilnehmern unserer internationalen Sorgenrunde findet - dass vielmehr Kontakte mit ihr verheimlicht werden/ halblegal geführt werden, so als schäme man sich dafür...
Und wenn dies alles auch noch zugunsten einer autoritären Herrschaft, nur aufgrund wirtschaftlicher Erwägungen geschieht?!

- Diese Demokratie wird ihrer Dringlichkeit, ihrer Heiligkeit beraubt - von innen wie von außen. Von außen ausgehöhlt. Sie wird für bare Münze genommen und in der Reihe von Prioritäten immer wieder und immer weiter nach hinten delegiert (zuerst kommt der Wohlstand "für alle" - natürlich nicht gleichmäßig, weswegen das eben immer mehr Zeit in Anspruch nimmt - das ist ja eine Endlosspirale, weil IMMER irgendjemand reicher ist; Wohlstand und Geldverdienen), bis... - ja, bis sie irgendwann irgendwohin verschwunden ist, und keiner hat etwas gemerkt oder auch nur etwas dagegen...

Von außen wird den Taiwanern vorgemacht, dass ihre Demokratie zwar schön und gut, gegen Chinas wirtschaftliches Potential aber nur zweitrangig ist. Kein idealistischer Fürsprecher wagt es sich mit China zu verscherzen, ins Hintertreffen zu geraten, indem er gegen solche moralische Doppelzüngigkeit aufsteht. In Taiwan wird die Frage nach Unabhängigkeit verdrängt und aufgeschoben - was die Möglichkeit einschließt, sich wieder zu vereinigen - wenn China "sich demokratisieren würde". Wozu es ganz sicher in den nächsten 50 Jahren kommen wird - zu einer zwanghaften Einverleibung Taiwans jedoch vielleicht schon, wenn lauter Duckmäuser in der UN sich von den Einflüsterungen ihrer von der Dollarsucht gezeichneten und sich in jede Spur von Geld verkrallenden WIrtschaftskanaillen leiten lassen.
Ich sage das vor dem bezeichnenden Hintergrund der gegenwärtigen Unruhen in Tibet, während welcher - ohne auf Details einzugehen, weil wir die nicht objektiv erfahren - die Grenzen der Toleranz Chinas, wie auch der Blauäugigkeit jener Apologeten, die ein solches autoritäres System schon als Alternative zur westlichen Demokratie sehen, für den Blindesten offensichtlich werden. Ich möchte nie und unter keinen Umständen einer solchen Diktatur ausgeliefert sein, die mein Leben bis zu dem Punkt kontrolliert, wo sie entscheidet, welche Internetseite ich besuchen darf.

Weißt du, was diese Situation für Taiwan verheißt?
- Eine Abwertung seiner Demokratie, und daraus folgend Perspektivlosigkeit, Politikverdrossenheit, Dekadenz. Machtgebaren, Ringen um EInfluss und ökonomische Ziele kommen vor sozialen und gesellschaftlichem Zusammenhalt, da finanzielle Werte (individualistisch, kalt) über demokratische (gemeinschaftlich, heiß) erhoben werden.
Und das müsste dir als Philosophiestudenten zu denken geben...
Erste Tendenzen sind erkennbar...

Von außen sind die Taiwaner gegenwärtig mehr oder weniger zur Akzeptanz ihrer Lage gezwungen - "was bleibt ihnen anderes übrig?" - und damit ihrer freien Selbstbestimmung beraubt! Für mich ist das ein nicht hinnehmbarer Zustand!
Und aus welchen Gründen geschieht dies?!

Zum Argument "chinesischer Kulturraum": Eine distinkte taiwanische Kultur und Identität ist definitiv vorhanden, da Taiwan insgesamt etwa 250 Jahre chinesisch war, 50 japanisch, vor dem 17. Jahrhundert nur sich selbst überlassen, und seit knapp 60 Jahren selbständig ist. Es war NIE Teil der VR China und ist infolge dessen verschont geblieben von "Großem SPrung nach vorn", Mao'scher Massenmobilisierung, Kulturrevolution und den damit einhergehenden Verletzungen an Volk und Kultur.
Auf Taiwan hat sich im Verlauf dieser 60 Jahre seit 1949 und insbesondere seit den 1990er Jahren eine ganz eigenständige, vom Festland definitiv verschiedene Kultur herausgebildet, zu deren Konsens u.a. ein gewachsenes Demokratieverständnis gehört. Der Anspruch der VR auf die Insel mutet daher lächerlich an. Ein Verlust taiwanischer Selbständigkeit wäre ein weiterer herber Schlag gegen die Hoffnung der liberalen Demokratien auf eine freie Welt im 21. Jahrhundert - zu dem sie dann selbst aus Profitgier auch noch beigetragen hätten.

Darum muss die Demokratie Taiwans geschützt werden, und das beste Mittel hierfür ist nunmal die international anerkannte und rechtsgültige Unabhängigkeit. Denn sie verheißt Stabilität, verschafft Sicherheit im Gegensatz zum labilen status quo, unter dem sich das demokratische Bewusstsein Taiwans aus Angst und der Unsicherheit ob des Bestehens der eigenen Existenz nicht völlig frei entfalten kann.

Taiwan geht es sprichwörtlich wie dem kleinen gallischen Dorf, das von Römern umstellt war. Ein Zaubertrank ist nicht zur Hand, dennoch müssen die Taiwaner ihrer Angst begegnen und sich auflehnen, wollen sie weiter bestehen und in einer Demokratie leben. Scheinbar ist keiner da, der den Dörflern in ihrer Ausweglosigkeit beistehen könnte, doch - zuerst muss man beweisen, dass man überhaupt zu kämpfen gewillt ist. Die Mitsteiter wagen sich dann aus Wäldern hervor, in denen man sie nicht vermutet hätte und aus Richtungen, die auf die man nicht gehofft hatte.

Liebe Grüße in die Welt, die ich liebe


Mar 17, 2008

Support UN Membership for Taiwan Petition

You can sign a petition supporting UN membership for Taiwan at this place.
This is a letter by the chairman of German Bundestag's Berlin-Taipei parliamentary amity circle, Wilhelm Josef Sebastian, to the UN General Secretary supporting Taiwan's UN entry bid.

I made the following comment on signing the petition for UN membership:

I fully support Taiwan to regain its rightful place at the United Nations. In my opinion, the international community must not exclude a democratic country as vital and distinguishably sovereign as Taiwan, above all not for economic reason. The UN goals of democratisation and liberation ought not succumb to the veto of one single security council member! The Taiwanese people have all rights in the world to self-determination.

Mar 16, 2008

Taiwan in the media

Media surfin' Taiwan...

In German:

Das Datum für die Präsidentschaftswahlen nähert sich mit Riesenschritten: Nächsten Samstag, am 22.März 2008, ist es schon so weit.
Und während ich noch auf der Buchmesse am Stand der Taipeh-Vertretung über Ängste und Folgen ob der durch die KMT bei den Parlamentswahlen erreichten 2/3-Mehrheit und der Möglichkeit eines gleichzeitigen Sieges der KMT bei den Präsidentschaftswahlen unterhielt, waren andere nicht weniger aktiv.

Auf arte lief am 15. März eine 10 min-Doku über die Wünsche für eine UN-Aufnahme Taiwans, im Deutschlandfunk ebenfalls ein facettenreicher Beitrag über die taiwanische Suche nach einer eigenen Identität. Beide sehr empfehlenswert; zum dlf-Beitrag gelangt ihr hier, die Zeiten der nochmaligen Ausstrahlung der arte-Doku erfährt man an dieser Stelle.

Insgesamt lässt sich feststellen, dass es in den letzten Jahren zu einer intensiven Neuorientierung vor allem der jungen Taiwaner gekommen ist, die sich in der Mehrzahl als distinkt "taiwanisch" betrachten und nicht als Teil Chinas. Ein Problem, das ich sehe, ist, dass Angst vor einer Veränderung des bzw. Zufriedenheit mit dem status quo herrscht - die gegenwärtige Situation mit Demokratie und Freiheit wird als unveränderlich gegeben betrachtet. Problematisch daran ist, dass der Jugend ein politischer Antrieb und gewissermaßen auch eine Perspektive fehlt. Nur so konnte es passieren (neben der Reform des Wahlsystems), dass einer Partei ein für eine ausgeglichene Demokratie bedenkliches Stimmenvolumen gegeben wurde, während sich kleine Parteien nicht genügend Gehör verschaffen konnten oder sich als Alternative zu empfehlen wussten. Hier besteht dringend Handlungsbedarf.
Denn Taiwan ist nach Freedom House die freieste Demokratie ganz Asiens, und das bereits zum dritten Jahr in Folge. Noch beeindruckender wird die demokratische Entwicklung Taiwans, wenn man sich die Veränderung im Freedom House Ranking von den 70er Jahren bis heute anschaut.
UN für Taiwan!

Informations in English:

Here you find a lot of material on the Presidential elections next week, such as a presentation of the candidates, an overview of the latest buzz etc. (official site)

The change in attitudes towards a distinct Taiwanese identity can be viewed in a recent poll published on Taiwan Headlines: according to the source, somewhat around 80 to 90+ % of those being interviewed were in favour of Taiwan applying for UN membership. 79% of those asked thought it should did so under the name "Taiwan", more than 60% held the view that Taiwan is a sovereign nation.
This is great news for the referenda which are going to be held at the same time as the Presidential election - for the first time, one of them stands a chance to pass! I cannot stress enough the importance that Taiwanese people signal their wish to be part of the international community - no matter how likely a PR veto will prohibit Taiwan entering the UN at last.

In here, of particular significance is to show nations around the world how much Taiwan wishes to be handled as a fully matured partner worth being treated equally!
Stating my case here, I don't favour any of the two Presidential candidates (I have no chance to partake in the voting anyway), but I do want to give an urgent call for making the referendum pass!

Good luck!

Mar 14, 2008

Bemerkungen zu Tibet und Taiwan

Von den Protesten gegen die chinesische Besetzung in Tibet habt ihr sicherlich erfahren.
Als Antwort auf einen Zeit Online-Artikel von Ruth Kirchner dazu und darauf folgende Kommentare veröffentliche ich dieses Statement, inklusive einer kurzen Einschätzung der Unterschiede in den Situationen Tibets und Taiwans, die beide dem Machtgebahren Pekings ausgeliefert sind:

Warum soll es eine Schande sein, Radio Free Asia zu zitieren?
Es ist schließlich auch keine Schande, für gewöhnlich die staatliche Nachrichtenagentur Xinhua zu bringen...
(Eine Reaktion auf den Kommentar:

Einseitige Berichterstattung

Dieser Bericht ist eine Schande für diese Zeitung, denn der Author beruft sich im Wesentlichen auf zwei Quellen:

Radio Free Asia(ideologischer Radiobomber aus Washongton D.C.) und

Das Tibetische Zentrum für Menschenrechte und Demokratie (TCHRD), welches von National Endowment for Democracy (NED) massiv unterstützt wird.

Objektiver Journalismus mit freundlicher Unterstützung von den USA... )

Guter Journalismus findet eben auch in ethischer Verantwortung vor dem eigenen Gewissen statt, eine "Objektivität" ist bei einem Thema so heiß wie diesem gleich so gut wie überhaupt nicht wahrbar. Nach unseren Maßstäben ist die VR China jedenfalls ein autoritärer, nicht-demokratischer Staat, und indem wir unsere hehren demokratischen Ideale wahren wollen heißt das auch, demokratische Gruppierungen und speziell das Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker zu unterstützen.
Es is eine Schande, dass dieses zugunsten wirtschaftlicher Vorteile mit Füßen getreten wird!
Insofern kann ich alezzos höchst abwertende Einschätzung weder teilen noch nachvollziehen. Es ist nur recht und billig, dass politische Organisationen finanziell unterstützt werden, auch wenn das Geld aus den USA stammt - die VR finanziert ja ebenfalls massenhaft Propagandastudios.

Dank auch an Konrad Hao für seine Einschätzung.
Die Situationen Tibets und Taiwans unterscheiden sich jedoch in einem Punkte gravierend:
Bei den tibetischen Unruhen handelt es sich um innerstaatliche Angelegenheiten (so bitter das ist), ein Eingriff von außen ist also ohne weiteres weder zu rechtfertigen noch zu ermöglichen. Taiwan, oder richtiger die Republik China, hingegen ist ein souveräner Staat und hat der VR niemals formal, auch nicht formal unterstanden. Die VR hat absolut kein moralisch verhandelbares Recht, sich in die inneren Angelegenheiten Taiwans einzumischen - etwa, was eine formelle Unabhängigkeitserklärung betrifft. (Das Anti-Sezessionsgesetz von vor drei Jahren rechtfertigt auch den Einsatz von militärischer Gewalt durch die chinesische Regierung im Falle von Unruhen und "Abspaltungstendenzen" Tibets und Taiwans - ein Schlag ins Gesicht der faktischen staatlichen Souveränität Taiwans.)

Das Festhalten der Bundesregierung an der Ein-China-Politik und die jüngsten Aussagen Steinmeiers zeugen jedoch leider von einer rein ökonomisch diktierten, einseitigen und kurzsichtigen Politik und sind mit der beständigen Abmahnung Chinas ob seiner gravierenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen (die es natürlich gibt!) guten Gewissens nicht vereinbar, degradieren die Menschenrechtsthematik zu bloßen Worthülsen ohne konkrete Handlungsbasis. Dies ist eine moralisch verkommene und verlorene Politik und durch keine wirtschaftlichen Vorteile der Welt zu rechtfertigen!

Vorhin habe ich mich mit einem Taiwaner über seine Jugend und der "Weißen Terror", den er selbst erlebt hat, gesprochen. Eine ähnliche Situation kennen wir Ostdeutschen noch aus eigener Erfahrung, und wir waren (und sind) uns einig, so einig wie man sich nur sein kann, in dem einen: Nie, nie wieder soll so etwas passieren!

Um es zu verhindern, sind mir viele politische Mittel recht, - eine Politik aber, die stillschweigend eine ebensolche Diktatur stützt, macht sich mitschuldig an all denen (größtenteils Unschuldigen), die der Willkürherrschaft zum Opfer fallen!

Das sollte unseren ("Real-")Politikern zu denken geben, und nicht als Kollateralschaden wirtschaftlicher Gelüste enden. Mit welchem Recht verlangen wir Demokratie und Menschenrechte für unseresgleichen und können dabei übersehen, dass sie anderswo mit Füßen getreten werden bzw. im taiwanischen Fall (laut Freedom House seit drei Jahren die freieste Demokratie Asiens - was mancher wieder eine "tendenziöse", von Amerika finanzierte Stiftung nennen mag) eine blühende, stetig im Entwickeln begriffene Demokratie durch eine kommenden "Roten Riesen" fatal in ihrer Existenz bedroht wird. Von den Auswirkungen, die beständige militärische Bedrohung (und damit Einflussnahme) auf die Psychologie eines demokratischen Landes, das dazu nicht von demokratischen "Brüdern" geschützt wird, soll hier gar nicht erst weiter gesprochen werden...

Nicht nur müssen Tibet & Taiwan endlich frei werden dürfen, nein, China selbst muss den entscheidenden Schritt zur Freiheit wagen!
Vor allem muss das Bewusstsein, dass dies durchaus möglich ist, endlich weitere Verbreitung finden und darf nicht fortwährund in kurzfristig gewinnorientierten ökonomisch-politischen Maximen unterminiert werden - ich sage all dieses aus Liebe und Respekt zu China und seiner Kultur.

Mar 5, 2008

Record of the Week - Music of an Era

here's my playlist for this week so far:

1. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy (2005)

Beautiful songs, lined up one after another. A lot like Bright Eyes, but... better?
They have a newer record (The Stage Names), I still like this one better. Emotional, at times melancholic, at times angry, love-sick, embittered or hopeful, and all of this with a constant slight touch of an atmosphere that brings back nostalgic reminiscences from Death Cab for Cutie, the Weakerthans, Desaparecidos, Cursive, and the like.

Must-listen-to: #2 - For Real, #8 The Latest Toughs

2. Comeback Kid - Broadcasting (2007)

Hits! Hits! Hits! Bursting of energy and with a heavy-handed production, this one makes you wanna raise your fist, smash your chair right beneath you writing all this shit and get out there, make revolution! Somewhere in between Hardcore and Punk with Attitude. This is the shit!

Must-listen-to: #2 - Broadcasting, #5 - Industry Standards

3. Mars Volta - Bedlam in Goliath (2008)

Weird, crazy, exaggerated, but easy-listening compared to the latest Mars Volta oeuvre. And: more Rock! Exactly what we have waited for! Prog-Rock at its finest, plenty of well-chosen electronic effects and unusual instruments (the clarinet solo at 4:00, Song#1, pipes in #7), some nice guitar solos, rhythm changes en masse (and a Rage Against the Machine rip off riff in #5!), but somehow at times I miss these latin american, tango and bossa escapades. Once you're into it, you're lost, I promise. One great comeback! (Except for that awful piece of Metallica-esque insanity in the beginning of Tourniquet Man, Song #6.)

Must-listen-to: #2 - Metatron, #5 - Goliath, #10 - Ouroborous

4. What Price, Wonderland - Feel, Express, Share, Aid 7'' (2005)

Emo! Or call it Screamo. Call it what you will. It is what it is, good honest 90s emotional hardcore. I like the vocals and the low-loud level dynamics. "We are all guilty"

Listen to: #3 - Conversation with Morality, #4 - Bearfighter

5. Diane Reeves - Good Night, and Good Luck Soundtrack (2005)

Great swinging 50s feeling! A wonderfully expressive, bosomy, versatile, smokey, dark voice. Just makes you wanna look for a partner and enter that dance floor ;)

Listen to: #4 - Too Close For Comfort, #9 - Solitude, and whichever you like

6. Sdnmt - The Goal is to Make the Animals Happy (2007)

Wonderful post rock record from Berlin, Germany. Atmospheric, picturesque, harmony-driven, spacious, melodies that tend to without you reckoning with it attach to your brain cells and build well-crafted temples of pure sensual lust in there. That band has to be known much wider around!

Must-listen-to: everything you get a grip on

Comments, critiques, additions?
Let me know...

Mar 3, 2008

Jay and Silent Mo - ein Blog, den die Welt noch nicht gesehen hat

Wie vor kurzem bereits angekündigt, hat ein weiteres Baby die unendlich weite Welt der Bits & Frames erblickt und macht sich tatkräftig daran, ihr ordentlich einzuheizen.

Was wir, Jay and Silent Mo, ausprobieren wollen, ist die Fusion zweier idealistischer Geister auf Augenhöhe und der gleichen Plattform. Was bisher nur in Form von email-Austausch stattfand, werden wir auf der große Bühne des öffentlichen Interesses vorführen. Beteiligen daran darf sich jeder, der den verständlichen Drang danach verspürt ;) - wir bitten geradezu darum!

Wir - das sind Moritz und ich, ein Philosoph und ein Taugenichts. Diese beiden teilen einen Großteil ihrer Ansichten, zu einem Streitgespräch wird es also nicht so leicht werden - es sei denn, ihr macht es daraus!
Das Bloggen wird ja erst in dem Moment spannend, in dem Dritte sich daran beteiligen und man als Autor also bemerkt, dass das eigenhändig Geschaffene auf Resonanz stößt!

Ich werde hier selbstverständlich weiterschreiben. Doch kann es sein, dass mir Blog Nr. 2 (oder Parallel-Blog, oder Hauptblog, oder Superblog) ein wenig die Puste rauben wird. Das wiederum hängt ebenfalls zu einem nicht geringen Teil von der hoch verehrten Leserschaft ab...

Und nun... Vorhang auf, Manege frei für einen ersten Vorgeschmack auf "Jay and Silent Mo", Auszug einer meiner emails an Silent Mo:

Namaste, Mitstreiter!

Eine "Innenansicht der gebeutelten afrikanischen Seele" könnte ich es überschreiben.
Das wäre idiotisch.
Aber es wird gemacht.

Wenn wir nach den Ursachen und Umständen der politischen Dauerkrise des subsaharischen Afrika Ausschau halten, kommen wir um eine grobe Einteilung in zwei Problemfelder nicht herum.
Ich würde sie vorläufig als "innere" und "äußere" Faktoren bezeichnen.

Was "außen" bedeutet, liegt auf der Hand. Das politische Afrika schwebt nicht im luftleeren Raum, ebensowenig wie seine Geographie von einer sogenannt "Ersten Welt" abgetrennt wäre. Aufgrund seines Resourcenreichtums ist es vielmehr Gegenstand verschiedenster Interessen anderer Staaten oder sonstig organisierter Vereine.
Das ist die eine Seite des Problems: Welche Rolle spielen Akteure von außerhalb des "schwarzen" Kontinentes? Inwiefern lässt sich an innerafrikanischer Politik der Stempelabdruck äußerer Einflusse und Machenschaften ablesen?
Das ist ein gleichzeitig leichtes und teuflisch schweres Unterfangen, weil sich das Augenmerk auf so viele Ebenen richten muss, von denen einige perfekt einsehbar sind, andere wiederum wohl nur den unmittelbar Beteiligten bekannt - und vielleicht auch dann nur in Details.
Unterhalb der offiziell zwischenstaatlichen gibt es ja noch diverse halblegale, illegale oder vollkommen verschwiegene Ebenen.

Beispiel Waffen: Es gibt eine Reihe deutscher Unternehmen, die mit Waffentechnologie gutes Geld verdient. Natürlich nicht in direkten Geschäften mit afrikanischen Diktatoren. Aber vielleicht mit ukrainischen Paramilitärs. Welche eventuell "Aufträge" in afrikanischen Krisenregionen unternehmen.
Man fragt: Woher kommt denn das ganze Kriegsgerät? Gewiss nicht von hier, oder?
Der Genozid von Rwanda 1994 ist zum großen Teil mit Macheten aus chinesischer Produktion ausgeführt worden. Selbst wenn die chinesische Regierung sie nicht direkt dorthin verkauft hat, kann ich mir nur schwer vorstellen, dass sie von den Geschäften gar nichts gewusst hat. Das Ausland (bzw. eigentlich müsste man sagen, Unternehmen aus dem Ausland) verdienen aber nicht allein an Waffenverkäufen. Sie bekommen im AUstausch auch teure Rohstoffe zu einem Spottpreis.

Da ist es nur natürlich, dass sie an einem Fortführen der Kämpfe in rohstoffreichen Gebieten interessiert sind. Denn neben einem beständigen Bedarf an Waffen sichert die instabile Lage mit wechselnden Machthabern auch die Inoffizialität und das Nebulöse der Geschäfte. Was in meinen Augen wesentliches Merkmal und ein Grund für die Erfolgsgeschichte solcher Transaktionen ist.

Feb 27, 2008

Planet of Bands, Pt. 1 - Sdnmt

I had just written a wonderful homage to post rock band Seidenmatt from Berlin, but damned Firefox broke down and left me with a handful of nothing.

So I am only going to upload this video beforehand, the rest is to follow soon if that's the Gods will.
This is an awesome video, by the way. One of my favourites. Enjoy!

This is normality... Oh boy!

Who is going to be the next NBA Champion?

Now that I've just brought my little sister to bed, we're talking hoops:

With all that trade jazz going on in the NBA just before Trade deadline last week, there are a couple of winners and the same number of losers of all that trading madness.

Winner amongst winners clearly are the Lakers whose acquisition of Pau Gasol in exchange for an overpaid eternal talent and trade bait has made them one of the top contenders for a title.

I would rate Cleveland coming in for second place. If they get their team chemistry right, they worth a bet for the Eastern Conf Finals. They added veterans and a veritable sharpshooter to their roster, making them much better than they were before. Only, they fell short of acquiring a quality point guard. However, LeBron should be used to taking care of that.

The Bulls cleared salary cap space and playing time for their youngsters, and prepared for some bigger trade action in the summer. Which was the right thing for them, going nowhere with there negative record. If they're lucky, they can still make it to the playoffs this season.

The Spurs did the right move to counter the Suns' monster trade for Shaq. This will put the Spurs in a comfortable situation for the playoffs, while the Suns traded their quickness on the floor for just that: a possible playoffs series against the Spurs. For being able to beat the Spurs, they needed to add height in the lowpost. Actually , those two teams would make for quite an entertaining playoff series. But anything else, I think the Suns paid a price much too high. However, personally I wasn't convinced they'd make it this year either.

The Mavericks brought Jason Kidd back home in exchange for a fast guard that was not really the point guard Kidd is. They will miss Devin Harris' speed, though. Everything else than a title this season would make this trade look like a bad one for the Mavericks. New Jersey did what it was supposed to do.

Another great deal was done by the Hawks who acquired PG Mike Bibby for some little-used bench players and veterans. Should get them into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Sonics, Heat, Nets, Grizzlies, Kings just did about the same thing: cut salaries and veterans to rebuild for the future.
The Hornets did a nice move, adding Bonzi Wells and Mike James for point guard Bobby Jackson. That certainly gives them considerable depth on the bench. Still, I perceive them as being overrated on the moment.
There were other minor moves, but you can read about all that in detail anywhere else.

So let's get to the interesting part: gaming.

This is the current standing in the East:
    1. Boston record: 43-12
    2. Detroit 42-15
    3. Orlando 37-22
    4. Toronto 31-24
    5. Cleveland 32-25
    6. Washington 27-30
    7. New Jersey 25-32
    8. Philadelphia 25-32
    9. Atlanta 22-32
    10. Chicago 22-34
    11. Milwaukee 22-35
    12. Indiana 22-35
the rest doesn't really stand a chance in the playoff race.

And here for the West:
  1. Lakers 40-17
  2. Spurs 38-17
  3. Phoenix 39-18
  4. New Orleans 37-18
  5. Dallas 38-19
  6. Houston 37-20
  7. Utah 36-21
  8. Golden State 34-22
  9. Denver 33-23
  10. Portland 29-28
Again, for the rest the playoff spots out of reach.

Now here is my guess for the end of the season.
First, the East.
  1. Detroit something like 62-20
  2. Boston ~ 60-22
  3. Orlando 52-30
  4. Cleveland 51-31, close but they don't get Orlando
  5. Toronto 49-33
  6. Washington 42-40, when Butler and Agent Zero return, you'll have to watch out!
  7. Atlanta 38-44
  8. New Jersey 36-46
close for the Bulls (35-47) and Philly (35-47).

And the West. Really interesting, since it is so close. But the Lakers did the right move to combat for championship, the Spurs and Suns invested for the playoffs.
  1. Lakers 60-22
  2. Spurs 58-24
  3. Dallas 57-25
  4. Phoenix 57-25
  5. Utah 54-28 who will have a good finish.
  6. New Orleans 53-29, currently overrated, too inconsistent.
  7. Golden State 52-30
  8. Denver 50-32
Houston falls out of the spots because of Yao Ming's severe injury, finishing only ninth (49-33), Portland already can't keep up the pace.

This would make for interesting playoffs, in the East

Detroit - New Jersey
Boston - Atlanta
Orlando - Washington
Cleveland - Toronto

Now guess who would be the surprise team... The combined star power of Jamison, Butler, and Arenas will be just too much for Orlando and Dwight Howard. On the other hand, if Orlando is in good shape, they can make it to the finals. Anyway, in the end Detroit will win the Eastern conference finals (against Boston, my guess).

Lakers - Denver
Spurs - Golden State
Dallas - New Orleans
Phoenix - Utah

There will sure be an early upset. The Lakers and Phoenix are safe bets, however. The Spurs might be just to old and lame if the Warriors cath fire. They then would face the Mavericks and could further enhance the Mavs' Golden State trauma... If the Spurs are going to face Dallas, though, this would perhaps decide over the championship. It will either be the defending champs (San Antonio) or the Mavs gone wild.
Phoenix just did the wrong moves for the series against the Lakers, making them perhaps the unluckiest team of the era. Either way, it's going to be the Lakers or the Mavs (or the Spurs are not dead yet?).

The Finals:

The champion is going to be from the West, unless it's the Lakers contending. In this case everything can happen.

I myself actually don't believe it to happen this way. Then again, no one ever knows, and I might as well be right. If you have an opinion, post it.

Feb 23, 2008

Reading around

Here are some articles I read in the last couple of days, and I wanted to share those with you, my greatly valued and much admired audience :)

Again and again, Michael Turton provides great insights into Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections as well as entertaining reads in between. illuminates what there is to the evangelical movement of Lausanne (in German).

Some profound knowledge about the status quo of the climate debate offers Die Zeit in a topic special (German). The Worldwatch Institute goes further into detail.

Feb 21, 2008

Why the UN and Taiwan Ought to Be Friends (Part 1)


Due to parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2008 as well as two referenda over an application to enter the United Nations under the name “Taiwan” (which are harshly opposed to by the government of the People’s Republic of China), even the German media have their focus on the beautiful island south-east of the Chinese mainland. On March 21 a new President will be elected and the Taiwanese will decide about the two referenda (one by each of the major parties).

(I have posted this article before in German language entitled "Warum Taiwan und die Vereinten Nationen Freunde werden sollten")

UN for Taiwan!

On January 23rd, internationally reputed scholar Dr. Bruce Jacobs in an open letter called up on presidential candidates Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh to bundle forces and unitedly strive for UN-membership, that is, supporting one another’s referendum and call upon the populace to vote for both of them.

I recommend reading the letter (in Chinese) very much, as well as the comments made on Michael Turton’s post.

Jacobs is Director of the Taiwan Research Unit and professor for Asian studies at Monash University, Australia, and one of the world’s leading scholars on China-Taiwan relations. Personally, I admire his commitment in repeatedly speaking up for Taiwanese independence, and supplying theoretical and empirical facts to cement its importance. Regarding China scholars, this is nothing usual, since most academics try to maintain neutrality in political issues. However, being granted the benefits of insight and knowledge through thoroughly studying a given subject, in my eyes goes along with a certain responsibility to enlighten the public/ interested individuals about this very matter, to ones best knowing, ability, and fairness. I don’t agree with opportunistic relativisms, nor do I think that there is something coming close to absolute neutrality. We all carry a duty as public actors and agents of our own very conscience.

Of course, we need to get our facts straight in the first place.

It is matter of fact that Taiwan is a functioning, self-governing democracy which to date upholds official diplomatic relations with c. 30 nations around the world, being the sole representative of China there under the name “Republic of China” as according to the internationally accepted “One-China-Policy”.

Taiwan history in a short frame

In historical regard, Chinese control of the island is but a joke – a mere second in time. Jacobs goes as far as claiming that China ruled Taiwan under only 4 years: from 1945 to 1949, when it became part of the then Kuomintang-controlled Republic on the mainland. – Even if we were to add the years of Qing-rule, this would make some 200 years of Chinese rule. Jacobs, however, does rule out the Qing as being a Manchu, i.e. foreign, non-Chinese, dynasty. While this is a provocative way of putting it, one fact clearly stands out:

The People’s Republic has never ruled Taiwan, not for one single day, but is still making claims as the only possible representative of one unified China.

The first Chinese settlers, mostly Hoklo from Fujian and secondly Hakka from Guangdong, do not account for being ethnically being Han-Chinese, either. Until today, the differences between “Taiwanese” Hoklo and “Chinese” Han on the island of Taiwan are subject to conflicts and represent different stands regarding a distinct Taiwanese identity (as distinct from the Chinese mainland). These differences are visible also in China, although the government attempts to blur cultural distinctinveness in trying to form a homogenised country and strengthen their control and legitimize their rule.

While the first settlers arrived in Taiwan during the 16th century, one can speak of a Chinese “influence” of the island only beginning in the 17th century (in the early years of the Dutch occupation [1624-1662] there were merely 1000 – 1500 Chinese settlers on the whole island!). Ming-loyalist and Taiwanese national hero Zheng Cheng-gong (better known as Koxinga) retreated to Formosa in 1661, opening up the island to a mentionable degree for the first time.

In 1683, the Qing finally defeated Zheng and annexed it into Fujian province.

Not at all is it my intention to leave the Taiwanese aborigines out of Taiwanese history. They have been neglected and persecuted by all colonists, no matter if European or Chinese, until only recently (since 1994 they are mentioned in the constitution of the Republic of China, after the constitutional reform in 2000 they are referred to as “原住民“ and granted the rights of nationalities), most of these reforms made during the terms of the DPP-presidency. The aborigines now are granted autonomous regions (“their” lands if that “their” were not for the whole of Taiwan). Altogether, they consist of 13 officially recognised tribes, ten more still awaiting recognition. (This section followes the ethnographer Ingo Nentwig who also edited the German wikipedia entrance.)

It was only in the last 20 years of Qing rule that the government tried to incorporate Taiwan into the nation body systematically, climaxing in 1885 when it became declared a province, which indeed was primarily due to political and military concerns (Western and Japanese colonising interests).

In 1895, the Sino-Japanese war ended with the contract of Shimonoseki, making Taiwan and the Pescadores Japanese colony and putting an end to national and political integration of the complex Taiwanese society into the Chinese empire.

Despite being repressive and abusive, the Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan (1895-1945) is often viewed as having positive effects on Taiwan itself. The Japanese developed Taiwan industrially and invested in infrastructure and education (thus providing the basis for the Taiwanese post-World War economic development). Equally important, contact with Japanese nationalism left its impression on the locals; during the 1920s a variety of organisations, newspapers, and intellectuals engaged in deepening Taiwanese cultural consciousness. This point in history may well be regarded as the starting point of Taiwanese identity seriously becoming distinct intellectually.

(For most of the information above I am referring to Gunter Schubert)

The Cultural Significance

Any remodelling of the formation of a Taiwanese identity cannot leave out the “28 February 1947 incident” (二二八事件) (China was then still united under Republican rule). Corruption in the provincial government, unemployment, and supply shortcomings led to tensions between mainland-Chinese and the oppressed Taiwanese, and culminated on February 28, 1947 when protests spread from Taipei over the rest of the island. Taiwanese elites formed local comitees, but were defeated by Republican troops from the mainland in March. Following were persecution, looting, and torture which cost approximately 10 to 20000 people’s lives, leaving a severe gap between Taiwanese and 外生人, mainland Chinese.

The incident today is seen as a symbol for the origin of the Taiwanese independence movement.

The Japanese influence has been enormous, as you can still see today. Some of the oldest Taiwanese still alive rather know how to communicate in Japanese than in Mandarin.

Mother tongue with more than 60% of the population is 台語, a form of 閩南 (Minnan) which is also spoken in Fujian on the mainland. One in five speaks Mandarin as their mother tongue, and around 8% account for as Hakka. Fluency in Taiwanese is decreasing, though, in part due to KMT (國民黨) policies during the time of martial law which ended as recently as in 1987. Until then were native Taiwanese excluded from political participation at the national level since parliamentary elections were postponed until China would be united under the Republic (and MP mandates upheld until just then).

At the same time, the government pursued a strict policy of “sinisation”. Political power remained in the hands of the old elite that had retreated to Taiwan in 1949 under Chiang Kai-shek (bearing similarities with the retreat of Ming-loyalist Koxinga), the great majority of them born in China. The use of Taiwanese in schools and even at home was strictly prohibited and persecuted – the 50s and 60s are thus still labelled as the period of “white terror”.

As the propagated recovering of the mainland proved ever unlikelier with time progressing and the regime in Beijing gaining in power and legitimacy, acculturation of the island of Taiwan to KMT- and Sino-standards became a more immediate focus.

Political Development

However, political participation was possible at the local and provincial levels (according to Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People) since the 1950s, offering opportunities also for regime-critical politicians. What is further, politicians were obliged to cooperate with the local factions to keep the political system functioning.

A particularly precarious situation Taiwan faced in the 1970s; 1971 the Republic had to hand its UN seat over to the People’s Republic of China, meanwhile the United States normalised their bilateral relations with China and cut official diplomatic ties with the Republic.

The KMT-leadership responded with domestic reforms initiated by Chiang Kai-shek’s son Jiang Jingguo, fighting corruption among the elites and enhancing the “Taiwaneseness” of the party. Lee Teng-hui finally became the first Taiwan-born president of the Republic in 1988.

These reforms also encouraged the organisation of regime critics as “outside of the party” 黨外 who demonstrated for further political reforms and Taiwanese independence. International pressure urged KMT hardliners to give in and engage in negotiations with the opposition that in turn formed a political party (Democratic Progressive Party民進黨 ) in 1986.

Together with the end of martial law in July 1987, this marks the democratisation of Taiwanese politics. The KMT now spear-headed the reform movement, thus staying in power.

The first direct presidential elections were held in March 1996, and won by Lee Teng-hui with 54% of the popular vote. Under Lee, the KMT fractioned in a moderate pro-Taiwan independence stand and one subscribing to the reunification dogma. This dispute was never fully settled and exercises its impact still today, making the KMT’s opinion towards the Taiwan issue a rather blurry one.

The DPP stand, on the other hand, is pretty clear (although the party itself is not less fractioned than the KMT): it strives for full independence and application at the UN under the name of Taiwan. President Chen Shui-bien has therefore repeatedly promised public referenda at the end of each of his legislatures, the first of which did not pass, the second being held in March this year.

Today, the independence issue is highly controversial and ideologically burdened. It is being politically instrumentalised and discredited by other political affairs like the corruption affair centered at Chen Shui-bien’s family.

It is my fear that none of the referenda in March will pass, because the front lines between KMT and DPP and their supporters, respectively, have hardened so much. Many of the Taiwanese won’t support the DPP referendum because of President Chen’s corruption scandal and his populist methods. Still a lot are afraid China might start a military attack over a successful vote, despite this being more than unlikely.

However, the Taiwanese speaking up for themselves is crucial to the continued existence of their democracy because no one else will, I am afraid.

More about this in the next post.