Thursday, August 30, 2007

Environmental issues focus of Taiwan representatives at APEC summit

Taipei, Aug. 29 (CNA) In recognition of the threat posed by global warming and the importance of energy security, Taiwanese business leaders will focus on environmental issues at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) business summit, the delegation said Wednesday in a press conference.

Even from a purely business point of view, the impact of global warming and energy security can no longer be overlooked and ignored, said Jeffrey Koo, Chairman of Chinatrust Financial Holding Company, who will be leading the Chinese Taipei business delegation to Sydney, Australia for the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Sept. 6-7.

Koo, Theodore Huang, chairman of Chinese Association of Industry and Commerce, and Henry Kao, Vice Chairman of I-Mei Foods Company will be three top representatives of the Taiwanese delegation, which also includes a number of business leaders invited by the Australian government.

Taipei Financial Center Corp Chairwoman Diana Chen, a delegation member, spoke of the importance of energy in the urban setting: "Taipei 101 is like a vertical city. I believe there are many things we can learn from broad discussions and exchanges at the APEC summit in terms of energy management and energy consumption saving."

Taiwan businesses will help promote "Green APEC Opportunity, " the nation's initiative this year for the APEC meeting. As Taiwan has not been doing particularly well in controlling greenhouse gas emissions, it can contribute to the promotion and development of environmental and energy-saving products, said Huang Chih-peng, Director-General of Bureau of Foreign Trade.

Taiwanese business leaders will also support proposals submitted by Australia, the Asia-Pacific Network on Climate Change/Clean Development and the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate, Huang said, adding that Taiwan will be able to contribute with its advanced solar energy technology.

In terms of the other important aspect of the meeting -- Trade and Investment Liberalization and Facilitation (TILF) -- Taiwan's position is no different than other member economies, which share the long term goal of finding ways and means to establish the Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) , said David Hong, Director General of the Chinese Taipei APEC Study Center (CTASC).

The ABAC is one of a series of APEC meetings to be held in Sydney from Sept. 2-9. The meetings include Concluding Senior Officials' Meeting (CSOM), APEC Ministerial Meeting (AMM), ABAC and the APEC economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) -- the highlight of the annual meeting of 21 member economies.

Voluntary American English teachers to teach in English Village

Taipei, Aug. 29 (CNA) More than 30 Americans will soon begin voluntarily working as English teachers in an English Village in Taoyuan County, which will open in September, a charity foundation in charge of the program announced Wednesday.

A total of 34 voluntary teachers, ranging from four to 60 years-old, will teach at the English Village during the next 12 months. The situational language teaching method will be applied in the village, which has different classrooms, said Morgan Sun, the chief executive officer of the King Car Education Foundation.

The teachers volunteered to come to Taiwan through a Christian organization in the U.S. which has been in close relationship with the foundation.

"It feels good to be able to serve another country by teaching English. I would also like my family to learn about Chinese and Taiwanese cultures to better understand what this world looks like, " said Roy Lyons, who brought his wife and daughters to Taiwan. Lyons also taught English in China during 2002-2005.

"It [teaching] is a lot of hard work, but it feels good to make friends with Taiwanese college students and children, " said Nathan Straub, who arrived in Taiwan seven weeks ago and has been teaching in English summer camps in Hsinchu and Hualien.

For Wesley Dudley, Taiwan is both a familiar and special country. Dudley is making his second trip to Taiwan as he has taught English in mountainous area in Nantou County a couple of years ago. Taiwan is also where he met his wife, Julie, while each was teaching English.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Courage, passion, Internet take Frenchman to Taiwan

Taipei, Aug. 28 (CNA) Courage, passion for Chinese culture and a simple search on the Internet took Jean-Baptiste Buffeteau from France to Taiwan to learn Chinese not once but twice and he plans to come back for a third time.

Buffeteau, 30, caught a lot of attention in a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) Tuesday to mark the conclusion of an MOE-sponsored summer Chinese learning program. Almost all the other members of the program are university students.

Spending a year in Taiwan was not enough for Buffeteau, a politics major.

He worked in a bank after returning to France and kept thinking about coming back to Taiwan. One day he discovered through the Internet that the Taiwan government offers scholarships to foreigners wanting to study in Taiwan.

Buffeteau quit his bank job enrolled in Fu Jen Catholic University on a one-year program.

He also expressed preference for Taiwan's Chinese learning program and claimed it is better than using the simplified Chinese characters used in China.

Buffeteau, who is scheduled to return to France in early September, plans to come back to Taiwan for a third time to teach French.

Foreign students praise MOE-sponsored Mandarin learning program

Taipei, Aug. 28 (CNA) Foreign students from more than nine countries praised the Ministry of Education's (MOE's) Mandarin learning program and shared what they have learned in Taiwan -- in Mandarin -- in a ceremony Tuesday before returning home.

"These have been the most special years of my life, " said Sascha Heusermann, a German who spoke on behalf of the foreign students in a ceremony marking the conclusion of the summer program. Heusermann spoke in fluent Mandarin after spending two years in Taiwan.

To promote Taiwan's Mandarin education expertise, the MOE started offering scholarships to interested foreign students in 2005. According to MOE statistics, 423 university students from 10 countries arrived in Taiwan this year to participate in the program at various local universities.

Among these, 299 students from nine countries were in Taiwan for the summer programs ranging from 21 to 55 days. The students came from countries such as the U.S., U.K., Germany, Canada, Japan, Slovenia, Russia, Poland, Costa Rica, Austria and Kiribati -- Taiwan's diplomatic ally in the Pacific.

Without the scholarships, it would be impossible for them to come to Taiwan and join the program, and the learning environment in Taiwan has been more than they had hoped for, a number of students said during the ceremony.

"Promoting Mandarin learning is a MOE policy, and to that end, there are 48 Taiwanese Mandarin teachers in Thailand, " said Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng.

Tu said he was aware that China has been the most common destination for foreigners wanted to learn Chinese, but "from what I heard from foreign friends, Taiwan is one of the best, if not the best, destinations as it offers professional teachers and teaching programs and an environment friendly to foreigners."

Heusermann, 22, learned more than Mandarin in Taiwan. He also observed why most Taiwanese have difficulties learning a foreign language.

"I think most Taiwanese are afraid of making mistakes. In fact, that was the last thing you have to worry about when learning a new language, " said Heusermann, who planned to stay in Taiwan and major in Business Management in National Taipei University of Technology.

"As happy as I am seeing the progress our foreign friends had during the short period of time, I think it's also time for us to take a look at the efficiency of Taiwan's foreign language education," Tu said.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Taiwan urged to destroy all recovered landmines

Taipei, Aug. 27 (CNA) Taiwan was urged Monday by anti-landmine activists to completely destroy all of its recovered mines.

Visiting Denise Coghlan, who represents the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) , said Taiwan has shown its determination to fully comply with the Ottawa Treaty, as its legislature already passed the Statute for Anti-personnel Landmine Control last year and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) signed a declaration Monday reassuring the support of the treaty.

However, she went on, the most important thing for Taiwan is to destroy all its stockpiles, which she claimed is something Taiwan has been reluctant to do. She added that Taiwan's government has also not yet declared that it will ban the use of landmines in war.

She encouraged Taiwan to destroy its mine stockpiles since it has committed to the Ottawa Treaty, even though Taiwan was not allowed to officially sign the treaty because it is not a U.N. member.

The Statute for Anti-personnel Landmine Control, which requires the removal of anti-personnel mines from Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Dong Yin within seven years, was enacted in the legislature last year, and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has earmarked NT$4.2 billion to remove minefields.

Approximately 100,000 landmines are still in the ground on Taiwan's outlying islands, said Robert Lin, vice chief executive officer of the Eden Social Welfare Foundation, which has been an ICBL member working on Taiwan's anti-landmine campaign for 10 years.

Coghlan, who is based in Cambodia working on the anti-landmine campaign, has played an important role in pushing for the establishment of the Ottawa Treaty, which was initiated in 1997 and has been signed by 154 countries with the objectives of banning the use of and clearing all landmines, as well as helping landmine victims.

Coghlan said the Taiwan government "is one of the leading governments in compensating landmine victims."

The ICBL delegation is scheduled to visit the MND Tuesday before making an inspection trip to the island of Kinmen.

Patients with rare disorders enjoy sports competition

Taipei, Aug. 25 (CNA) With the help of physical therapists and family members, about 100 patients with rare disorders enjoyed some fun taking part in a sports meet in Taipei Saturday afternoon.

The sports meet, which was organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders (TFRD) as the first ever sporting event in Taiwan for patients with rare disorders, gathered 89 patients of all ages suffering from various disorders.

The participants were divided into four groups and competed in various events, including batting, basketball shooting and soccer ball kicking competitions as well as foot races, during the three-hour meet.

Organizers of the event said that most of the participants have one of three disorders, namely Prader-Willi Syndrome, a complex genetic disorder that typically causes cognitive disabilities and obesity; Anchondroplasia, a genetic disorder that is a common cause of dwarfism; or Tuberous Sclerosis, which causes benign tumors to grow in the brain and on other organs.

One of the participants, named Wu Chih-kang, 26, has been suffering from Wilson's Disease since his junior year at National Cheng Kung University. Wu, a basketball fanatic who said he could dunk a basketball when he was younger, has been recovering well after more than six years of rehabilitation.

Wilson's Disease is one of more than 130 rare disorders which have been found in Taiwan, according to a TFRD news release.

"Most people think that it's better for patients with rare disorders to stay indoors and rest as much as possible. In fact, appropriate exercise is good for them, " said Chien Wen-jen, president of the National Federation of Association of Physical Therapists (NFAPT).

"Without a doubt, patients with rare disorders need professional medical care at all times. However, the physiological and mental development aspect has often been neglected. This event aims to remind the patients and their families of just that, " said TFRD chief executive officer Yang Yung-hsiang.

NFAPT and sporting goods giant adidas Taiwan co-sponsored the event. Singer Tank and local professional basketball players Lee Hsueh-lin, Chang Chi-fung, Chien Chia-hung and Chen Tzu-wei also took part in the charity event.

World Wheelchair, Amputee Games to be held in Taipei

Taipei, Aug. 24 (CNA) More than 800 athletes and support staff from 43 countries will participate in the 2007 World Wheelchair and Amputee Games, which will be held in Taipei for the first time Sept. 9-19, the organizers announced Friday at a press conference.

Taiwan will field 62 men and 22 women, the largest delegation among the participating countries, in eight events in the hope of riding on its success in previous games, said Chen Lee-cho, president of the Chinese Taipei Sports Federation for the Disabled (CTSFD).

Taiwan won 11 gold medals, 16 silvers and six bronzes in the inaugural biennial competition held in Brazil in 2005.

The eight events in the competition are archery, athletics, wheelchair fencing, powerlifting, shooting, swimming, badminton and table tennis.

Apart from powerlifting, the events will be qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Chen said.

The organizers of the event include the CTSFD and the Chinese Taipei Paralympics Committee.

Taiwan should upgrade APEC participation: academic

Taipei, Aug. 24 (CNA) Taiwan should upgrade its participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to a "national strategic level" and seek an alternative way in the Asia-Pacific regional architecture in addition to more aggressive APEC participation, an academic said Friday in a seminar.

As East Asian countries all recognize that stability and economic development are priorities in the region, cases of conflict of interest between countries have been also increasing, making East Asia a fast-changing region, said Yang Yung-ming, a professor at National Taiwan University.

Since APEC is the only regional forum in which Taiwan is admitted as a full member, the government should take advantage of the opportunity and put in more effort, Yang said.

"To avoid being marginalized in the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan should put in more resources to APEC participation and try to work out alternative ways of increasing regional participation, such as participating in other regional arrangements, " echoed Johnny Chiang, a professor at Soochow University.

APEC, as the main forum in the Asia-Pacific region, is facing internal and external challenges in the new regional architecture, in which the U.S. is no longer the only architect. This is why Taiwan should come up with new thinking, according to Chiang.

It will take networking and professionalism to expand the connection and impact in the region so Taiwan can take the next step in international participation, Yang said.

The APEC Leaders Week meeting will be held in Sydney Sept. 2-9, with the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting the highlight of the event.

The seminar on APEC issues was organized by the Chinese Taipei APEC Study Center to promote public awareness and come up with new ideas and recommendations.

Conference on multilateral environmental, trading systems held

Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) Taiwan, like other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, should understand how to take advantage of appropriate regulations under the WTO framework in the event of trade disputes relating to environmental issues, a Japanese academic said in an international conference held in Taipei Wednesday.

There will always be trade disputes relating to food safety and environmental issues and there is limit to what the dispute settlement procedure can do, Mitsuo Matsushita, a law professor at Japan's Seikei University and a former member of the WTO's Appellate Body, said in the conference titled "Global Governance of Multilateral Environmental and Trading Systems."

There have been over 200 multilateral environmental agreements signed all over the world, including the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at protecting the environment. Some of them use a quota system, such as the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, while others are supposed to resolve the problems within a trading system, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Basel Convention, Matsushita said.

However, disputes continue to happen, he went on, citing the latest dispute between Brazil and the European Commission over retreaded tires.

Potential conflicts between Kyoto Protocol, Cartagena Protocol (which regulates biosafety) and WTO rules are possible, which is why countries are encouraged to work out different ways to resolve the problems, Matsushita said.

"Global governance is needed to solve disputes such as terrorism and trade issues because we can't do it unilaterally, " Economic Vice Minister Hsieh Fadah said, adding that regional, transnational and international networks are needed to deal with environmental issues.

Any trade restriction implementation has to consider the factors of economical gains, social welfare and environmental impact, Hsieh noted.

The two-day conference was organized by the Chunghua Institution for Economic Research and invited scholars from Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and the WTO to participate.

Direct China-Songshan flights key for Taipei: mayor

Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) Upgrading Songshan Airport to an international airport and offering direct flights to places like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore will be key for Taipei City to attract foreign investment, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said Wednesday.

Hau reiterated at an American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) lunch that he supports offering direct flights from Songshan Airport to China and other Asian countries, which he claimed will be an important factor to encourage international corporations to set up their headquarters in Taipei while maintaining plants in China.

"However, it will not be possible if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) keeps the presidency in the 2008 presidential election, " he told around 100 AmCham members in a question and answer session following a 40-minute speech.

Hau talked about his vision and plans for the largest city in Taiwan in his speech titled "Investment Opportunities for Urban Waterfront Development in Taipei City."

To revitalize urban waterfront, Hau said his three goals are to achieve great water quality, waterfront atmosphere and recreation. He also said the Tamsui River will be deodorized by 2011.

The city plans to maximize its information technology leverage in attracting foreign investment with the Taipei Technology Corridor, which will link the Neihu Technology Park, the Nangang Software Park, and the Beitou-Shilin Technology park that is still in the planning stage.

Pro-independence groups urge DPP candidate to elucidate stance

Taipei, Aug. 21 (CNA) Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh should "do the right thing in making himself clear on the position and prospects of the country," a coalition of pro-Taiwan independence groups said Tuesday at a press conference.

The coalition also submitted its own action plan for Taiwan's normalization as a country Tuesday before the DPP Central Executive Committee begins to screen a "normal country" resolution this week. It calls for Hsieh to make his position clear to voters on the resolution.

"A great statesman should follow the example of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who insisted on `doing the right thing, '" said Taiwan Society North Vice President Michelle Wang, who spoke on behalf of the coalition.

What the coalition feels is the "right thing" for Hsieh to do, Wang explained, is to make Taiwan a normal country, a topic Hsieh has been reluctant to elaborate on.

The content of the action plan is little different to the DPP's "normal country" resolution, which includes the basic objectives of changing the country's name, writing a new constitution, establishing a normal country and joining the United Nations, she said, although she claimed it is the "voice of the people."

The DPP election ticket "symbolizes the successful integration of the DPP's internal factions, but we have not seen anything from the DPP that can touch the voters, " claimed Hsu Yung-ming, a research fellow at Academia Sinica and a Taiwan Society North member.

"Supporters are still confused at Hsieh's positioning of the country because he has never made it clear to the public. It's also hard to fathom why the normal country resolution is still an issue without consensus within the DPP, " according to Allen Houng, chairman of the Constitution Reform Alliance.

A responsible political party is supposed to submit its party platform and the blueprint for the country before a major election, said Tsai Ting-kuei, chairman of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP). Tsai noted that the coalition does not endorse any candidate in the 2008 presidential election.

"We would like to see `vision, mission and action' from presidential candidates. An election is like an agreement between the candidates and the voters. Any change of position after the election would be a breach of contract, " said William Lo, a pastor of Taiwan's Presbyterian Church.

Once the resolution makes it through the DPP Central Executive Committee, it is scheduled to be presented to the party congress this autumn for final approval.

Taiwan's English proficiency lags behind Asian countries

Taipei, Aug. 21 (CNA) Statistics drawn from Britain's IELTS (International English Language Testing System) average scores show that the English proficiency of Taiwanese students lags behind that of most Asian countries, and Taiwanese are encouraged to do more to learn English, the British Council said Tuesday.

The average score of Taiwanese students in the 2006 academic module of IELTS, which has a top score of nine, was 5.62 points, ranking 17th overall and lagging behind Asian countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand, said Iain Mackie, Director of British Council's English Language Services.

Germany ranked first among 20 countries listed, scoring 7.23. Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia and Hong Kong rounded out the top five. Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Pakistan and Thailand ranked 11th to 16th.

"It's a little bit sad to say this but, in my opinion, the overall English proficiency of Taiwan's working class has been going down in recent years. The regression was probably a result of the booming numbers of universities, which means it's much easier to obtain a college degree, " said Monica Chiu, Marketing Director of 104 Job Bank.

The average score of 5.62 actually was not bad. It's enough for Taiwanese students to attend most universities in the U.K., said Mackie.

But Mackie noted that most English teaching programs in Taiwan do not encourage independent thinking, and most teaching materials are irrelevant to the real world. He also said that most programs stress test taking instead of actually using English to communicate.

"According to our statistics, about 45 to 50 out of 100 job offers required basic English proficiency and communication skills, which means anyone who is competent in English will have twice as many job offers, " Chiu said.

"English proficiency is also important for those who want to climb the corporate ladder and win a promotion. Competency has become a basic requirement rather than an advantage, " she noted.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Largest ever pole-climbing folk event in Hengchun

Taipei, Aug. 20 (CNA) The 2007 Cianggu, a pole-climbing event that has been annually held during Ghost Month in the southern Taiwan township of Hengchun for over a century, will be the largest ever and enjoy the addition of some "international flavor," an official said Monday in a press conference.

The pole-climbing competition, in which competitors of each team have to climb barehanded up an 11-meter column, heavily greased with beef tallow, and snatch the "lucky flag" at the top, will be expanded from four columns to 36 columns, meaning that there will be 36 teams participating, including two teams of foreigners, said Pingtung County Magistrate Tsao Chi-hung.

The event will be held on the night of Aug. 27, the last day of a three-day festival which also includes various cultural events, such as a street dance competition, a parade, and rock concert.

Cianggu is one of the most popular folk Ghost Month events in Taiwan -- the seventh lunar month -- though in its human origins and background have always been well represented, said Tsao, who explained that the festival was held to distribute the offerings worshipers made to ghosts to society's homeless, poor and starving people.

In Taiwan, the annual religious event has put two small towns on the cultural map: Yilan County's Toucheng Township in the north and Hengchun, Pingtung County in the south.

"In the past, there were some foreigners in the competition, mixing in teams with the locals, in the past, but they never competed as a separate team, " Hengchun Mayor Yeh Ming-shun said, adding that a Thai team and a mixed team of Americans, Indonesians and Japanese had registered to compete this year.

The fastest team to climb to the top of the column and snatch the lucky flag from the top platform typically places the flag at the front end of their boat, symbolizing that they will enjoy the kindly protection of ghosts thorough the year, Tsao said.

With Hengchun's rich history, historical sites and cultural heritage, more events have been planned for the future, Tsao said. Pingtung County government is planning to hold an international folk song festival next year in Hengchun, where well-known late folk singer Chen Da lived.

Tsao believes the combination of the folk song festival, Cianggu and the Spring Scream, a rock festival held annually in April, will boost Hengchun's tourism and local business as well as its cultural awareness.

Second-generation overseas Taiwanese get to know Taiwan

Taipei, Aug. 17 (CNA) Almost 300 second- or third-generation overseas Taiwanese concluded Friday an eight-week internship program aimed at helping them understand more about Taiwan.

The "Taiwan Tech Trek 2007, " an annual event entering its third year, was organized by the National Science Council (NSC) and received 271 overseas Taiwanese aged between 18 and 30 from 23 countries, offering them internships at government agencies, non-profit organizations, private companies and special group projects.

After a one-week group orientation during which the members visited several organizations in southern Taiwan, the members spread out to different parts of Taiwan for the internship program.

The summer program is part of the government's efforts to recruit new generations of overseas Taiwanese to raise Taiwan's competitiveness.

Compared to their elders, the younger generation possess better language abilities, professional expertise and international savvy that are advantageous to Taiwan, an NSC staff member said, adding that building a strategic liaison with this generation can attract long-term returnees for the future and ultimately increase international support for Taiwan.

The academic conference was categorized into five groups -- natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, life sciences and the humanities -- with topics such as Taiwan's environmental pollution, public diplomacy strategies and software management.

Little to worry about in Taiwan's economy: AIT Taipei Office head

Taipei, Aug. 16 (CNA) Taiwanese have little to worry about their national economy and Taiwan-U.S. bilateral trade is on track for another record year, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office Director Stephen Young said Thursday.

Young took note of the food safety issue, and encouraged Taiwan to "review accepted international standards and adopt a science-based approach that ensures consumer safety while avoiding unnecessary trade disruptions, " in his remarks at a Leader Forum organized by the Taipei-based Chinese National Federation of Industries (CNFI).

Young's elaboration on the issue came on the heels of the Department of Health's (DOH's) announcement Tuesday that it would relax a ban on ractopamine in livestock to permit low residue levels of the veterinary drug in pigs and cattle. The issue has received much public attention since the DOH rejected last month two shipments of U.S.-exported pork which were found to contain ractopamine residue.

In the first half of the year, a 19 percent increase in U.S. exports to Taiwan outpaced overall bilateral trade growth at 7 percent, Young said, noting that the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship has never been stronger.

"Many of my Taiwanese friends seem preoccupied by doubts over Taiwan's economic competitiveness and future. Given your many strengths, I think you have little reason for worry, " he told CNFI members.

The AIT also noted that economic issues were emerging as a major topic of the coming presidential election and welcomed that debate, he said.

Young said that the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is the primary vehicle for deepening bilateral trade relationship and the process has seen renewed vigor, most recently with July's successful round of talks in Washington.

The top U.S. representative in Taiwan also once again urged Taiwan to expand economic ties across the Taiwan Strait to enhance its global competitiveness.

Taiwan's new U.N. bid ad calls for end to political apartheid

Taipei, Aug. 16 (CNA) Taiwan's exclusion from the United Nations over the past 36 years has been likened to a form of political apartheid and should be brought to an end, Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Shieh Jhy-wey said Thursday in a press conference to announce Taiwan's U.N. bid advertisement for this year.

Shieh unveiled a poster featuring the image of a hunch-backed figure in a fish bowl, symbolic of Taiwan's limited international space, as well as the slogans "A vital life should not be limited, a democratic nation not isolated" and "End political apartheid."

"To some extent, the U.N.'s exclusion of Taiwan is similar to South Africa's ethnic separation from 1948 - 1994. It has been a form of political apartheid, " said Shieh.

The 36 years of exclusion from the U.N. have been unfair to Taiwan, which had also suffered under 50 years of Japanese colonial rule and 38 years of martial law under the Kuomintang (KMT), Shieh said.

The GIO will start placing the advertisement in major U.S. newspapers and magazines, such as the New York Times and Time Magazine, as well as newsstands and bus stops in New York City from late August to promote Taiwan's brand new U.N. bid this year, which for the first time will see the country apply for a full U.N. membership under the name Taiwan.

Promotional films in various languages will also be aired in a number of countries before the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly being held in New York City in September, Shieh said.

The promotion project is being conducted with a budget of a little more than NT$10 million, he said.

"U.N.'s exclusion of Taiwan is not in line with the global trend towards democracy. U.N. Resolution 2758 was passed in 1971 against the background of a Chinese civil war between two dictators -- Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek -- but it has continued to limit the international space of a democratic Taiwan for almost three decades since, " Shieh said.

"We know this [Taiwan's U.N. bid] is going to be difficult, but we have to do it, " he said, also jokingly adding that the GIO renounced the copyrights of the advertisements and everyone is welcome to reproduce and distribute them.

Eliminating ambiguity benefits all: ex-U.S. official

Taipei, Aug. 15 (CNA) Eliminating ambiguity in the United States' policy on cross-Taiwan Strait relations would benefit trilateral relations between Taiwan, the U.S. and China, and restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan would be the best way of achieving the objective, said an ex-U.S. official Thursday.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who is in the middle of his first trip to Taiwan in seven years, reiterated in a press meeting that U.S. recognition of Taiwan would bring stability and certainty, and keep China from misreading the situation.

U.S. President George Bush made a clear commitment that the U.S. would defend Taiwan early in his first term before returning to an ambiguous stance on the status of that commitment, which is "more dangerous" for U.S. national interests, Bolton said.

Bolton admitted, however, that the U.S. State Department will not support the idea of restoring diplomatic relations with Taiwan as "the attitude of the Formosa Problem has never left the State Department" since 1949, when the State Department misjudged the situation in Taiwan, predicting that Taiwan's fall to the Communists was inevitable and urging the Americans to leave the island.

He said that he didn't understand how China has successfully portrayed Taiwan as a troublemaker and Taiwan's U.N. referendum as provocative, given that Taiwan poses neither a military nor economic threat to China.

"But some people in the State Department are buying China's argument, " he said, adding that the best time to change the situation will come at the beginning of a new administration and pointing to the opportunity posed by next year's U.S. presidential election.

"I wish to hear someone [in the State Department] say that allowing people to vote in the referendum is provocative, " Bolton said.

The U.S. had been pressing Taiwan's government for over a decade to be democratic, and the State Department is telling Taiwan "not to be so democratic" at this moment, he said.

Bolton also commented on other issues, including Taiwan's U.N. bid. He suggested that Taiwan should focus on repealing U.N. Resolution 2758 as the objective is to "go back to 1971", when former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. George H.W. Bush proposed "dual representation."

Addressing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's mishandling of Taiwan's U.N. membership application, Bolton said that Ban has made a huge mistake, which will help Taiwan in some ways because it will generate interest in America and bring attention to the case.

He also expects that the U.S. Congress "will react very negatively" to Ban during the September session.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

U.K. helicopter company looks to expand to Taiwan market

Taipei, Aug. 14 (CNA) A U.K. helicopter company is looking to expand its business to Taiwan, as the country has slowly opened up its domestic civil and corporate aviation market.

AgustaWestland, which specializes in helicopters and related training, has a tender for the National Airborne Service Corps' (NASC's) procurement of 12 helicopters to be used for search and rescue, disaster relief and emergency medical services.

The company sees Taiwan as a future market with tremendous potential although the expansion will be slow and steady, said Andrew Symonds, vice general manager of sales in North Asia.

Symonds said the company's AW-139 and EH-101 models are suited for Taiwan's mountainous areas and the high winds often experienced in rescue and relief missions and added that the company is happy to collaborate with Taiwanese government agencies.

The main focus will be on civil services, later expanding to corporate services and air taxi operations, Symonds said.

AgustaWestland is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, which is the ninth-largest aerospace, defense and security company globally and the second-largest in Europe. The company has its primary operations in Italy, the U.K. and the U.S.

Ex-U.S. official urges U.S. to restore diplomatic ties with ROC

Taipei, Aug. 14 (CNA) Former U.S. Representative to the United Nations John Bolton said Tuesday that the United States should "expand or restore" its diplomatic relations with Taiwan and suggested Taiwan to try to seek the repeal or modification of U.N. Resolution 2758.

Bolton also expressed his disappointment at what he described as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's "massive error" in rejecting Taiwan 's application for U.N. membership without submitting it to the member governments.

"The U.S. needs to take a decisive step -- the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Taiwan -- to avoid the situation becoming riskier and more dangerous for the U.S. as well as the PRC and the ROC, " Bolton said in a speech titled "U.S. Global Democracy Strategy and Cooperation with Taiwan."

What former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. George H.W. Bush proposed in 1971 as "dual representation" should "make sense now" as "dual recognition, " he said.

"Recognizing Taiwan in fact is simply recognizing reality, which is always the best grounding for any foreign policy, " he said.

By recognizing Taiwan, the ambiguity will be eliminated, he said, offering his opinion that ambiguity is a negative for the U.S. rather than a plus.

The ambiguity encourages China to believe it might actually conquer Taiwan without waging a war, he explained. Recognition would bring stability and certainty as well as strengthen the U.S. hand in the region by signalling to others the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, he said.

As for China's response to dual recognition, Bolton said there is "no way" China would break its relations with the U.S. nor impose economic costs.

"They will not be happy... But Beijing will not take any substantial steps, " he speculated.

Bolton went on to suggest that in terms of U.N. status, the real answer for Taiwan is to seek the repeal of U.N. Resolution 2758 because "applying for regular membership will produce a PRC veto if it gets that far."

"If the U.N. General Assembly can pass Resolution 2758, it can repeal it or modify it, " he pointed out, adding that prior UNGA resolutions have been repealed or modified.

Ban Ki-moon has rejected both Taiwan's U.N. membership applications and its effort to accede to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women treaty, which constitutes a huge mistake by Ban, according to Bolton.

As Ban was elected U.N. Secretary-General with the help of China and the U.S., the U.S. is observing which direction will Ban take if there is a dispute between China and the U.S., Bolton said.

"He went to the direction of China in his first test, " he said.

For the U.N. application name issue and referendum, Bolton said the name is for the people of Taiwan to decide. While the referendum is a mechanism to reflect popular choice, it is anomalous for the U.S. to object to people voting in a referendum after all the pressure to make Taiwan a democracy, he said.

Looking ahead to the presidential elections in Taiwan and the U.S., Bolton said the U.S. presidential candidates should publicly commit to "no deals over Taiwan without the consent of the people" while Taiwanese candidates should make sure they "get the best deal possible" for the people.

International conference discusses choice of constitutional systems

Taipei, Aug. 13 (CNA) A two-day international conference hosted by the Taiwan Thinktank opened Monday to discuss a theme titled "After the Third Wave -- Problems And Challenges for New Democracies, " with more than 40 scholars from Argentina, Canada, Ireland, South Korea, Italy, Australia, the U.K., the U.S. and Taiwan participating.

A study by Robert Elgie, a professor at Dublin City University, shows that the semi-presidential system has had a poor record in advancing democratization. Elgie also concluded that president-parliamentary forms, which Taiwan uses, perform worse than premier-presidential forms in which the prime minister is responsible only to the legislature.

He also found that "cohabitation, " which means the president and the prime minister come from different political parties, and a divided minority government, do not result in failures of democratic transition.

The eventual abandoning of the semi-presidential system and the single nontransferable vote, which is regarded as the secret of one-party dominance, and the switch to a single-member simple plurality system in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea could be explained as a political reform and formation of a new order, while the old regime is collapsing, said Lin Jih-wen, a research fellow at Taiwan's Academia Sinica.

In another session, Benjamin Reilly, a professor from Australian National University, argued that recent political reform across Asia, including that of Taiwan, has seen the emergence of a more genuine "Asian model" of democracy that is moving closer to the Anglo-American system of "majoritarism, " electoral competition and two-party politics.

Guillermo O'Donnell, a professor of politics from the University of Notre Dame, delivered a keynote speech at the conference on democratic theories after the Third Wave.

The Third Wave of Democratization is a term coined by Samuel Huntington to describe the global trend that over 60 countries experienced democratic transition since 1974.

New immigrant families pose multilayer meanings to Taiwan society

Taipei, Aug. 11 (CNA) The increasing number of new immigrant families pose multilayer meanings to Taiwan society as it represents a challenge, a must-do task to learn from different cultures, and an opportunity for a brand new future, participants to a seminar on new immigrant issues said Saturday.

"The biggest challenge for any foreign spouse coming from Southeast Asia is the language barrier. However, observations showed they picked up language quickly. And, contrary to the conventional thinking, their children, being in a multi-culture and multi-lingual family, are at an advantage, " said Tang Jing-lan, chief executive officer of the Good Shepherd Sisters Taiwan, in a seminar focused on international marriages.

As of June 2007, the number of marriage migrants to Taiwan has surpassed 390,000, including 136,115 coming from Southeast Asian countries and 256,590 from China, according to a Ministry of Interior (MOI) statistics.

There are still many stigmas to be eliminated in Taiwan about new immigrants, for instance that most children with "foreign mothers" have learning difficulties and growth retardation -- both false concepts that have been proven incorrect by numerous surveys, said Edwin Yang, a professor at the College of International Studies and Education for Overseas Chinese, National Taiwan Normal University.

In fact, Taiwan and Vietnam, where most foreign spouses came from, are both countries with diverse cultures, which is why shouldn't be difficult for Taiwanese to accept and learn from a different culture, Yang said.

"We're now at a time of a global village and our generation will be citizens of a global community who have to be always learning something new. I'm glad that my children and I have the opportunity to learn from the Vietnamese culture, " said Lin Jian-chung, who was married to a Vietnamese 10 years ago and have three children. Lin is now a volunteer for Eden Social Welfare Foundation (ESWF).

However, Lin said, the husbands and family members should also learn to help their wives to adjust to a new environment, culture and language.

The future of Taiwan will be at least slightly different because of new immigrants, said Chien Ya-huei, who works for ESWF. The latest statistics showed that 11.69% of babies born in Taiwan in 2006 were born into new immigrant families.

"It's possible that we will have legislators whose mothers are Vietnamese. And our national policy will have to take care of people who came from new immigrant families, " she said.

Saudis visit to learn about Taiwan's health insurance system

Taipei, Aug. 11 (CNA) Saudi Arabian officials completed a six-week training program in Taiwan that gave them an opportunity to learn from Taiwan's expertise and experience in its renowned National Health Insurance program, which Saudi Arabia intends to introduce in the future.

"Saudi Arabia selected Taiwan over Sweden and Germany as the place to send its delegation because Taiwan boasts one of the best national insurance systems in the world and because its population is about the same as that of Saudi Arabia, " said Fahad Jalwi Lzahr, Saudi Arabia's director general of health insurance.

Jalwi Lzahr led a 13-member delegation, including 12 health insurance officials from provinces in Saudi Arabia, to attend the "Health Insurance Professional Development Program for the Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, " co-organized by Taiwan's Institute for Information Industry (III) , Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Health, and Bureau of National Health Insurance.

The program, which concluded Aug. 9, aimed to introduce Taiwan's expertise and technologies to familiarize Saudi delegates with policies, administration and operational issues that are essential to the proposed implementation of the Cooperative Health Insurance in Saudi Arabia.

"Taiwan's publicly funded health insurance program is similar to what we would like to establish in Saudi Arabia, while the German program is more of an outsourcing program that involves a lot of private companies, " Jalwi Lzahr said.

The program included lectures and discussions, as well as on-site visits to organizations related to the topics covered. The lecture topics included historical background, basic framework, health insurance economics, health insurance operations, and hospital operations.

The on-site visits were arranged to give members of the delegation an enhanced understanding of the theories, administration, operations and implementation of a publicly-funded national health insurance program.

Jalwi Lzahr said he was happy with the program in general. Speaking about the on-site visits, he said he was especially impressed with the success of Taipei Municipal Wang Fan Hospital. He added that by the end of the program, the delegates had already been contacted by several Taiwan pharmaceutical companies which expressed an interest in doing business in Saudi Arabia.

According to Jalwi Lzahr, Saudi Arabia and the III will launch a series of cooperation projects between the two countries. Possible projects include a training program on health care and insurance information systems, on-the-job training related to health insurance system operations, and graduate studies in the health care and health insurance fields.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

President should be allowed U.S. transit: Ex-U.S. official

Taipei, Aug. 9 (CNA) Taiwan president should be allowed to make transit stops in the United States and the transit issue should not be linked to other issues, a former U.S. government official said in Taipei Thursday.

"Taiwan is a friendly government and a democracy, its leadership should be received with respect and dignity. My personal opinion would be that Taiwan's president should be allowed to be in the U.S. for transit and should be received with all the respect he is due, " said Randall Schriver, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

However, Schriver admitted that there is a tendency in Washington, D.C. to use the transit issue as leverage in dealing with Taiwan-U.S. relations, adding that "it's not healthy. But it does exist."

Schriver described Taiwan-U.S. relations has more of a "troubleshooting" relationship and encouraged the U.S. government to show more support for Taiwan's democracy even though both sides have disagreed with each other on some issues.

Acknowledging that there is frustration in Taiwan over the U.S. attitude and responses to Taiwan's U.N. referendum plan and transit issues, among others, Schriver said the U.S. should not be only critical of Taiwan.

However, as a former U.S. official, Schriver said he can understand the difficulties in managing trilateral relations among the United States, China and Taiwan, as it requires "great attention and complexity of communication." Most of the attention of senior U.S. officials has been shifted to the Middle East and the war of terror in recent years, he pointed out.

To some extent, the worst case scenario of Taiwan-U.S. relations will be that either inattention or lack of interest among U.S. officials on the Taiwan issue will make the U.S. unable or unwilling to support democracy in Taiwan, he said.

In terms of the U.N. referendum, Schriver said the U.S. government opposes the content of the referendum rather than the referendum itself. The basic thinking of the U.S. is that the referendum is unnecessary because "in the U.S., a topic that is so popular and has the support of over 70 percent of the people does not go to referendum."

One of the keys, Schriver pointed out, will be how Taiwan's newly elected president will deal with the result of the referendum, since it will be held on the same day as the presidential election.

Schriver works for Armitage International, a leading bipartisan study group that plans to publish a report on Taiwan-U.S. relations in early 2008 to provide references for the next U.S. administration.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tibetan human rights advocates protest over China

Taipei, Aug. 8 (CNA) Tibetan human rights advocates protested Wednesday over China's continuing oppression of the autonomous zone, saying that the totalitarian state is not qualified to host the Olympics, as China launched its one-year countdown to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

"China has never stopped its social, political and religious oppression in Tibet. Awarding China the 2008 Olympics is like handing it a license to kill in the same way Nazi Germany was given the right to host the 1936 Berlin Olympics, " according to Chou Mei-li, chairwoman of the Taiwan Friends of Tibet.

On the same day that China launched its one-year countdown to the Olympics, Taiwan wants and needs to be a part of a global coalition that supports Tibetan human rights and condemns the Chinese regime, she said.

"For the Chinese government, this is a symbolic moment to promote its Olympics propaganda and to show an outer layer in fancy pictures of China and occupied Tibet to the outside world. For Tibet and our worldwide supporters, Aug. 8, 2007 marks the beginning of a massive International Day of Action for Tibet, " said Rinzin Tsering, chairman of the Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association.

Wednesday marked the 32nd day since 14 Tibetans began a hunger strike in the Indian city of New Delhi July 8 in an effort to put pressure on China, said Tsering.

Yang urged Taiwanese corporations to reconsider their plans to sponsor the Olympics and said Taiwan should not rule out the possibility of boycotting them if China fails to improve its human rights record.

A 16-year-old Buddhist nun was killed by People's Liberation Army soldiers on the Tibet-Nepal border last year and the Chinese government announced that it would control regulations on reincarnation of Tibet's "Living Lamas." China has also increased its military deployment in Lhasa, closed the China-Nepal border and criticized India for allowing the hunger strike to take place, said
Khedroob Thondup, a member of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

"Thus shows that China has no intention of improving the human rights situation in Tibet at all, " he said.

Rebar founder's status in U.S. yet to be finally resolved: AIT

Taipei, Aug. 8 (CNA) The status of Wang You-theng, founder of Rebar Asia Pacific Group who was released Tuesday from an immigration holding center in the United States, has yet to be finally resolved, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman said Wednesday.

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now determining the next appropriate steps in the case of Wang You-theng. His status in the United States has yet to be finally resolved, " AIT spokeman Thomas Hodges said.

"Further questions about Mr. Wang's case should be directed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, " he said.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed in a press conference Wednesday morning that Wang has been released from the immigration holding center in San Pedro, California.

Wang had been detained by U.S. immigration authorities since Feb. 2, when he tried to return to Los Angeles with both his Republic of China and Dominican Republic passports canceled, following a failed attempt to flee to Myanmar via Singapore.

Wang is suspected of having embezzled billions of dollars in corporate funds from the group before fleeing with his wife, Wang Chin She-ying, to China late last year and then to the United States in January this year.

Indonesian students call for help in saving rainforest

Taipei, Aug. 7 (CNA) A group of Indonesian students in Taiwan held a press conference Tuesday to call for local awareness and assistance in saving the Indonesian rainforest, which is being rapidly destroyed.

Indonesia, which has the second-largest rainforest in the world, is facing a severe environmental crisis that even the people of Taiwan cannot overlook, said group leader Denni, a junior at the Transworld Institute of Technology (TIT) in Yunlin County.

Denni was one of five Indonesian exchange students at TIT's Department of Environmental Resources Management who made the appeal. They all came from the Indonesian island of Sumantra.

Indonesia's rainforest is vanishing at frightening speed because of illegal logging, corruption and global warming he said, adding that the destruction has led to the deaths of more than 1,000 orangutans, 33 Sumatran tigers and numerous other endangered species every year.

"People may think that Taiwan has nothing to do with the status of the Indonesian rainforest. But most people don't realize that Taiwan has been hurting the Earth more than other countries. That is why we should offer our help more than anyone else, " said Chang Tzu-chien, a professor at TIT, who also noted that the average greenhouse gas emission per person of Taiwan ranks third-highest globally.

The group of Indonesian students have been engaging in an international exchange project, titled "Sustainable Sumatra, " a collaboration of TIT's Department of Environmental Resources Management and Bodhicitta Mandala Conservation, an Indonesian non-government organization (NGO) that focuses on environmental conservation.

"Well-known NGOs such as the World Wildlife Foundation and Conservation International have been trying to save the rainforest but the rate of destruction has not slowed, largely as a result of poverty," Chang said.

He said the exchange project aims to work with local organizations to improve the local economy, public health, provide clean water and environmental protection.

"We feel obligated to so something for our home country. Hopefully, what we do today can raise the awareness of Taiwanese people on the issue, " said Hendra, a sophomore from Medan.

Better legal environment key for Taiwan's IT competitiveness

Taipei, Aug. 7 (CNA) A better legal environment and government support will be the keys for the development of Taiwan's already robust information technology (IT) competitiveness if it wants to overtake Asia Pacific leaders Japan and South Korea, an IT consultant said Tuesday.

Taiwan's IT industry competitiveness ranks sixth globally and fourth in the Asia Pacific region, according to the "IT industry competitiveness index" released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in July.

With Taiwan's buildup on IT infrastructure and research and development, along with a better legal environment and support from the government, Taiwan has the potential to overtake Japan and South Korea, said Goh Seow Hiong, director of Asia software policy of Business Software Alliance.

The EIU has conducted a global survey for the first time to compare countries' IT competitiveness by gauging their performance in six areas -- overall business environment, IT infrastructure, human capital, legal environment, R&D environment and support for IT industry development -- with 100 representing the highest score.

Collaboration between the government and private sector has been very successful, helping Taiwan establish a robust R&D environment that ranks third in the world, according to Goh, who added that the best example is the success of the Industrial
Technology Research Institute in Hsinchu.

Taiwan's overall business environment, which ranked seventh globally, will enter a phase where a lot of mergers occur in the future, he predicted.

The government was encouraged to open the market for competition in order to improve the IT infrastructure, which ranked a fair 18th out of 64 countries in the survey. With the Institute for Information Industry leading the way, government support is adequate, although a 19th place ranking shows there is a lot of room of improvement, Goh pointed out.

Creating a better legal environment is also vital, said Goh, who pointed out that Taiwan ranked only 32nd in that category.

In terms of government priorities, key findings in the survey are that the government should ensure the flow of talent and support competition and innovation without stifling them, and ensure better intellectual property rights protection, he said.

According to the survey, the top 10 countries with the strongest IT industry competitiveness are the United States (77.4) , Japan (72.7) , South Korea (67.2) , the United Kingdom (67.1), Australia (66.5), Taiwan (65.8), Sweden (65.4), Denmark (64.9), Canada (64.6) and Switzerland (63.5).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Japanese Internet entrepreneur advocates 'the sharing economy'

Taipei, Aug. 5 (CNA) In the Internet age, the idea of a "sharing economy" will impact the traditional market economy and a group of amateurs will be able to do phenomenonal things by collaborating with one another, a Japanese internet entrepreneur said on the final day of the Wikimania 2007 international conference.

"The market economy basically tells people to make as much money as possible, but not everything evolves around making money, " Joichi Ito, a Japanese-born, American-educated activist, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, told around 400 participants of the annual Wikimedia conference.

The evolution of the Internet has changed the ways people live as well as their perspectives, he said, pointing out that the importance of "happiness, which comes from compassion of giving and receiving, " instead of money, matters more to people nowadays.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia, a collaboration by a community of so-called amateur contributors all over the world, is a good example, he said. It provides for the needs of some, who have no current means with which to reciprocate: a characteristic of a sharing economy.

As much as everyone likes to share good things with others, it has also given rise to the piracy issue, and despite efforts to stamp it out, illegal reproduction and downloads still exist.

Commercial companies should learn to view things from a different perspective in the light of an ethic of sharing, Ito claimed. For example, he said, a video remix about politics using various television news clips should be considered a "new means of practicing free speech."

Ito, chairman of the board of Creative Commons (CC), also talked about new forms of copyright that the non-profit organization advocates.

"You give away some rights while still remaining the copyright holder, "he said.

CC is devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others to legally build upon and share. It has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses which, depending on the one chosen, restrict only certain rights (or none) of the work.

CC and Wikimedia are both part of the Free Culture movement, a social movement that calls for the freedom to use the Internet and other media to distribute and modify creative works, including software.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Project 'moulin' to help unconnected world with offline Wikipedia

Taipei, Aug. 4 (CNA) As most people are happy surfing Wikipedia, one of the most popular online reference Web sites, some people have been trying to deliver an "offline Wikipedia" to the developing countries and the "unconnected part of the world". One of them is French programmer Renaud Gaudin, who is working for the purpose under a project named "moulin."

The "moulin, " which means windmill in French, attempts to improve the access to basic information and reference material in developing countries by making it possible to access Wikipedia offline, said Gaudin Saturday in a seminar of Wikimania 2007, an annual Wikimedia conference which is being held in Taipei.

"Basically, moulin is a fully interactive, offline version of the entire Wikipedia, without pictures, on a CD, " said the French programmer who based in West African country Mali as an non-government organization volunteer.

The project is the brainchild of Gaudin and Frederic Renet, who realized that while many organizations focused on bringing computer to people in developing countries, few have paid attention to making content available for people in those places that do not have access to the Internet.

"Wikipedia has been also developing a project called 'Wikipedia on DVD', a CD collection of around 2,000 Wikipedia articles, but we want to do more than that. We wanted to have the full Wikipedia in the CD because people in Africa don't know about too many things, " said Gaudin.

The current French version moulin contains around 450,000 Wikipedia articles, he said.

Moulin started off as a side project of Geekcorps Mali, an NGO Gaudin worked for. The initial prototype of the system ran on Nokia 770, a portable internet tablet. Gaudin later rewrote the software and developed the current version of moulin which can be run off a CD before volunteering for his second tour to Mali.

Gaudin, who is now developing the software on his own with several friends volunteering in developing the software in different languages, said he talked to organizations and projects, such as OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), for collaboration.

"OLPC said it would develop a system of its own since the project targeted for children and did not need the whole Wikipedia, " he said.

The biggest problem for Gaudin right now is the lack of distribution power and funding, although it did receive funding from USAID. Without enough money, it's difficlut to distribute the French version CDs across West Africa, he said.

Gaudin, who visits Taiwan for the first time, is still optimistic, saying he plans to develop the pocket device version of moulin and set up a distribution network in Africa. He also looks forward to collaborating with people in other countries.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Local Wikipedia chapter aims to promote collaborative editing

Taipei, Aug. 3 (CNA) The local chapter of the popular online reference Web site Wikipedia aims to promote collaborative editing, knowledge sharing and the Web site in Taiwan, the organizer of the chapter said Friday on the sidelines of an annual Wikimedia conference.

Wikimedia Taiwan was officially approved by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports nine free information projects including Wikipedia, in July as one of the foundation's 10 local charters around the world, Wikimedia Taiwan President Deng Chieh said.

Taiwanese users have been one of the most active groups in generating Chinese-language content on Wikipedia, a multilingual, Web-based, free content encyclopedia project, Deng said.

Wikimedia Taiwan plans to work with government agencies, academic institutions and schools as more and more of them have expressed interest in the new way of sharing free information, said Deng. The chapter will also be in charge of redistribution of content, organizing small group meetings to improve Chinese content, holding promotional events and trying to collect content directly from institutions such as local museums and libraries.

Wikipedia has become one of the most popular reference Web sites in Taiwan, especially among students, Deng said.

"The Web site traffic always peaks before final exams and dramatically hits bottom during summer and winter vacations, " he pointed out.

The current development of the Web site shows a lot of potential, he added, as many local companies have inquired about using the free licensed content for future development of commercial services.

The Wikimedia Foundation has been working on establishing local charters in many countries to foster better communication with locals and better content for various languages, said Florence Devouard, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikimedia Taiwan was established in February 2007 and has more than 40 members, Deng added.

Wikipedia hopes to work out issues of China blockage

Taipei, Aug. 3 (CNA) Wikipedia will try to communicate with China on its blockage of the popular reference Web site, as well as the intellectual property rights infringement issue, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said in a press conference in Taipei Friday.

Wikipedia is still being blocked -- at least partially -- in China, and China's biggest online search engine has been listing the Wikipedia content, which goes under the free document license, as its own copyrighted material, Wales said on the first day of the annual Wikimania 2007 which runs through Sunday.

Wales said he will visit China in September and meet with high-level government officials there to address the blockage issue, but added that "there is no formal expectation at this point."

He said the Web site will not accept self-censorship in order to be unblocked in China. In an earlier forum, he said Wikipedia will not allow censorship as Yahoo and Google have done.

Wikipedia is a wonderful, neutral educational resource and Chinese users should be allowed to access it, he said.

Unlike most intellectual property rights infringement cases, which can be talked through and resolved with simple phone calls or email exchanges, the case has been "something we've been aware of for a long time and is still ongoing, " said Florence Devouard, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Although Baidu is a NASDAQ-listed company in the U.S., the foundation "has no plan to do anything more aggressive" at the moment, Wales said.

The three-day Wikimania 2007, which was organized by the Wikimedia Foundation and Academia Sinica's Institute of Information Science, is both a scientific conference and a community event that brings together bloggers and members of various Wikimedia projects.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports nine free information projects, including Wikipedia -- a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project.

Discussion of citizen journalism kicks off Wikimania 2007 conference

Taipei, Aug. 2 (CNA) Using a unique discussion format, an "unconference" on the theme of citizen journalism, reflective of the "bottom-up" characteristic of Web 2.0, kicked off Wikimania 2007, an international Wikimedia conference, Thursday in Taipei.

The Citizen Journalism Unconference (CJU) was a side event of the main Wikimania 2007, to be held in Taiwan for the first time from Aug. 3 - 5 at Chien Tan Overseas Youth Activity Center.

Unlike conferences employing top-down discussions, the CJU used an Open Space technique to allow participants to manage their own agenda by first announcing the topics in which they are interested before splitting the participants into eight to 10 discussion groups focusing on various topics.

Moderated by facilitators and conducted with the "law of two feet", which means participants could join or leave the discussion at any time, about 100 participants of various nationalities started discussion groups of six to eight persons.

"I don't have any money. I want to know whether citizen journalism can be profitable, " said Singaporean blogger Preetam Rai, who was in charge of Global Voices Online South East Asia. Naturally, Rai join the discussion on citizen journalism funding and joint ventures.

Other topics raised in discussions included "Citizen Journalism vs. Professionalism," "Journalistic Passion and Enthusiasm," "Ethical Concerns Citizen Journalism Creates, " and "the Relationship Between Traditional Media and Citizen Journalism."

Well-known local bloggers, such as Schee, Eric "Ilya" Lee, and Chiao Ching, acted as facilitators in the discussions, as did staff from, a citizen journalism platform initiated by Taiwan Public Television Service.

This year's Wikimania, which will be the third annual international Wikimedia conference, was co-organized by the Wikimedia Foundation and Academia Sinica's Institute of Information Science. It is both a scientific conference and a community event, bringing together bloggers and members of various Wikimedia projects.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports nine free information project, including Wikipedia. It is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project. It was created in 2001 and soon grew into one of the largest reference Web sites, with articles that can be edited by anyone with Internet access.

More than 50 seminars and workshops will be held during the event's three days, which is expected to attract more than 350 participants from all over the world. Registration staff said that the number of registered participants exceeded 1,000, but many of these will be unable to participate due to a variety of reasons.

"We could have had a lot more participants from overseas, but a lot of them had trouble obtaining visas," he said.

Openness gives learning a brand new future: Wikipedia founder

Taipei, Aug. 1 (CNA) A world without schools, in which children learn at home using tailor-made textbooks and educational programs was imaginatively invoked by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales Wednesday, who predicted that such a change in education will be brought about through the "openness" and "open source" movements.

The 40-year-old American internet entrepreneur, who founded the popular multilingual web-based free content encyclopedia, attended the "Openness in the 21st Century" forum on the eve of Wikimania 2007, an international Wikimedia conference which will be held from Aug. 3 - 5.

Wikipedia, which was created in 2001 and soon grew into one of the largest reference Web sites, is a model of voluntary collaboration and global contribution, with articles that can be edited by anyone with Internet access.

"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge, " Wales said in describing the motivation behind Wikipedia in a 2004 interview with Slashdot. The project has been trying to make that vision a reality through the accumulation of basic and neutral information, cross-referencing, citation and the always on-going editing.

Its "peer-to-peer" editing process is far different from the "top down" process behind the production of traditional encyclopedias and textbooks.

Wales pointed to the example of software projects, which tend to grow more robust and perform better after becoming "open-source" and being co-developed by professional enthusiasts, while remaining free of charge.

Education might undergo the same type of evolution through the introduction of a mentality of openness, said Wales, himself a product of home-schooling who later took a Ph. D finance program at Indiana University.

The current school-based educational system is outdated and not well-suited to serving all students' needs, he claims, then predicts that textbook copyrights in the future will be freely licensed, and that social communities will become major sources of knowledge production.

Wales says he need look no further than his own family for an example of what is to come. His daughter, Kira, has received all of her education at home and now is studying third grade mathematics although still a kindergartner. Wales uses a home-learning program he found in Singapore to help Kira with the content and schedule of her schooling.

In the future, the Internet will provide children and students with various learning methods, he said, and best of all, deliver the knowledge at a low cost.