Rejection of referendum is a denial of democratic rights

The Referendum Review Committee last night rejected the Taiwan Solidarity Union’s (TSU) proposal for a referendum on ECFA. The Liberty Times (自由時報) called it “the darkest day in the history of Taiwan’s democracy.” It represents another regression in the democratic rollback since the Ma government took office in 2008.

The ability of citizens in Taiwan to initiate a referendum was already restricted by the “birdcage” 2003 Referendum Law. The law imposes an unfairly high threshold of votes which means a referendum vote can be blocked by a boycott of voters even if the total number of votes in favour exceeds 50 percent. Continue reading

ChthoniC is UNlimited

Limited vision, limited union;
Unlimited division, unlimited illusion;
Limited freedom, limited right;
Unlimited island, unlimited fight.

"UNlimited Taiwan" by ChthoniC (閃靈)

Read more about ChthoniC's UNlimited Taiwan tour of the USA in 2007. Freddy Lim is quoted in the article as saying:

It's quite abnormal that Taiwanese artists or performers have said so little on the issue of Taiwan's quest for international recognition, whether they choose not to or dare not to. I'm a musician, but I also have every right to speak about my own views as a Taiwanese citizen.

You rock Freddy! UN for Taiwan!

Update: Freddy Lim has been appointed executive director of the youth department for Frank Hsieh's presidential campaign. See Hsieh announces his campaign slogan. (added 19 Jan 2007)

Carrying the torch for Taiwan

President Chen gives a speech outside the Presidential Building UN for Taiwan Day 24 Oct 2007

This morning a crowd of several thousand people turned out in front of the Presidential Building for the beginning of the UN for Taiwan torch relay. President Chen Shui-bian gave a speech talking about the importance of Taiwan entering the UN using the name Taiwan. 

President Chen and Vice-President Lu hold the torch outside the Presidential Building Taiwan for UN Day 24 Oct 2007

President Chen and Vice-President Annette Lu held up the torches and set off to mark the start of the relay. According to an article in today's Taipei Times they were to run down Ketagalan Boulevard and hand the torches on to Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang. From where I was standing they just disappeared into the crowd and I never saw Hsieh or Su.

Carrying the UN for Taiwan banner down Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei 24 oct 2007

The crowds followed the torch down Ketagalan Boulevard. The mood was happy and festive.

police bmw motorbike directing the traffic in Taipei for UN for Taiwan torch relay

Police directed the traffic.  

ROC flags fluttering outside the Legislative Yuan 24 October 2007

I snapped the ROC flags fluttering outside the Legislative Yuan. Unfortunately Taiwan is still stuck with a flag that represents the historical ROC. Taiwan really needs a new flag that represents the modern and democratic nation. For some information about what a Taiwanese flag might look like check out this page, an editorial from the Taipei Times and this Wikipedia article.  

KMT members supporting unification outside the Control Yuan 24 Oct 2007

A small group of KMT members Chinese Unificationist Party members [corrected after comment from Poagao] were standing outside the Control Yuan. They were holding signs saying 要入聯,先統一 (Want to enter the UN, first unify). A small scuffle broke out between the men and those holding opposing views. Their opinion represents a very small minority as is evidenced by their small numbers in comparison to the huge crowd supporting "UN for Taiwan".  

Overall it was great to participate in this event. "UN for Taiwan" seems to have captured the spirit of the public here in Taiwan.  

*More photos at flickr.  

UN membership for Taiwan

UN membership for Taiwan graphicMichael Turton has a post on his blog about the UN for Taiwan blogger flap. It has attracted many comments. The story began when blogger Wandering in Wulai argued that UN for Taiwan was bad English. He also complained about the post office using UN for Taiwan postmarks. It got quite a lot of coverage in the Taiwanese media. 

The graphic above shows UN for Taiwan is a contraction of UN Membership for Taiwan. The graphic was taken from the Taiwan, U.N. Me website. The promotional video for the campaign shows the words "Unlimited Taiwan" transforming into "UN for Taiwan". The caption "Support UN membership for Taiwan" is at the bottom of the screen.

In the end I don't think it is that important whether the statement is grammatically correct or not. The ad campaign is primarily aimed at Taiwanese and a highfalutin English phrase would not be understood by your average Chen in the street. It clearly and effectively communicates the intended message. 

I was earlier somewhat critical of the whale in the fishbowl video and the UN campaign. While I still don't think much of the video, I think the campaign has been very successful with limited resources. Sadly, many people who are pro-Taiwan have been unreasonably critical of the campaign. Taipei Times columnist Johnny Neihu called the campaign "ultimately fruitless".

While Taiwan's campaign to enter the UN may have failed this year that doesn't mean Taiwan should give up. The referendum next year is really crucial for Taiwan. I just hope it doesn't get sabotaged by domestic political infighting. If Taiwanese vote in support of the referendum then the UN and the international community have to start taking Taiwan's entry into the UN seriously. Although Taiwan might fail again next year, at least the debate will go to a new level and the world must begin to acknowledge the desires of the Taiwanese people.  

It is easy to have a negative attitude and think Taiwan has no hope. However, recent history is full of examples of hopeless situations that have suddenly changed for the better. Take the tiny nation of East Timor for example. Ten years ago who would have believed that East Timor would achieve independence? Circumstances can change very rapidly and the continual resistance of the East Timorese to Indonesian rule ensured that East Timor was able to move very rapidly to independence when the opportunity arose.

Taiwan cannot wait for the world to change before it begins its campaign to enter the UN. The campaign has to be continual even if it is unsuccessful. The day will come in the future when Taiwan takes its seat at the UN. Taiwan has to get ready now.  

Taiwan promotional videos

The Taiwan Government Information Office has just released a new video to promote Taiwan's bid for entry to the UN. The Taipei Times reports:

The Government Information Office (GIO) yesterday unveiled ads for print and TV designed to promote the nation's latest application to join the UN.

The office's TV commercial shows a whale that is kept in a fish bowl, from which it is trying to escape.

The commercial communicates a message to the UN to "stop isolating Taiwan," Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) said.

I find the image of a whale in a fish bowl a little strange and the ad unconvincing. An article at the GIO website quotes Minister Shieh as saying,  "the ad seeks to convey a message that an energetic whale like Taiwan should be cruising freely with its own kind rather than be shackled in a tiny fish bowl." While there is no doubt that Taiwan should be able join the United Nations and that the majority of Taiwanese favour this, I don't know how this ad is going to change the status quo.

Update: Michael Turton has another UN for Taiwan logo. This one is inspired by baseball. 

The GIO also recently produced three videos in cooperation with the National Geographic Channel. The videos are based on the theme "Taiwan Inspiring".  The three videos are titled "Inspiring Innovation," "Inspiring Lifestyles," and "Inspiring People". The GIO states the videos "focus on areas that make Taiwan stand out from the crowd: technology, modern living, and the humanitarian spirit and work of its people."

Taiwan Inspiring Innovation includes images of Taipei 101, the Beitou Library and the high speed rail. This is probably one area where Taiwan really does inspire, but I don't think it sufficiently emphasized that Taiwan is one of the world's key centres for manufacturing of computers and other hi-tech products. While the government may not want to be seen to favour any particular company, people identify with brands. Including a few of Taiwan's famous brands like Giant bicycles, Acer or Benq might have enhanced the connections in people's minds with Taiwan. 

Taiwan Inspiring Lifestyles features a number of scenes including Taipei 101 and the 101 Mall, the high speed railway, Kaohsiung's Love River and a 24 hour bookstore. I don't think this very accurately this depicts the average Taiwanese person's lifestyle. I think a motorbike, local market, a temple and perhaps a 7-11 might be more typical of Taiwan.  

Taiwan Inspiring People features ultra-marathon runner Kevin Lin (林義傑). There is no denying Kevin's wonderful achievements, but people are not instantly going to connect running across the Sahara Desert with Taiwan. 

You can also see the three National Geographic videos in English and Mandarin at the GIO website. They are being screened on the National Geographic Channel.