Saturday, March 29, 2008

U.S. upbeat on future cross-strait relations: AIT Chairman

Taipei, March 28 (CNA) Cross-Taiwan Strait and U.S.-Taiwan relations are expected to improve after Ma Ying-jeou takes office as Taiwan's new president, but the U.S. will not mediate talks between Taiwan and China, American Institute in Taipei (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Friday.

"The focus of Ma and President Chen will be different. With President Ma, we [the U.S. and Taiwan] will be able to devote more time to working together on practical issues of mutual importance, such as trade," Burghardt told local print media on the second day of his three-day visit to Taiwan.

The chairman said he met Ma earlier in the day and got to know Ma's thoughts on improving cross-Strait relations "to some level of detail."

"That does offer hope, " he said, adding that "it's only human nature to think the future will be brighter."

In response to a question on the U.S. position on the "1992 Consensus, " which Chinese President Hu Jintao described as the basis for future cross-Strait negotiations in a phone conversation with U.S. president George W. Bush Wednesday, Burghardt said, "the U.S. interpretation is not important."

"If the two sides can find a formula that works for them and feel comfortable with without betraying their own core interests in coming up with a formula, then what is there for the U.S. to have an opinion about?" he explained.

The U.S. will be quite positive about efforts by both sides to improve bilateral relationships, and it's something "we can encourage on the sideline," the chairman said.

But the U.S. has always maintained the position that it would not be a mediator in dialogue between Taiwan and China, he stressed.

"It's not a role we should play, " he said. "The Americans are not smart enough to play a useful role in cross-Strait negotiations," he added, quoting a U.S. diplomat.

The main objective of the three-day trip, Burghardt said, was to congratulate President Chen Shui-bian for presiding over a fair election and the beginning of the transfer of power.

"Once again there will be a transfer of power to the other party (and) it's a big deal. It's something you don't see a lot around the world," he said.

"It could provide a model for many other countries in the region. Taiwan should be proud of itself," he said.

U.S. discussing Ma's visit request and who to send to inauguration

Taipei, March 28 (CNA) Taiwan President-elect Ma Ying-jeou's request for a U.S. visit is being discussed but a decision has not been made, the visiting American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman said Friday, while adding that Washington was also trying to decide who to send to Ma's inauguration.

"[Ma’s request to visit] has been considered, discussed... and when there's a decision, you'll know, " said AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt, who arrived Thursday for a three-day visit.

Burghardt, who was speaking to reporters, said Washington also has not made a firm decision on who to send to Ma's inauguration ceremony on May 20, adding that "it's something discussed in Washington."

Burghardt added that "some of the names" for the inauguration envoy have been discussed in Washington and it would not be a surprise if the U.S. sends a delegation to Taiwan, which was the case in the 2000 and 2004 presidential inaugurations in

"Sometimes it comes down to the availability of people," Burghardt said, regarding who the envoy will be.

Burgarhdt met with President Chen Shui-bian, President-elect Ma Ying-jeou and Vice President-elect Vincent Siew Friday and is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister James Huang and Taiwanese and American businessmen during his stay.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Foreign delegates congratulate Taiwan's election success

Taipei, March 22 (CNA) Taiwan's presidential election was a good example of democracy and it could find new ways to participate in the international community, Taiwan-based foreign representatives said after the conclusion of the election.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou won in a landslide victory, garnering 2.2 million votes more than his rival Frank Hsieh, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate.

The victory returned the KMT to power eight years after its defeat to the DPP in 2000 ended more than five decades of uninterrupted rule.

"From the stand point of democracy, this ia a good election, " a senior European official who is based in Taipei said. Commenting on two referendum proposals that failed to pass, he said that Taiwanese people "understood the stake of the referendum."

"Never say never in politics. Taiwan can find its new way, avenue and opening to its participation in the international community," said Eric Suy-Verburg, former United Nations (U.N.) under secretary-general for legal affairs, who was among a foreign delegation to observe the election.

"You need to make friends who can support you position. Be patient, " he said.

Taiwan's democracy is a typical young democracy, he observed, saying that people were enthusiastic in the rallies and the atmosphere was similar as in 1996 -- Taiwan's first direct presidential election.

The ex-U.N. official said that the DPP-proposed referendum, which asked voters whether Taiwan should join the U.N. under the name "Taiwan, " is unrealistic for the time being, since the U.N. General Assembly will respond negatively under the obstruction of China.

The KMT proposal was more balanced because it offers greater flexibility on names, he said.

Both referendums, which were held alongside the presidential election, failed to pass because they did not meet the 50 percent turnout threshold.

Taiwan's election not swayed by outside forces: analysts

Taipei, March 22 (CNA) The controversy over whether President-elect Ma Ying-jeou has a green card and the "one China common market" issue did not keep the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) from scoring a landslide victory in Taiwan's presidential election Saturday and shows that the Taiwan people acted on their own without outside impact, according to analysts.

Ma garnered almost 60 percent of the votes -- 2.2 million votes more than his rival Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Frank Hsieh -- in Taiwan's fourth direct presidential election since 1996. The lopsided victory shows that Ma's momentum was not slowed by Hsieh's campaign strategy, the analysts said.

Hsieh's camp had challenged Ma over the U.S. permanent residence status, or green card, that Ma obtained in 1977, questioning his integrity and loyalty to Taiwan. Hsieh also argued that Ma's cross-strait common market proposal will jeopardize Taiwan's labor and agricultural sectors and the future of the younger generation.

Most people have oversimplified the election and ignored its complexity, Danish columnist Michael Danielsen said on the eve of the poll, adding that from his observations, the Taiwanese would not let outside forces impact the election.

The Taiwanese people seemed determined to cast their votes this time solely on the issues of their immediate interests such as the economy and their livelihoods, he said.

Ma's support rate did drop when Hsieh's camp made its first accusation on the green card issue but it did not last long, said Yang Hsien-hong, a local political pundit.

Leading by around 20 percent during almost the entire campaign, Ma's momentum took a hit after a series of events over the past two weeks during which four KMT legislators gatecrashed Hsieh's campaign headquarters in an attempt to investigate whether the building had been illegally leased to Hsieh's campaign and China launched a military crackdown on Tibetan protesters. Ma seeks closer ties with

Taiwanese law forbids the publication of public opinion polls in the last 10 days of the campaign, but prior to the polls, most people had predicted that it would be a neck-and-neck race.

"It will take me some time to let the shocking defeat sink in because the large gap was unexpected, " said Yosoh Kure, deputy secretary-general of the pro-independence Taiwan Society, adding that with hindsight, it was maybe the DPP referendum held alongside the election that was the primary reason for the defeat."

Yure also agreed with an observation that Hsieh's camp ran too much of a "negative campaign" which backfired and hurt only himself.

Friday, March 21, 2008

U.S. congressman praised Taiwan's democracy

Taipei, March 21 (CNA) A visiting U.S. congressman described Taiwan's democracy as "healthy,”on the eve of the presidential election Thursday, and said no outside force should try to intimidate Taiwan's 23 million people into giving up their democratic rights.

“Shame on any U.S. or Chinese official (who) tries to get you to go one way or another, ”said Dana Rohrabacher, who was in Taiwan as part of a U.S. delegation to observe the March 22 presidential election and referendums to be held simultaneously.

Rohrabacher, a staunch Taiwan supporter who chairs the Taiwan Caucus in the U.S. Congress, said he was not in the country to endorse any candidate or political party, but to congratulate the people of Taiwan for continuing to set an example of democracy in Asia.

Taiwan has four times shown Asia that it could elect its leader in direct democratic elections, he said.

The California congressman said he believed Taiwan would never go back to the days of a one-party regime, as it has a healthy democracy, with freedom of the press, criticism and debate.

What happened in Tibet "underscored that peace should not be taken for granted,”he said.

Rohrabacher slammed Beijing over its recent crackdown on Tibetan protesters, describing China as a“rogue nation”and a“vicious gangster”that murdered its own people.

The congressman has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to introduce a resolution in Congress that would call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. The proposal has received bi-partisan support, he said.

“We should not permit the totalitarian government in China to use the Olympics to cover its own evil as did Adolph Hitler in 1936," he stated in the letter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

China's reaction to referendum unpredictable: MAC

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) It is virtually impossible to predict Beijing's reaction if either or both of the referendums pass in Saturday's election because it is a totalitarian regime, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Chen Ming-tong told a group of foreign reporters Thursday.

"It is not a government that can be trusted. It has always claimed that it will peacefully resolve the Tibet issue and has promised that it will continue its dialogue with the Dalai Lama, " Chen responded to a reporter's question.

Chen expressed optimism that Beijing will become a democratic country one day and when that day comes, issues surrounding Taiwanese and Tibetan independence will be resolved.

However, before that day arrives, Taiwan and China must reach a consensus on how to achieve stability and harmony across the Taiwan Strait to better serve the interests of the people on both sides.

He reiterated Taipei's usual stance that it will never engage in a dialogue with China until Beijing agrees to remove the "one-China" principle framework as a precondition for talks.

He further defended both of Taiwan’s referendum proposals -- one proposed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party on whether Taiwan should join the United Nations under the name Taiwan and the other put forward by the opposition Kuomintang on rejoining the U.N. under the name Republic of China or some other "suitable" title -- saying that they are "neither an independence movement nor a provocative act,
but rather the Taiwanese people's humble wish to receive a `license' to the international community after a long period of apartheid."

Beijing has been trying to distort the meaning of the DPP's referendum, which is simply a representation of will of the Taiwanese, he said.

"It’s hard for me to fathom people’s assumptions that the referendum will lead to a disaster, " he said, adding that the act of holding referendums has always been a tool for exercising the people's democratic will.

Chen also took the opportunity to ridicule Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's recent claim that Taiwan's fate must be determined by the people living both in China and in Taiwan and that the 1.3 billion Chinese citizens should be permitted to cast votes in Saturday's election.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Civic groups condemn China, extend compassion for Tibet

Taipei, March 18 (CNA) Civic groups condemned China’s military crackdown of Tibetan protesters and extended compassion for the victims in a press conference Tuesday, urging the Taiwan people to support Tibet.

“The military crackdown was not an independent case. Currently in China, there are protests against the Chinese regime as well as the ensuing crackdown, arrests and killings in every Tibetans-inhabited region, “said Wong Shih-chieh, Deputy Secretary-General of Taiwan Tibet Exchange Foundation (TTEF).

The cruel nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not change after the economical development, said Tsai Ting-kuei, President of Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP).

“Tibetans’forbearance and tolerance did not earn security but relentless suppression,”he added.

China launched a military action last week that has left over 100 people dead following a protest in Lhasa, capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) . Hundreds of Tibetans have died in unrest in Lhasa and elsewhere, the India-based Tibetan parliament-in-exile said in a statement Monday.

On Tuesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in an international press conference in Beijing that the unrest in Tibet was obviously masterminded by the“Dalai Lama organization”and the People’s Liberation Army was in Lhasa to prevent more killings by the protesters.

“Chinese government lies whenever it needs to and has to. It said the troops were sent to Lhasa to perform street cleaning. And it has said in the past 12 years in the World Health Organization assembly that China was responsible for the protection of Taiwan’s public health,“said Wu Shue-min, President of Taiwan Society, main organizer of the press conference.

“They were all lies,”Wu said.

Taiwanese should be able to identify the essence of the Chinese Communist regime after witnessing what has happened in Tibet, Wong said.

“Over the past 50 years China claimed it had helped Tibet with it economic development. If Tibetans enjoy a happy life, why would they risk their lives to fight against China?“he said.

Wong called for all Taiwanese to step up and voice their non-partisan support for Tibetans’fight for cultural preservation and religious freedom.

Yu Shyi-kun, former chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, also urged the international community–especially the United Nations–to actively engaged in rescuing those Tibetans in suffer.

Monday, March 17, 2008

SEF voices serious concerns over China's crackdown in Tibet

Taipei, March 17 (CNA) The Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) expressed grave concern over China's crackdown on Tibetan protesters and urge China to respect its pledge of a "high degree of autonomy" in the Himalayan region, SEF Chairman Hung Chi-chang said Monday.

"We expressed our serious concerns over China's crackdown in Tibet and urged China to stop its military actions in Tibet and the adjoining provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan," Hung said.

"The culture and religious freedom of Tibetans should be respected by all, " Hung said of the military action that has left over 100 people dead following a protest in Lhasa, capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).

Hundreds of Tibetans have died in unrest in Lhasa and elsewhere, the India-based Tibetan parliament-in-exile said in a statement Monday.

Hung addressed the issue in a much softer tone and with cautious wording, using "concern" rather than "condemn, " which was seen in statements released earlier by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) .

The SEF is a semi-official organization funded by Taiwan's government to handle consultations and technical affairs with China in the absence of official ties.

The MOFA and MAC both condemned China for its human rights violations and use of force in official statements released last weekend.

Responding to a reporter's question, Hung said there were many ways to express concern and condemnation was one of them.

"It was obvious the Tibetans could no longer tolerate China's 'cultural genocide, ' as the Dalai Lama described it, in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has literally given up the Tibetan independence movement and settled for a 'meaningful autonomy' and the preservation of Tibetan culture and religious freedom. Even so, China still pulled the triggers, " he said.

The Constitution of the Republic of China, which still claims sovereignty over Tibet, has put Taiwan in an awkward position on the "Tibet issue." The ministry-level Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission was established under the Executive Yuan to preserve Mongolian and Tibetan cultures.

The independence-seeking ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government has not publicly supported the Tibetan independence movement.

However, what is happening in Tibet will be an election issue, Hung said.

"It is a living lesson for Taiwan's 23 million people that China still decided to go ahead with the crackdown despite the enormous international attention focused on the Tibet situation, especially ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August, " he said.

"While China has repeatedly stressed its peaceful rise and intention to seek stability, Taiwan's sovereignty should be respected and affirmed in the process of cross-strait dialogue, " he said.

"Fortunately, Taiwan is able to enjoy full sovereignty while Tibet has been under China's control, " he said.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Taiwan loses to South Korea, finishes third in baseball qualifiers

Taipei, March 14 (CNA) A hard-fought 4-3 loss to long-time Asian rival South Korea Friday did nothing to diminish Taiwan's third-place finish in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament, at least not in the eyes of a sellout crowd of 15,000 in Taichung.

Taiwan battled to the last at-bat before falling, but the team no one expected to do well 10 days ago has regained the confidence of skeptical home fans by gaining an Olympic berth with its surprising 5-2 record in the tourney.

Trailing by one with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Chiang Chih-hsien's double gave Taiwan a last chance to send the game in extra innings.

But after Korean closer Chong Tae-hyon intentionally walked Chang Chien-ming, he got Lin Che-hsuan on a pop up that was caught in foul territory in front of the Koreans' dugout.

In last night's other game, Canada beat Germany 2-1 to draw even with South Korea at the top of the standings with a 6-1 record, but the Canadians finished as tournament champion on the strength of winning their head-to-head battle 4-3 on Thursday.

Canada, Taiwan and South Korea will join five other five teams -- host China, Asian champion Japan, European title holder the Netherlands and two teams from the Americas, Cuba and the U.S. -- in the 2008 Olympics in August.

Although Taiwan and South Korea had clinched Olympic berths prior to last night's tournament finale, neither wanted to lose the "meaningless" game, broadcast live in both countries.

Taiwan jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Lin Che-hsuan smashed an RBI-double off the centerfield wall and scored on an error when South Korea failed to convert a double play.

It didn't take long for the Koreans to retaliate. They capitalized on two Taiwanese errors and two hits from their power hitters, including Lee Seung-yeop's double, off Taiwan's surprise starter Lee Chen-chang to take a 3-2 lead in the second inning.

Korea made it 4-2 an inning later when Kim Joo-chan stole second and third and scored on Ko Young-min's single.

Taiwan cut the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth when Chang Chien-ming scored on Peng Cheng-min's single after having walked and advanced to second on Lin Che-hsuan's sacrifice bunt.

Reliever Chang Chih-chia showed his best form since 2001, when he came out of nowhere and led Taiwan to the bronze medal in the Baseball World Cup. Chang allowed five hits in 6.1 shutout innings and twice picked off runners on first base.

"We didn't win this game but we did our best, " Chang said, also telling his fans that "the old Chang is coming back. I'm almost there."

Korean starter Kim Kwang-hyun, a 19-year-old lefthander, struck out five and gave up five hits before being relieved by Hwang Doo-sung in the sixth.

-- Final Standings: (* - clinched Olympic berths)
1. Canada 6-1*
2. South Korea 6-1*
3. Taiwan 5-2*
4. Mexico 4-3
5. Australia 4-3
6. Germany 2-5
7. Spain 1-6
8. South Africa 0-7

Taiwan shackled by 'Anti-Secession Law,' two communiques: MAC

Taipei, March 14 (CNA) China's "Anti-Secession Law" and the Chinese Communist Party's two communiques with Taiwan's opposition parties have had a structural impact on cross-strait relations and shackled Taiwan, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) argued Friday.

Addressing the media on the third anniversary of the passage of the law and less than 10 days before the March 22 presidential election, MAC Chairman Chen Ming-tong said that Beijing was the behind-the-scene mastermind of the "one law, two communiques, " strategy to box in Taiwan's future.

China passed the "Anti-Secession Law" on March 14, 2005, claiming the Taiwan Strait situation was a residual issue of the Chinese civil war in the 1940s. The law did not rule out resolving the impasse by "non-peaceful measures."

Passage of the measure ignited opposition and condemnation from Japan, the U.S. and the European Union (EU). Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese marched in Taipei to oppose the law on March 26, 2005.

The two communiques were signed in the same year by Kuomintang (KMT) Honorary Chairman Lien Chan and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong, respectively, with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The communiques were seen by the opposition as progress in cross-strait relations. However, "politically, China will not change its 'one-China' principle; militarily, China will not tone down its military threat nor withdraw more than 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan,' Chen warned.

"The communiques signified, to some extent, an extension of the 'Anti-Secession Law,'" Chen suggested.

Lien, Soong and Hu jointly established a "one law, two communiques" framework that confines Taiwan to economic incorporation, de facto unification and de jure annexation, he argued.

MAC Vice Chairman Liu Te-hsun echoed Chen's comments later in the day, saying that Article Five of the "Anti-Secession Law," which has set a "high degree of autonomy" as Taiwan's ultimate status after unification, has been overlooked by many.

"The vision of the future should be better than the current reality. Is a 'high-degree of autonomy' a better offer than what Taiwan has right now? " he wondered, arguing that China needed to offer something more lucrative for Taiwan.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taiwan, Canada, South Korea win final three Olympic baseball seeds

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) The win was ugly but it was enough. Taiwan's national baseball team beat South Africa 4-0 Thursday in the central city of Douliou to clinch a berth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics along with South Korea and Canada.

Canada edged out South Korea 4-3 as Taiwan, Canada and South Korea won the final three places in the eight-team Olympic baseball qualifying event in a three-way 5-1 record tie with one day to go in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The top three finishers in the tournament, which is being held in the central Taiwan cities of Taichung and Douliou March 7-14, earn spots in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Having clinched an Olympic seed after Mexico's 4-0 win over Germany earlier in the day, Taiwanese manager Hung Yi-chung opted to rest his veterans and put seldom-used youngsters on the field.

The inexperienced starting lineup struggled against South African starter Barry Armitage, who limited Taiwanese hitters to three hits in seven innings but had five walks.

However, the host team finally found its rhythm and grabbed opportunities to punish the visitors.

Lin Yi-chuan led off the top of the fifth inning with a deep double that hit the rightfield fence and put the first run on the scoreboard on consecutive sacrifice flies by Chiang Chih-hsien and Wang Sheng-wei.

Chiang Chih-hsien offset his two defensive errors earlier in the seventh, blasting a solo homerun over the centerfield fence to make the score 2-0.

A pair of walks placed Taiwanese runners on the first and second bases at the top of the eight before Kao Kuo-ching and Peng Cheng-min's consecutive sacrifice flies added two more runs.

Taiwan starter Chiang Chien-ming had six strikeouts and allowed three hits in six innings. Younger teammates Cheng Kai-wen, Lin Ko-chian and Lee Wei-hua closed out the game, pitching one inning apiece.

Facing a game it had little chance of winning, South Africa decided to be aggressive by stealing base every time it had the opportunity.

The strategy was negated by Taiwanese catcher Kao Chih-kang, who tagged out three runners -- two of them in the bottom of the third.

South Africa, which struck out 10 times against the Taiwanese pitchers, remained winless after six games.

With all Olympic seeds determined, the final day of the tourney will only affect the final placing. Taiwan will enter its final game versus South Korea Friday playing solely for national pride.

-- Standings: (* - clinched Olympic berths)
*South Korea 5-1
*Taiwan 5-1
*Canada 5-1
Australia 3-3
Mexico 3-3
Germany 2-4
Spain 1-5
South Africa 0-6

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Taiwan shuts out Australia in crucial baseball qualifiers victory

Taipei, March 12 (CNA) Yang Chien-fu shut out Australia as Taiwan baseball national team won its most crucial game in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament Wednesday in the southern city of Douliou and got one foot in the door for the Beijing Olympics.

The 5-0 victory almost sealed the deal for Taiwan, which was tied with Canada at 4-1 and trailed only South Korea. Another win over lowly South Africa Thursday will guarantee Taiwan a top three finish in the tourney and a ticket to Beijing.

Earlier in the day, South Korea clinched an Olympic seed by routing Germany 12-1 to go 5-0.

“I’m glad we got things done. There has been tremendous pressure from fans [to make the Olympics] but these young players have been working very hard. Hopefully, we can visit Beijing in August,”Taiwan manager Hung Yi-chung said after the game.

Taiwanese starter Yang Chien-fu had six strikeouts and allowed only four hits in nine strong innings, confusing the Australians with his sinkers and sliders from start to finish en route to his second win in the tournament.

After a heartbreaking 6-5 loss in extra innings to Canada Monday, the Wednesday match became a must-win game for Taiwan. And Yang did not disappoint, carrying the whole team and nation on his shoulder again after his first win, a 6-1 decisoin over Mexico.

“I tried to stay calm and face the hitters with primarily sinkers and curveballs in the first seven innings and switched to sliders in the last two innings. This is an exciting win for us but, for me, it’s just another win,”Yang told the media after the game.

Taiwan’s scoring run in the bottom of second turned out to be the only offensive highlight of the game but that was enough. The home boys had five hits, including two doubles from Chang Chien-ming and Lin Che-hsuan, respectively, off Australian starter Paul Mildren to jump on a 4-0 lead.

Taiwan failed to produce a hit from the second to the sixth inning before Peng Cheng-min’s single ended the drought in the bottom of seventh. Peng stole second and advanced to the third base on a wild throw. Peng scored Taiwan’s insurance run on another wild pitch to make it 5-0.

Australia, the silver medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics, could never get its offense going for the entire game. Every time it placed runners on base, the momentum was stopped by Taiwan’s brilliant defense.

Taiwan, which outhit Australia 7-4 in the game, will meet South Korea in the tournament finale Friday.

Under the tiebreaking rule, placing of teams with identical won-loss record will be determined by the orders of comparisons of runs allowed average, earned run allowed average, hitting percentage, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

In other Wednesday games, Canada beat Spain 11-0 and Mexico defeated South Africa 5-0.

-- Standings:
South Korea 5-0
Taiwan 4-1
Canada 4-1
Australia 2-3
Germany 2-3
Mexico 2-3
Spain 1-4
South Africa 0-5

Monday, March 10, 2008

Heartbreaking loss for Taiwan in Baseball qualifiers

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) When Taiwan qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympic baseball tournament, it broke Korean hearts by rallying to oust South Korea after being one out away from defeat.

More than four years later, Taiwan may soon find out how the Koreans felt.

One out away from a victory that would have almost certainly qualified it for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Taiwan stumbled against Canada 6-5 in extra innings Monday night in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Taichung.

Up 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Taiwan seemed poised for a huge victory against one of its key rivals in the eight-team tournament, but 21-year-old reliever Lo Chia-jen could not close the deal.

With two out and Canadian Stubby Clapp on first, Lo threw a disastrous wild pitch that advanced Clapp to second.

The right-hander then made a good pitch, a tough breaking ball on the outside part of the plate than an off-balance Michael Saunders pulled through the right side of the infield to send home the tying run, with Clapp just beating the throw home.

In the top of the 10th, two consecutive hits off one of Taiwan's few big name pitchers, Yomiuri Giants hurler Chiang Chien-ming, put Canada ahead for good.

The loss left Taiwan tied with Canada at 3-1 for second place in the standings, with South Korea still undefeated at 4-0. The top three finishers in the tournament will advance to the Olympics.

The impact of the defeat was somewhat cushioned by Australia's 7-4 loss to Mexico last night that left the Australians 2-2.

Taiwan plays Australia Wednesday night in a must-win game for both teams.

Taiwan jumped to an early lead against Canada in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, with three first inning singles and some shaky Canadian defense staking the home side to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.

Canada tied the score at 2-2 with four hits in the top of third and added one run apiece in the fourth and sixth innings to take a 4-2 lead. Nicholas Weglarz had a solo home run off Taiwanese starter Ni Fu-te, who allowed three runs and nine hits in 7 2/3 innings.

But Lo Kuo-hui looked set to be the hero when he popped a three-run home run just over the centerfield fence off Canadian starter Jonathan Lockwood with two outs in the bottom of sixth to give Taiwan a 5-4 lead.

Taiwan preserved the lead in the bottom of the eighth when Taiwan catcher Yeh Chun-chang took a throw from right field and tagged out Canadian runner James Van Ostrand shoulder first in a collision at the plate.

Van Ostrand and Yeh then clashed, causing both benches to clear and setting off heated arguments between the two managers and the umpires.

During the 20-minute delay, the home crowd threw mineral water bottles on the field, nearly leading to a Canadian boycott of the game.

In other games Monday, South Korea beat Spain 14-5 to go 4-0 and Germany edged South Africa 4-3.

South Korea 4-0
Taiwan 3-1
Canada 3-1
Australia 2-2
Germany 2-2
Mexico 1-3
Spain 1-3
South Africa 0-4

KMT's common market idea questioned

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's cross-strait common market idea was questioned at a forum Monday, with participants arguing that the proposal would jeopardize Taiwan's labor and agricultural sectors and the future of the younger generation.

"The idea was proposed more than a dozen years ago, and it was questioned and blasted at the time, " said Chen Po-chih, an economist and chairman of Taiwan Thinktank.

"It is inappropriate that Ma's campaign has been exaggerating the benefits of the idea and masking the damage it could cause, " Chen said of Ma's push for closer economic ties with China.

Ma has stressed that a cross-strait common market would not be a "one-China" market but rather a move to develop Taiwan as a center of Asia-Pacific commerce.

He has also reassured local voters that he would not advance his policy at the cost of local jobs and vowed not to allow Chinese workers or products to overwhelm the local economy.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO) definition, however, a common market must be equipped with the full-scale free flow of labor, capital and products, which was in contradiction with Ma's proposal, Chen said.

Ruan Ming, a researcher at Taiwan Research Institute, said Ma had also ignored that common markets are generally negotiated between free and democratic countries with similar economic performances, which was not the case between Taiwan and China.

"It is not a common market if Chinese labor and products are prohibited from entering Taiwan's market, " Ruan said, adding that a cross-strait common market will hurt employment opportunities for Taiwan's young people.

Taiwan's agriculture was already one area that had not benefited from a more open market, said Chen Wen-te, director of the Council of Agriculture's Department of International Affairs.

Statistics show that since Taiwan and China entered the WTO in 2002, Taiwan's agricultural sales to China have not risen despite closer trade ties because of the high price of Taiwanese agriculture products, Chen said.

Quarantine issues, intellectual property rights and piracy were other important questions that would have to be dealt with, Chen added.

Labor organizations have always opposed the WTO framework and free trade agreements, which hurt domestic employment, said Son Yu-lian, secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front.

More than 70 percent of domestic workers are employed in the service industry, which is expected to suffer the most if a common market is implemented, Son said.

He stressed that domestic workers must be consulted before the implementation of major policy changes, such as direct flights and a common market.

Wu Rong-I, chairman of the Taiwan Stock Exchange, said the basic idea of a common market is "opening, not restriction" and requires negotiation between two sovereign nations.

"It seems ridiculous to me to negotiate a common market with an enemy state," Wu said.

No presidential candidates possess foreign citizenship: CEC

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Foreign representative offices have confirmed that none of Taiwan's presidential and vice presidential candidates hold U.S. or Japanese citizenship, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said Monday.

A third country, the United Kingdom, is expected to give an answer on whether any of the candidates hold British citizenship within two or three days, CEC Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu said.

The CEC sent inquiries -- via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) -- to the U.S., UK and Japanese representative offices in Taiwan on Feb.25 to verify whether the candidates had held citizenship in their respective countries since Jan. 27, 2008, the registration date for this year's presidential election.

According to the law, foreign nationals or Taiwanese citizens with foreign nationalities are ineligible to run for high-level public office.

The four candidates -- ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh and his running mate Su Tseng-chang, and opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou and his running mate Vincent Siew -- authorized the CEC to conduct the inquiry and provided personal information to help with the task.

None of them were Japanese citizens because of the nature of Japanese immigration regulations.

Under Japan's immigration law, individuals are required to abandon their original nationalities before applying for Japanese citizenship, the CEC said, citing a statement it received from the Interchange Association, Japan's representative office in Taiwan.

All four candidates hold Taiwanese citizenship, the CEC said, and therefore the stipulation ruled out the possibility that they are also citizens of Japan, the CEC said.

The CEC also stated that according to the response it received from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , none of the four candidates have U.S. citizenship based on American citizenship and immigration records.

AIT officials authorized to speak on the matter were not available for comment Monday afternoon.

The UK's representative office in Taiwan, the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO), would not comment on individual cases, said Phil Ellis, head of the BTCO's political and economic team.

Hsieh's camp has challenged his rival over the U.S. permanent residence status, or "green card, " Ma obtained in 1977.

Contending that the green card remains valid, Hsieh has questioned Ma's integrity and loyalty to Taiwan, but the KMT candidate said his green card was invalidated in the mid-1980s after he returned to Taiwan.

The CEC did not ask the U.S. about the permanent residence status of the candidates, however, because Taiwan's election law does not cover candidates' foreign residence status, Teng said.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Taiwan escapes German scare in baseball qualifiers

Taipei, March 9 (CNA) Taiwan's national baseball team survived a scare to defeat unheralded Germany 2-0 Sunday in Taichung to stay undefeated in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

With Australia knocking Canada from the ranks of the undefeated with a 10-5 upset in Sunday's other early game, Taiwan became the first team to win its first three games in the eight-team tournament.

The top three finishers in the tournament will earn spots in the 2008 Beijing Olympics baseball competition.

Taiwan was expected to coast to an easy win over a team that was given little chance to compete with the top teams in the tournament, but it turned out to be the toughest game for the host team so far.

Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, Germany, with only one U.S. minor league player on its roster, seemed poise to rally to victory.

But with German runners on first and third and nobody out, reliever Lo Chia-jen retired the next three batters without allowing any damage to preserve a shaky victory.

The potent attack that helped Taiwan to wins over Spain and Mexico was silenced by Germany's pitchers.

"In fact, this game came with even more pressure because it was a game we couldn't afford to lose, " Taiwan manager Hung Yi-chung said after the game.

After being shutout for six innings, Taiwan finally broke through in the top of the seventh to score the eventual winning runs. Lin Chih-sheng doubled and scored on Lo Kuo-hui's two-bagger to break the scoreless tie. Lo then scored on Kao Chih-kang's single, his first hit in the tournament.

"I imagined a scene that we were going to the Beijing Olympics when I stepped to the plate. I promised Chen Chin-feng that we would take him to Beijing, " Lo said.

Chen Chin-feng, Taiwan's best hitter, withdrew from the team due to injury prior to the tournament.

Germany stayed with the Taiwanese in the first six innings and even outhit Taiwan 5-4. It's starting lefthander Andre Hughes bothered Taiwanese hitters with slow pitches ranging between 105-115 kilometers per hour.

"We haven't often seen such slow pitches in Taiwan and our hitters spent some time to get used to it, " Hung said.

Hughes allowed eight hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Taiwan starter Chang Chih-chia struck out three and gave up five hits in five innings.

Taiwan faces a major test Monday against Canada, with a win likely to clinch an Olympic berth for the hosts.

-- Standings:
Taiwan 3-0
South Korea 2-0
Canada 2-1
Australia 2-1
Germany 1-2
Spain 0-2
Mexico 0-2
South Africa 0-2

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Taiwan scores convincing win in Olympic qualifying tournament

Taipei, March 8 (CNA) Taiwan's much-maligned national baseball team defeated a strong Mexico team with surprising ease Saturday, giving local fans hope that it can qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games after a rocky run-up to the tournament.

Expected to have trouble against a team it lost to twice in last November's Baseball World Cup, Taiwan played nearly flawlessly in upending the Mexicans 6-1 in the central Taiwan city of Douliou, the team's second consecutive win in the 2008 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Taiwan was superb in every phase of the game, pounding out double-digit hits for the second consecutive game, and limiting Mexico to six hits with the help of some consistent pitching and sparkling defense rarely seen from Taiwan in international play.

The victory came against one of the five teams considered to have a shot at the three Olympic berths up for grabs in the eight-team tournament, and means Taiwan probably only needs to win one game against the tough trio of Australia, South Korea and Canada to qualify for the Beijing Games.

“We can celebrate for a little while, but there are plenty of tough games ahead, ”said Taiwan mananger Hung Yi-chung after the game.

Taiwan's squad, hurt by injuries and the withdrawal of some top players competing overseas, has yet to show scars from its pre-tournament setbacks.

Playing as the visiting team Saturday, it led from start to finish, but didn't put the game away until the top of the eighth when Peng Cheng-min delivered a clutch hit for the second straight game.

With his team clinging to a 4-1 lead, Peng smashed a two-run bases-loaded single to left that provided a comfortable cushion for Taiwan's relievers.

Peng had a two-run homer in the first inning of Friday night's game against Spain to even the score after Taiwan got off to a shaky start. Taiwan went on to win in a 13-3 rout.

Starting pitcher Yang Chien-fu contained an explosive Mexican lineup, which had 18 hits against Canada in a 15-10 loss Friday, giving up only one run on five hits in five innings pitched.

Yang, who watched a DVD of Mexico's game didn't go to sleep until 1 a.m. Saturday morning, told reporters after the game that he focused most of his attention on Mexico's core hitters and relied primarily on sliders and curveballs to get them out.

Reliever Cheng Kai-wen was the revelation of Saturday's contest, on a squad that has been desperate to find reliable pitchers out of the bullpen. The 19-year-old right-hander fanned three Mexican hitters in the bottom of the sixth to stave off a Mexican rally after Jesus Cato's RBI-single narrowed Taiwan's lead to 4-1.

Taiwanese hitters were determined not to get behind early as happened against Spain. After Chang Chien-ming and Lin Che-hsuan opened the third with consecutive hits, Hung surprised the Mexicans by having Peng move the runners up with a sacrifice bunt.

The move paid off as Chang Tai-shan smacked a single to drive in the game's first two runs and get the crowd excited.

Taiwan added two more runs in the fourth in almost identical fashion. This time it was Chang Chien-ming who delivered a two-run single after his teammates had reached second and third on a sacrifice.

Mexico, which dropped to 0-2 after the loss, sent five pitchers to the mound but may have stayed with starter Pablo Ortega for too long. Ortega surrendered 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The single round-robin tournament is being played in Taichung and Yunlin County's Douliou from March 7-14, with the top three finishers heading to Beijing.

Taiwan meets Germany Sunday in Taichung, a game that it is expected to win comfortably.

In Saturday's other early game, Canada blanked South Africa 10-0 in seven innings to win its second straight game.

-- Standings:
Taiwan 2-0
Canada 2-0
South Korea 1-0
Australia 1-0
Germany 0-1
Spain 0-1
Mexico 0-2
South Africa 0-2

Friday, March 07, 2008

Taiwan thumps Spain to open the Olympic baseball qualifiers

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) Taiwan's offense looked just fine Friday night in the national baseball team's Olympic qualifying tournament opener after a string of injuries to core hitters prior to the tourney had cast doubt on whether it would be able to score runs.

Taking advanage of Spain's lackluster pitching staff, Taiwan thumped the Spaniards 13-3 in a game called after seven innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.

Without injured power hitters Chen Chin-feng and Hsieh Chia-hsien, Taiwan managed to erase the doubts -- at least for one night -- with a 12-hit barrage that included two home runs to overcome starting pitcher Chiang Chien-ming's shaky start.

The game ended acrimoniously as Spanish players and coaches engaged in a heated exchange with Taiwanese players in the dugout in the bottom of the seventh and after the game, apparently resentful that the home team, up 12-3, pushed hard for a run that would end the game two innings early.

Spain's pitchers showed their displeasure by firing pitches that barely missed hitting Taiwan's batters.

The victory over Spain, one of the three weaker teams in the eight-team field, drew sighs of relief, but Taiwan faces the much tougher Mexicans Saturday at noon on less than 24 hours rest, in a game many believe Taiwan must win if it wants to finish in the top three in the tournament and punch its ticket to Beijing.

The tournament is being played in Taichung and Yunlin County's Douliou from March 7-14, with the top three finishers heading to Beijing.

South Korea, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Taiwan are considered the teams with the best chances of advancing to the Beijing Games, while South Africa, Germany, and Spain are given no chance.

The tournament is of particular significance, especially in baseball-mad Taiwan, because the sport will not be an Olympic event starting in 2012. It is one of the few events in which Taiwan has a chance to be competitive.

But a string of bad results and injuries had most local fans questioning the prospects of the national team in this tournament, and many must have thought they were about to live a nightmare when in the top of the first, Spain erupted for two runs on three hits off Chiang, who pitches for Japan's Yomiuri Giants.

The advantage was short-lived, however. as Peng Cheng-min's tied the score at 2-2 with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.

Lin Chih-sheng's double Chiang Chih-hsien's single sparked another rally in the bottom of the second to put the home team up 5-2 and allow its jittery fans to finally breathe easier.

Taiwan put the game away in the fourth with a six-run spurt, keyed by a three-run homer off the bat of Lo Kuo-hui, a prospect in the Seattle Mariners' minor league system.

Chiang settled down after his first-inning struggles, striking out four while giving up a total of four hits and two runs in five innings.

Leadoff man Chang Chien-ming was one home run short of a hitting for a cycle and led Taiwan with three hits.

In other games Friday, South Korea beat South Africa 5-0 and Canada beat Mexico 15-10, with both teams pounding out 18 hits. Australia defeated Germany 4-1.

-- Standings:
Taiwan 1-0; Australia 1-0; South Korea 1-0; Canada 1-0; Mexico 0-1; Spain 0-1; Germany 0-1; South Africa 0-1

Independence advocates concerned about youths' sense of history

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) Taiwan independence advocates expressed concern Friday about the younger generation's sense of history and identity, saying that young people took freedom and democracy for granted.

“It seemed to me that Taiwanese kids take freedom for granted,” said Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based pro-independence Formosan Association For Public Relations (FAPR) , who has been speaking at university campuses around Taiwan for the past two weeks. The FAPR is the public relations arm of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international support for Taiwan's cause.

Blaauw, a Dutch lawyer who has been urging young adults to be proud of Taiwan in his speeches, observed that a lot of young people were confused about relations between Taiwan and China.

"They tended to think that it’s inevitable China will eventually take over Taiwan–just not in my lifetime, " Blaauw said in a press conference organized by Taiwan Society.

“Taiwan’s young people seemed embarrassed at their democracy, " Blaauw said, adding that Taiwan’s democracy is young and developing, however, and young people should speak out and be aggressive.

Jerome Keating, an American professor teaching in Taiwan who recently published a book titled "Taiwan: The search for identity, " agreed with the observation, saying that "the sense of history of the so-called‘strawberry generation’probably goes only 10 years deep."

Most of them didn’t know where Taiwan’s democracy came from because they were born after martial law was lifted in 1987, Keating said.

The scholar described himself as someone who thought the same as today’s young people, thinking that former Taiwan president Chiang Kai-shek was a nice guy when he arrived in Taiwan as a Taipei MRT engineer in 1988 soon after martial law was lifted.

A series of incidents aroused his interest for Taiwan's history, and Keating said he gradually realized that Taiwan’s history and identity were totally different from China’s.

Currently a literature professor at National Taipei University, Keating said that Taiwanese students should "go back and learn the real Taiwan history" so they know how to judge history in perspective.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Taiwan national baseball team fine tunes roster, awaits opener

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) The already-depleted Taiwan national baseball team added two amateurs to its 24-man roster Thursday, one day before its opening game versus Spain in the Final Olympic Baseball Qualifying Tournament begins.

Team Taiwan, which has seen a number of overseas and injured players dropping out of the team, replaced pitchers Shen Yu-chieh and Lin Po-yu with amateurs Lee Wei-hua and Lee Cheng-chang.

Shen and Lin failed the medical test given by the Chinese Taipei Olympics Committee.

Team manger Hung Yi-chung immediately made the personnel change, saying that he would not risk the chance of players failing the in-game doping tests in such an important international competition.

The Olympic qualifiers will be played in the central Taiwan cities of Taichung and Douliou in Yunlin County from March 7-14, with the top three of eight participating teams advancing to the Beijing Olympics.

Taiwan is scheduled to meet Spain in Taichung Friday night.

Taking down Spain is expected to be relatively easy for Taiwan, which beat Spain 8-4 in last year’s Baseball World Championship, but beating other opponents will not.

South Korea, which features a strong offensive lineup, and Mexico, which has seven players with U.S. Major League experiences, are tough to beat. Canada and Australia, which won silver in the 2004 Athens Olympics, will both be hard to handle.

Germany, South Africa and Spain are expected to be the weaker teams in the tournament.

Pitchers Tsao Chin-hui, Keng Po-hsuan, Lin En-yu and Hsu Ming-chieh all decided to concentrate on their professional careers overseas, while Taiwan’s best hitter -- Chen Chin-feng and Hsieh Chia-hsien -- have also dropped out due to injury.

With the injuries and withdrawals, Taiwan’s once promising hopes for an Olympic berth will now rest primarily on the shoulders of a group of amateurs and untested U.S. Minor Leaguers.

The final roster of Taiwan national baseball team is listed as follows (club team in parentheses):

Manager: Hung Yi-chung

Coaches: Kung Jun-tang, Kang Ming-shan, Lin Kun-han

Pitchers (10): Yang Chien-fu (Sinon), Chiang Chien-ming (Yomiuri Giants) , Chang Chih-chia, Huang Chun-chung (La New) , Ni Fu-te (Chinatrust), Lin Ke-chien (Taiwan Beer), Cheng Kai-wei (Meifu), Lo Chia-jen (Meifu), Lee Wei-hua (Uni-President), Lee Chen-chang (TPEC) Catchers (2) : Yeh Chun-chang (Sinon) , Kao Chih-kang (Uni-President)

Infielders (7) : Kao Kuo-ching (Uni-President) , Chang Tai-shan (Sinon), Wang Sheng-wei (Brothers), Lin Chih-sheng (La New), Chiang Chih-hsien (Boston Red Sox) , Lin Yi-chuan (Sinon) , Kuo Yen-wen (Boston Red Sox)

Outfielders (5) : Peng Cheng-min (Brothers) , Chang Chien-ming (Sinon) , Lo Kuo-hui (Seattle Mariners) , Lin Che-hsuan (Boston Red Sox), Chung Cheng-yu (La New)

Former premier calls for referendum boycott, slams president

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) Former Premier Tang Fei urged voters to boycott two referendums to be held alongside the March 22 presidential election and blasted President Chen Shui-bian on various issues Thursday.

"Boycotting is not a good way, but it is the only way now," Tang claimed, adding that both referendums, which were submitted by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), threaten cross-Taiwan Strait stability.

Tang, the first premier appointed by the Chen administration in 2000, proposed that the referendums be postponed for six months but admitted that this might be too late to do with 16 days to go before the election.

China, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan have all expressed opposition to the referendums, which will ask voters whether Taiwan should join the United Nations under the name Taiwan or rejoin the U.N. under the name Republic of China or some other suitable title.

The referendums should not be held before thorough discussions among citizens, 74-year-old Tang said, adding his opinion that a referendum should not be a tool for political mobilization.

Tang, who served as premier from May to October, 2000, also blasted his former boss.

Ridiculing Chen's comment in a media interview in which he said Taiwan's constitution is "a mess," Tang questioned why Chen has not tried to amend the constitution for the past seven years.

Tang also claimed that Chen "had disrupted military tradition by promoting military officials according to his own will."

A former air force general, defense minister and KMT member, Tang founded Taiwan Vision Forum and Association last September. He submitted 12 questions titled "Twelve Unavoidable Questions for Taiwan's New President, " to both presidential candidates -- the opposition Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou and the Democratic Progressive Party's Frank Hsieh -- at a press conference.

His questions range from cross-strait relations, the economy, education and culture, to environmental protection, and were aimed at "moving the election from mudslinging to meaningful discussion."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

MAC calls for world attention to China's real military buildup goal

Taipei, March 4 (CNA) A potential cross-Taiwan Strait conflict is only short-term goal of China's rapid military buildup and the international community should pay more attention to China's real objectives, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said Tuesday.

Responding to an annual assessment of China’s military capabilities submitted to the U.S. Congress by the Pentagon that was released Monday, the MAC said in a statement that the report proves that the main short-term focus of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Taiwan Strait.

The report says China's capabilities have been expanding from the land, air and sea dimensions of the traditional battlefield into space and cyber-space. China also has around 1,000 CSS-6 and CSS-7 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) aimed at Taiwan.

China's expanding military capabilities are destabilizing East Asian military situations and threatening peace in the Asia-Pacific region, the MAC said, urging the international community to probe the real objectives of the buildup and take necessary measures to deal with potential Taiwan Strait situations.

The PLA has deployed its main strike forces in southeastern regions of China and although the situation in the Taiwan Strait remains stable, the balance of military power continues to shift in China's favor, the report warns.

China's massive military modernization and preparation go against its previous pledges of a "peaceful rise and peaceful development, " said the MAC.

New AIT Kaohsiung office chief assumes duties

Taipei, March 4 (CNA) Chris Castro took up his duties as the chief of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Kaohsiung Branch Office Tuesday, the AIT announced in a press release.

Castro, who entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1988, had previous postings at Shanghai, China; Oslo, Norway, and the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium.

He also worked as special assistant to then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Armitage's successor, Robert B. Zoellick.

The AIT functions as the U.S. representative office in Taiwan in absence of official diplomatic relations between the two sides, with its primary office based in Taipei.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Taiwan's baseball team suffers huge blow

Taipei, March 3 (CNA) Taiwan’s top hitter Chen Chin-feng withdrew from the national baseball team Monday with a back injury, a devastating blow to an already weakened squad just four days before the start of the final Olympic qualifying tournament.

Chen, Taiwan's first player to reach the U.S. major leagues and seen as its most talented hitter in the last decade, was told by doctors at National Cheng Kung University Hospital in the southern city of Tainan that he would have to sit out the tournament.

Chen advised manager Hung Yi-chung Sunday that he would have to be left off the roster with a recurring back injury. But with Hung having trouble finding somebody to replace Chen as designated hitter in the lineup's cleanup spot, the former Los Angeles Dodger had hoped for a reprieve from doctors at the Tainan hospital Monday.

The final 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament will be played in Taichung and Douliou in Yunlin County from March 7-14, with the top three of the eight participating teams advancing to the Beijing Games.

The tourney will be Taiwan’s last hope of making the eight-team field in Beijing after it failed to win an automatic slot in the Asian Baseball Championships last December.

The 30-year-old slugger was the latest star to drop out of the national squad. Pitchers Tsao Chin-hui, Keng Po-hsuan, Lin En-yu and Hsu Ming-chieh all decided to concentrate on their professional careers overseas, while Taiwan's best left-handed hitter, Hsieh Chia-hsien has also been lost to injury.

The loss of Chen, however, could torpedo Taiwan's chances against any team with decent pitching, as he has been consistently productive for his club team, the La New Bears, or the national team in big international competitions.

Chen hit the first-ever grand slam in the inaugural 2006 Asian Series, a tournament featuring the best club teams from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and a representative squad from China.

He drove in eight runs and hit.407 at the 2004 Athens Olympics and hit.500 at the 2003 Asian Championships.

His most memorable performance came in the bronze medal game of the 2001 Baseball World Cup against Japan, when his two home runs not only won the game for Taiwan, but also may have sparked the resurgence of Taiwanese baseball after game-fixing scandals had dimmed interest in previous years.

Replacing Chen won't be an easy task, Hung told the media, with Hsieh unavailable. Shortstop Lin Chi-sheng, the hero in Taiwan's Asian Games gold medal victory in December 2006, has also pulled a thigh muscle and his status for the tournament remains uncertain.

With the injuries and withdrawals, Taiwan's once promising hopes for an Olympic berth will now rest primarily on a group of amateurs untested in international competition, not exactly a confidence-building thought for Hung and the team's fans.