Monday, January 30, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 27 (CNA) As information and telecommunication technology (ICT) is expected to connect all corporations, homes and individuals in the future, Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) and Microsoft announced Friday that both sides have agreed to develop joint service offerings for a "Taiwan e-Future."

CHT and Microsoft signed a letter of intent to co-develop various enterprise level one-stop-shopping IT services and personal value-added services. Also included in the joint effort are various public benefit programs to reduce the digital gap and a training center to cultivate domestic IT and communication talent.

With its 3.6 million broadband users, CHT hopes to make telecommunication services a helping hand in the average person's daily life, and a business partner for all enterprises -- especially small- and medium-sized businesses, said CHT President Lu Shyue-ching.

In addition to integrating corporate and individual users through telecommunications and networks, CHT and Microsoft will participate in a program organized by the Changhua County Bureau of Education to reduce the digital gap for students in remote areas and disadvantaged

Microsoft Taiwan will donate software to students, while CHT will provide ADSL or other Internet connection services, said Tim Chen, Microsoft's corporate vice president and CEO for the Greater China region.

CHT will build Microsoft's collaborative platform into its own enterprise backbone network, provide corporate clients with the ability to conduct audio/video conferencing and support IT applications.

"By partnering with CHT, we hope to integrate telecommunication and software to provide enterprises with one-stop-shopping IT services, and also to promote digital family services, " Chen said.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) Shouldering public blame for the failure of educational reform, Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh thinks the daunting task could still be accomplished, saying "I'm not giving up [on educational reform]" in an exclusive interview with CNA Wednesday.

As the convener of the Commission on Education Reform, established in 1994, Lee worked with commission members for two years before releasing the General Report on Education Reform in 1996. The Executive Yuan passed on the report's recommendations to the Ministry of Education (MOE) , which released its Education Reform Action Plan in 1998.

Ten years later, however, the reform is seen by many as a failure that has only increased study pressure on students. Lee apologized to the public in the legislature last year for "not living up to expectations the public had for me."

Lee does not regret his apology, but he also offered an explanation: "The MOE never said whether it agreed with the 'five directions' [of education reform] we laid out in the report... Is this education reform THE reform we wanted and pictured?"

Furthermore, he encouraged Taiwanese people to change their traditional attitude toward higher education -- a key factor in education reform, he said.

"Many years ago, college graduates totaled about five percent of the national population, which was why they were regarded as the elite class in society and why they had better jobs, " he said. "Someday, the percentage will reach 80 percent. And we will still need drivers, cooks and laborers in this world. Who is going to do these jobs?"

Lee urged the public to "respect all occupations" and expressed hope for a day when parents would let children do what they love to do and enjoy the most.

"When you're doing something you love, you are more likely to be successful," he said.

Confident about the "five directions" outlined in the report, Lee said: "I'm still not giving up on the final goal of education reform. We can still do it and make it right."


Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) If China wants to show its goodwill and friendship to the Taiwanese people, it should not ignore Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progresive Party (DPP) , Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh told CNA in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

"It seems to me that China wants to deal only with Taiwan's opposition parties. Granting duty-free imports for some kinds of Taiwan fruits and offering two giant pandas as a gift for Taiwan people may look like friendly gestures on the surface, " Lee said. "But it's not that simple on the political front."

"If China really wants to show its goodwill toward the Taiwanese people, it shouldn't ignore the existence of Taiwan's ruling party," he noted.

Lee also urged the nation's opposition parties not to take any move that could deepen division in Taiwan's already polarized society.

Taiwan's political arena has been plagued by a hostile standoff between the opposition "pan-blue alliance" of the Kuomintang and the People First Party and the "pan-green camp" of the ruling DPP and its ally -- the Taiwan Solidarity Union -- over the past five years.

Lee reminded "pan-blue" politicians that if they fail to help promote reconciliation and harmony, they may encounter backlash from "pan-green supporters" even they manage to reclaim power in 2008.

On whether it would be possible for him to serve as Taiwan's negotiator or intermediator in cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Lee lamented: "The chance of my becoming the 'envoy of peace' in cross-strait relations is very slim."

Lee said he had trust of Chinese authorities and good communications with the Chinese leadership in the early 1990s when he just came back to Taiwan.

"But that trust evaporated after the DPP came to power. They have since been looking at me as a different person -- although I don't think I've changed," he said.

"I worked very hard [for cross-strait relations] as the convener of a cross-party panel in 2000, but I think it [intermediator] is no longer the role I should play," Lee said.

Lee, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1986, said he plans to return to research after his tenure as president of Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top academic institute, expires in October.


Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) People have to maintain a proper perspective on animal-health related diseases like avian influenza and mad cow disease and treat them seriously but not panic, an animal health expert told CNA Tuesday.

"Of course, BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) is serious. Avian influenza is serious, no question. But they can be dealt with by managing risks, " said Norman Willis, the honorary president of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) . Willis is currently on his fourth visit to Taiwan.

"It's probably better to 'over-react' than to not prepare, but people have to keep it in perspective. Treat it seriously, but not panic," he said.

Citing measures taken by the Canadian government to deal with BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease, as an example, Willis said Canada tries to eliminate all sources of infection from the human food and animal feed chain and conducts aggressive surveillance of cattle. "It's a risk managing system, " he said.

By eliminating the specified risk materials (SRM) from the human food and animal feed chain, the other parts of the animal, under OIE guidelines, are considered safe to trade regardless of the status of the countries, Willis explained.

SRM are defined as the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia of cattle aged 30 months or older; and the distal ileum of cattle of all ages.

As for avian influenza, Willis said that "infection of humans seems almost exclusively associated with contact with domestic fowl. That's where the infection has come from. There's very limited evidence of human-to-human transmission."

"The concern with avian influenza is that it has the potential to mutate and become easily transmissible among humans," he noted.

To deal with these diseases, the point is to develop "a harmonized system of rules, " he said. "And as science improves, the OIE will change the rules to accommodate (the system)."

The OIE is an independent and intergovernmental organization established in 1924 to deal with animal-health related issues. It currently has a total of 167 members.

Willis said he hopes the media can play a bigger role in educating the public about the facts about certain diseases.

"And it's an obligation for people like me to explain to you (the media) so that people don't worry excessively, " he added.


Taipei, Jan. 24 (CNA) Korea is one of the few countries that share the Lunar New Year tradition with Chinese people, although the different food and rituals give the Korean version of the Lunar New Year its own flavor.

"Seollal, " which means "New Year" in Korean, is a three-day national holiday that starts on the last day of the lunar calendar and ends on the second day of the new year.

"It's shorter than the holiday in Taiwan," said Woo Lee, a Korean who works in Taipei.

The exciting and festive atmosphere of the new year is about the same in Korea as in Taiwan, but there are some cultural differences, said Lee.

The Lunar New Year and the Western New Year are two of the biggest holidays in Korea, although the younger generations seem to appreciate the Western New Year more, Lee added.

Koreans have family reunion dinners on New Year's Eve and worship their ancestors on New Year's Day, like the Chinese. And children get "bowing-money" after they bow to senior members of their families.

"It's like the red envelopes for Chinese, but the money comes in white envelopes. Sometimes it's just plain cash," said Lee.

Not everything is the same in Korea. There are no lion dances or dragon dances in Korea during the celebrations, said Lin Hsin-ju, public relations director of the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO), Taipei Office. And Koreans eat rice-cake soup instead of the rice cakes traditionally eaten by ethnic Chinese.

Folk games are different, too. While the Chinese traditionally play mahjong during the holidays, Koreans play yoot, a game played with four sticks, and hwa-tuk, which is a Korean card game.

"Most people like to play folk games and drink soju -- a Korean liquor -- at home because it's too cold outside in Korea at this time of the year. It's a good way to kill time. And people love to gamble everywhere in the world," said Lee.

There is another similarity between Taipei and Seoul during the Lunar New Year holiday -- most people go to their hometowns for the holiday. "You will see traffic jams on the highways and mostly empty streets and closed stores in Seoul -- just like in Taipei," Lee said.


Taipei, Jan. 23 (CNA) Taiwanese basketball star Chen Hsin-an will go to Japan from Jan. 30 - Feb. 5 for a tryout with a professional basketball team and is on course to become the first Taiwanese player to play professional basketball in Japan.

Chen will try out for Osaka-based Osaka Evessa of the Basketball Japan League (BJ League), which was the first professional basketball league established in Japan. BJ League launched its inaugural season November last year.

"Chen will participate in a tryout after practicing with the team for two or three days. The Osaka team officials will take a look at him and make a decision [on whether or not to sign him] afterwards, " said Shao Yu-ling, a professor at the Taipei Physical Education College (TPEC).

Shao plays the role of an intermediator between Chen --- who is her student at TPEC --- and Munehiko Harada, the vice president of the Osaka Evessa and a good friend of Shao's.

"I hope I can play well and make the team but I'm a little bit worried about my knee [injury], " said Chen, who twice injured the same knee last year both in a warmup tour in China with the Taiwan national team and in Game Three of the Super Basketball League (SBL)

Chen decided to sit out the 2005-06 SBL season after the injury. Before that, Chen was engaged in a contract dispute with ETSN Antelopes after bolting his former team, Yulon Dinos, which is why he is a free agent player now who can be signed by any team.

Chen would become the first Taiwanese basketball player to play professionally in North America and Japan if he signs with the Japanese basketball club.

Chen was the first Taiwanese player to be invited to the NBA pre-season training camp in 2002, when he played for the Sacramento Kings but got cut before the NBA season started. He also played for Long Beach Jam in the American Basketball Association in early 2005.

"Chen will face a big challenge of making a quick adjustment in mid-season if he is signed by Osaka. He will be expected to bring in instant firepower for the team. It will be very different from being with the team from the start, " Shao said.

BJ League is a six-team professional league that sets no limit on the number of foreign players, which means every team can sign as many foreign players as they want as long as its team salary in under the team salary cap.

BJ League regular season runs from November 5, 2005 to April 30, 2006 with each team playing a 40-game schedule. Osaka is currently second on the standings at 14 wins and 3 losses, trailing only Niigata.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) There will be a three-day celebration for Filipino fishermen during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays in Tung Kang, Pintung County, and they will have as much joy as Taiwanese who are home for the holidays, a Filipino fishermen association announced Friday.

The celebration will be held at St. Michael Parish's Patio in the southern port city of Tung Kang, Pintung County, from Jan. 29-31, said Teofilo E. Soriano, the President of Samahan Ng Mangingisdang Pilipino Sa Taiwan (Association of Filipino Fishermen in Taiwan).

Celebration activities will include a eucharistic celebration held by three Filipino priests, a get-together party and a simple program on Jan. 29, a basketball competition on Jan. 30, and a exhibition basketball game on Jan. 31.

Some 200 Filipino fishermen who work in southern Taiwan are expected to participate in the celebration, said Sister Victoria Changcoco, who has been living in Taiwan for five years, in a telephone interview.

There will be three teams competing in the basketball games on the second day, she said. And the winning team of fishermen will meet a team of Filipino factory workers from a nearby city for an exhibition game on the final day.

The Philippines is a basketball-crazy country, and over 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholics. "There's no better way to celebrate the holidays than with basketball and faith," she said.

The event is being supported by the Manila Economics and Cultural Office-Labor Center and the Dominican Sisters of our Lady of Remedies in Tung Kang.

Meanwhile, a singing contest will be held at the Taipei International Convention Center on Feb. 1. It is being sponsored by Elite, a Philippines delivery company.

St. Christopher's Church, which is located in Taipei City, will also organize a sight-seeing tour to the central city of Miaoli for Filipinos during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) More and more non-Chinese in Australia are learning to appreciate the tradition and culture of the Chinese New Year, Australia's top representative in Taiwan, Steve Waters, said Thursday.

In Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, an increasing number of non-Chinese pack into Chinatown during the Chinese Lunar New Year, "especially in Brisbane, where we have the biggest Taiwanese community of about 14,000-15,000," Waters said.

"They love to see the lion dance, the dragon dance, and get a feel (for the Chinese New Year), " he said.

Australians also enjoy the Chinese food during their visits to Chinatown, which has more restaurants than other districts, he added.

"With 9 percent of the Australian population being of Asian origin, Australians have become more interested in Asian cultures, especially the Chinese New Year traditions like red envelopes and so on," he said.

"I always get a red envelope from my partner's mother, " said Waters, who has been Representative at the Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO), Taipei, since July 2005.

Currently, there are about 3,000 Australians in Taiwan, and "50 percent of those are dual-nationals (Taiwanese-Australians) , " he said. That means they know how to appreciate the Chinese New Year culture more than others.

As for himself, Waters will spend the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays in Hualien, which is located in eastern Taiwan. "Hualien is beautiful. I normally drive down there. It's a beautiful and spectacular drive, especially during the daytime. And the city has very good, fresh seafood, " Waters said.

"We will have a Chinese New Year dinner in Hualien and do all sort of things that people do during the New Year," he said.

It's not surprising that Waters is familiar with the Taiwanese culture, as this is his second working stint in Taiwan. He worked at the ACIO from 1993-1996.

Waters, 54, served as Australia's High Commissioner to Vanuatu from 2002 to 2005. He also served in Hong Kong, Lagos, Islamabad, Caracas and Bangkok.


Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) Direct flights between Taiwan and China will serve Taiwan very well strategically as well as in terms of boosting the island's tourism industry, Australian's top representative in Taiwan, Steve Waters, said in an interview with CNA Wednesday.

Speaking on the potential impact of cross-strait direct-flights, Waters said: "One of the things Taiwan wants to do with (direct-flights) is develop its tourism industry. You can package your tourism so people will come here and China at the same time and do a comparison."

It's something that, strategically, will serve Taiwan very well as people get to compare the level of democracy and freedom between the two sides, he said.

The same thinking can be applied to the opening of Taiwan to more foreign investment, Waters said. More foreign investment in Taiwan means more countries will need to look after their interests in Taiwan if something happens, he said.

And the Australia government always pays attention to the cross-strait relationship and "doesn't want to see Taiwan being 'squeezed' in any way, whether it be economically or militarily, " Waters said. "We would like to see a dialogue between the two governments."

Waters, who has been Australia's top envoy in Taiwan since July 2005, said the Australian government pays close attention to the cross-strait relationship because the Taiwan Strait is still one of the three main flash points in the world, along with the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.

The state of cross-strait relations has an impact on the stability of East Asia, where five of Australia's top 10 trading partners are located -- namely Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, he said.

"Our future is tied to this region, " Waters noted.


Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) Australia is looking for more cooperation with Taiwan on all fronts, with economic ties being the top priority, the top Australian representative in Taiwan said Wednesday while urging the Taiwan government to make it easier and simpler for foreign companies to do business in Taiwan.

Steve Waters said that one of his jobs in Taiwan is to create mutual investments while promoting exports of Australian manufactured products to Taiwan. Waters assumed the post of top representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO), Taipei, in July 2005.

However, Waters said he has found decreased interest among Australian businesspeople in doing business in Taiwan. "First of all it's because of their obsession with China -- a big market, " he noted.

"But we also see the Taiwan market as being too over-regulated. There is a lot of red tape and too many rules and regulations, which creates a heavy workload for foreign companies that want to enter the market," he explained.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei and the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei also share similar concerns about the difficulties in investing in Taiwan, he said. "What is needed for the Taiwan government is a top-down approach to reforming (the system), rather than a 'bottom-up' approach," he said.

It serves Taiwan's interests to open up to foreign investment because if there are more foreign companies operating in Taiwan, this means more foreign governments will be concerned about protecting their interests in the country if any sort of military conflict were to break out, Waters said. He added that opening up to foreign investment will help create jobs.

Waters, 54, said he will also try to increase scientific cooperation between academic institutions from the two sides. The best starting point is in the field of medicine. Moreover, Taiwan has already invested in a nuclear plant in Sydney, he added.

Educational exchanges are also important, Waters said, estimating that there are close to 10,000 Taiwanese students in Australia and "more and more are working on 4-year degrees and post-graduate degrees rather than short-term English courses."

Other areas Waters said he will work on include book publishing, especially children's literature in which Australia enjoys global success, as well as the theater and music industries.

"Most Australians don't have a very clear image of Taiwan. Instead, they confuse it (with China) . And I guess most Taiwan people's impression of Australia is: a big country, koalas, the Sydney Opera House and beaches," Waters said.

"That's why I encourage Australians to come and take a look (at Taiwan) and for Taiwanese to try to know more about Australia."

Waters worked at the ACIO, Taipei, from 1993-1996. He served as Australia's High Commissioner to Vanuatu from 2002 to 2005 and also served in Hong Kong, Lagos, Islamabad, Caracas and Bangkok.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) The sky lantern tradition will once again light up the night sky of Taiwan in February's Lantern Festival, including some bearing wishes in foreign languages.

The hot-air lanterns are being made in a cultural class by foreigners at the Youth Language Study Activity Program in National Taiwan Normal University. The students in the six-week program come from different countries including South Korea, Panama, Brazil and El

"The cultural class gives them a glimpse of Taiwanese traditions and culture. They learn calligraphy, Chinese knots and so on in addition to Chinese lessons, " said Shi Chi-yu, the teacher who taught about 60 foreign students how to make sky lanterns Tuesday.

Students had a 20-minute introduction by Shi on the history of sky lanterns, one of the most popular traditional activities in recent years, before starting a hands-on experience.

"This is cool. We don't have anything like this in my country, " said Joan Martinez, a Panamanian entering her second week in Taiwan.

The lanterns will be launched in Hsinchu Feb. 8.

The Sky Lantern Festival is a tradition that developed in Pingshi, Taipei County, on the fifteenth day of the first moon in the Lunar calendar. People release lanterns bearing wishful messages in the hope that their wishes will be granted by the gods in the coming year.

The construction of sky lanterns consists of a main body and a frame. The body is made either from thin or oiled paper and the frame from bamboo strips. A rag soaked in kerosene is placed inside a basket that hangs below the lantern and lit, so that the heat from the flame fills the lantern and causes the lantern to ascend into the night sky.


Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) "The Phantom of the Opera, " the longest-running musical on Broadway, is coming to Taiwan and will launch the first of 63 performances in the National Theater Wednesday, organizers said at a press conference Tuesday.

"The Phantom of the Opera", written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, replaced "Cats" -- another musical by Lloyd Webber -- as the longest-running show on Broadway Jan. 9th with its 7,468th performance.

Another record-breaking performance will be established in Taiwan, as leading actor Brad Little, the heart and soul of the opera who has been playing the role of "Phantom" for five years, will reach his 2,000th performance here.

"Reaching 2,000 [performances] is quite a landmark. To know that it will be here that I'll reach my 2,000th performance is a special feeling, " said Little, who is one of four leading actors and actresses that attended the press conference, along with John Bowles, Marni Raab and Ana Marina.

John Bowles will also play the role of "Phantom, " while Raab and Marina will play the role of "Christine."

It has taken 10 years of preparation for the organizers and one year for the National Theater to bring the show to Taiwan, but it will be worth it, Little said as he promised the performance here will be just like it is in New York or anywhere else in the world.

"For most people in the world, this show is the first musical they have ever seen. And this show introduces people to musical theater. That's a special feeling, " Little said.

The story of the "Phantom" is about Erik, a ruined genius with a mutilated face who terrorizes the Paris Opera House which he lives beneath while taking the beautiful soprano whom he loves under his wing.

On why the show has been so successful and popular, director Arthur Masella explained that "everyone can relate to 'the Phantom' regarding his pain. And most people can see something in their own `dark side' in the show. That's where their inspiration comes from."
Little added: "I remember I cried in the audience the first time I saw Michael Crawford playing [the role of Phantom]."

The performances will run from Jan. 18-March 12. The musical, which opened in London in 1986, has been seen by more than 80 million people worldwide.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Taiwan-born New York Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming highlighted a 30-man final roster of the Chinese Taipei national baseball team, which was announced Monday by the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) , for the first World Baseball Classic (WBC).

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander, who as a rookie started 18 games last season for the Yankees, is among 13 pitchers selected by the CTBA. Three catchers, eight infielders and six outfielders were also announced at a press conference.

The World Baseball Classic is an international baseball tournament featuring U.S. Major League players, to be first held in March 2006, then in 2009, and every four years thereafter. It is the first international baseball tournament to feature Major League players.

The availability of Wang Chien-ming is still uncertain, and the Yankees will have the final say on whether to allow Wang to enter the tournament. The availability of some local players who have recently sustained injuries also remains unclear.

"I always go into a battle with what I have," said Lin Hwa-wei, head coach of the Chinese Taipei national team. "We'll replace the players who can't play and go from there."

Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Kuo Hong-chih, former Dodgers player Chen Chin-feng and Brothers Elephants power-hitter Peng Cheng-min are among notable players picked.

Eleven of the 30 players are currently playing overseas while two amateurs -- Tsung Sung-wei and Chan Chih-yao -- made the list. And the selection committee selected more left-hand pitchers and hitters than before, since lacking a "southpaw squad" is always the achilles heel of the Taiwan team. The final 30-man roster is listed as follows:

Pitcher (13): Wang Chien-ming (NY Yankees), Kuo Hong-chih (LA Dodgers), Chiang Chien-ming (Yomiuri Giants), Yang Yao-hsun (Softbank Hawks), Keng Po-hsuan (Toronto Blue Jays), Cheng Chi-hung (Blue Jays), Lin En-yu (Macoto Cobras), Hsu Chu-chian (Cobras), Lin Yin-chieh (Rakuten Eagles), Pan Wei-lun (Uni-President Lions), Yang Chien-fu (Sinon Bulls), Chu Wei-ming (Chinatrust Whales), Tseng Sung-wei (Fubon Bulls).

Catchers (3): Kao Chih-kang (Lions), Yeh Chun-chang (Sinon Bulls), Chen Feng-min (La New Bears).

Infielders (8): Hu Chin-lung (Dodgers), Chen Yung-chi (Seattle Mariners), Yang Chung-shou (Nippon Ham Fighters), Hsieh Chia-hhian (Cobras), Lin Chi-shen (Bears), Yang Shen (Lions), Cheng Chang-ming (Whales), Chang Tai-shan (Sinon Bulls).

Outfielders (6): Cheng Chin-feng (Bears), Lin Wei-chu (Hanshin Tigers), Peng Cheng-min (Brothers), Huang Lung-yi (Bears), Chan Chi-yao (Fubon Bulls), Chang Chien-ming (Sinon Bulls).

Some players on the 30-man roster will be on a team that heads to Australia on Jan. 30 for a training tour before leaving for Tokyo on Feb. 27 for the WBC.

Sixteen teams are divided into four groups in the WBC. Taiwan is bracketed in Pool A with China, Japan and South Korea, and will play the round-robin first round games in Tokyo from March 3-5. The top two teams of each group advance to the second round. The final four will be played in San Diego from March 18-20.


Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) More than 3,000 Vietnamese celebrated the upcoming New Year last Sunday with traditional Vietnamese song-and-dance showcases, flamingo dances and lucky draws in one of the largest Vietnamese gatherings in Taiwan.

The "Vui Don Xuan Moi 2006" at the Armed Forces Cultural Center in downtown Taipei provided these Vietnamese who work in northern Taiwan with a taste of the New Year's atmosphere back home. Vietnamese share the same Lunar New Year tradition with the Taiwanese and Chinese.

"It gives me sadness and nostalgia that I can't be home with my family for the new year, " said a 26-year-old girl who only identified herself as Dao. "We can't even make our way into the hall, but it feels good to be able to see all my compatriots and chat a little bit. It's good enough for me."

The Vietnamese have almost the same New Year traditions and rituals as the Chinese, Dao said. "The whole family has dinner on New Year's Eve and worships their ancestors. It's almost the same as (the Chinese)."

Over 1,000 jammed the hall, which has a capacity of 810, and enjoyed a series of Vietnamese traditional songs and dances performed by a group of volunteers. Some of them were lucky enough to win prizes provided by sponsors, including digital cameras and pre-paid telephone cards, in a quiz on foreign labor regulations or in a lucky draw.

For those who couldn't get in, chatting on the sidewalk with friends was all they asked for. "Usually we don't have a chance like this to meet so many Vietnamese and talk, " said Nguyen The Ahn, who, like Dao, comes from Hao Binh, a two-hour drive south of Hanoi, and works at an electronics company in Sin Jhuang, Taipei County.

About 70 percent of the Vietnamese in the crowd were female, with many of them wearing traditional Vietnamese dresses called "Ao Dai."

Trihn Ngoc Hoa, who has been working in Taiwan for four years as a housekeeper, was all smiles when she accepted a trophy on stage. "It was a call-in Mandarin-speech competition. ortunately I won, " she said.

"We expected 1,000 people to show up -- 2,000 at most. But the feedback is tremendous and surprising, " said a staff worker of Western Union, which was one of the sponsors of the event.

Crowds went crazy when the organizers started distributing Vietnamese calendars outside the hall. "It's a wonderful afternoon. Being able to take a break from work, talk to friends and meet all these people from Vietnam really relaxes us, " Nguyen, 27, said.

The event was jointly organized by the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, the Council of Labor Affairs (COA) , the Taipei City Government. It was hosted by Taiwan Radio.

Currently there are 85,528 Vietnamese workers in Taiwan, according to the latest statistics released by the COA, with 42 percent of them working in Taipei City, Taipei County or Taoyuan

Monday, January 16, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) The approach Taiwan should take in defending itself is "to have a respectable deterrence" that makes its enemy "think twice" before launching military action, a former top U.S. liaison officer with Taiwan said over the weekend.

Therese Shaheen, a former chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , made the suggestion in an interview with CNA prior to her departure for home Saturday after a four-day visit to Taipei.

Shaheen said Taiwan needs to improve its military communication systems with the U.S. so that the United States can react more efficiently in case it decides to rush in aid to Taiwan.

"The idea [of defending Taiwan] is to have a respectable deterrence, " Shaheen said, so as " make the enemy say: We have to think twice. Maybe the people we're attacking are able to defend themselves until their friends arrive."

Shaheen, who resigned from her post as AIT chairwoman in April 2004, met President Chen Shui-bian, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and former President Lee Teng-hui during her four-day visit here. She made the remarks against the background as opposition lawmakers are still at loggerheads with the ruling party on a costly purchase package of U.S. weaponry systems.

Shaheen believed that as far as Beijing goes, "coercion will be the most likely mean [of China's first attempt], " as the ancient Chinese wise man would suggest, the best way is to "Subdue your enemy without firing a shot."

She acknowledged that a debate on how best Taiwan can defend itself is going on in the U.S., as an article of Christian Science Monitor last week reported that U.S. Pacific Commander William Fallon, for one, has questioned whether a package of sophisticated arms is what best serves Taiwan.

A lot of recommendations were made by the U.S. Department of Defense on the arms procurement list, she said. But U.S. government will always respect "Taiwan's list" of arms procurement, and her job during the tenure in the AIT was to help facilitate discussion on such issues between Taiwan and the U.S., Shaheen noted.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) Former Chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Therese Shaheen praised Taiwan's spirit and importance to the global community in a lecture Friday and encouraged Taiwan and China to give up their "zero-sum game" and increase economic exchanges.

Shaheen delivered a one-hour lecture titled "Why Taiwan Matters," organized by the Graduate Institute of American Studies of Tamkang University, after arriving Wednesday for a four-day visit.

Avoiding political issues, the former AIT head praised Taiwan as second to none in the IT sector and other fields. "Taiwan's 23 million people are sitting on nothing, but look what they created, " she said, quoting Richard Freeman, a well-known New York Times columnist.

Taiwan's importance to the global community is also unquestionable, she said. "If something happens to Taiwan, it is like a nuclear bomb exploding in Saudi Arabia."

"There's clearly something magical about Taiwan, " she said.

Currently working as the President of U.S. Asia Commercial Development Corporation, Shaheen describe Taiwan and China as "a great partnership" as "Taiwan brings in the management, technology and money; while China brings in its labor and infrastructure."

"We have to stop looking at this [Taiwan-China relations] as a zero-sum game like before, " she said. "Instead, it should be a win-win situation."

National security should, however, be taken into consideration before cross-strait economic exchanges, she said, adding that the U.S. is facing the same issue when dealing with China.

"And [Taiwan] should not give up its democracy and freedom to exchange for anything," she said.

Meanwhile, Shaheen denied her "Taiwan lobbyist", "pro-DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) " and "pro-Taiwan" tags, reiterating that she didn't get paid by the Taiwan government or any affiliate entity of the Taiwan government.

However, she admitted that "I do have a special feeling [about Taiwan]. Having met so many people from Taiwan and worked in the AIT, I do believe Taiwan deserves more attention. I have that attachment [to Taiwan people]."

"Taiwan people may feel alone sometimes, but a lot of people in this world can't do without you, " she said.


Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) U.S. government "is taking a break" over Taiwan arms procurement as the arms bill has become "a political football game" between Taiwan's government and the opposition, former Chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Therese Shaheen said on the sideline of a topical lecture Friday.

"They [U.S. government] are not pushing it right now because they know it doesn't do anybody any good, " Shaheen told the media before delivering a topical lecture titled "Why Taiwan Matters, " organized by the Graduate Institute of American Studies of Tamkang University.

Shaheen, who is on a four-day visit to Taiwan, met President Chen Shui-bian and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-Pyng after her arrival. She said she didn't talk about the arms procurement with Chen but did have a brief exchange with Wang when he brought up the topic.

During the question-and-answer session, Shaheen said the first priority between Taiwan and the U.S. military system, in her opinion, would be the military communication system so that both sides can communicate and react more efficiently in certain situations.

A number of opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers mentioned last December it would be acceptable for the country's annual military budget to be increased to 3 percent of GDP, and the special military budget for the long-stalled arms procurement package to be integrated into the military's regular budget plan.

"It's not enough but I think the Americans would take it, " Shaheen said after the lecture.

Shaheen resigned from her chairmanship post at the AIT -- a quasi-official institution authorized by the U.S. government to handle relations with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties -- in April 2004.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) Reading a newspaper story of a Vietnamese caretaker abused by her employer, Wang Chin-ching could not believe it is true. As a former employer of a Vietnamese caretaker, Wang said the relationship his family developed with the caretaker is one of his fondest memories and one that he would not trade for anything.

"I don't know why these horrible things happened. Why would we abuse people -- domestic or foreign -- we hire to take care of our family members and contribute to our country and families?" Wang, 63, asked CNA in a telephone interview from the central city of Taichung.

Taiwan's national reputation and human rights protection have suffered great damage, with more and more cases of abuse and mistreatment of foreign workers reported by local media in the past several years.

"You hire a caretaker to work 'with' you, not work 'for' you. And you treat her like your family because she is a human, not a machine. Will you abuse your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters? I don't think so, " Wang said.

Wang claimed that he saw his former employee, Tran Thi My, a 37-year-old caretaker called 'A-mei' by the family who spent almost two years in Taiwan, as his daughter. His wife and Tran both wept on the day Tran left, Wang said.

Tran was hired to take care of Wang's ill father, who died in October 2005. Under Taiwan regulations, a migrant caretaker is required to depart within one month of the death of the employer. Tran went back to Vietnam in early November 2005.

Tran and the Wangs call each other all the time. Tran even wrote a letter to Wang last week. "It's in Vietnamese. I took the letter to a hospital where Vietnamese caretakers there did the translation for me, " Wang said.

"She invited us to visit Vietnam and thanked us for all our help during her stay in Taiwan, " Wang said. "In fact, it's me who should say thanks to her because of what she did for my father and my family. She is now a part of our family," Wang said.

Coming from a poor family in Duc Hue, Long An Province, about two hours drive west of Ho Chi Minh city, Tran arrived in Taichung without taking any Chinese lessons. She could only communicate with the Wangs with gestures at first before learning Chinese through the textbooks Wang bought her.

"She is such a quick learner in terms of language, medical knowledge and cooking Taiwanese food, " Wang said. "And she took care of my father just like her own... with tremendous patience and care." Within a year, Tran spoke fluent Mandarin and Taiwanese.

Two occurrences stand out when Wang recollects the time Tran spent with the family.

"One early morning when we were waiting in the hospital lobby for a diagnosis on my father, she noticed a little boy who looked frustrated in the corner, " Wang recalled. The boy was there because his mother committed suicide that morning. "She comforted the boy and bought him breakfast."

"That's 'A-mei'. She is a person with a bright disposition and never hesitates to reach out a helping hand to those who suffer, although she comes from a poor family herself, " Wang said.

The elder Wang died last year and Tran "insisted on doing all the traditional Taiwanese rituals in the funeral: kneeling down, thurification, worship for the dead and all that just like every family member although she didn't have to do so. What she did touched everyone in the funeral, " Wang said.

Tran sent her clothes to other Vietnamese caretakers before leaving. "She told me that Vietnamese workers in Taiwan should help each other because they come from the same country and most of them share the same background of coming from a poor environment, " Wang said.


Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) Christian churches around Taiwan are working together in an attempt to give Thai workers comfort and peace of mind over the Chinese New Year holiday, a staff member of a Christian church said Thursday.

Friends of Thai Workers Church (FTWC) , which is located in Taoyuan County, is a part of a network of Christian churches that try to "make all Thai workers feel at home" by proselytizing, organizing events, providing consultation and orientation and helping them to deal with different problems in life, said Wu Ching-hua, the only full-time staff of the FTWC. The vast majority of Thai people are Buddhist.

"It's hard for most people to understand the pressure and depression of Thai workers, who are so far away from home for a long period of time, " said Wu, who has a Taiwanese father and a Thai mother and has been living in Taiwan for 20 years.

That's why FTWC is organizing a sight-seeing tour to Taichung City during the Chinese New Year break. "We hope it can help them to relax and enjoy a rare vacation after a year of hard work, " Wu said. About 200 Thai workers are expected to join the tour.

FTWC also organizes singing competitions from time to time. "Thai people love singing, " Wu claimed. Various get togethers are also held on Thai holidays like Songkran Festival (Thailand's New Year) , the birthday of the queen and the birthday of the king, as well as Christmas.

FTWC and pastors from different churches in Chiayi and Hualien have formed a network that offers help to each other when needed.

But there's only so much a church can do, Wu said. "The biggest problem for Thai workers is being overcharged by manpower agencies for placement fees, which amounts to as high as NT$200,000, " Wu said. "The authorities know it, but the problem remains."

"Being overcharged means a Thai worker will have to pay almost all his salary for the first year -- sometimes the first year and a half -- to the agencies, " Wu added. "It's where their frustration comes from and why you see a lot of them have drinking problems and even commit crimes."

Over 60 Thai workers are serving sentences in Taipei Prison, where FTWC provides counselling services.

"We are short of Bibles and we also need desktop computers and projectors as FTWC wants to launch a computer program for Thai workers. As a small church, we need help from funding to personnel, " Wu said.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Corning Display Technologies Taiwan reinforced its dominance in the liquid-crystal display (LCD) glass substrate global market as its NT$ 48 billion Taichung plant opened Wednesday in the central city of Taichung.

Located in Taichung Science Park, the plant is Corning's second facility in Taiwan and was built in 17 months. Corning's first plant in Taiwan is located in the southern city of Tainan.

"With the help of the Taiwan government and the completion of Taichung plant -- the world's biggest LCD glass substrate plant -- Corning Inc. hopes to create a mutually benefited win-win relationship with Taiwan and maintain the development of the TFT-LCD (Thin Film Transistor-LCD) sector in Taiwan, " said Eugene Verdon, President of Corning Display Technologies Taiwan, in the opening ceremony.

Vice Premier of the Executive Yuan Wu Rong-i said he hoped Taiwan, currently No. 2 in the global market share, can replace South Korea in the future as the world's biggest supplier of glass substrate. Wu guaranteed that Taiwan's government would provide any assistance needed to achieve this goal.

Listed by the Industrial Development & Investment Center (IDIC) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) as one of the most successful foreign enterprises in Taiwan, Corning started its investment in Taiwan in 1971 in a joint venture project.

Over the next 30 years, Corning increased its operation and investment and helped Taiwan in the areas of spectacles, optics, special semiconductors and optical communications. Best known for its kitchenware, Corning sold the kitchenware division in 1998 and focused on transforming itself into a high-tech company.

In 1999, Corning built a factory in the Tainan Science Based Industrial Park, which was the first factory for the production of substrate materials used in the manufacturing of TFT-LCDs.

Corning was founded in 1851. Headquartered in New York, USA, it has 22,000 employees in some 70 operating locations all over the world and ranks among the Fortune 500 companies. Under the Corning banner there are 7 major business divisions: optical fiber, optical cable, optoelectronics, frequency control devices, environmental protection technology, biotechnology, and display technology.

In 1880 Corning provided the Edison Electric Company with the glass material for the first light bulb.

Corning Display Technologies Taiwan is the local affiliate of the US-based Corning Incorporated.


Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) A Chinese New Year party was presented by the New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) Wednesday in Taipei as the television station prepared to begin operations in Taiwan.

NTDTV hosted its "2006 Chinese New Year Global Gala" at the Taipei Cultural Center and will present the same show Thursday.

"This event shows that the NTDTV has arrived and hopefully, we can win the hearts of the Taiwan people, " NTDTV Taiwan Preparatory Office Director Huang Hsiao-ming said.

The third edition of the year-end showcase will be shown in 17 cities throughout the world, expanding from five cities in the first year and seven in the second year. "The global gala features traditional Chinese art and a traditional Chinese look, " said Huang, who is also the producer of the show.

Established in North America and headquartered in New York City, NTDTV began preparations to enter the Taiwan cable TV market about a year ago, Huang said. The expected launch date of January was postponed due to the transitional period of the Government Information Office (GIO) and the National Communication Council (NCC), which will replace GIO as the highest governing body of national communication.

The preparatory office is negotiating with cable television service providers on the stocking fee issue, which is why there will be no exact date and coverage area announced any time soon, Huang added.

China news and political analysis on China will be the main focus of NTDTV's programs. "But we will also produce local content for the Taiwanese audience, " said Huang. "All our programs follow the motto 'Know the truth, ' which means we will tell the audience nothing but the truth, without prejudgment or political preference," he claimed.

NTDTV describes itself as an international, independent and non-profit Chinese language television station in the introduction on its official Web site. Its programs can also be accessed via the Internet.

The station employs over 60 reporters in more than 50 cities around the world and is currently available in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe, reaching over 200 million viewers worldwide.

Never afraid to expose China's internal problems, NTDTV has been banned from broadcasting in China by the Chinese government.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 10 (CNA) A Taiwan-Europe Industrial Technology Forum will be held Jan. 13 in the hope of boosting exchanges and cooperation with European Union countries, the Taiwan Industrial Technology Association (TITA) said in a press release Tuesday.

"Taiwan knows too little about the E.U., which is the second-largest economy in the world. We need to change this, " said Henry Yang, secretary-general of the TITA.

"Academia-wise and economy-wise, Taiwan is very 'Americanized.' It is understandable, since most of Taiwan's elite have studied in the United States. We have been ignoring Europe, especially before the formation of the E.U.," Yang claimed.

Taiwanese tend to think the U.S. leads the way in every technology, according to Yang. "This is not true, because the E.U. is ahead of the U.S. in terms of renewable energy, solar energy, wind power and environmental awareness and technology."

Meanwhile, enterprises in Taiwan were unaware of the potential in the Europe market until recent years, when "Taiwan industry started to look at the other side of the globe and attack the European market, " Yang said, citing BENQ as an example.

Taiwan-based BENQ, one of the world's top-performing IT companies, has been working hard in Europe and bought German company Siemens' mobile phone operation last year.

TITA hopes the participation of Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC) in the first Taiwan-Europe Industrial Technology Forum can help Taiwan industry to understand more about Europe and create more partnerships between both sides.

"IMEC is one of the most respected research centers in the microelectronics field and has partnerships with well-known brands like South Korea's Samsung and LG. We hope this is the first step to bringing Taiwan closer to Europe, " Yang said.

Gilbert Declerck, IMEC President and CEO, will lead a group of researchers who will lecture on various topics in the forum. Hsu Jung-fu, Taiwan's top technology representative in the E.U., academics, E.U. researchers and industry members will attend the one-day meeting.

IMEC is Europe's leading independent research center in the field of microelectronics and nanotechnology. It is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has a staff of about 1,400 people. In 2005, its revenue was estimated to be close to 200 million euros.


Taipei, Jan. 10 (CNA) Seventeen Taiwanese enterprises will receive the "Taiwan Golden Root Award, " to be presented by the Taiwan Industrial Technology Association (TITA) , Jan. 13 for their contribution to Taiwan, TITA announced in a press conference Tuesday.

Prominent companies including Tatung System Technologies and the Advanced Semiconductor Group are among nine recipients of the Enterprise category. The Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise category honors six small companies, while the Infinite Group was the sole recipient in the Special Contribution category.

"The award, which is in its fourth year, honors companies that have become role models for Taiwanese business management. Most of all, this award wants to promote the concept of 'Cultivate Taiwan. Global Configuration, ' and 'Putting Taiwan's interests first, ' " said TITA Chairman Huang Der-ray.

One of the most important criteria for award entrants is that they must have their headquarters in Taiwan, Huang said.

To win an award, an applicant should also be financially healthy, making a contribution to Taiwan's economy and technology and increase local employment, Huang said.

"With the industrial exodus phenomenon peaking in recent years, local business has been filled with frustration. We want to boost the self-confidence of Taiwanese enterprises, " Huang said.

"The ideas we advocate conform to the policy finetuning of 'Proactive management and effective opening' described by President Chen in his New Year message. We believe these ideas can prevent Taiwan from the disaster of industrial hollowing-out, " Huang said.

The presentation ceremony will be held at the Taipei Grand Hotel with former President Lee Teng-hui among VIP guests.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) Activists and student groups launched a demonstration at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Taiwan Office for the fifth time Monday to push Hong Kong authorities to acquit all anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protesters accused of violating their assembly law.

HKTB Taiwan Office did not offer response.

Fourteen anti-WTO protesters, mostly South Koreans, were released on bail with a restriction on departure on Dec. 23 last year in Hong Kong after being charged with taking part in an illegal assembly during the WTO Hong Kong ministerial meeting. Only two of them were allowed to leave Hong Kong on a surety of HK$100,000, including one Taiwan university student, but both of them are required to return to Hong Kong to stand trial.

Twelve of the 14 accused -- 11 South Koreans and a Japanese reporter -- were forced to stay in Hong Kong and wait for the third and final trial on Jan. 11, said Lai Hsiang-ling, the general secretary of the Solidarity Front of Women Workers who led the demonstration.

The demonstrators claimed that the Hong Kong government failed to find any evidence to substantiate its charge against the defendants. Therefore, they said, the Hong Kong government should acquitted all the accused as soon as possible.

Lai pointed out half of the demonstrators on site also attended the anti-WTO protest in Hong Kong last December.

"It was not a riot. We were not rioters. But now Hong Kong, which was known as 'the Pearl of the Orient', has become 'the Prison of the Orient' because of what Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang did to those poor protesters, " she said.

About 30 protesters gathered in front of the building where HKTB is located and chanted, "It's not guilty to fight against violence. Acquit the political prisoners, " and "Down, down WTO" under the observing eyes of the city police, who announced that it was an illegal demonstration without prior notification to police as soon as the protest started.

Protesters tried to break into the police security line and enter the building three to four times to no avail. They threw the protest letters toward the policemen before dispersion.

Lai commented on the total ignorance of the HKTS to the protest, "This has been the fifth time we come here after the demonstration in Hong Kong. HKTS keeps hiding in the office and offers no response. To me it shows HKTS only wants to take money out of pockets of Taiwanese through tourism and doesn't care about human rights."

"We are here as part of a simultaneous protest that also takes place in South Korea, Japan and other countries today to call for the acquittal of those defendants, " Lai said. "About 1,000 South Korean farmers plan to go to Hong Kong and stage another protest again if the Jan. 11 trial rules the defendants are guilty."

She added, "They won't be alone. We are ready to join them if it is the way it has to be."

The group later went to Taipei Main Station and launched a three-day fund-raising event from Jan. 9-11 to help the South Korean defendants. "They are all poor people who even had to borrow money to go to Hong Kong. Now they're having trouble to pay for the accomodation and food because of the charge, " Lai said.

"The WTO makes the rich get richer and the poor become poorer. It's the biggest problem," Lai said on a final note.


Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) There is no better place to shop for the upcoming Chinese New Year than 2006 Taipei New Year Shopping Carnival (TNYSC) , which will take place from Jan. 13-27 at four major commercial markets in Taipei City's Datong District, the shopping carnival organizing committee said Monday.

"Dry foods, Chinese herbs, textiles... this place has it all. Visitors will have a wonderful shopping experience as well as enjoying various food and drinks, " Director of Datong District Huang Mei-yun said in a plaza in the heart of the Dihua Street market, which will be the star of the show in the New Year carnival.

Located on the west side of Taipei City, Dihua Street is noted for its northern and southern dry goods and Chinese herbs and will be joined by three near-by commercial markets: Huayin Street/Rear Station, Ningsia Night Market and the Taipei Mall in the annual festivity that is entering its 10th year.

Each market is known for something different. Huayin Street is a wholesale center for luggage, leather goods and accessories while Ningsia Night Market is noted for its food culture. Underneath Civic Boulevard, the Taipei Mall features fashion and IT products and is the first themed underground shopping street in the country.

Dihua Street will be the main show of the event. Visitors from far and wide pack the narrow street every year during the Chinese New Year shopping season. Many people come here not only for shopping but also sight-seeing as the street is also noted for its historic shop houses, some of which date back to the 19th Century.

Located near the Tamsui River, the riverside Datong district, known as Dadaocheng in early days, began to thrive as a commercial area after the Treaty of Tianjin opened Chinese ports to foreign trade after the Second Opium War. As foreign traders set up trading companies in the district, Dadaocheng was developed into Taipei's largest goods and distribution center.

Many foreigners come to the area to embrace first-hand grass roots Taiwanese culture. "Many Japanese customers come here to look for Chinese herbal medicine. I guess it's because Japanese people understand more about the herbal medicine, " said Huang Cheng-wan, who owns a Chinese herbal medicine store in Dihua Street.

A female store owner surnamed Wu had a similar opinion, "The Japanese top our foreign customer list, and Chinese health food is always their favorite. Americans come second."

The carnival is about more than providing the pleasure of shopping, said Huang Mei-yun. It is also a part of the re-development of the city's west side.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Four teams of senior ice hockey fanatics from U.S., Japan and Taiwan meet in 2006 Taipei Cup Oldtimer's Ice Hockey from Jan. 7-8, as the opening game started at Taipei Arena Saturday.

Black Bears from Maine, U.S.A., Van Star A and B Teams from Japan and the host Snowman enter the first ever senior ice hockey tournament in Taiwan, which will play a single round robin schedule to determine the winner.

"This is the first senior ice hockey tournament organized in Taiwan, a country that is just starting to learn about the game. Ice Hockey is a sport that once you play, you will fall in love with it, " said Lee Kwan-hwai, the secretary-general of Chinese Taipei Ice Hockey Federation.

Kuniharu Kitagawa, 57, of Japan Van Star B Team dressed in suit and sang the national anthems of three participating countries. Kitagawa's multi-language skill was the highlight of the opening ceremony and drew the standing ovation from about 200 fans.

There's no question the love of ice hockey for Black Bear players, who spent 28 hours to fly to Taiwan for three games. "It is the best atmosphere I have ever had... even better than when we played with Van Star in Tokyo, " said Douglas Duty, 51, of the Maine team as the opening game started.

Short-handed Black Bear was quick in recruiting local foreigners. "My husband was so excited to know there would be a ice hockey tournament in Taipei and joined the team, " said Laureen Rivet, who came from Canada and has been living in Taiwan for two years.

Players who are 35-years-old and above are allowed to enter the tournament.


Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Eleven Japanese attorneys were awarded the "2006 Human Rights Award" by the Taiwan Association of Human Rights (TAHR) Saturday for their volunteer efforts in helping Taiwanese Hansen's Disease patients win a compensation lawsuit against the Japanese government.

The award is the first human rights award presented by a Taiwanese organization.

The group received the sprout-shaped trophy, symbolic of the fact that human rights awareness is budding in Taiwan, in a Japanese-style house built during the period of Japanese colonial rule when the Japanese government placed the patients under mandatory quarantine and ignored their human rights.

Japanese Hansen's disease patients won a landmark court ruling in 2001 against the government's former segregation policy. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided not to appeal and apologized in a political move aimed at settling the issue. Patients from South Korea and Taiwan followed with similar lawsuits.

With the success in helping the Japanese patients, more than 20 attorneys from Japan began working with patients in Taiwan in August 2004 and later filed a damages suit against the Japanese government.

Tokyo District Court announced its ruling in the cases involving the South Korean and Taiwan patients, respectively, on Oct. 25, 2005. The Taiwan patients won their case, while the South Koreans lost theirs. The Japanese government appealed within two weeks.

Speaking at Saturday's ceremony, TAHR President Wu Hao-jen said "the fight for human rights is a lonely road, and you get frustrated easily in Taiwan. But I find the courage to keep walking when I think about these Japanese friends who came all the way from Japan for the ceremony today. They won my highest respect for what they've done for Taiwan."

Due to the public's fears of Hansen's disease and to the quarantine policy, the patients have been living in Losheng Sanatorium Hospital in Sinjhuang City, Taipei County, for decades, where they have suffered discrimination from the general public.

In addition to the compensation lawsuit in Japan, the patients are also fighting for the preservation of the Losheng Sanatorium Hospital, which is slated to be dismantled to make room for a Taipei MRT construction project. Patients who are currently living there will be relocated, although many of them don't want to move.

Fortunately, the hospital has been designated by the Council of Cultural Affairs as a historical building, so the plans to dismantle it have been postponed for at least six months.

Established on International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, 1984, the TAHR is the oldest independent human rights organization in Taiwan.


Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) As President Chen Shui-bian's New Year message has become the hottest cross-straight relations topic, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu, who's the highest ranking cross-departmental coordinator regarding cross-straight relations, sat down with CNA Friday to share his views on the
compelling issue.

On the cross-straight policy finetuning in which "proactive opening, effective management" has been replaced by "proactive management, effective opening," Wu said "there is a continuity in the cross-straight relations concept as well as every national policy."

"The president held a high-profile meeting, to which were invited officials from the President's Office, the MAC and other departments in the Executive Yuan as well as from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on April 5 last year to review the issue (of cross-straight relations)."

"We admitted there are flaws in the 'management' part within governments and had a wide ranging discussion on how to improve the performance," Wu said.

"The DPP has always been an energetic party in which everyone can voice their opinion, " he said, adding that "never once has a DPP member not voiced their opinion on various policies."

On reactions of China and other countries to the president's New Year address, Wu said that "foreign representatives indeed are 'curious' about how we can do something that couldn't be done before. But they are not worried. The MAC continues to explain to officials from all countries to help them to have a better understanding of the
president's message."

"We haven't heard too much feedback from China. In fact, I don't think China should over-interpret the message because the trade imbalance between China and Taiwan is apparent. Official statistics show that over 60 percent of Taiwan's outward investment went to the China market, while unofficial tallies show the figure to be as high as 70 percent," he continued.

On the general views of the "sudden change" and the DPP's setback in the "three-in-one" local government elections Dec. 3 which led to the different approach on cross-straight issues to appeal to pro-independence supporters, Wu reiterated that "a major national policy is made after a serial and continuous cogitation and does not change over night."

Wu also commented on President Chen's remarks in his weekly newsletter that Taiwan has little expectation of an improvement in cross-strait relations, with Beijing repeatedly shrugging off goodwill gestures extended by Taipei.

"Each and every olive branch extended by Taiwan over the last two years has been ignored or received a negative reaction from China, " Wu noted.

"The president mentioned in his 2004 National Day address that he would take the initiative to propose that both sides use the basis of the 1992 meeting in Hong Kong, to seek possible schemes that are 'not necessarily perfect but acceptable', as a preparation for a step forward in the resumption of dialogue and consultation. But China regarded it as a Taiwan independence declaration, " Wu continued.

He added that "equally frustrating was China's blunt snub of an offer by Taiwanese officials to attend the funeral of Wang Daohan, president of the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) last year."

"In view of his experience in dealing with China over the last five years and China's insistence on its 'one-China principle' and the 'one nation, two systems' unification formula, which Taiwan will not accept, the president has little expectation of any political breakthrough with China in the coming year," Wu said.

"However, the MAC will keep pushing for exchanges between the two sides," Wu said.

On the "direct-flight referendum" which Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou said he will work on and regarding Ma's calls for amendments to the Statute Governing the Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, Wu noted that "the MAC released an evaluation report on direct flights, already a national
policy, in August 2003."

"The key will be negotiations between the two sides, but China has been mum on the issue," he added.

"A referendum or an amendment to the statute will not make the direct flights come true without negotiations between the two sides," Wu stressed.

"Of course the direct-flight issue can be submitted for a referendum, and I'm sure DPP members will be happy with it, since it's in the DPP platform. But the key player here will be China, which should not shy away from the Taiwan government and bilateral negotiations on every cross-straight issue," he continued.

On possible pressure the MAC may face if the proposed forum between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party, which is supposed to be held in a neutral country, makes a major breakthrough, Wu said that "I don't think the MAC will have any pressure from it."

"China made a lot of proposals when former KMT Chairman Lien Chan visited Beijing last May, but a lot of those proposals have either stagnated or failed. For example, Taiwanese fruit sales are down in China after receiving positive results at first," he noted.

"I may have said this a million times, but I have to say it again. Any official exchanges will in the end have to be through negotiations between the two sides. If China intends to improve the cross-straight relationship, it needs to understand the importance of mutual dialogue," Wu stressed.

On the trading issue regarding the "China fever" phenomenon and Taiwan's "Go-South Policy, " Wu reiterated that the so-called "China fever" is one of the reasons why the government encourages local business to "go south."

"The 'Go-South Policy' did not receive major local support initially, but it's getting stronger, as evidenced by the fact that Taiwan is already the biggest investor in Vietnam," he noted.

"We're also having encouraging results from India, which is very aggressive in cooperating with Taiwan, especially in the IT sector," Wu said.


Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) A university hospital medical mission, with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Department of Health (DOH), conducted a free clinic and implemented a medical cooperation plan in the Solomon Islands from Jan. 3 - 6, MOFA said in a statement Friday.

Kaohsiung Medical University's Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, sent 10 experts, led by university president Wang Kuo-chao and Chung-Ho Hospital superintendent Hsu Shen-hsiung.

The team conducted a free clinic and held working meetings to exchange opinions on future collaboration with medical experts from the Solomons, which has official ties with Taiwan.

The Taiwanese mission also donated medical equipment to the South Pacific nation and signed a "sister hospital" agreement with the National Referral Hospital in Honiara.

MOFA said in its statement that Taiwan is committed to the objectives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and believes all peoples are entitled to the highest possible level of health, which is why Taiwan is working on boosting bilateral medical cooperation between the two countries and urging major Taiwanese hospitals to reach out a helping hand to less-developed countries.

In October 2004 MOFA worked with the DOH and invited major local hospitals, including Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taipei Municipal WangFang Hospital and Changhua Christian Hospital, to participate in a project to send short-term medical missions to various Taiwanese allies biannually.

Chung-Ho Hospital is the first hospital to send out a medical mission.


Taipei, Jan. 5 (CNA) Two ministers from the Republic of Nauru, a South Pacific country, will arrive in Taiwan Sunday for a five-day visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a news release Friday.

David Adeang, who has been serving as both Nauru's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance since July 2004, and Frederick Pitcher, the minister of island development and industry, are scheduled to meet President Chen Shui-bian, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tan Sun Chen, Minister of the Council of Labor Affairs Lee Ying-yuan and other ranking officials during the stay.

Taiwan and Nauru resumed diplomatic ties last May after a three-year hiatus. Nauru, which established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1980, switched recognition in 2002 to China under former president Rene Harris.

Nauru is located in the South Pacific near the equator. It has a land area of 21.3 square kilometers and a population of 12,800.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 5 (CNA) God helps those who help themselves -- and others. At least, this is true for Huynh Thanh Thuan, a Vietnamese doctor who had leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant in Taiwan through the help of many people he had never met, all because Thuan did not hesitate to lend a helping hand to others.

Huynh, 27, received a bone marrow transplant Aug. 24 last year in National Taiwan University Hospital, four months after he came to Taiwan. Still recovering from the operation, Huynh is expected to go back to Vietnam in mid-January, where he will continue to be tracked by NTU Hospital for as long as five years.

In addition to doctors of NTU Hospital, Huynh has one more man to thank -- Lai He-hsiung, the man he called "Daddy Lai" Thursday. Lai, a volunteer for the non-profit Tzu Chi Foundation, met Huynh in Vietnam during a medical mission and decided to help him after learning of his illness.

Huynh, a well-known neurologist at Cho Ray Hospital in Hue, Vietnam, had been voluntarily working with the Tzu Chi International Medical Association Free Clinic in Vietnam prior to his illness.

Coming from a poor family, Huynh could not afford his medical bills and knew there is only limited treatment available in Vietnam.

"Mr. Lai immediately contacted us and NTU Hospital. Luckily, we found a marrow match within two weeks, " said Chen Nai-yu, a staff worker at the Bone Marrow Transplant Center of the Tzu Chi Medical Center who works for the Tzu Chi Marrow Donor Registry project.

Finding the marrow match is the first and most important step, but the problem did not end there. Tzu Chi raised NT$1.2 million in Vietnam to help Thuan. The medical bills far exceeded this amount, however. "But Tzu Chi regarded this case as 'a life salvage project' and again covered the extra expenses," said Chen.

Lai did more. Chen said Lai refurbished his house to accommodate Huynh and his girlfriend, who was also a doctor but quit her job to be with Huynh. A Vietnamese caretaker was also hired to take care of Huynh. "Lai, who has six sons of his own, treated Huynh like his seventh, which is why Huynh called him 'Daddy Lai,'" Chen said.

Huynh became the first foreign patient to receive a bone marrow transplant in Taiwan.

"Huynh deserves to recover from this horrible illness. He is a bright young doctor who helps people. That is why all the people around him, including Tzu Chi members, tried to save his life, " Chen said.

The Tzu Chi Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization founded in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in Taiwan. The foundation to improve social and community services, medical care, education and humanism in Taiwan.

The Tzu Chi Marrow Donor Registry was founded in October 1993 and is the largest Chinese marrow donor data bank in the world.


Taipei, Jan. 5 (CNA) The 2006 Taipei Lantern Festival will make Taipei city "a shining city of friendship" that mixes tradition and modern culture, Deputy Mayor of Taipei King Pu-tsung and Sun Tsui-feng, a Taiwanese opera diva, said Thursday at a news conference as the Chinese Lunar New Year draws near.

Lantern exhibitions and cultural activities have become an annual extravaganza in Taipei City and draw large numbers of visitors from near and far. This year's event will take place Feb. 11-19 at the Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall plaza.

A stylish dresser who performs traditional Taiwanese opera, Sun Tsui-feng said she shares the same characteristics as Taipei City -- a mixture of tradition and modernism, a combination of primitive passion and diverse cultures. "I assume that's why I was invited to endorse the event for the second straight year," she said.

"That a lot of visitors come because of me is probably one of the other reasons," she said half-jokingly.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2006 is the Year of the Dog, and this year's lantern festival will be launched on the opening night with a theme story of a boy and his puppy Wan-Wan starting an adventure in multi-faceted Taipei to look for Wan-Wan's missing sister named Fu-Fu.

King Pu-tsung encouraged people across Taiwan as well as foreign friends to join the annual pageantry that receives considerable international attention.

In addition to various lanterns to be displayed at the plaza, visitors will have a chance to embrace different music every night during the week of the Lantern Festival: traditional operas, international dance, jazz, folk songs, classical and rock 'n' roll.

To promote the event, the city government will start distributing 100,000 hand lanterns, which have been very popular among Taipei citizens in the past years, Feb. 10-12 at five different locations, the Department of Civic Affairs said.

The Lantern Festival will kick-off a week after the Chinese Lunar New Year vacation, running from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 4 (CNA) China is expected to announce on Jan. 6 which two lucky pandas have been chosen to make the goodwill journey to their new home in Taiwan; however, Taiwan is still sitting the fence on whether to accept the two "cat-bears," as they are called in Chinese.

The ROC government on Taiwan has been cautiously optimistic about the offer made to Lien Chan while he was on a visit to China last year in his capacity of chairman of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) .Lien has since retired from the post, but retains a titular title of honorary chairman.

The China Giant Panda Research Center in Wolong in Sichuan province has whittled down the candidates from 11 -- six males and five females -- and decided on two that have passed numerous tests for their hardiness as well as their sexual compatibility, vis-a-vis their DNA.

The DNA test is considered essential to avoid inbreeding.

This is not the first time that China has offered to donate pandas to Taiwan, but each time the offer has been turned down. This time around, Taiwan seems more inclined to give the offer serious consideration.

Politics aside, should the pandas come to Taiwan, people would most certainly flock to see them in much the same way that people in the country came down with "koala fever" when two of the lethargic animals were first brought over from Australia in 1999.

Like people in the U.S., Japan, Russia and France, countries which have received the "ultimate gift" from China, it would be hard for Taiwanese not to fall for the ultimate in cute: cuddly, clumsy,bamboo-munching pandas.


Taiwan is the latest in line to be offered pandas by China as ademonstration of goodwill. The term "Panda Diplomacy" was created by Western political observers after China started donating pandas to different countries in 1957.

One of the most famous examples was in 1972, when Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-tung presented two pandas --Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling -- to U.S. President Richard Nixon. Two years later, U.K. Prime Minister Edward Heath came home from China with two pandas, Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia.

From 1957 to 1982, a total of 23 pandas were sent by China to nine different countries. The endangered species was widely seen as the best "weapon" for China to break the ice and create a friendly atmosphere during the Cold War.


China brought up the idea again of sending a pair of China's"most famous ambassadors" to Taiwan during a visit to Beijing in May, 2005 by former KMT Chairman Lien Chan.

The topic soon became a jousting field for Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition. Animal welfare groups also are playing a role in the drama, arguing that transferring pandas between countries is dangerous and a risk to their welfare.

Under the regulations of agreement from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, pandas can only be on loan from China to other countries and all the financial benefits from the exhibition of giant pandas, after deducting the costs incurred, should be used for the conservation of the species in China. The conservation fee every country has to pay China is up to US$1 million a year.

Taiwan authorities have reiterated that the transfer of pandas, if approved, should be seen as an international loan, not a domestic transfer as China claims since it views Taiwan as a breakaway province.


"It's not realistic to look at it [accepting the pandas] as a move by China to downgrade [Taiwan], " said Chang Wu-yueh, associate professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies, Tamkang University.

"China has used pandas as a 'political tool' to win friendships from different countries. But I don't think this is a 'PandaDiplomacy' strategy, " he said. "Moreover, Taiwanese are smart enough to tell the good from the bad. People think pandas are cute, but they're also aware that China has more than 700 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan and keeps suppressing Taiwan in the international community.

"As long as [the transfer of the] pandas conforms to international regulations and we don't interpret them as a gift from'the central government to a local government, ' I don't see why wecan't accept them, " Chang asserted.

Chin Hen-wei, editor in chief of Contemporary magazine and a political analyst, has different thoughts. "China wants to send us pandas because it knows 'pandas sell.' This is only being done to curry favor with the people of Taiwan while at the same time downgrading the government on Taiwan, " he said.

"I don't think our government will accept this 'political animal'as long as the DPP is in power. And last I checked, people who support accepting the pandas are all from opposition parties. That's interesting, wouldn't you say?" Chin said.


Taipei, Jan. 4 (CNA) When the European Union (EU) considerslifting its arm sales ban on China, it will have to think deeplyabout which is more important, selling weapons or human rights, saidRichard Faulkner, who is leading a British parliamentary delegationon a five-day visit to Taiwan.

Lifting the 16-year-old arms embargo on China would be tantamountto sending a message to the world that "the EU doesn't care abouthuman rights, " Faulkner, a co-chairman of the British -TaiwaneseAll-Party Parliamentary Group, said Wednesday.

"Instead, it would be a message telling people that the EU ismore interested in selling arms," he said.

Visiting British delegates also shared the same thoughts in abrief meeting with Tsai Ming-shen, vice minister of the Ministry ofNational Defense, Faulkner added.

Faulkner, who is making his fourth visit to Taiwan, acknowledgedthat China has a huge potential for U.K. and British conglomerateseager to enter its market. However, the British-Taiwanese All-PartyParliamentary Group is also trying hard to stress the importance ofhuman rights, which is a common value shared and respected by all EUcountries.

The 15-member group is the largest British parliamentarydelegation to visit Taiwan to date, said Edgar Lin, the ROC's toprepresentative in the UK.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Taipei, Jan. 3 (CNA) The William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament, one of the most popular basketball events in Taiwan, will be "the best ever" when it tips-off this summer in Taipei, the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA) said at a news conference Tuesday.

Ten men's teams and six women's teams, including host Taiwan men's and women's national teams, are expected to participate in the 28th Jones Cup Tournament, which will be held in Taipei one month before the FIBA (Federation International de Basketball) World Championship for Men in Japan.

"Taking place one month before the World Men's Basketball Championship, the Jones Cup Tournament has a good chance to have national teams that will play in the World Championship in the field. We want to make this the best tournament ever, " said CTBA Vice President Yu Wen-wei.

Wang Jen-shen, CTBA deputy secretary-general, said, "It's still six months away from the tournament, but we're targeting teams from Europe and South America, even Team USA -- the team of NBA players that everyone wants to see. We will try to find the best teams."

CTBA sold the one-year marketing rights of the Jones Cup to Bros Sports Interface (BSI) , which also plans on doing something big for the annual tournament. BSI CEO Mosy Hu said, "We will try to create an NBA atmosphere for the games and even collaborate with the NBA in some on-court and off-court events like the NBA Jam Session."

Hu said the game will be played at either the Taipei Arena, which has a capacity of 15,000, or the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium, which can seat 3,500.

The William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament was created in 1977 to honor Dr. Williams Jones, who was FIBA secretary-general at the time and had been supporting Taiwan in the international basketball community. Because of cross-straight deputes with China, Taiwan was barred from the international basketball competition before 1986.

The CTBA failed to host the tournament only twice during the past 30 years because of fire at the venue (1989) and SARS (2003) . Traditionally the tournament is held in July and August.


Taipei, Jan. 2 (CNA) A 15-member British parliamentary delegation led by Richard Faulkner, co-chairman of the British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group, arrived in Taiwan for a five-day visit Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a news release.

The delegation that includes David Martin Scott Steel, vice chairman of the British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group, is scheduled to meet President Chen Shui-bian; Chung Jung-chi, vice president of the Legislative Yuan; Minister of Foreign Affairs Tan Sun Chen; Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mou; Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu; Tsai Ming-shen, vice minister of the Ministry of National Defense; and Shih Yen-Shiang, administrative vice minister of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Michael Reilly, newly appointed director-general of the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO), will also host a banquet before the visiting delegation leaves on Jan. 7.

The delegation will visit Nankang Software Park and China Shipbuilding Corp., along with the Taipei 101 building, the National Palace Museum and the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.

The British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group was established in 1976 and enjoys close ties with the Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom.


Taipei, Jan. 2 (CNA) Few parents can be as proud as Chuck and Robin Giebel, who lost their son Christopher in a motorcycle accident in the southern Taiwan city of Tainan but decided to respect his decision to donate his organs to six Taiwanese recipients.

Christopher Lee Giebel, 21, who had been studying Chinese at National Cheng Kung University language center, died after a serious motorcycle accident on Dec. 23. His family donated his heart, liver, kidneys and corneas to six Taiwanese recipients last Friday.

"We're proud of him, but... yes, it's a hard decision, " said Chuck Giebel, who flew to Taiwan from Rantoul, Illinois after learning of Christopher's death. "Christopher signed up with American Organ Donation system when he got his drivers' license at 16... We hope our tragedy and his legacy can help promote organ donating in Taiwan, which I heard is not common."

The couple found it hard to accept that they would not be able to take Chris' body back to the U.S. because of the procedure of organ removal. Following talks with their family and a priest back home, they agreed to donate Chris' organs to help others.

Christopher Giebel came to Taiwan in late 2004 to study Chinese, a language he wanted to learn partly because his father has so many business friends from Taiwan. "I have been associated with Taiwanese friends for 27 years and I guess that's partly why Chris had been so fascinated about Chinese culture, " explained Chuck, who is in the bicycle accessories business.

Chuck said Chris was actually a shy and soft-spoken kid under his "sunny" appearance. "Chris loves all kinds of sports: basketball, baseball, hiking, even hangliding. He loves to be outdoors. But he found it's hard to talk to people at first. I guess he understands more [Chinese] than he speaks." The grieving father added, "He enjoys being around people. And he really appreciates the friendliness and hospitality of Taiwan people."

Chris lived with the Huang family, one of Chuck's business friends in Tainan, and studied Chinese before moving out later. He taught English in his spare time and quickly blended in with local scene while making friends from Taiwan and other countries, including Hong Tsai-lai, a police officer of the Sixth Branch Precinct, Tainan City Police Bureau.

Hong recollected his friendship with Chris and said, "I got to know Chris because his father is a client of one of my friends. Since Chris was not familiar with everything at the beginning, I decided to help him get through the anxiety period. My friends in the bureau and I took him sightseeing and hiking often."

Chris once volunteered to put on make-up and ride on a jeep for a police department parade for promoting "110 Report Hotline." "He is such a bright kid, always trying to help others. I can't believe we lost him, " Hong said.

Chuck and Robin Giebel will be back in the U.S. shortly to handle ensuing family matters. "But we'll be back. I'll be back here not only because of business and my friends but also because this is a place Chris always loves, " Chuck said.


Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian attended the New Year flag-raising ceremony Sunday before delivering his annual New Year address and had an unusual warm interaction with main opposition Kuomingtang (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, the first KMT chairman to attend the ceremony since 2000.

Ma attended the New Year flag-raising ceremony at the Presidential Office plaza Sunday, marking the first time since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election in2000 that a KMT chairman has attended the ceremony.

Chen twice shook hands with Ma, who stood beside him during the ceremony. Ma told the media later that Chen mentioned in the brief talk on the issue regarding an arms procurement bill pending in the legislature. Ma reiterated to Chen that KMT will be rational in dealing with the issue.

Vice President Annette Lu, who concurrently serves as the acting DPP chairwoman, also shook hands with Ma. And Ma gave Premier Frank Hsieh a pat on the back before leaving.

However, the goodwill between the DPP and KMT became unsure after Chen talked about national identity, constitutional reform and illegal assets of political parties in his New Year address three hours later. The DPP and KMT are far apart on all three issues. It remains to be seen whether the relationship between two parties will be on and off again.

Ma replied the media question on the outlook of the year 2006 after the flag-raising ceremony and said he expects KMT to exercise its majority -- although it's a "fragile majority" -- in the legislature to push forward various bills actively and predominantly through rational dialogue in the coming year.


Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian's New Year's Day address highlighting constitutional reforms and national identity shows he is determined to shake off the lame duck tag but may foreshadow an uneasy year ahead, political analysts said Sunday.

Chen opened his annual New Year message at the Presidential Office stressing unification with China can be an option for the people of Taiwan but not an ultimate goal for the country. Constitutional reforms, tax reforms, recovering illegal assets of political parties and other issues related to social justice are among topics Chen mentioned in the address.

"The president made it clear in the speech that he is not a lame duck president like most people think and he will not back down from the opposition, " said Hsu Yung-ming, an assistant research fellow at the Academia Sinica. "It also shows that Chen has set the tone and direction for the ruling party in the next two years as he and Ma will still be the dominant political figures in the coming year. And the 2008 presidential campaign has begun."

"I think this is one of the vaguest speeches Chen has given in years, " observed Shen Chih-jen, an associate professor from Soochow University. "I'm a little disappointed in the address. It neither details the concrete direction he wants to lead this country nor shows he is willing to offer conciliation to the opposition parties and China."

Hsu said Chen skipped the political matters on cross-strait relations and focused on economics only. "He replaced 'active opening, effective management' with 'effective management, active opening' to answer pro-independence critics."

Chen also did not shy away from voicing his differences with Kuomingtang (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, who was at the address, Hsu added. "He [Chen] talked about the freedom of advocating Taiwan independence. He talked about constitutional reforms that include a possible referendum in 2007, forging a consensus on national identity, an option -- not a goal -- of unification with China, and of course the issue of illegal assets of political parties. His stands on these issues are all different from those of opposition and China and he is not afraid to show it."

Hsu noted, "It's one of the reasons why I think we won't be seeing any progress in cross-strait political relations and collaboration of the ruling and opposition party in the new year."

Chen also implied he will reshuffle the Cabinet when he talked about domestic issues and repeatedly mentioned the phrase "in the future" in the speech. On economics, Chen banks his hope on the second Economic Development Advisory Conference.

Shen foresees an uneasy year between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the KMT in the coming year because Chen "directly criticizes Ma on the unification and illegal assets issues." "While Chen's remarks may satisfied the fundamentalists that support the DPP, it's bad for the whole political atmosphere, " said Shen.

"The president didn't mention the 'three links' issue which most people expected to hear. He didn't even mention the direct cross-strait flights, " Shen said. "Chen always gave us something new in his past speeches, whether it was the 'four noes plus one' or 'a relationship of constructive cooperation.' But I didn't see anything similar this year."

Furthermore, Shen warned, "It looks to me like Chen is trying to bypass the legal procedure on constitutional reforms, which is very risky and can ignite the rivalry between pro- and anti-independence forces, when he mentioned that the new constitution can be initiated by civic groups and submitted for a referendum."

Shen summed up his observation: "I think we're looking at another year of opposition between both sides."