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Han Lin Publishing apologizes for 228 ‘negative’ reference

By Flora Wang, Rich Chang, Mo Yan-chih and Loa Iok-sin
Monday, Apr 27, 2009, Page 1

“Pursuing independence is one of the options that people can take when resisting an authoritarian regime ... So a better way to teach about the issue is to allow students to discuss or debate the subject, instead of trying to give a ‘right’ answer, because there’s no right or wrong.”— Joanna Feng, Humane Education Foundation executive director

A textbook publisher apologized yesterday after one of its teacher’s guides caused uproar by calling the Taiwanese independence movement a negative result of the 228 Incident.

Han Lin Publishing chief executive officer Yu Lin (余霖) said the company would delete the controversial terms, reprint the guide and redistribute them.

The announcement came after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported yesterday that a teacher’s guide for seventh-grade history had described the independence movement as a negative result of the 228 Incident.

The 228 Incident refers to events that began on Feb. 27, 1947, when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops suppressed an anti-government uprising, leaving tens of thousands dead, missing or imprisoned. The event was a precursor to the White Terror in Taiwan.

In a press release, the publisher said that the information in the guide was biased, adding that the company was politically neutral and would never serve any political party.

The company’s sociology textbook was designated by educational authorities in Taipei City, Taipei County and Keelung as teaching material for junior high schools students.

This is not the first time the company has been criticized over the content of its materials.It was criticized by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors last October after one of its reference materials for junior high history classes included Taiwan in a map of China and its special economic zones and described Taiwan as the “Taiwan special zone.”

“The wording in the guide is not precise. It [the publisher] should have used a more neutral term,” said a junior high history teacher who did not want to be named.

Taipei City’s Education Department urged the publisher yesterday to be more careful.

Lin Hsin-yao (林信耀), chief secretary of the department, acknowledged the publisher’s inappropriate interpretations and urged the publisher to include all aspects of historical events.

“The publisher should discuss more aspects of a historical event in the textbooks,” he said.

Han Lin Publishing was selected as the publisher of Chinese and social science textbooks for municipal schools in Taipei City, Taipei County and Keelung City under the “one-guideline, single textbook” policy adopted by the three governments. The policy was proposed by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to reduce the burden of students by standardizing textbooks, although the Ministry of Education allows a variety of textbooks to be used.

Lin said textbooks for each subject were selected last year by a screening committee and schoolteachers in the three cities and counties.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said the textbook distorted history.

She said the late human-rights activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) set himself on fire 20 years ago in pursuit of Taiwanese independence and what he called “100 percent freedom of expression.” She asked if Deng should be described as a negative individual in history.

The textbook was biased because it said Taiwan’s opposition movement and localization movement promoted by the DPP provoked ethnic controversy, which led to unhealthy party politics, Kuan said.

She said the guide had also criticized the DPP by hinting that as in other newly democratized countries, Taiwan’s opposition party rose and took power along with the democratization process, but because it lacked administrative experience, it became more corrupt and abusive than the old government, which had contributed to another change of ruling party.

DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should not defame the 228 Incident and the DPP. Textbooks should be objective and non-ideological, he said.

Humane Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said describing the Taiwan independence movement as negative showed the textbook author was narrow-minded.

“Pursuing independence is one of the options that people can take when resisting an authoritarian regime,” Feng said. “So a better way to teach about the issue is to allow students to discuss or debate the subject, instead of trying to give a ‘right’ answer, because there’s no right or wrong.”

Chou Wei-tong (周威同), a social studies teacher at Taitung Girls’ High School, said it was inappropriate for a publisher to suggest teachers tell their students that the Taiwan independence movement was negative.

“Whether the movement is positive or negative is a matter of judgment that should not appear in the teachers’ guide,” Chou said. “Each teacher has his or her own political beliefs, but when the opinion is written in the teachers’ guide, it would make a pro-unification teacher feel that his or her own opinion was backed by an authority and would kill room for an open debate in class.”

Although he also has his own political opinion, “I always present both sides to my students in class,” Chou said.





Equal rights apply to Chinese, too

By Bruce Liao 廖元豪
Monday, Apr 27, 2009, Page 8

On April 23, the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee reviewed draft amendments to the Act Governing Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例). It was preliminarily decided that all Chinese nationals married to Taiwanese should be granted work permits and that a NT$2 million (US$59,000) cap on the inheritance they could receive from their Taiwanese spouses should be scrapped. In addition, the waiting time for Chinese spouses to apply for citizenship is expected to be shortened from eight years to six or four years.

The legislative review marked the first time since the resumption of cross-strait interaction that the government has addressed the issue of the rights of Chinese spouses.

But even if the amendments are passed, they will not be enough to make treatment of spouses from China equal to treatment of spouses from other countries.

The rights of foreign spouses should naturally be protected, particularly with the legislature’s recent passage of the Act Governing Execution of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (公民與政治權利國際公約及經濟社會文化權利國際公約施行法) to implement the two UN covenants. The legislature also long ago signed and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Policies that discriminate against Chinese spouses and treat them as “second-class immigrants” should not be allowed to continue, yet some legislators and politicians who put political ideology before human rights argue against measures to protect spouses from China. One legislator even said “it would be terrifying if the streets were full of the children of Chinese.”

This stems from misunderstandings. The fundamental problem is that these politicians frequently liken Chinese spouses to “outsiders” or even “enemies.” They fail to realize that these are the spouses and relatives of Taiwanese and as such are residents of Taiwan.

Chinese spouses should be treated as Taiwanese rather than as tourists or students temporarily in Taiwan. Chinese residents and the Taiwanese should stand together through thick and thin. The former have to pay taxes and abide by Taiwanese law like everyone else and should enjoy the same rights. Discrimination against Chinese spouses is also discrimination against the Taiwanese they married.

From a constitutional perspective, there may be some differences in the treatment of “foreigners,” but in principle, immigrants and other foreigners in Taiwan should enjoy the same constitutionally protected human rights as Taiwanese.

It goes without saying that many Chinese spouses have settled in Taiwan and have become Taiwanese. They can vote in presidential elections and are considered to live in “the free area of the Republic of China.” As civil servants, policymakers should be ashamed — they are discriminating against voters, and the electorate is their boss.

Policymakers are also to be criticized for their unfamiliarity with immigration research.

Many studies have shown that to help immigrants become part of a society and avoid isolation, it is necessary for the government to grant them work permits and social welfare, in addition to enforcing laws against discrimination.

In terms of the number of years required before an immigrant should be allowed to apply for citizenship, five years is often considered the longest acceptable waiting period. An excessively long wait can easily have a negative impact on the rights of immigrants.

As cross-strait marriages are a reality, we must treat these “new Taiwanese” equally and remember that they, like most Taiwanese, are immigrants from across the Taiwan Strait and deserve the same living standards and rights as everyone else.

Discrimination against Chinese immigrants will only fuel ethnic tension. Experience in other countries has shown that prohibition and discrimination are never effective. Facing the reality of immigration and protecting the rights of new immigrants to promote a tolerant and culturally diverse society are essential to national stability.

If the government continues to neglect the rights and interests of Chinese spouses and to treat them as second-class immigrants and third-class citizens — inferior both to Taiwanese and spouses from other countries — how will Taiwan be able to praise itself as a free and democratic country founded on human rights?

Bruce Liao is an assistant professor in the Department of Law at National Chengchi University.



Taiwanese hold the key to deciding on statehood

By Sebo Koh 許世模
Monday, Apr 27, 2009, Page 8

Following a claim by Academia Historica president Lin Man-houng (林滿紅) that she “discovered” in the Treaty of Taipei that Japan handed sovereignty over Taiwan to the Republic of China (ROC) in 1952, the “status” of Taiwan is again a topic of hot debate.

Many have pointed out the errors in Lin’s claim and I will not repeat their arguments here.

The US stands by its position on Taiwan’s status as “undecided” based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Many Taiwanese follow this reasoning and agree that Taiwan’s status is “undecided.”

But what does “status” refer to? Is it the question of who has sovereignty over Taiwan that is “undecided” or the question of whether Taiwan is a country?

Taiwanese people were not consulted nor did they have any say on the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Treaty of Taipei. More than 60 years have passed since their signing and Taiwan has undergone enormous changes. Taiwanese have transformed Taiwan into a democracy. Taiwanese have elected their own government, including the presidency and the legislature. The government of Taiwan, whatever its name may be, is subject to the approval of the Taiwanese people.

It is clear that sovereignty has been in the hands of the Taiwanese since the mid-1990s.

The “status” of Taiwan’s sovereignty has been decided. But what about Taiwan’s “status” as a state?

In the Montevideo Convention of 1933, a “state” was defined as having a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

There is no question that Taiwan has a population of around 23 million and that it has a defined territory and a government.

As for the question of ties with other countries, the Montevideo Convention did not say a state had to be “recognized” by other countries, but that it should have the “capacity to enter into relations with other states.”

Taiwan is the 17th largest economy in the world. It interacts with most countries and has 71 foreign missions — 23 embassies and 48 representative offices — and numerous trade and cultural exchange offices. Taiwan clearly has the capacity to enter into relations with other countries. Most countries, it seems, conduct business with Taiwan in a manner that treats it as a state.

But is Taiwan truly a state? The problem lies within Taiwan itself. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has told foreign media that Taiwan is a region of the Republic of China (ROC). Though his comments sparked criticism, he was not entirely wrong because the current Constitution contains phrases like “To meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification” and says the “president and the vice president shall be directly elected by the entire populace of the free area of the Republic of China.”

Members of the legislature “shall be elected from Special Municipalities, counties and cities in the free area,” it says.

Regardless of how other countries treat Taiwan, its own president and Constitution recognize it only as a region of the ROC.

Taiwanese are thus denying themselves the status of statehood.

Taiwan’s “status” as a “state” is indeed “undecided” and will remain so until Taiwanese, by exercising their sovereignty, scrap the ROC Constitution and create their own Taiwanese constitution.

Sebo Koh is the publisher of ‘Taiwan Tribune (USA)’, a member of the Central Committee of World United Formosans for Independence and a spokesman for the World Taiwanese Congress.

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