Monday, December 31, 2007

CCA looks forward to prosperous year

Taipei, Dec. 31 (CNA) An ambitious goal of upgrading the Council of Cultural Affairs (CCA) to a full ministry, the establishment of five cultural parks and the integration of national cultural databases are the CCA's plans for the coming year, a council spokesman said Monday.

"We hope for the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in 2008. This has been a hope of cultural workers for many years, " said CCA Chairwoman Wong Chin-chu at a year-end press conference.

A substantial organizational restructuring within the Executive Yuan has been underway, she said, adding that the CCA could be upgraded to the Ministry of Culture or the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. While the final result is not clear, Wong expressed hope that the council can be upgraded.

Wong said the council has done a lot of work to prepare for the establishment of a cultural assets management organization and an institute that integrates Taiwanese traditional arts, which has helped the council get ready for the upgrade.

Looking ahead to the coming year, the council plans to complete the establishment of five creative culture parks around the nation as the second phase of the Creative Culture Initiative.

The parks will include the Huashan Culture Park in Taipei, the Taiwan Architecture, Design and Art Center in Taichung, the Tainan Creative Culture Park focusing on animation, the Hualien Creative Culture Park focusing on leisure and a creative culture park in Chiayi.

The CCA has been also collaborating with the Ministry of Economic Affairs on an initiative to make 2011 a big year for Taiwan's creative culture industry, she said.

The year will include a world design annual congress, an international craft exposition, the opening of the South Wing of the National Palace Museum and an international creative culture exposition, she said.

In 2007, the council devoted its energy to establishing local cultural subjectivity and exchanges with foreign countries, Wong said, adding that the CCA is planning to set up a third Taiwan Cultural Center in Japan, in addition to ones already established in Paris and New York.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Language learning programs NIA's primary initiative in 2008

Taipei, Dec. 29 (CNA) Subsidization for language learning programs in various localities will be the primary initiative for the National Immigration Agency (NIA) , as the language barrier is the most important factor marring communication between new immigrants and Taiwanese, an NIA official said Saturday.

An annual fund of NT$300 million has been allocated and placed under the administration of the NIA, to which local governments can apply for establishing language learning programs to help new immigrants learn Mandarin and Taiwanese, said NIA Director Wu Cheng-chi.

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) established the Foreign Spouse Care and Counseling Fund in 2005 with a total budget of NT$3 billion over a 10-year period, Wu said on the sidelines of a seminar discussing care for new immigrants.

The language issue is the biggest challenge for foreign spouses and workers in Taiwan, said Wen Chih-yi, director of a film titled "Nyonya's Taste of Life, which tells the stories of two female Indonesian caretakers and a Thai worker in Taiwan.

"Once we get to understand and befriend them, we will realize that they are no different to us. Most of the cultural differences and misunderstandings come from the language barrier, " she said.

Another important initiative for the coming year will be after-school tutoring for the children of immigrant families because some foreign spouses have difficulties counseling their children, Wu said, adding that this also originates from the language barrier.

Wu denied that the welfare of spouses from China has been ignored by the authorities, saying that the biggest problem for Chinese spouses is obtaining citizenship. Because of "national security issues, " it takes Chinese immigrants eight years to get citizenship, he said.

The NIA will also devote efforts in 2008 to catching runaway foreign workers.

"Unfortunately, runaway workers are a serious problem and we are too short-handed to track all of them, " he said.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tensions fall on Korea Peninsula, rise in Taiwan Strait: ex-official

Taipei, Dec. 27 (CNA) Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are expected to fall to a more stable level, while those across the Taiwan Strait are expected to rise, said an ex-official in a forum Thursday.

"While the military situation between North and South Korea should be stabilized by the current six party talks, the cross-strait situation is moving in the other direction, " said Lee Tsai-fang, Taiwan's representative to South Korea from 2003 to 2006.

Recent statements from officials of the United States show that cross-strait tensions have risen to a level at which the U.S. feels it is necessary to speak up, Lee said in a Taiwan Thinktank-organized forum discussing South Korea's presidential election and East Asian security.

The "unification versus independence" argument is Taiwan's particular political issue, he said, adding that his personal view was that it would be better to maintain the status quo and let time take care of the problem.

Lee Myung-bak's landslide victory in the presidential election also suggests that South Korea's "North Korea policy" will follow a road map to a peaceful resolution rather than confrontation, he added.

Relations between the two Koreas have been governed by a "top-down" process and handled by government-to-government negotiations in contrast to cross-Taiwan Strait relations, which have been characterized by a "bottom-up" process dominated by civic exchanges and activities, he said.

"But, of course, there is no 'national identity issue' among the Koreans. The problem they have is more of a 'regional complex.' In Taiwan, the situation is just the opposite, " Lee said.

Lee Ming-jun, deputy secretary-general of Taiwanese Society of International Law, agreed with the ex-official's observation, saying that on the Korean Peninsula "politics goes before the economy", while economic considerations take precedence in relations between Taiwan and China.

Academics urge Taiwan to develop closer relations with Korea

Taipei, Dec. 27 (CNA) Taiwan should take advantage of the opportunities presented by the election of new Korean leadership to develop closer relations with South Korea, especially on the economic front, which will benefit both sides, academics said in a forum Thursday.

"President-elect Lee Myung-bak is the first so-called 'economy president' in South Korean history. Although Taiwan does not enjoy official diplomatic relations with South Korea, it should still seize the opportunity to develop further economic ties with its former ally, " said Lee Tsai-fang, Taiwan's former representative to the Republic of Korea.

"For example, signing a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) is a realistic and achievable goal, " said Lee, who served as director of the International Relations Center of Ming Chuan University, in a forum discussing Korea's presidential election and the East Asian security.

Taiwan's focus in its relations with Korea should be on economics, not only because the lack of official diplomatic relations, but also because of South Korea needs China to deal with the North Korean issue politically, said Liu To-hai, a political professor at National Chengchi University.

"It [South Korea] will not engage in any serious political talk with Taiwan, " Liu pointed out at the forum, organized by the Taiwan Thinktank, a private policy research organization.

An attempt to expand bilateral exchanges and cooperation is also necessary as bilateral trade reached an unprecedented level of US$22.2 billion in 2006, Lee said.

Taiwan and South Korea can collaborate by exchanging information on investing in China and South Asian countries, said Academia Sinica researcher Lin Cheng-yi, before noting that both sides will have more "maneuvering space" if South Korea manages to improve relations with its northern counterpart during Lee Myung-bak's term.

"If that's the case, in the future it may be possible for Taiwanese businesses to invest in North Korea through partnerships with South Korea. If so, Taiwanese businesses will be able to benefit from cheap labor," Lin said.

Before anything can happen, it's necessary that Taiwan improve its understanding of the two Koreas, said Lee Ming-jun, Deputy Secretary-General of Taiwanese Society of International Law.

"We know too little about South Korea and have to engage in full-scale research and study, " he said.

Most people don't realize that, historically, Taiwan's destiny has been tied up with the events in the Korean Peninsula, Lee said.

He further explained that Taiwan (Formosa) and the Pescadores Islands (Penghu) were ceded to Japan in 1895 after the First Sino-Japanese War, which broke out over control of Korea. Also, upon the escalation of the Korean War in 1950, then President of the United States Harry Truman ordered the Seventh Fleet to protect Taiwan from potential invasion of China.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

High-tech industry benefits, hurts local economy: researcher

Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) Led by the semiconductor sector, Taiwan's high-tech industry led the way for the national economy, but hurt it at the same time, a researcher said Wednesday in a forum.

"Taiwan's economy is export-driven and most of the contribution came from the high-tech industry. There is no doubt about it. However, Taiwanese citizens did not benefit from the profits made by the industry, " said Liu Tai-ying, President of Taiwan Research Institute (TRI).

Speaking in a forum looking at the prospects for economic growth in 2008, Liu explained that the high-tech industry is a high capital sector, and although it has made huge profits, most companies have to re-invest in themselves as well as increasing capital through public offerings due to the short life-cycle of their equipment and products.

"That means that not only did the money made not go into the people's pockets, but the sector also took money out of the public's pocket," Liu said.

Additionally, the industry created massive output values but failed to create local jobs given the fact that most of their factories have been shifted to China and Southeast Asian countries, he added.

"That is simply the nature and characteristics of the business, " he said matter-of-factly.

The institute predicted robust export growth of more than four percent for Taiwan in 2008. Liu said the high-tech sector is still expected to be the driving force behind the growth. It is estimated that the growth rate for private sector investment will also exceed four percent, with much of it coming from the high-tech industry.

According to the TRI's research, the economic growth rate for Taiwan in 2008 is estimated to hit 4.23 percent, which is slightly lower than the 10-year average of 4.38 percent and more than one percentage point lower than the estimated economic growth rate of 5.29 percent in 2007.

Research institute predicts slower growth for Taiwan in 2008

Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) The year 2008 is expected to be one of slow economic growth for almost all major economies and Taiwan is no exception with an economic growth rate estimated at 4.23 percent, the head of the Taiwan Research Institute (TRI) said Wednesday.

The estimated economic growth rate for Taiwan is slightly lower than the 10-year average of 4.38 percent and more than one percentage point lower than the expected economic growth rate of 5.29 percent for 2007. The growth in domestic consumption and investment are also limited, said TRI President Liu Tai-ying.

A slowing economy in the United States and higher oil prices are the biggest factors expected to impact Taiwan and the rest of the world in 2008, Liu said at a forum looking into the economic prospects for 2008.

Taiwan's already robust export sector is still expected to grow by more than four percent, but the same cannot be said of domestic consumption and investment given the falling consumer confidence, Liu noted.

TRI estimated a 2.92 percent growth rate in domestic consumption next year, which will be higher than the 2.88 percent growth rate of 2007. The slight increase will result from an increasing labor force participation rate and relatively low unemployment rate as well as the short-term impact of the presidential election, said TRI Vice President Wu Tsai-yi.

The growth rate in private sector investment is expected to be 4.12 percent, lower than the 4.99 percent of 2007, Wu said. The rate will be about the same as the economic growth rate, although in the past it was 1.8 times the economic growth rate, Wu said.

A number of instances of pubic investment have not been passed in the Legislature over the past year after becoming ensnared in the process of environmental evaluation and by protests from environment protection groups, which are hurting the national economy, Wu pointed out.

The global economy will be in a period of adjustment in the first quarter of 2008 due to the impact of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and high oil prices, but is expected to be more stable starting in the second quarter, said Wu Chung-hsu, a researcher at Academia Sinica.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Taiwanese, Korean museums form sister partnership

Taipei, Dec. 25 (CNA) The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMFA) and Korea's Gwanju Museum of Art (GMA) officially established a sister partnership to promote art development in the two countries, a Taiwanese official announced Tuesday.

Gwanju is symbolic in the development of Korean culture and democracy, as the city is the site of a civil demonstration and ensuing massacre in the 1980s and has long been a hotbed of Korean popular culture, said Wong Chin-chu, chairwoman of the Council of Cultural Affairs (CCA), at the signing ceremony.

An exhibition of Taiwanese contemporary art will be held alongside the Gwangju Biennale in September 2008, Wong added.

The two sides will collaborate on a wide range of projects, including exhibitions, academic research programs, exchange of curators and exchange of information, she said.

Park Ji-taek, president of the GMA and himself an oil painter, and Lim Jong-young, a GMA curator, also attended the signing ceremony.

Traveling U.S. basketball team to visit Taiwan next month

Taipei, Dec. 25 (CNA) A traveling basketball team from the United States, known for its "show basketball"-style entertainment, will visit Taiwan next month and stage five exhibition games in five cities around the island, organizers said Tuesday.

The Harlem Wizards will play five exhibition games from Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2008 in Taipei, Miaoli, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Hualien to showcase their theatrical style and basketball tricks, said Vic Liu of the main organizer Bravo Communications.

The touring basketball team, which was established in 1962 and comprised of street basketball players, is well-known for its basketball show and tricks, rather than playing competition basketball. It has traveled all around the U.S. and five continents over its 46 years and played in more than 6,000 games, Liu said.

The team will be led by Arnold Bernard, nicknamed "A-Train, " the 165 cm tall guard best known for his dribbling skills. Bernard, 38, was also featured in a sneaker manufacturer Nike's "freestyle" theme commercial.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Regional economic coop'n between Korea, Taiwan well-timed: academic

Taipei, Dec. 22 (CNA) Contemplation and discussion on the possible regional economic cooperation between South Korea and Taiwan is very "well-timed" as closer cooperation will benefit both sides, a South Korean professor said Saturday.

Both South Korea and Taiwan are major trading countries, and they are each other's fifth largest trading partner. The recent crisis regarding the World Trade Organization (WTO) system and the hype of regionalism can never be favorable to any country that has a high dependency on trade, said Bark Taeho, dean of Seoul National University's Graduate School of International Studies, in the Taipei-Seoul Forum held in Taipei.

Taiwan and South Korea have been competitors in the business world, but they can also collaborate, Bark said, adding that the two countries ought to concentrate on reinforcing the WTO-centered multilateral trade system since Taiwan is a WTO member.

Detailed practical ideas in various organizations, such as the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, the Pacific Basin Economic Council, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, should be developed, and efforts to draw up agreements among the countries involved should be made, he said.

Trade between South Korea and Taiwan has grown rapidly despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries and of systematic integration. As East Asian countries have expanded their regional trade agreement networks since the late 1990s, Taiwan's trade could be negatively affected, Bark noted.

Taiwan and South Korea should also make joint efforts to reduce the harmful use of trade remedy measures, such as anti-dumping and countervailing measures, against Taiwanese and Korean goods by advanced countries, he said.

"A regional cooperation mechanism between the two countries achieved through the APEC mechanism would be most desirable, " he said.

"First, political issues have been resolved as Taiwan is already an APEC member; and second, the inefficiency of concluding independent free trade agreements between individual East Asian countries and countries in the Americas could be reduced. Lastly, this will ultimately reinforce the WTO-centered multilateral trading system, " he said.

Academic predicts landslide win for KMT in legislative elections

Taipei, Dec. 22 (CNA) A vote simulation showed that the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) is expected to post a landslide victory in the Jan. 12 legislative elections, grabbing almost two-thirds of the 113 seats, a researcher said Saturday.

Lin Jih-wen, a researcher at Academia Sinica, said during the annual Taipei-Seoul Forum held in Taipei that according to his calculations, the KMT is expected to win 72 seats in the elections, while the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is expected to win 38 seats.

Calculating the vote share in the township within the 73 single-member districts, Lin concluded that the DPP won't be able to win more than 25 district-based seats, adding that it may win 13 of the at-large seats to be allotted to the various political parties based on the percentage of the total vote they each garner. Only political parties that manage to win at least 5 percent of the total vote cast in the polls will be eligible to secure at-large seats.

The KMT is likely to grab 72 seats, while other parties will win the rest, he said.

A "single-member constituency, two votes" system will be used for the first time in Taiwan's election history, with 73 of the 113 legislators to be chosen from the districts, 34 to be selected in a nationwide district, and six chosen from indigenous districts.

Lin predicted that the DPP's failure in the legislative elections will have an impact on the party's campaigning strategy, forcing it to resort to Taiwanese consciousness to balance the tilt in the ensuing presidential election.

As for the DPP-initiated referendum on retrieving the KMT's "ill-gotten" assets, Lin said the DPP doesn't care whether it is passed. The main objective of the referendum, he said, is to boost the voter turnout rate in certain districts for the party to win more at-large seats.

"Most people care about whether vote-buying will be reduced in this election. My observation is, unfortunately, the answer is no, " he said.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Presidential elections similar in Taiwan, South Korea: academics

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) A lot of similarities can be found in the presidential elections of South Korea and Taiwan, academics said Friday on the heels of Lee Myung-bak's landslide victory in South Korea's presidential election.

The first and most obvious similarity is that the economy has become one of the most important issues in both elections, according to academics from Taiwan and South Korea in the annual Taipei-Seoul Forum.

Lee's victory shows voters recognized incumbent President Roh Moo -hyun's economic policy as a failure, said Taeho Bark, chairman of the Korea International Trade Commission and a professor at Seoul National University.

The economy is also a hot topic in Taiwan, although there are other issues, such as national identity and the United Nations referendum, being discussed at the same time, said Lee Ming, a professor at National Chengchi University.

Presidential candidates in both countries are beset by legal cases, as Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou is in the middle of a corruption trial and Lee Myung-bak faces investigation for his involvement in a scandal.

North Korea and China, which have interfered in every major election in South Korea and Taiwan in the past, are surprisingly silent this time, said Lee Ming, president of the North Korea Democratization Forum and a former member of South Korea's National Assembly.

North Korea did not want to see the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) become the ruling party, so it "secretly" collaborated with socialists in South Korea to undermine the GNP in past elections, Lee Dong-bak claimed, adding that South Koreans said "no" to North Korea with their ballots.

Lee also observed a "reversal theory" in elections in South Korea, where GNP and the liberal United New Democratic Party (UNDP) have been exchanged leads in presidential and parliamentary elections during the past few years.

The same theory is also common in local discussions about elections, as political parties that lose in parliamentary or presidential elections will be favored to win the next election because of the voter habit of "helping the weak."

Observers saw the South Korean presidential election as a showdown between Roh and Lee Myung-bak rather than Lee versus UNDP candidate Chung Dong-young, said Lee Ming.

In Taiwan, he continued, some people are also under the impression that President Chen Shui-bian has taken the lead role in the election, making the March election a "Chen vs. Ma" tussle rather the "real" fight, which is between Ma and ruling Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh.

"I don't know much about Chen vs. Ma but I do know that in Korea, some people saw this as an election between Lee and former President Kim Dae-jung, rather than Roh Moo-hyun, " Lee Dong-bak said.

The two-day forum, organized by the Institute of International Relations (IIR) of National Chengchi University and the Seoul Forum for International Affairs (SFIA), will proceed Saturday with three sessions to discuss the new phase of Taiwan-South Korean relations and regional development in East Asia.

Academics analyze South Korean economy, presidential election

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) Hope for "a bigger pie" and a better economy was why South Koreans voted for President-elect Lee Myung-bak, who is expected to have little room to adopt a new Taiwan policy, local and South Korean academics said Friday in a forum.

"South Korea's economy has been doing O.K. in general, but the past regimes focused too much on wealth distribution and social welfare in their socialistic economic policies. People tended to see these policies as a failure, " said Taeho Bark, chairman of the Korea International Trade Commission and a professor at Seoul
National University.

The annual Taipei-Seoul Forum was held two days after the presidential election in South Korea concluded with a landslide victory for Lee Myung-bak, who garnered 48.7 percent of the votes, putting him 22 percentage points ahead of his closest rival, Chung Dong-young.

Economic issues proved to be the deciding factor in the election, Bark said, as "the rich are not getting richer but the poor are getting poorer in Korea." He said that while the country enjoys substantial economic growth, it's still difficult for university graduates to find jobs, while established corporations such as Samsung have been neglecting the domestic market.

That is why people want a more liberal economy and expect Lee, a former mayor of Seoul and chief executive of Hyundai Construction Co., to "make the pie bigger, " he added.

As Lee is expected to make mending fences with the United States his top diplomatic priority, the forum participants said there will be little room for him to adopt a new policy on Taiwan, given the current Northeast Asian international order, said Lee Ming, a professor at National Chengchi University.

Ron Moo-hyun, the incumbent president, is seen as a leader driven by his ideology, including anti-Americanism, while Lee is seen as more of a pragmatist who can solve problems, said Kim Sunhyuk, director of the Global Leadership Development Center of Korea University.

"Voters chose pragmatism over ideology in this election, " agreed Lee Dong-bak, president of the North Korea Democratization Forum and a former member of South Korea's National Assembly.

"It seems to me that South Korean electorate had already decided two years ago that they would vote for the Grand National Party, " Lee said.

The two-day forum, which was organized by the Institute of International Relations of National Chengchi University and the Seoul Forum for International Affairs, will continue Saturday with three sessions to discuss the new phase of Taiwan-South Korean relations and regional development in East Asia.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

TV documentary to uncover story of Asian Gibraltar

Taipei, Dec. 20 (CNA) A television documentary to premiere Dec. 23 reveal the story of the Kinmen islands, the Taiwanese territory which is only two miles off the coast of China and whose history has been often forgotten or unknown, an official said Thursday.

"Given how many shells Kinmen has taken for Taiwan in the past, it's time for Taiwan and people around the world to better to understand the island, " said Yang Chung-chuan, deputy magistrate of Kinmen County, in a press conference to announce the premiere of "Unknown Kinmen, " a documentary produced by the Discovery Channel.

The documentary attempts to explore the islands, which have been described as the "Asian Gibraltar" because of its unique strategic position, through its culture, architecture and history, said Tommy Lin, vice president and general manager of Discovery Networks Asia's Taiwan Office.

Kinmen experienced extensive shelling from China in 1958, when it was hit by more than 470,000 artillery shells in the span of 44 days. Over the following 20 years, it was hit by another 500,000 non-lethal shells containing propaganda materials, Yang said.

The experience still lingers in the minds of senior citizens, but the former military preserve needs to move forward because development on Kinmen was extremely limited during the period of military rule, Yang said.

People in Kinmen did benefit somewhat from the war as nowadays it is famous for its knives, which are made from artillery shells, Yang said. The return to a civilian government in the 1990s and the launch of the Mini Three Links six years ago, which have brought many Taiwanese business people to the islands, dramatically changed the face of Kinmen's economy, he added.

"Now we thrive on the development of tourism, " he noted.

Taiwan national baseball team names new manager

Taipei, Dec. 20 (CNA) Hung Yi-chung was named the new manager of Taiwan's national baseball team for the Olympic Qualifying tournament next year, a spokesman for the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) announced Thursday in a press conference.

Hung will replace Kuo Tai-yuan, who resigned Dec. 14 after Taiwan's subpar performance in the previous tournaments. The pressure to win an Olympic seed will fall on Hung's shoulder next March, when an eight-team qualifying tournament will be held in Taiwan.

Taiwan finished in eighth place in the Baseball World Cup and lost to Japan and South Korea in the Asian Baseball Championship, failing to earn an automatic seed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The 46-year-old La New Bears head coach will need to turn in a top three finish in the tournament, which will be held in Taichung and Yunlin from March 3-14, 2008, to earn the right to compete in Beijing.

"We will do whatever it takes [to win a place at the Olympics], " said former national team manager Hsu Sheng-ming, who served as the convener of CTBA's Selection and Training Committee.

Taiwan's roster for the tournament will have to be adjusted, CTBA Secretary-General Lin Tsun-cheng said, adding that it's expected that none of the 40 players on the rosters of U.S. Major League teams next spring will be available for the qualifying games.

Teams participating in the qualifying tournament will include Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, South Korea, Canada, England, Spain and South Africa.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Taiwan hopes to be late bloomer in corporate branding

Taipei, Dec. 19 (CNA) Taiwan's corporations have only recently begun branding themselves, but hope to catch up with the strongest brand names around the world, trade officials and corporate leaders said Wednesday.

"While earning meager profits, Taiwanese companies have to upgrade themselves from OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to OBMs (original brand manufacturers) sooner or later, " Hsu Chun-fang, Deputy Director of Bureau of Foreign Trade, said in a year-end review of the "Branding Taiwan" campaign.

Recognizing that branding will be the next step for Taiwanese businesses, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) launched a seven-year Branding Taiwan campaign in 2006 with a NT$1.6 billion budget.

The campaign focuses on helping SMEs (small and medium enterprises), rather than companies that have already made their mark and possess strong brand names, such as computer hardware manufacturers Acer Inc. and Asustek Computer, which ranked as the top brand name in Taiwan in 2007 with a value of US$1.196 billion.

Nonetheless, the brand value of Taiwan's top-rated Asustek is far less than that of the American car-renting company Hertz, which ranked last on the list of the world's Top 100 brand names this year with a brand value of US$3.3 billion, showing how far Taiwanese companies lag behind in brand development, said Chao Yuan-chuan, chief executive officer of Taiwan External Trade Development Council

"Taiwan has a long way to go to catch up with the development of international brands. We're latecomers, but at least we're now on our way, " Hsu said.

Most Taiwanese SMEs realized that branding is a road they have to travel if they are serious about staying competitive, but they lack the necessary budget, an essential factor in building up a brand name and expertise, Chao said.

That was where the Branding Taiwan campaign comes in, said Chiu Yi-cheng, General Manager of Kiddie's Paradise Inc., a child educational equipment provider which started to build up its own "Weplay" brand in 1999. The company is now selling its products in 50 countries around the world.

Taiwanese designers and inventors have been doing well in international invention shows and design competitions -- such as the iF and Red Dot competition in Germany -- Chiu said. With its already-strong manufacturing sector, Taiwan will be in an excellent position to develop more international brands if it can integrate the various value chains of different sectors, he added.

Chao encouraged SMEs intending to go into corporate branding to first identify their niche markets and products in order to put their money in the right place. Corporations were also encouraged to develop their brand names in Taiwan before taking them international. Partnerships between several SMEs to develop a brand is also an option, he said.

"For example, A Team, the leading Taiwan cycling industry association, which includes bicycle manufacturers Giant, Merida and others, has been influential and important in the cycling world because of their strong partnership," Chao said.

The combined brand value of this year's top 20 Taiwanese brands exceeds NT$280.5 billion (US$8.443 billion) , representing a 33 percent increase over last year's NT$211 billion (US$6. 464 billion). The brand valuation was organized by the MOEA and conducted by TAITRA.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All Taiwanese agricultural products traceable by 2015: COA

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) All Taiwanese agricultural products will be traceable by 2015, the Council of Agriculture (COA) announced Tuesday at the launch of the first nationwide agricultural traceability system.

Certified traceability agricultural products will carry certification insignia for quick identification to guarantee the origin of products, COA Minister Su Chia-chuan said, adding that 2008 will be "Safe Agriculture Year."

More than 172 farmers have been granted Traceability Agriculture Product (TAP) certification from the Cabinet-level COA, which has entrusted 17 certifying institutes around the nation as independent certifying systems.

Food safety has been one of the hottest issues in the past year in Taiwan, as many food safety cases regarding domestic and imported products have been reported.

"The day of pushing for mass production is over. Modern-day farmers and consumers will and should pay attention to safety, quality and quantity -- in that order -- of agricultural products, " Su said.

The certification system consists of three criteria -- TAP, Organic Traceability Agricultural Product and Quality Traceability Agricultural Product -- and will integrate all certifying criteria used in the market by 2010, he said.

Consumers can visit the Taiwan Agricultural Food Traceability System at to inquire about related information and in the future will also be able to access the information in supermarkets and on their mobile phones, Su said.

Hakkas the most digitalized ethnic group: survey

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) A nationwide survey has found that Hakkas are the most digitalized ethnic group and that the "digital divide" phenomenon has been more of a generation issue rather than an urban-rural issue in recent years, an academic said Tuesday in a press conference.

The annual survey, which was conducted by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC), found that 72.1 percent of Hakkas used personal computers while 70.5 percent of Hoklos and 67.2 percent of indigenous peoples did so.

The Hakkas also had the highest percentage of Internet users -- 66.5 percent, compared to Hoklos' 64.9 percent and 60.9 percent of the indigenous peoples.

Hakkas' advanced digitalization may shocked a lot of people, but it's not surprising from the perspective of social studies, said Wu Chyi-in, a research fellow at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology.

"According to our long-term statistics, the Hakkas have had the highest level of education among all ethnic groups in Taiwan. Being a minority group with limited resources, most Hakkas have tried to realize social mobility and better lives through obtaining higher levels of education," Wu said this social context might be one of the hidden reasons for the group's advanced digitalization.

"Some fellow researchers described the Hakkas as 'the Jews in Taiwan's society', " Wu added.

In addition to that interesting finding, the academic also said that the results of this survey showed that the main issue in the "digital divide" has shifted from infrastructure to differing ways of life between the generations.

According to the survey, Internet use rates in all age groups under 30 surpassed 94.4 percent, but the rates decrease dramatically in groups over 31 years of age. The same phenomena could also be found in the percentages of those writing personal blogs, regularly making online comments and participating in discussions and knowledge-sharing online.

"It looks like 30 is the watershed age of this 'digital divide 2.0' phenomenon, " said Vandy Liu, a professor at Chung Yuan Christian University's Department of Management of Information Systems.

Liu said that Taiwan has been successful in recent years in developing its information technology infrastructure, which was why the broadband Internet penetration rate was not an issue in most regions; rather the Taiwanese government should pay more attention in developing a "society of Internet citizens."

"That means encouraging Internet users of all ages, especially those who above age 30, to live a 'Web 2.0 life' by sharing their experiences, communicating, challenging authorities and injustice online, because this is how society works nowadays, " he said.

"The question for Taiwan's government is: what's next after laying down the infrastructure? " Wu said.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Urban indigenous teachers keeping native languages alive

Taipei, Dec. 15 (CNA) A group of indigenous teachers in Taipei has been running a language program since last year to keep native languages alive among indigenous people who live in the cities, with good results so far, the group said Saturday.

"The objectives of the association are to promote the indigenous cultures of all 13 tribes and to teaching native languages to urban students of indigenous descent, " said Pu Cheng-chan, president of the Taipei Indigenous Languages Teachers Association (TILTA) on the sidelines of an indigenous culture festival held at the Songshan Tobacco Factory.

TILTA was established last year and now has 42 teachers who come from 13 Taiwanese tribes, most of whom are teaching native languages in Taipei City, Pu said.

Teachers have two-hour weekly classes in churches, schools, village offices and even apartments. TILTA has had more than 700 students, ranging from elementary school children to university students, participating in the free programs.

Upah Yuki, an Atayal from Jianshih township in Hsinchu County, has been teaching an Atayal class of 15 students in the Neihu and Nangang areas for the past year.

Pu, a Tsuo from Alishan, Chiayi County, said the group launched the initiative to complement the "Language Nest" program run by the Indigenous Peoples Commission of the Taipei city government.

"I'm happy to see that most of the indigenous students in Taipei City are learning their native languages and that most parents are encouraging their children to do so, " Pu said.

In general, Taiwan's indigenous people are happy to see the government's efforts in preserving indigenous cultures, said Upah.

Upah, who has changed his name from his Chinese name back to his traditional tribal name, said it is the right move for Sanmin township in Kaohsiung County to adopt the new indigenous name of Namasiya township last week to honor its Tsou tribal history.

The move, he said, shows that the government is implementing the "New Partnership between the Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Taiwan" treaty that was signed by President Chen Shui-bian in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2002.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Director, businessman receives distinguished British alumni award

Taipei, Dec. 14 (CNA) Winston Wong, the son of Taiwanese business tycoon Wang Yung-ching, and Yen Lan-chuan, a film director, received the second annual Distinguished Alumni Awards from the British Council Taipei Friday.

The award recognizes outstanding Taiwanese who received higher education in British universities and graduate schools. Taichung Mayor Jason Hu won the award last year.

A Sheffield Hallam University alumni who studied film and documentary making, Yen came back to Taiwan in 1998 and launched a successful career filming documentaries. Among her works, three documentaries about the Sept. 21 earthquake and Happy Rice -- the story of a Taiwanese farmer -- have earned high praise.

Wong, the president of the Grace T.H.W. Group and a graduate of Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, was recognized for his business success in both Taiwan and China.

All alumni who studied in British schools nominated six candidates before a public vote was conducted during the Education U.K. exhibition, which was held in various cities throughout the nation.

More countries look to woo Taiwanese tourists

Taipei, Dec. 14 (CNA) More countries are looking to woo Taiwanese tourists as outbound tourism continues to grow, said travel representatives from various countries at an international travel fair Friday.

"The reason is clear. Almost half of your [Taiwan's] population at least made a trip overseas last year, " Robert Young, a staff in Hungarian Trade Office in Taipei, spoke about Taiwan's tourism potential.

Hungary was among seven new presenters at the 2007 Taipei International Travel Fair taking place from Dec. 14-17 with 62 participating countries at the annual event. Other first-timers are Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and Greece.

According to statistics released by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) in November, the number of outbound Taiwanese tourist trips reached 7.68 million between January and October this year.

"Currently 15,000 Taiwanese tourists visit Hungary every year, and we're targeting 25,000," Young said, adding that negotiations on direct flights between Taiwan and Budapest is ongoing and hopefully a deal will be reached next year.

The Czech Republic has been trying to attract not only Taiwanese investment but tourists as well. Of 30,000 visitors last year, most of them were businessmen, CzechTourism representative Lucie Turkova said, adding that as bilateral trade and investment increase, tourism is also expected to boom and that's why they're here.

Travel agencies have also changed with the times and are going with the latest trends. In the past, most Taiwanese tourists wanted to visit as many countries and spots as possible, but that is no longer the case, said Mathias Hultgren, who represents the Swedish travel agency Scandinavian Perspectives Taiwan.

"Travel plans in the past basically excluded young people because only senior citizens were able to enjoy a two to three weeks trip, " Hulgren said. About 50,000 Taiwanese tourists visited Sweden last year, he said.

Agencies are also employing different strategies to attract Taiwanese tourists. Hultgren said their main target was those who have been to Europe but never visited Scandinavia, and people who are interested in seeing a different part of Europe.

"How many [Taiwanese] people visit Toronto every year? " Hultgren said, adding that Taiwanese have had the misconception that Sweden was too far away for an affordable trip, but the distance between Taipei and Stockholm is about the same as that between Taipei and Toronto.

As usual, Japan took up the most booths, 66 in all, although representatives from Hong Kong and Macao also made their presence felt at the fair.

DGBAS statistics showed that Hong Kong, Japan and Macao were the top three destinations for outbound Taiwanese tourists this year.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Myanmar human rights issue too serious to be overlooked: Maung

Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Burmese physician who has been providing medical services to Burmese refugees for almost 20 years, said Thursday that there are serious human rights issues in Myanmar.

Maung, recipient of the 2007 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award (ADHRA) , received the award and grant worth US$100,000 from President Chen Shui-bian in a ceremony before participating in a forum on human rights issue in Myanmar.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been ruled by a military junta since 1988. The junta changed the country's official English name to the "Union of Myanmar" in 1989, a move which is not recognized by many opponents of the regime.

Estimates of the displaced population on the Thai-Myanmarese border range between 500,000 - 600,000, composed mostly of people forced to leave their towns and farms because of civil wars and oppression from the military junta, she said. It has been very difficult for refugees to gain access to everything from health care and education to clean water and accommodation, she added.

In addition, the refugees face threats from land mines, epidemics and drugs. Taken together, the human rights issue in Myanmar is simply too serious to be overlooked, she said.

The 48-year-old doctor, herself a refugee and a member of the ethnic Karen minority, established the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, near the Thai-Burmese border, in 1988. Since then, the clinic has been providing not only medical care, but also job training, social services, health education, child protection, and community-building activities.

Michael Hsiao, Executive Director of Academia Sinica's Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies, described situation in Myanmar as "a human hell" where civilians have been deprived of the right of stay in their hometowns.

"As a matter of fact, Taiwan might not be able to do much to improve situation in Myanmar. But Taiwanese can offer support simply by focusing more attention on the problems [in Myanmar] and at the same time take that as a warning to ensure that the same does not happen again in Taiwan," he said.

Some Taiwanese have been doing more than just bringing attention to the issue. The Taipei Overseas Peace Service (TOPS), for instance, has been sending humanitarian missions to Myanmar for 10 years.

The human rights situation in Myanmar and conditions in 10 refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmarese border have been deteriorating, said Sam Lai, a TOPS team leader who's been working in Myanmar for five years.

All the refugees were disappointed after the demonstrations in September failed to overthrow the military regime, Lai said, adding that "they thought they could finally go home."

"For the past five years, my mother has always been asking me the same question: When will you come home? I always answer: Maybe next year, " he said.

"Hopefully, all our Myanmarese friends will be able to go back home someday so I can tell my mother that I'm finally coming home, " Lai said.

Government agencies work on developing English-friendly environment

Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) Local government agencies have been working hard in the past five years to create an English-friendly environment, though it still needs many adjustments, agency staff members said Thursday on the sideline of the 2007 English Carnival.

The hard work has paid off, however, judging from the latest results of the overall living environment approval rate of 61.5 percent among foreigners, which was the highest in five years. The survey was conducted by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC).

The basic requirement was render every operational item and bulletin bilingual so foreigners could have easy access to information on where they wanted to go, said Meng Yun-tsung, Manager of Hsinchu Post Office. The office also had English courses for its staff to improve their English conversation.

Results of the same survey showed that only a third of foreigners were satisfied with the police service environment. But that was not the case in Nantou County Police Bureau, which started to work on providing a bilingual environment in 2004, said a policeman surnamed Wu.

"I don't know what it's like in metropolitan areas like Taipei City, where there have been more criminal cases. Most of the foreigners in Nantou are tourists rather than businessmen, which was why most of our interaction involves answering questions, giving directions... and let them use our bathrooms," a policeman surnamed Fan said.

Not every policeman was able to speak fluent English, but foreigners could always call Foreign Affairs Sections of every police station for help, Wu said.

In Kaohsiung City, where the 2009 World Games will be held, a bilingual environment is even more important. The city's transportation and tourism bureaus worked with taxi drivers, who are expected to host many foreign visitors during the games.

More than 400 drivers of the Sin Sing Siang Taxi Radio Station started taking free English lessons offered by the bureaus this year to improve their conversation.

"It's impossible to make all of the drivers speak English well in a short period of time, but at least we're supposed to know which hotels, agencies and locations the passengers want to go to, and be able to chat a little bit with them, " said Wu Yi-fong, an executive of the taxi station.

The initiative and effort should be appreciated, said Douglas Habecker, Editor-in-Chief of Compass, which publishes free bilingual magazines in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung.

"The [English] environment has improved a lot during the last five years. It's easy for people to criticize but Taiwan has made huge steps. The biggest change has to do with the positive attitude of the central and local governments, and the people, towards internationalization, " said Habecker, 40, who were born in the eastern city of Hualien and lives in Taichung.

The basic idea was not make everyone a good English speaker and to make everything bilingual, because that's impossible, Habecker said, adding that the more important thing is to provide user-friendly, high-quality and constantly updated information through guides, maps and Web sites.

"Try to find a solution and ways to make it easier [for foreigners] in important spots such as airports, hotels and transportation hubs, " he said.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2008 Tour de Taiwan to take place next March

Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) The 2008 Tour de Taiwan, Taiwan's most prestigious cycling event, will be held next year from March 9-16, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the event, the Chinese Taipei Cycling Association (CTCA) announced in a press conference Tuesday.

The race will have eight stages and cover a distance of 861.2 kilometers, setting off from the southern city of Kaohsiung and finishing in Taipei City. In between, the route covers the western counties of Pingtung, Changhua, Taichung, Hsinchu, Taipei County and will finish at the Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei City.

The Tour de Taiwan was first held in 1987 by CTCA and has been awarded the distinguished level of 2.2 by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).

With a total purse of US$50,000 and important points for cyclists looking to qualify for the cycling event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the race will be an important event, the CTCA stated.

Taiwan's U.N. referendum causes trouble: AIT Chairman

Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) All that Taiwan's United Nations (U.N.) referendum does is cause trouble, and it will box in Taiwan's next president, American Institute in Taipei Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Tuesday, reiterating the United States' opposition to the referendum.

"All it [the referendum] does is cause trouble, " Burghardt said in a round table with members of the local media. The top AIT official is concluding a visit to Taiwan during which he has met with President Chen Shui-bian, presidential candidates Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh, and other political figures.

It is the second harsh criticism of the proposed referendum leveled by a U.S. official within the last two weeks, following Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen's remarks in a meeting with members of Taiwan's press Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C.

Christensen said that the United States supports Taiwan's having a wholesome democracy but that a bad democracy or a process packaged as democracy is not true democracy.

The referendum on the country applying to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan is a "clever way" of not violating the pledges that President Chen Shui-bian had made by going through the "back door, " but the United States still interprets it as a violation, he said.

Even if it did not go against the "four noes" pledge, it "came pretty close sometimes, " he added.

Taiwanese officials have described the referendum as a vote against unification with China and for sovereignty, which is more than the contents of the referendum itself, he said.

The United States has the highest regard for Taiwan's democracy, but the referendum unnecessarily threatens cross-strait stability, which has been the United States' main concern in the region, he said.

However, he noted that the United States does value Chen's reassurance Monday of keeping his promises and ensuring a peaceful transition of power after the presidential election next year and has asked China to be patient and show self-restraint ahead of the election.

Burghardt said his meeting with Chen could be summarized as making sure the new president, regardless of who it is, has the chance to be his own man to deal with the cross-straight issue and is not "boxed-in."

The referendum is not fair to the next president not only because holding the referendum will make things difficult for him but also because if it is passes, this will make his job even harder, Burghardt said, adding that the intention of holding the referendum is to bind the hands of Chen's successor.

"The referendum also affects the cross-strait atmosphere and the attitude of the region," he said.

The results of the referendum will not change Washington's one-China policy, even though Chen has said passage of the referendum would prove the policy wrong, Burghardt pointed out.

Responding to a question regarding how the United States will react to the results of the referendum, Burghardt said that it will be important to watch and listen carefully to who says what before, during and after the referendum. Remarks and responses from Chen, both presidential candidates and other countries will be closely monitored, he added.

Burghardt did not directly answer the question posed by a reporter about whether China has "outsourced" the work of containing Taiwan to the United States, but he admitted that the Hu Jintao administration has been more adept and sophisticated in dealing with trilateral relations between the United States, Taiwan and China.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Japanese peace advocates power of civil society

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) A Japanese peace advocate Monday encouraged Taiwanese youth to have the courage to take risks and try to build a peaceful and sustainable Taiwan through their energy and innovative efforts.

The power of civil society in the post-Cold War era has a proven, international track record of making a difference, said Tastuya Yoshioka, Founder and Director of Peace Boat -- a Japan-based non-government organization (NGO) which advocates peace, human rights, sustainable development and environmental protection.

In Japan, young people are taught that risk-taking is wrong, but as we face the ongoing threats such as militarism, nuclear weapons, climate change and global epidemics, all global citizens should step up and do something, he said.

The United Nations framework is important to solving global issues, but it's neither perfect nor able to do it alone. Unfortunately, given the fact that security council member states all make money from wars, world peace is paid little more than lip service, he told more than 100 National Taiwan University students in a lecture.

That's why civil societies can and should come in and make impacts, said Yoshioka, who founded Peace Boat in 1983 as a university student.

Human security, rather than national security, is one of the most important concepts of a civil society, he said, adding that the key is protecting the human being, not the politicians, companies or states.

Yoshioka, 46, established the organization at a time when the issue of Japan's revisionist history high school textbooks was first becoming controversial. He was shocked that neighboring countries in Asia were protesting about the content of the textbooks.

Peace Boat visited Taiwan on its third voyage in 1986 for a meeting with Taiwanese democracy activists. As Taiwan was still under an authoritarian regime, the boat was seized, searched and detained. It is because of that experience that Taiwan has always held a very special place in his heart, Yoshioka said.

Commenting on the cross-Straight issue, Yoshioka said in a media interview Sunday that something along the lines of the European Union format would be an option.

"People can't forget the terrible past, but at the same time they can start reconcile, " he said.

For the past 24 years, Peace Boat has sailed on nearly 60 voyages and visited more than 100 countries, including conflict zones such as Eritrea, Cuba, Sierra Leone and the Balkans.

Right workers recall effort to help Taiwan political prisoners

Taipei, Dec. 10 (CANA) If risking your life for your beliefs and values is honorable, then trying to help those in a country thousands of miles away whom you don't even know and whose names you have a hard time pronouncing is equally appreciated.

That's what the group of international human rights workers invited to attend Monday's inauguration ceremony for the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial Park did almost 30 years ago through their collective efforts to put pressure on Taiwan authorities to release political prisoners.

Most of the human rights workers, who were based in the United States, Japan, Germany and several other countries, learned of the political prisoner cases in Taiwan by accident and never met the Taiwanese prisoners they helped save until last weekend when they together visited the new park which was once known as the Jingmei Military Detention Center.

Klaus Walter, head of the membership department of Amnesty International German Section, said he wanted to work on South American political prisoner cases at first but was assigned to handle a Taiwan case in 1975 as a 21-year-old student volunteer in Bonn, Germany.

"Maybe my Spanish wasn't good enough, " Walter said half-jokingly, adding that prior to that time, he had no idea where Taiwan was.

However, after starting to work on the case, he began to understand more about the political situation in Taiwan and, one year later, formed a Taiwan Coordination group whose task was to gather all available information on all political prisoners in Taiwan.

It was not easy because Taiwan officials had never answered AI letters, he said, forcing him to gather information via human rights groups in Japan and other countries. In addition, AI regulations required that staff obtain information from at least two different sources to confirm its credibility.

Masahiro Watarida chose a more direct way to gather information and became a victim himself. Watarida, who is now the secretary-general of Globalization Watch Hiroshima, visited Taiwan soon after the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 to collect information on human rights violations.

When departing from Taiwan Dec. 21, 1979, Watarida was found carrying newspapers and magazines covering the incident. He was arrested, tortured and detained for 84 days.

Overseas Taiwanese also worked hard to seek international help. Roger Chao, a Germany-based Taiwanese reverend and one of the leaders of "Christians for Taiwan's Self-determination, " and his wife Doris worked with AI on extending assistance to victims of the incident.

"And because AI did not allow members to work on cases in their own country, Taiwanese members established a group to seek support from the international community, " Chao said.

International support and assistance were important because the people of Taiwan could not do much living under the authoritarian regime, Chao said.

The Hsieh Tsun-min case showed why the rescue of Taiwanese political prisoners was a global effort. Hsieh, who was imprisoned in 1964 for a public statement titled "A Declaration of Formosan Self-salvation" as a student at National Taiwan University, got acquainted with Japanese Taiwan independence supporter Masanari Kobayashi when both were in a Taiwan Garrison Command detention center in 1971.

Kobayashi had succeeded in distributing leaflets advocating Taiwan independence by flying baloons in Taipei but was later arrested and deported. Later, he helped send Hsieh's messages to international organizations. The messages were printed in the New York Times, which led to Hsieh's death sentence being rescinded later.

On Hsieh's visit to the AI German Section after his release, Rev. Chao recalled, a girl showed Hsieh a letter which had been sent to him seven years earlier but returned by Taiwan authorities.

"The girl was 17 years old when she sent the letter of support. Hsieh was in tears upon reading that letter, " Chao said.

Because Taiwan received so much international help during the period of "White Terror" in the country and because the country now enjoys full democracy, the people of Taiwan should start extending a helping hand to people in regions around the world who are suffering from the same sort of repression, Walter said.

"Think about Darfur, Sudan, where there's a major human rights crisis. Or think about Myanmar, which is closer to you in Asia, " he said, adding that it's time for Taiwan to extend help to those in need.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Political prisoners, human rights workers visit ex-detention center

Taipei, Dec. 9 (CNA) International human rights workers visiting the Jingmei Military Detention Center Sunday said it was an eye-opening experience while ex-political prisoners described it as a reminder of Taiwan's "bad old days".

Close to 100 former political prisoners, some of whom spent up to 12 years in the center during the 1970s and 1980s, accompanied by the international human rights workers who offered their assistance in rescuing the prisoners, visited the suburb compound -- recently renamed Jingmei Human Rights Memorial Park by Taiwan's government.

The site is a vast compound which used to house the military courts of the Taiwan Garrison Command and a detention center for political prisoners.

It was also where eight leaders of the Kaohsiung Incident, including Vice President Annette Lu, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, and former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairmen Shih Ming-deh and Lin Yi-hsiung, stood trial under martial law.

"I was in Room 48. You were in 43, right? " Lin Shu-chi asked his "cell mates" who arrived with him earlier. Memories may fade away, but something you just don't forget, said Lin, who spent a part of his 12 year prison life in Jingmei before being moved to the Green Island.

The only part of the site which has undergone major change was the administration building, which was kept intact but penetrated by several newly-built concrete walls, symbolizing democracy's victory over an authoritative regime, explained architect Chien Hsueh-yi.

The court room of the Kaohsiung Incident trial has been turned into an exhibition room, displaying documents, photographs, relics and articles related to the incident.

Roger and Doris Chao, a Taiwanese-German couple who called on Taiwan's authority to immediate release political prisoners following the incident, were in awe of the atmosphere of the court room. It was there that the Taiwanese prisoners, whom they didn't even know but nonetheless tried to help, stood trial.

A tour of the cells was the highlight of the visit. Former prisoners, most of whom are over 60 years-old, looked for the cells where they stayed 30 years ago. Annette Lu and Chen Chu shared room 59 in the second floor, where female prisoners were kept.

Pointing at a wash-basin on the floor, Huang Hua explained the prisoners had to wash hands, dishes, and bathe in the tiny space. Usually, there were six to seven inmates kept in a 12 square meter room, he said.

Cell mates were allowed to walk around an open space for 20 minutes twice or three times per week; it was our only chance to see the sky and embrace "free air, " he added.

Tsai Tsai-yuan, who was beaten almost to death in the center, showed visitors how he wrote an SOS message and flipped the spitball out of the cracked gap of the window, hoping someone would notice it and bring help.

"I knew that family members of the prisoners would pass by my window on visiting days, so I took the chance, " Tsai said. And he succeeded. His notes was sent out to international human rights organizations and his life was spared.

"This is the real history, " said Gerrit van der Wees, senior political advisor of Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), after listening to stories told by ex-prisoners. He said that Taiwanese should know what really happened during the "White Terror" days.

After the park is inaugurated by President Chen Shui-bian Monday and opened to the public, they will be able to see for themselves.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Reverend recalls efforts to help political prisoners 30 years ago

Taipei, Dec. 8 (CNA) A Taiwanese reverend recalled his experience in extending assistance to victims of the Kaohsiung Incident 30 years ago on the eve of the official opening of a human rights memorial park, saying that all the hard work was worthwhile as Taiwan now enjoys full democracy.

"I was so happy to see that Annette Lu was elected as the vice president and Chen Chu as the mayor of Kaohsiung, because, for me, it meant I did something right, " Roger Chao, a Germany-based reverend who offered assistance to Taiwanese political prisoners in the 1970s-1980s, said in a CNA interview.

Chao and his wife Doris were invited to attend the Dec. 10 opening of the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial Park, a large compound which used to house military courts and a detention center for political prisoners -- including Lu, Chen, Shih Ming-teh and Presbyterian Church Reverend Kao Jun-ming.

Chao said that he learned of the incident from German newspapers and was shocked that many demonstrators were detained. In a biennial Christian conference in 1980, Chao launched a "send-a-postcard" campaign that called for German youngsters to send postcards to Taiwanese political prisoners as a way to pressure Taiwan authorities into releasing the dissidents.

"To my surprise, thousands of Germans bought postcards and stamps with their own money and penned their support for Taiwan's democracy. Some of them didn't even know where Taiwan was but they wanted to voice their disapproval of the injustice, " Chao recalled.

Doris Chao went to Taiwan's representative office in Germany with a friend and members of the local press and asked for the immediate release of the prisoners.

The couple also submitted a list of political prisoners to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs via local churches and called for the German government to pay more attention to the human rights situation in Taiwan.

Long before the Kaohsiung Incident, Chao had been placed on the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) blacklist in 1972 which prevented him from returning to his motherland. Chao was not able to come back to Taiwan until 1987 when he was invited by then Vice President Lee Teng-hui for a visit.

Chao said the "ill feeling" began when he referred to himself as "a reverend from Taiwan" and a Taiwanese, rather than Chinese, in speeches. Taiwan government officials quickly advised him against doing so and told his mother who lived in Kaohsiung that her son was committing treason.

But Chao was determined to support the Taiwanese movement for democracy and kept collecting and exchanging information on political prisoners by corresponding with friends in Taiwan, Germany, Japan and other countries.

"In those days prior to the Internet, gathering information was extremely difficult. With Taiwan authority's strict information controls and luggage checks at airports, we were forced to use secret codes in letters and telegrams to find out who had been executed and whose Bible had been confiscated, " said Chao, who graduated from the department of theology of the University of Hamburg in 1963.

He and other Taiwanese reverends announced in a "Formosan Christian for Self Determination" statement in 1974 at the Gemarkerkirche church in Barmen, Germany, the same church where a group of German reverends released a statement against the rule of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in 1934.

"I'm proud of what I did. We spoke out against the injustice 30 years ago when no one dared to say anything. And I think the Taiwanese people should cherish what they have today because they wouldn't have it without the blood, sweat and tears spent by those freedom fighters who had been unfairly tried, imprisoned or executed," he said.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

European officials urge Taiwan to tackle climate change

Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) European officials urged the Taiwanese government and businesses to start taking pragmatic measures to tackle the climate change challenge as Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions are drawing international concern.

Taiwanese officials and corporations know very well how serious the emissions are, and understand the linkages between those emissions and climate change, but neither are taking action to meet the challenge, said Frederic Laplanche, deputy head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) in Taipei.

"Neither of the two leading candidates in next year's presidential election has put forward specific proposals to reduce Taiwan's high -- and growing -- emissions, " said Michael Reilly, Director of the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei, in a conference discussing media coverage of the climate change issue.

"According to an opinion piece in a local newspaper last Sunday, Taiwan is now the world's third highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, behind only the United States and Australia, " Reilly noted, adding that there has been surprisingly little discussion of the impact of global warming on Taiwan.

Taiwan, which is not a Kyoto Protocol signatory and cannot be a signatory to the successor to the Kyoto Treaty because it is not a United Nations member, produces one percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

Taiwanese officials, including Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) Minister Steve Chen, did not refuse to tackle the issue during discussions with European officials, but some government officials did speak against setting specific targets for cutting emissions, said Edward Dallas, head of BTCO's political and economic section.

The people of Taiwan, especially businessmen and government officials, have to understand that their actions to reduce emissions will have a short-term negative impact on business, but in the long run it is something they must do, Laplanche said.

A possible carbon tax and an import ban on countries which are seen to be "unfriendly to emission mitigation" will impact Taiwanese companies which want to trade in the European market in the future, he said.

According to an European Union (EU) public opinion poll, approximately 87 percent of EU citizens are concerned with climate change, Laplanche said, and that public support is the driving force behind the EU's determination to tackle the climate change issue head-on.

The EU has made a commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 compared to its 1990 levels and a deeper absolute reduction after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Birders optimistic, confident about Taiwan's ecotourism development

Taipei, Dec. 5 (CNA) Taiwan has nearly all it takes to develop top quality ecotourism, which is expected to be a niche industry in the future, although there are still some areas requiring work, a senior birder and ecotourism guide said Wednesday.

"Bio-diversity richness; a well-developed transportation system; safety: these three elements explain why Taiwan has been a popular destination for eco-tourists from abroad, " said Simon Liao, Vice Chairman of Taiwan International Birding Association (TIBA) who also works as a guide for eco-tourists.

Liao, freshly back from a mission to Saint Lucia, Taiwan's diplomatic ally in the Caribbean, to help it develop ecotourism and birding infrastructure, took time to reflect on Taiwan's own ecotourism on the sidelines of a press conference.

Not too many people are aware of that Taiwan has been doing well in ecotourism, attracting mostly foreign birders, Liao said.

The average expenses for a foreign birder for a 10-11 day stay in Taiwan are an astonishing NT$ 230,000 (approximately US$7,094), Liao said, adding that he once received a group of British birders who were charged 5,220 pounds (approximately NT$348,000) each for the trip.

"If you knew the business well enough, this would not be a surprise because there are 'three highs' among common ecotourists: an advanced age, a high level of education, and a high consumption capacity, " Liao said.

Hardly anyone he has received in the past has complained about his experience in Taiwan, Liao said, adding that most ecotourists came from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands.

"Of course, the most impressive thing they found in Taiwan was the extreme friendliness of our people, which has long be known, " he noted.

However, the bilingual services in cheaper hotels did need to be upgraded and more professional guides were needed to develop a stronger ecotourism industry, he said.

Taiwan pursues diplomatic goals in eco-friendly way

Taipei, Dec. 5 (CNA) The days of strictly political diplomacy and confrontational competition with China in the international arena are long gone, but Taiwan is capable of pursuing its diplomatic initiatives in other ways, such as ecology consultation, a lawmaker versed in the field said Wednesday.

"No one will say no to ecological and environmental protection these days, " said Legislator Tien Chiu-chin, who led an 11-member mission to Saint Lucia, Taiwan's diplomatic ally in the Caribbean, Nov. 25 - Dec. 2 to help develop its Eco Tourism and birding infrastructure.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs-backed mission, comprised of senior birders and ecological photographers, was aimed at helping the Caribbean country establish its Eco Tourism routes and birding Web sites, as well as documenting bird species for the future publication of a birding guide, an essential tool for birders, Tien said.

During the mission's stay, 46 bird species were documented, including St. Lucia's national bird, the Saint Lucia parrot, and 25 were photographed. Two photographers attached to the mission have extended their stays for another month.

"This is a brand new attempt for us to embrace the global trend of environment diplomacy and preservation of bio-diversity and develop our international diplomacy at the same time. There's no better place for such a mission than St. Lucia, which re-established official diplomatic ties with Taiwan Apr. 30, " said MOFA Minister James Huang.

It is the first time the MOFA has worked with a non-government organization (NGO) on an "eco-diplomacy program, " Huang noted. He also thanked Taiwan Sustainable Ecology Society (TSES) and Taiwan International Birding Association (TIBA) for their collaboration.

What Taiwan wanted to do for its allies is drastically different from China's intentions, which will most likely entail throwing a large amount of cash for "monumental projects" at its less-developed allies, Huang said.

"China helped build a large sports stadium in southern St. Lucia although most St. Lucians live in the north, and built a large psychiatric hospital for St. Lucia which has no need of such a facility, " he said.

"We [Taiwan] don't want to do that. Among other things, we are trying to build community centers and help the country to improve its water quality, agriculture and digital education. The idea is to make people's lives better, " Huang stressed.

The St. Lucia mission was a good start, and Taiwan will continue developing its international relations through the application of its expertise in forms of "soft power, " such as Eco-tourism, information technology and cultural innovations, Huang said.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Exhibition commemorates British naturalist's contribution to Taiwan

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) An exhibition documenting a 19th Century British naturalist's work in Taiwan was launched Tuesday to pay tribute to his contribution to the ornithology of Taiwan.

The exhibition, which will be held at the National Taiwan Museum (NTM) from Dec. 4 to July 20, commemorates the life and work of Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877) , who documented more than 1,000 species during his 10-year stay in Taiwan from 1856-1866 as Britain's first consular representative to Formosa.

"It's amazing that black-faced spoonbills, which were observed for the first time by Swinhoe in 1863, are still here in Taiwan today, " said Council of Cultural Affairs Vice Chairman Wu Chin-fa in the opening ceremony.

Swinhoe wrote himself into history with his observations and documentation of Taiwan's biological diversity, said museum researcher and exhibition curator Lin Jun-tsun.

Swinhoe was the first naturalist to systematically observe and document birds, mammals, fish and insects in Taiwan and southern China. Swinhoe's blue pheasant, an endangered species endemic to Taiwan, is named after him, Lin noted.

Specimens prepared by Swinhoe have proved to be valuable assets for modern naturalists in Taiwan, he said.

"What Swinhoe did 150 years ago reminds us about what we should do to preserve the environment and co-exist with the nature, " said NTM Director Hsiao Tsun-huang.

Assisted by the British Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei and the British Council, the exhibition is being organized by the NTM and the National Museum of Natural Science.

Officials, developers learn from U.K. urban regeneration experience

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) Local officials and land developers were keen to learn from the experience in the United Kingdom during a conference Tuesday as several major urban regeneration projects are being implemented in various regions throughout Taiwan.

"We don't have enough experience in major urban redevelopment here in Taiwan. That is why we're having this conference to learn from the U.K., which has enjoyed success in this field and developed its expertise, " said Charles Lin, Director-General of Construction and Planning Agency (CPA).

Lin said that the conference, co-organized by the CPA and the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei, would bring valuable knowledge and experience to the participants who are expected to be engaged in many projects in the future.

"Urban regeneration is not easy and it can be expensive. But it's an important task for any modern country, " BTCO Director Michael Reilly said, adding that he was glad that up to 10 regions had been selected to undertake such urban transformation.

With many successful cases in the United States and the U.K., such as the Canary Wharf business district in London and Cardiff in Wales, Taiwan will launch its own multibillion dollar urban regeneration projects at the end of year, including renovation of railway stations in Hsinchu, Keelung, Chiayi and Kaohsiung Port and Taipei's Huakuang Community adjoining the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, Lin said.

During the industrial revolution and after the years of World War II, a lot of large scale and cheap housing projects were built without consideration of the cultural and social context, which is why urban renewal was introduced, said Rupert Robinson, Board Director of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA).

Urban regeneration could lead to destruction of buildings, relocation of people, and sometimes expropriation to make available private property. It also involved many parties, including the government, developers and residents, and covered a broad range of social, economical and cultural contexts, Robinson said.

Dialogue with communities and reaching a consensus were extremely important to the process, said Shawn Riley, who also serves as BURA's Board Director.

"Developers and the government had to tell the residents exactly which part of town needed to be regenerated first and what the town would be like in phase one, two and three so they had a clear picture of what the future would be, " Riley said.

The government was also expected to use infrastructure as an enabler and attract investment from private sectors under a well-structured financing plan so all parties could benefit from regeneration plans, Robinson added.

In Taiwan, the government should be very careful with the role it plays during the process because resources are limited, Lin pointed out.

"We have to make it right, not spread it out, " he said.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Japan wins Asian Baseball Championship, clinches Olympic seed

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) Japan beat Taiwan 10-2 Monday in the final game of the 24th Asian Baseball Championship at Taichung's Intercontinental Stadium to win the tournament and clinch an automatic seed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Undefeated Japan proved itself Asia's dominant baseball power once again by beating Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines in the round robin tournament, which crowned the Asian champion and determined Asia's lone automatic seed in the eight-team baseball category in Beijing.

According to the tournament's tiebreaking rule, Taiwan not only had to beat Japan but also needed to give up no more than one run to emerge as the tournament winner in a three-way tie. Japan edged South Korea 4-3 and South Korea beat Taiwan 5-2 previously. The tiebreaking rule would kick in if three teams tied at 1-1 in head-to-head match ups.

However, the home team's hope of clinching an Olympic seed was put on hold in the top of the seventh inning, when Japan exploded for six runs to break the game open, 7-2. Arai Takahiro had a two-run homer off Taiwanese closer Tsao Chin-hui as Japan added three more runs in the ninth inning.

Taiwan can still win a berth in Beijing as it and South Korea, Asia's runner-up and the third-place team, will participate in the eight-team Olympic Qualifying tournament next March in Taichung, Taiwan to fight for the last three spots in the 2008 Olympics.

Japanese starter Darvish Yu, a 21-year-old Iranian-Japanese who was named Pacific League MVP in Nippon Professional Baseball last season, dominated Taiwanese hitters in seven strong innings, giving up only three hits and two runs.

Taiwan's starting pitcher Yang Chien-fu gave up seven hits, half of Japan's 14 in the game, in six innings.

Japan quickly jumped on Taiwan with three hits in the first inning as Takahiro's base hit sent third base runner Nishiota Tsuyoshi home for an 1-0 lead. Chen Chin-feng's two-run home run helped Taiwan briefly take the lead 2-1 in the sixth inning.

South Korea defeated the Philippines 13-1 in seven innings earlier in the day. South Korea blasted 16 hits in the game in which the Philippines scored its first and only run in the three-day tournament.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

South Korea beats Taiwan in Asian Baseball Championship

Taipei, Dec. 1 (CNA) South Korea scored all but one of its runs on homeruns and beat home team Taiwan 5-2 at Taichung's Intercontinental Stadium on the opening day of the 24th Asian Baseball Championship Saturday.

Taiwan will meet the Philippines Sunday before playing Japan Monday in a round robin series of matches.

Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines are in Level A of the biennial tournament, which will determine Asia's sole automatic qualifier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, while the second and third-placed teams will advance to the final Olympic qualifier, to be played next spring.

Lee Jong Wook's three-run homer off Taiwanese starting pitcher Lin En-yu in the fifth innings changed the momentum of the game as South Korea took the lead 3-1. Park Jin Man added a solo homerun in the seventh to make the score 4-2.

The home team outhit the Koreans 8-5 in the game but the advantage was neutralized by three defensive errors. Lin En-yu had 10 strikeouts and gave up four hits in five innings.

Chang Chien-ming and Chang Tai-shan had consecutive hits as Taiwan cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth. But South Korea added an insurance run in the eighth on Taiwan's two errors and made the final score 5-2.

Japan won the last two titles of the tournament in 2003 and 2005, while Taiwan has finished runner-up both times.

Four Taiwanese to attend Asian Young Leader Climate Forum

Taipei, Dec. 1 (CNA) A delegation of four young scholars will represent Taiwan in a global young leader forum to share experience and views on climate change.

Wang Ju-han, Chiu Hao-hsi, Lin Ssu-ying and Hsiao Wen-hsuan will participate in the Asian Young Leader Climate Forum (AYLCF) that will take place in Bogor, Indonesia from Dec. 3-10, according to an announcement by the British Council, initiator of the forum.

AYLCF offers 34 young leaders from 13 Asia-Pacific nations and the United Kingdom the opportunity to produce a regional climate action plan that will be presented to the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Bali, Indonesia from Dec. 8-11.

"Hopefully, we can learn from participation in the forum and broaden our perspective on climate change as well as our understanding of what other countries are working on, " said Wang, a researcher at the Energy and Environment Research Laboratories of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI)

"Climate change is a global phenomenon. With a little contribution from everyone, we can make a huge impact, " said Lin, who is working on an environmental management master's degree in Germany.

AYLCF is organized by the World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia and the Center for International Forestry Research.