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Listen to the voice

US dance and piano instructors praise Taiwanese students

By Jenny W. Hsu

Wednesday, Aug 13, 2008, Page 2

“The bottom line is, if you can’t get hyper, then get off the dance floor.”— Tiziano Hsieh,hip hop student

The key to helping Taiwanese students overcome shyness is to use lots of encouragement and humor, said Michael Parks Masterson, an acclaimed US performer and hip hop dance instructor at this year’s American Performing Arts Academy program in Taipei.

“I encourage the students a lot and sometimes even use reverse psychology to get them to do what I ask,” he said yesterday, adding that the Taiwanese dance students he met were almost always able to step up to his demands.

This is Masterson’s second trip to Taiwan to teach at the academy, which has returned to Taiwan after a successful first visit in 2006.

Compared with the students two years ago, Masterson said that participants this year were “faster and smarter,” as a group of eight dancers demonstrated at the press conference after only two hours of practice.

Another academy instructor and well-known American pianist John Ferguson praised the students, calling them “talented and hardworking.”

He said that many classically trained young Taiwanese pianists tell him that their teachers try to discourage them from playing jazz piano because “it’s bad for their fingers.”

“The thing is, anything is bad for you if the techniques are bad,” he said, adding that one of the things students would learn at the piano academy was how to play the instrument in a more percussive style.

Cheng Wen-wen (鄭雯文), a classically trained pianist of 16 years from Penghu, said although jazz piano is very different from what she was used to, “I am excited to learn all varieties of music, especially from good teachers.”

Some hip hop dance students said that even though they only had Masterson as a teacher for two days, they would sign up for the course next year if he comes back.

“Masterson’s style is not mainstream hip hop, but more jazzy and old-school,” said Kenny Kuo (郭文瀚), a high school senior.

“We might have been shy at first, but we have no problem getting all hyper and excited,” said another hip hop student, Tiziano Hsieh (謝念羽). “The bottom line is, if you can’t get hyper, then get off the dance floor.”

Students from the hip hop and piano academy will put on a free concert on Friday night.

The Broadway academy students will perform next Saturday with excerpts from Guys and Dolls, Rent and others musicals.

Listen to the voice

Group tells sports fans to shout it out: ‘Go Taiwan’

By Flora Wang

Wednesday, Aug 13, 2008, Page 2

A local newspaper reported yesterday that Taiwanese fans were planning to skirt a ban on displaying the nation’s flag at the Olympics by waving the Myanmar flag instead.

The Chinese-language United Daily News said fans would wave the Myanmar flag because, like the Republic of China (ROC) flag, it features a star-studded blue square at the upper left-hand corner of a red backdrop.

From a distance, the two flags look the same.

Under a protocol signed in 1981 between the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Taiwan competes under the name “Chinese Taipei” and the ROC’s national flag and national anthem cannot be used at competition venues.

Meanwhile, 10 members of the New Culture Team, a group affiliated with former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), yesterday launched a “Go Taiwan” campaign, encouraging the public to show their support for the nation’s Olympic team by spreading the phrase online and through mobile text messages.

At a press conference outside the Legislative Yuan, the group suggested that users of instant messaging software change their screen names to “Go Taiwan! Taiwan is innocent” to show that there is nothing wrong or illegal about using the word “Taiwan.”

Cellphone users can also send text messages with the slogan to friends, the group said, and bloggers can post articles and video clips with the slogan on their Web pages.

The slogan should be a greeting for telephone and face-to-face conversations, they said, encouraging the public to show their pride by getting together with friends to watch the Games and cheer the nation’s athletes.

“We should cheer for our own team and shout out our feelings. Let’s shout ‘Go Taiwan’ and cheer for the Taiwanese team without hesitation,” the New Culture Team said.

The New Culture Team also voiced support for Cheerleading Squad for Taiwan captain Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如), who was denied entry at Beijing airport on Saturday on her way to cheer for Taiwanese athletes.

Yang told reporters upon returning to Taiwan that Beijing airport police questioned her for one hour and went through her luggage before ordering that she leave the country.

Fang Yen-hui (房彥輝), a member of the New Culture Team, condemned China for rejecting Yang.

“The way China treated Yang and [fellow squad member] Lee Kun-lin (李昆霖) revealed China’s true stance against ordinary people,” Fang said.

Listen to the voice

EDITORIAL: Beijing only has itself to blame

Wednesday, Aug 13, 2008, Page 8

What would it have taken for China to avoid the onslaught of criticism that has rained on its Olympic parade? Just days into the Games that China has spent seven years preparing as a symbol of its rising strength and wealth, concern about Beijing’s iron grip on basic freedoms continues to cast a shadow on the celebration.

What has become a public relations disaster for Beijing might have been stemmed with some key — if ultimately insincere — concessions to its critics. Instead, the Games have again illustrated China’s poor understanding of what makes the free world tick.

Even basic public relations in dealing with the West seem to elude its decision-makers. China never stood to gain from blocking “sensitive” Web sites at its foreign media center, a move that was bound to spark an outcry. The majority of the thousands of international reporters covering the Games come from countries with unfettered Web access. They very likely had no interest in spending their time in Beijing browsing Falun Gong Web sites. Censoring the Web, however, quickly turned Beijing’s fear of international news sites and repression of dissident voices into a top story just a week before the opening ceremony.

The ensuing clash between Beijing and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — ending in the IOC backing down on uncensored Web access for reporters — only hammered this impression into the minds of a global audience.

With the Games now in full swing, the furor over media restrictions shows no sign of receding. Although Radio Free Asia received permission from the IOC to send two reporters to the Games, Beijing let its Chinese-speaking correspondent into the country, but blocked its Tibetan-speaking reporter. And despite reports of unrest in Xinjiang, journalists are being denied access, while two Japanese reporters were mistreated by police there last week.

China has been equally inept at presenting a positive face to Taiwanese spectators. Where a little respect would have gone a long way in building trust, Beijing instead rolled out the title Zhongguo Taibei in the lead-up to the Games, blocked Taiwanese cheerleaders from entering the country and insisted on referring to Taiwan’s “home team” advantage in Beijing.

From the day China bound itself to human rights pledges in exchange for hosting the 2008 Olympics, a barrage of criticism from activists of its rights record was inevitable. But offering even a few concessions would have helped China convince observers that it is making gradual progress.

The Duihua Foundation, arguably the group that has made the most progress in securing the release of prisoners of conscience in China, suggested Beijing offer a gesture of progress ahead of the Games. An “Olympic pardon” of long-term prisoners — freeing the remaining Tiananmen activists jailed since 1989 — could make a lasting, positive impression, Duihua argued.

Instead, Beijing has stepped up its “war on terrorism” and clamped down even more tightly on dissidents, particularly in the capital, carrying out a series of “clean-up” detentions and arrests to silence domestic critics in time for the Games.

Beijing must now deal with the consequences of its choice: an international community that has only grown more skeptical and is concerned that, rather than improving its record to meet Olympic pledges, China has backtracked on the freedoms that it grants its population.

Listen to the voice

Taiwan must play a waiting game

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎
Wednesday, Aug 13, 2008, Page 8

Since the change in Taiwan’s government in May, there have been statements in the media about what the government plans to do, especially on cross-strait relations. There has been a reopening of meetings between the two sides, which is important. There has been an opening of charter airline flights and visits by Chinese to Taiwan, neither of which has gained much economically.

Taiwan has continued to lay out a long list of issues it hopes to address with China, however, understanding that Beijing will be completely preoccupied with the Olympics until after Aug. 24. In the meantime, Taiwan has to deal with a sluggish economy and a poor stock market performance. It has already allowed many companies to invest up to 60 percent of their net worth in China. There are still concerns even in the media that the government will soon lift a ban on some investments by Taiwan’s semiconductor industry in China.

In addition, foreign firms with Chinese equity investment will be allowed to be listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, lifting a long-standing rule that bars companies with 20 percent or more Chinese equity from investing in Taiwan. The government will also lift a rule that bars companies from using funds they borrow or raise in Taiwan to invest in China.

A plan to allow Taiwanese liquid-crystal makers to set up panel factories in China is also under consideration. At the same time, the Straits Exchange Foundation openly discussed closer economic cooperation in the meeting with the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait in June. There were even discussions on different economic agreements, including the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement that exists between Hong Kong and Beijing.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) complains that such serious matters should not be launched so hastily on matters that could have impact on the country and the people.

Taiwanese companies worry about Chinese investors’ methods of using the capital generated in Taiwan back in China; that rules and regulations do not have real comprehensive policies that cover Chinese investments in Taiwan (considering that many if not most of the Chinese investors have connections to the Chinese government).

While making changes in Taiwan that will please China, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) often states the wish that the two sides can find a way of interacting in international society.

Ma has frequently warned that if Taiwan continues to be isolated on the international scene, there could be no significant progress in cross-strait relations, but he continues to propose “viable diplomacy” and a “diplomatic truce” in cross-strait relations.

At any rate, the Olympic Games have begun, and political issues regarding China, including cross-strait relations, will have to wait until after Aug. 24 — at least. Even then there could be problems within the Chinese government.

There have been many articles about what China will be like after the Olympics. Two recent ones in the Wall Street Journal show the differences.

In James Mann’s “Reform Fantasy,” he said: “China has reached the point where it no longer seeks to mollify or accommodate the international community’s expressions of concern about human rights.”

The question, Mann said, was not whether China will be nationalistic, but what sort of nationalism it will have. The Olympics should prompt the rest of the world to start thinking about the implications of a China that is not opening up in the way that was hoped.

In Bruce Gilley’s “China’s Democratic Acceleration,” he said: “No one expects the Games to lead to regime collapse in China, especially not immediately. But change? Yes ... By denying the Communist Party its moment of glory, the dissonance created by the Olympic year will accelerate the values transformation in China needed to erode the regime’s popular support.”

What these two sides suggest is about China and the differences in how the rest of the world sees it. But Taiwan could have a different concern — how China will see Taiwan.

It will be seen, however, after the Games are completed and talks between the two sides start again.

Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and a special adviser to the Liberty Times Group. The views expressed in this article are his own.



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