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A collared scops owl perches on a branch in this photo from the Kaohsiung Takao Hill Association. The collared scops owl is a protected species and one of 12 kinds of owl in Taiwan. The association estimates that about 500 collared scops owls remain in Taiwan.




Ma tilting toward unification, DPP says

SHIFT: Ma once said he would not see unification in his lifetime, but he now appears to have changed his mind on the matter and may be receiving assistance from Beijing

By Rich Chang
Monday, May 11, 2009, Page 3

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday blasted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) over his remarks in newspaper interviews that he would address political issues in cross-strait talks if he were re-elected in 2012.

“Ma’s cross-strait policy is the country’s ultimate unification with China. He showed his true colors in those newspaper interviews. Political issues addressed by Ma would be a cross-strait peace treaty framework that would lead to the two countries unifying,” DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told reporters.

The criticism came after Ma said in an interview with two Singapore newspapers — the Straits Times and the Chinese-language Lianhe Zaobao — on Friday that cross-strait talks would address economic issues before moving on to political issues and that the government was focusing all its current efforts on signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait may continue to put off political issues, Ma said, and address them in 2012 if he was re-elected.

DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said: “How dare Ma begin to talk about a timetable for unification? With ideas like this, it’s no wonder China is carrying out polices that favor Ma and that it has begun helping Ma’s 2012 presidential campaign.”

The DPP’s Youth Development director Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said that while Ma said soon after he took office that he would not see cross-strait unification in his lifetime, he appeared to have changed his mind and was in the process of trying to bring about unification.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) shrugged off the criticism, saying the caucus would support any negotiation carried out under the precondition of reciprocity and equality.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) defended the president’s comments, saying that Ma was trying to highlight the government’s focus on economic issues.

“Even if the president were to be engaged in political negotiations with China after winning re-election, he might not necessarily discuss the issue of unification-versus-independence,” Wu said.



Former president did not get special treatment: MOJ

NO INTERFERENCE: If Chen is able to appear in court tomorrow, two former presidential aides will be called in to talk about the ‘state affairs fund’

By Shelley Huang
Monday, May 11, 2009, Page 3

A supporter of former president Chen Shui-bian falls on her knees in front of Huang Ching-lin, director of the Taipei City branch of the Democratic Progressive Party, during his visit to the Banciao branch of Taipei County Hospital yesterday to inquire about Chen’s condition.


The Ministry of Justice said yesterday it did not give former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) special treatment by hospitalizing him on Saturday.

Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) told reporters during a visit to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus on Friday that whether Chen was allowed to seek medical help at a hospital escorted by law enforcement authorities depended on the assessment of doctors at the detention center and that she could not interfere in the case.

After Chen was hospitalized on Saturday, Wang made a few telephone calls to legislators to notify them of the matter.

This, however, did not constitute political meddling with judicial affairs, as several pundits have alleged on TV talk shows, she said a statement issued by the ministry.

On Thursday, after appearing weak at a court hearing to decide whether his detention should be extended, Chen issued a statement saying he would not appeal any verdict in the case and would immediately dismiss his attorneys and stop calling witnesses.

He also said he would not eat or drink until next Sunday to show his support for the DPP rally scheduled for that day to protest the government’s China-leaning policies.

Chen has been on two hunger strikes since his incarceration, but ended them after his wife and family pleaded with him to start eating.

If the former president is physically able to appear in court on his next trial tomorrow, he could directly inform Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) of his decision to dismiss his lawyers.

Su Chih-cheng (蘇志誠), a top aide to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成), have been summoned for tomorrow’s session, where they will be questioned on their handling of the presidential “state affairs fund.”



N Korea consolidates spy agency resources

Monday, May 11, 2009, Page 5

A North Korean soldier uses binoculars yesterday during a visit by Belgian Prince Philippe to the village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. Prince Philippe is on a six-day official visit to South Korea.


Pyongyang has scrapped two of its spy agencies to beef up a third run by the Defense Ministry, a news report said yesterday, a move that analysts say will give North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s military more power.

Kim has devoted much of his country’s scarce resources to his 1.2 million-member military — one of the world’s largest — under his songun, or “military-first” policy.

The isolated communist regime previously operated four to five major spy agencies, primarily to collect intelligence on South Korea.

The two countries are still technically at war since their conflict ended in 1953 with a truce, not a formal peace treaty.

The North also uses the agencies to drum up sources of income, by engaging in illicit drug trafficking, weapons trade and counterfeiting foreign currency, according to the South’s Unification Ministry.

Yonhap reported that the North dismantled two agencies run by the Workers’ Party and incorporated them into an organ run by the People’s Armed Forces — a body equal to a defense ministry.

A fourth agency was downsized, the report said, citing sources it says are privy to North Korean affairs.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry and the National Intelligence Service would not confirm the Yonhap report.

The report said the reshuffling would increase the military’s control in intelligence-gathering and reduce redundancy among the agencies.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, agreed, saying the measures appeared to be aimed at giving Kim’s military and the National Defense Commission more power, which will also strengthen his leadership.

The North’s rubber-stamp parliament reappointed Kim as the head of the commission — the top government body — in last month’s closely watched session that helped prove Kim was still in control despite his reported stroke in August.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have intensified since the North launched a rocket on April 5, drawing a denunciation from the UN Security Council and further sanctions.

Pyongyang claims it put a satellite into orbit, but the US and its allies say the launch was really a test of the country’s missile technology.

The North angrily vowed to restart its nuclear program in response to the UN statement.





Ma’s challenge to the nation

Monday, May 11, 2009, Page 8

In an interview with two Singaporean newspapers on Friday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that if he is re-elected in 2012, he may launch talks with China on political issues. Such talks would lead to a fundamental change in cross-strait relations.

While meeting Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) last Friday to persuade him not to resign, Ma said cross-strait relations would be handled based on the principles of “better to go slow than be hasty; easy issues before tough ones; and economics before politics.”

During the first year of his presidency, however, Ma’s cross-strait policy has been hasty, with three rounds of talks with China and agreements signed without legislative approval. The government is expediting cross-strait exchanges, opening up Taiwan to Chinese tourists, forging ahead on cross-strait flights and allowing Chinese investment in Taiwan. The results and potential problems of these policies have not been fully assessed. For Ma to set up a timetable for Taiwan and China to engage in political talks is rash indeed.

Ma’s announcement was aimed at his audience in Beijing, where he hopes to win more trust and policy favors, and intended to pump up his domestic support. Recent cross-strait developments have boosted stock prices, and increasing numbers of Chinese tourists have improved the fortunes of some travel businesses. These factors have eased Ma’s low approval ratings to some extent.

The political issues Ma has in mind are likely to include a cross-strait peace accord, establishing confidence measures in military matters and steps toward exchanging representative offices. Beijing will certainly insist that such negotiations be based on a consensus that Taiwan and China are part of “one China.” For Taiwan, accepting such a precondition would be like putting a yoke around its neck. Neither Ma nor his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) can be allowed to dictate the process alone. Every citizen has the right to determine his or her own future. A referendum must be held before the government begins political negotiations with China.

After the first cross-strait agreements were signed, they were sent to the legislature for discussion and approval, but lawmakers had no chance to debate them. KMT legislators used procedural technicalities to shelve the items, allowing them to take effect automatically after two months. The KMT is likely to use such tactics to push through the new agreements. Railroading the agreements through the legislature shows the Ma government’s complete disregard for public opinion.

Opposition figures, however, are not the only ones to object to these maneuvers. Many KMT legislators, including Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), have voiced misgivings.

Even though the KMT has regained control of both the executive and legislative branches, Ma’s record in office leaves much to be desired. Taiwan is suffering negative economic growth and rising unemployment. Disadvantaged people are being further marginalized. Civil rights and freedoms are under attack.

Faced with a host of problems, the government has chosen to stake everything on China. The public cannot afford to stand idly by but must make its concern and dissatisfaction with Ma’s policies heard. The government has a duty to listen.



A free press is an essential freedom

By Charles Snyder
Monday, May 11, 2009, Page 8

Thomas Jefferson, the third US president and the man who wrote the US Declaration of Independence, had it right when it came to the freedom of the press.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” Jefferson wrote to Edward Carrington, a Continental Congress delegate from Virginia in 1787, as the Founding Fathers were finalizing the structure of the American democracy.

With ideas like that, I would venture to say that Jefferson would be rolling over in his grave if he could witness what the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration are doing to press freedom.

With the recent publication of the Freedom House report on global press freedoms, the world has now been let in on a reality that the people of Taiwan have known about for the past year — that because of the KMT assault on the media, until recently the freest press in Asia, press freedom is in serious decline.

Here in Washington, Ma’s clear disdain for the press is having a poisoning impact on what had been, under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) government, a cordial, symbiotic relationship between reporters and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

In the eight years of Chen Shui-bian’s administration, KMT-reared representatives C.J. Chen (程建人) and David Lee (李大維), and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) representative Joseph Wu (吳昭燮), held regular monthly press briefings with the Taiwanese Washington press corps that were open, on the record and no holds barred. They were in the form of “tea parties” and combined comradery and hard-nose question-and-answer sessions.

The point was that through the conversations, the people of Taiwan were kept informed about Washington’s policy and events and both sides developed relationships that helped in the media’s daily newsgathering.

Now, things are completely different under Representative Jason Yuan (袁健生), a long-time deep-blue partisan, who succeeded Wu last summer.

When Yuan did hold press briefings, they were largely or completely off the record, denying the press corps the right to report the facts back to Taiwan. The only reporter who did get stories from Yuan was Norman Fu (傅建中), a diehard KMT supporter who was the China Times correspondent in Washington for decades, and now lives in the area in retirement. Fu and Yuan are old buddies from their days in the KMT fold. The stories Yuan leaked to Fu were critical of the DPP or its leaders.

One Fu story from Yuan was so disrespectful of the other Taiwanese reporters that the press corps staged a boycott against Yuan in an incident whose bad feelings have not yet healed.

The Taipei Times was long blocked from attending the press briefings, on the pretext that the sessions were held in Chinese and the newspaper was in English. This despite the fact that Taipei Times has long had two Taiwanese interns perfectly capable and willing to translate for me everything said at the briefings.

Yuan compounded that affront recently by falsely claiming that American Institute in Taiwan chairman Raymond Burghardt complained to him about being repeatedly misquoted by the Taipei Times, an allegation roundly denied by Burghardt.

Since last October, Yuan has imposed a virtual news blackout, steadfastly refusing to meet the Washington press corps by jettisoning the monthly tea party tradition, which was established in a bipartisan fashion by his predecessors.

Meanwhile, the Central News Agency is being decimated with the return to Taiwan of one of its two reporters here at the end of the month. The office has traditionally fielded a staff of two or three.

The Washington office has been warned by CNA bosses in Taipei to promote Ma’s policies and play up stories about Washington personae who praise Ma’s actions. In addition, they are reminded to skip or downplay any story that criticizes China.

It would do Taiwan’s freedom and democracy well if the KMT and Yuan were to bone up on their Jefferson.

“The only security of all is a free press,” Jefferson wrote. “The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

Or: “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

Taiwan’s democracy is too valuable and hard-fought to allow the KMT to pervert it now.

Charles Snyder is the former Washington correspondent for the Taipei Times.



Return ‘soft’ democracy to politics

By Lii Ding-tzann 李丁讚
Monday, May 11, 2009, Page 8

After 100 days in office, US President Barack Obama has used his unique sense of democracy to quietly change the relations the US has with the rest of the world while still battling with economic issues. During his eight years in office, former US president George W. Bush not only turned the world’s economy upside down, he also isolated the US and severely damaged its leading position in the world. In contrast, in only 100 days, Obama has gradually restored the international status of the US and in doing so, he has also brought about a new world order. Some have said that this is due to Obama’s charm, but more correctly it is the result of his special sense of “soft” democracy.

People usually define democracy as a political system that incorporates monitoring, checks and balances and resistance. This is the hard side of democracy. Bush ruled through this kind of hard democracy and tackled domestic and foreign affairs problems in a reckless, confrontational manner. He refused to engage in dialogue with those who would not “cooperate” and this led to a variety of crises at home and abroad.

In addition to this hard side of democracy, there is also a “soft” side that involves respect, communication, dialogue and cooperation. Both hard and soft aspects are indispensable in a democracy.

However, in the current political environment, people stress hard democracy, which in many cases has become the only definition of democracy, while soft democracy has become politically incorrect. It is this one-sided understanding of democracy that has caused world, and in some countries also domestic, order to collapse.

Japan has been stagnant for nearly two decades. The reasons for this are many, but one key factor is the dominance of hard democracy which makes any dialogue and cooperation between factions and political parties nearly impossible. Recent Japanese prime ministers have only lasted in office for a few months. Soft democracy has disappeared and it is becoming harder to find solutions to an increasing number of problems.

Obama has succeeded because he has brought soft democracy back into politics. At international conferences, Obama speaks very little and is instead willing to listen to people from other countries. When he does talk, he is positive, gives praise and is constructive. During the G20 summit, Obama admitted that the US had acted in an arrogant, rude and disinterested manner on many occasions. While in Turkey, he said it was a failure on behalf of the US to not sign the Kyoto Protocol. He relaxed restrictions against Cuba and took the initiative to extend friendship to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is well known for his anti-US views. Obama has also bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. US relations with these nations that in the past have been hostile to the US are gradually improving because of Obama’s use of soft democracy.

Apart from the use of soft democracy, another factor behind Obama’s charisma is his discussion of “values” such as global denuclearization and the curbing of global warming, thus bringing a vision and a way out of the current international situation. Of course, nobody would believe in these values and they would have no effect if they were proposed by hard democrats such as Bush.

However, by his use of soft democracy, listening, respect, dialogue and cooperation, Obama makes us feel that these values have the potential to be realized. Hard democracy can only temporarily uphold the power balance or terror balance, whereas soft democracy can find new solutions and implement values.

By looking at Obama, we can gain some insight into the political situation in Taiwan. Without a doubt, Taiwan is a sacred place for hard democracy. When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was in opposition, it constantly blocked issues such as the general budget and the president’s nominations for the Control Yuan and had no wish to engage in dialogue. The party also wanted to impeach the president after he committed a policy mistake.

Now that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in opposition, they have not come up with any meaningful alternatives to the KMT’s policy; they have simply busied themselves opposing this, that and the other. For example, even on the immensely important issue of signing an economic cooperation framework agreement with China, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is only interested in engaging President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in debate rather than communication.

Debate is bound to cause polarization, thus making communication and dialogue increasingly difficult. What hope does a country have when its leaders are unwilling to sit down and discuss issues?

Under such an atmosphere of mutual antagonism, politics become a contest for material resources and when this happens, political parties, factions and even individuals will start to monitor each other, keep checks and balances on each other and resist each other. These are aspects that a democracy must be based on and there is nothing wrong with this.

However, if we only have this kind of hard democracy without the soft aspects of democracy, the result of opposition will be the survival of the fittest, which has nothing to do with values. Taiwan will be unable to find a direction and a path for itself and will start to tread water or even descend into chaos. This is the reason for all the chaos in Taiwan over the past decade, in Japan for the past 20 years and in the US under the eight years of Bush, and it may even be the main reason why the world is in such a messed up state at the moment.

To overcome these problems, we must use hard democracy as a solid base on which to lay more fertile ground for a softer democracy. This is the only hope we have for creating new order and new values.

Lii Ding-tzann is a professor in the Graduate School of Sociology at National Tsing Hua University.


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