The battle for Taichung on social media

screenshot of Lin Chia-lun's Facebook page

Taichung is a key battleground in Taiwan’s local elections. Overall victory or defeat in the elections is likely to be judged on who wins the mayoral race in Taichung. Both major parties have a realistic chance of winning what is likely to be a close contest. Hence, they will be investing a great deal in their campaigns.

The closeness of the contest in Taichung makes it an ideal site for analysing and comparing the campaign strategies of the two major parties. In this post I have done some basic analysis of how the two mayoral candidates are using social media to get their message out to voters.

The battle for Taichung sees incumbent mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) competing against Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). These two candidates also contested the election for Taichung Mayor in 2005 with Hu the victor on that occasion.

Jason Hu has been Mayor of Taichung for thirteen years now, nine as Mayor of Taichung City and the past four as the Mayor of Taichung Municipality. Hu is also a Vice-Chairman of the KMT and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lin Chia-lung was the Legislator for Taichung No. 6 District until he resigned shortly before the election. He has previously served as  Director of the Government Information Office and Secretary-General of the DPP. Continue reading

Taiwanese community in Melbourne shows support for Sunflower Movement

330 action in Melbourne in support of Taiwan's Sunflower Movement

About 500 members of the Taiwanese community rallied outside the State Library in Melbourne yesterday. The rally was part of a worldwide action with other events taking place in major cities of Australia, Europe, Asia and North America to show solidarity with Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement.

At the same time as the event in Melbourne a crowd estimated at 350,000 was turning out in Taipei. This represented a massive show of public support for the student-led Sunflower Movement which has occupied the Legislative Yuan in Taipei since 18 March. The movement’s key aim is to ensure that the Cross-Strait Service and Trade Agreement (CSSTA) and other agreements with China are subject to proper scrutiny by the legislature. Continue reading

Taiwan-based writer pens debut sci-fi novel

ntshona cover -- artwork by Naimei

I came across some information about a new sci-fi novel via a post on Facebook by Naimei Iemian who created the cover art for the book. I was intrigued by the the synopsis of this novel set in a futuristic mega-city called Ntshona. Curious to find out more I got in touch with the author Matthew Robinson and asked him a few questions.

Matthew first came to Taiwan in 2011 planning a three month stopover on the way to Japan. “Soon after arriving, I realised Taiwan was more than I had imagined, so I extended my stay to six months, then went to Japan for three, then returned to Taiwan for another three,” Matthew said. He returned to England for a while before coming back to Taiwan a few months ago.

Matthew said he had not followed a conventional path to becoming a writer. “As a kid, most of my family watched programmes like Star Trek and Star Gate, we enjoyed films like Star Wars… pretty much anything with the word ‘star’ in the title,” Matthew said. He also cited video games and Japanese anime as influences. “My dad was big on education, and would watch documentaries every night, usually about something scientific or history related. It all clearly had an impact on the types of things I enjoy as an adult, and people usually write what they enjoy.”

Matthew’s novel is set in the futuristic city of Ntshona which is described as the troubled capital of an economically powerful, yet highly introvert state, where disparity, avarice, lies, and political oppression poison social values.” This bears some similarities to Taiwan so I asked Matthew how the time he has spent in Taiwan influenced his writing.

“I used to live in South Africa, a country which has a turbulent and bloody history, in many ways similar to that of Taiwan, especially when you think of Dutch colonisation. During my time in South Africa I found it impossible not to be swept up by politics, something which affects the way in which I think and live my life now, especially in Taiwan, a country that has so many issues with identity,” Matthew explained.

Although Ntshona draws on Matthew’s experience in modern South Africa the novel still contains some elements related to Taiwan. “There is still prominent evidence of my connection to Taiwan within the story, the most apparent being that Eve, one of the lead characters, is from a Taiwanese family. There’s even a dispute in the novel between her and a self-professed Chinese character over the identity of Taiwanese people,” Matthew said. Matthew also pointed out that he used rapidly developing cities like Taipei and Taichung as a basis for how a metropolis might look two hundred or so years from now.

Matthew’s novel is now available as an ebook for Kindle on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

DFAT documents on human rights in Taiwan

Last year I submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) via the website Right to Know. The purpose of the request was to find out about Australian government’s attitude toward and monitoring of human rights issues in Taiwan. In particular the request focused on information regarding the detention and trial of former president Chen Shui-bian and other officials from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on corruption related charges.

After several months the documents have been released by DFAT. There were a total of 24 cables from the Australian Office Taipei in the release. They cover the period from May 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou took office, to January this year.

The cables reveal several matters which were of particular interest to Australia. The first of these was the PNG bribery scandal. This involved a payment of US $30 million dollars to two middlemen in Singapore in an attempt to gain “diplomatic recognition” from PNG. The scandal resulted in then Vice-Premier Chiou I-jen and Minister for Foreign Affairs James Huang resigning in May 2008, shortly before President Chen Shui-bian’s term expired.

The cable dated 7 May 2008 notes that, “the most likely explanation for the whole affair would seem to be that [Huang and Chiou] were taken in by two conmen.” This analysis has proved correct although it was not until June 2012 that Chiou was found not guilty in the High Court. Continue reading

My letter to the Taipei Times about Chen Shui-bian

My letter urging the government of Taiwan to grant medical parole was published in the Taipei Times today. I have been concerned about the treatment of Chen Shui-bian for some time. The recent reports issued by the Control Yuan and international group of human rights experts* highlight that the government has treated Chen poorly and must redress the situation. The text of my letter is below. Please also read this excellent polemic on the disgraceful state of Taiwan’s justice system published in the Taipei Times a couple of days ago.

For many months now, I have been closely following reports in the Taipei Times about the health of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). I have felt dismayed by the decline in his health in recent months.

Video released recently provides evidence of the deterioration of Chen’s condition. I was also shocked to read that Chen was unable to attend a court hearing because he could not speak properly (“Church lambasts Ma over treatment of Chen Shui-bian,” March 2, page 3).

An international group of human rights experts has just issued a series of recommendations on improving human rights in Taiwan. These included the recommendation that the government take “appropriate action” concerning the health of Chen Shui-bian. (“Rights experts call for end to death penalty,” March 2, page 1).

The experts did not specifically recommend what action the government should take, but it is clear that they regard Chen’s treatment in prison and current situation in the Taipei Veterans General Hospital as unsatisfactory.

A week earlier, the Control Yuan issued a report recognizing “flaws” and “negligence” in the way in which the Ministry of Justice and Taipei Prison have handled Chen’s health problems (“Control Yuan OKs report on ‘flaws’ in A-bian’s care,” Feb. 23, page 1).

Both the Control Yuan and the group of international experts have made recommendations based on consideration of the available evidence.

It is time that the government acted on this evidence by granting medical parole to Chen.

*I have posted a copy of the recommendations of the international groups of human rights experts on my other Taiwan blog. The recommendations cover a broad range of human rights issues. Even if the government doesn’t take effective action on these issues, the document provides a strong base from which activists can argue for improvement of human rights in Taiwan.

Chomsky: it was a misunderstanding

Noam Chomsky holding sign opposing media monopoly in Taiwan

Lin Ting-an (林庭安) is a Taiwanese student who visited Noam Chomsky and several other academics in the USA and asked them to support the campaign against a media monopoly in Taiwan. She took the photograph above of Chomsky holding a sign written in Chinese opposing media monopoly. The photo was widely republished in the Taiwanese media.

Now the Chinese-language China Times is claiming Chomsky was misled about was written on the sign. China Times is owned by the Want Want Group which is part of the consortium seeking to purchase the Taiwan assets of Next Media and create a media monopoly. They have an obvious interest in discrediting the student led campaign against a media monopoly in Taiwan.

The Taipei Times has covered the story over the past two days. Yesterday they printed an article in which Lin Ting-an explained her meeting with Chomsky. Lin has published the full text of the email she sent to Chomsky to arrange the meeting. You can see the text of the email here. In the email Lin clearly explained the campaign against a media monopoly in Taiwan. She also provided an English translation of the sign she photographed Chomsky with.

Today the Taipei Times published another article saying the China Times had intensified its attacks. The China Times claimed Chomsky and another US academic, Ned Block, were misled by Lin Ting-an. This was based on an email Chomsky had sent to Liu Shih Diing (劉世鼎), an associate professor at the University of Macau.

The China Times has an obvious interest in discrediting the movement which is trying to stop it from expanding its control of the Taiwanese media. They previously attacked NTHU student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), a leader of the anti-media monopoly movement who famously criticised the Minister for Education in the legislature.

I contacted Noam Chomsky by email with a few questions about the issue and he replied within a few hours. He said a “stream of journalists” had written to him from Taiwan. He provided the following statement which he also sent to journalists from Taiwan.

I have been in touch with my friend Ned Block, a philosophy professor at NYU, who was also photographed holding a poster. His experience was the same as mine. Both of us were under the impression that the poster called for freedom of press and opposed monopoly, and said nothing about China. I don’t charge anyone with deceit or misrepresentation. I assume it was simply a misunderstanding, resulting from the fact that neither of us reads Chinese.

I must add that I first became aware of Chomsky about 20 years ago via his book Manufacturing Consent. This is an influential tome about how the media in the United States acts as a propaganda machine to defend the political and economic interests of the state and large corporations.

Chomsky has consistently advocated for freedom of the press for many decades. He has also been a victim of  the US media’s self-censorship as they have consistently ignored the views of Chomsky and others from the left. It should be obvious what Chomsky stands for even if he cannot read Chinese.