Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MECO head reviews Philippine-Taiwan relations, gauges impact of ECFA

Taipei, March 31 (CNA) Although the proposed cross-strait trade agreement could present challenges to relations between Taiwan and the Philippines, it could also open opportunities, the Philippines' top diplomat in Taiwan told CNA in an interview Wednesday.

Ties between the Philippines and Taiwan are at their best in years after strained relations due to disputes over aviation rights during 1998-2000 and later the Spratly Islands, said Antonio Basilio, managing director and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) -- the Philippines' official authority in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

Taiwan and its closest neighbor to the south not only have signed memorandums of understanding ranging from labor, trade and investment, science and technology, and transfer of criminals, but the Philippines is also one of the few ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries that conduct regular ministerial visits to Taiwan, Basilio said.

The Philippines also attends three annual meetings on joint economic relations, science and technology, and labor relations with Taiwan, he said.

Responding to a question about the possible impact of the proposed cross-Taiwan Strait economic cooperation framework agreement, which aims to relax tariffs and trade regulations between Taiwan and China and is expected to be signed in June, Basilio said that while the agreement could have an impact on the Philippines' economy, it also presents new prospects.

"Actually we've already felt (the impact) even before the negotiations began, " he said, noting that when cross-strait travel restrictions were relaxed, the number of tourist arrivals from Taiwan to the Philippines dropped.

"We foresee that when most of the restriction to investment from the mainland is lifted, it may result in closing and moving (to China) of some Taiwanese plants. That means less employment of our workers in Taiwan," he said.

However, Basilio pointed out that the agreement could also present opportunities for the Philippines, which will be able to expand the concept of "economic corridor" to include China. The Philippines can also provide skilled labor like teachers and engineers for Taiwanese businesses aspiring to move up the value chain with high-end products.

The economic corridor is a project aimed at linking economic zones between Taiwan and the Philippines to make the Philippines "Taiwan's entry point to the ASEAN market, " taking advantage of the fact products processed in the Philippines can be seen as ASEAN products and enjoy duty-free privileges.

For Taiwanese businesses that also operate in China, it might be possible to find a mechanism to help transport products from one place to the other, depending on their needs, he said.

"We're watching the situation (of the negotiations) very closely," he said.

The MECO would like to facilitate more two-way investment, Basilio said. However, like Taiwan, China is also a major attraction for Philippine corporations.

"We have not been able to attract bigger companies, but we're successful in attracting the small- and medium-sized businesses, " he said.

Notable Taiwan investors in the Philippines include computer maker ACER, information and communication service provider Wistron Corporation, automaker Yulon Motors and some LCD manufacturers.

Basilio would like to see Taiwan relax part of its trade regulations, which "hampered our ability to export fresh food and meat products to Taiwan." He would also like to resolve the long-standing issue of high brokerage and service fees for Filipino workers in Taiwan by creating a mechanism that allows employers to directly hire Filipino workers.

He said his office is collaborating with Taiwanese counterparts to speed up the judicial process for Taiwanese fishermen detained for illegally entering Philippine waters.

Reflecting on the 10 years he has served in the office, Basilio said that he was most proud of restoring relations to the level they previously held. He added that he was happy with the signing of agreements in various areas and steady development of many cooperation projects.

Looking ahead, the seasoned diplomat said he intends to complete rules and regulations regarding the economic corridor to enable products and workers to move freely between the countries. His office would also like to make efforts to increase the Philippines' share in Taiwan's automotive parts market. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Philippine representative shares absentee voting experience

Taipei, March 31 (CNA) Transparency, easy access and information examination are keys to a successful absentee voting system, the top Philippine diplomat in Taiwan said Wednesday as his office was gearing up for his country's presidential election in May.

Absentee voting for overseas Filipinos will begin April 10 and close May 10, the day when the Southeastern Asian country elects its president, vice president, 12 senators, congressmen, governors, mayors and councilmen, said Antonio Basilio, Managing Director and Resident Representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

The Philippines' practice of the system, which was enacted in 2004, could serve as an example for Taiwan's government, which has been assessing the feasibility of an absentee voting system that President Ma Ying-jeou considers a necessity in a democratic country and a must to protect the constitutional and human rights of Taiwan's electorate.

An estimated 600,000 registered voters or more -- including 15,000 in Taiwan -- among 3 million overseas Filipino workers around the world are expected to cast their votes under the absentee voting system, which includes both physical and postal voting, he said.

Implementation of the absentee voting is sometimes difficult because voting has to take place in embassies or consulates, he said, noting that voters also have to travel and can probably only vote on their days off.

"The expected turnout in Taiwan will be a little more than 50 percent, while the global turnout is expected to be around 50 percent-60 percent, " said Basilio.

Postal absentee voting was adopted in Taiwan for the 2004 Philippine presidential election but had disappointing results, he went on.

Basilio explained that a lot of oversea workers were caught between elections due to contracts, so that some registered voters never received their mailed ballots due to an address change, while those who registered in the Philippines before going abroad did not know their future addresses.

Transparency and easy access for people wishing to cast their votes are vital for a successful absentee voting system, the representative said, adding that using technology to improve information examination is equally important.

Fraud never occurs in the Philippines' voting system because the government is able to achieve this transparency and access and government officials are able to maintain neutrality throughout the whole process, according to Basilio.

The implementation of computerized vote-counting for the first time is also expected to improve the speed and accuracy of vote-counting, although it will not be done in Taiwan this year, he went on.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior (MOI) , there are several options for absentee voting, such as postal voting, proxy voting, voting in advance and transfer voting.

Interior Minister Jiang Yi-hua said that after discussions with the Central Election Commission, the ministry has tentatively decided to first introduce transfer voting, which will allow eligible voters to vote in the constituencies where they work instead of the constituencies where their legal residences are registered. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Czech Republic seeks upgrade in ties with Taiwan: CECO head

Taipei, March 30 (CNA) The Czech Republic is ready to boost its exchanges with Taiwan to a fuller scale as it hopes to upgrade bilateral relations, especially in trade and culture, after the economic crisis, top Czech diplomat in Taiwan told CNA in an interview Tuesday.

Commenting on current Czech-Taiwan relations, Czech Economic and Cultural Office (CECO) Representative Juraj Koudelka said that in terms of the number of tourists, the number of Taiwanese companies investing in the Czech Republic and bilateral exchanges of goods, the Czech Republic's relations with Taiwan "are on a high and very good level." The CECO's effort in promoting bilateral relations has been fruitful in recent years, but it is not satisfied yet, Koudelka said. As the global economy is showing a rebound, he said, his office intends to do more to facilitate more exchanges, which are expected to translate into stronger bilateral ties.

An estimated 15,000 Taiwanese tourists visited the Central European country last year. The number is expected to grow and return to the pre-economic crisis period because there will be more travelers now that the economy is starting to show signs of recovery, said Koudelka, who took office as the de facto ambassador in January, in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Tourism is important in increasing bilateral understanding, because of the "people to people contact, " he said.

Koudelka said he didn't know exactly when Taiwan will be granted visa-free privilege to the Schengen Area, which currently consists of 25 European countries, but he expected the visa-free program would make it easier for Taiwanese tourists to travel.

The Czech Republic has been very supportive of the proposed measure, he said, noting that it was his country which first raised the issue during its European Union (EU) presidency in the first half of 2009.

Meanwhile, the representative dubbed his country's year-long "Czech Gems" exhibition tour, which just concluded in the southern city of Tainan after making trips to other major cities in Taiwan, a big success and a great opportunity to promote Czech culture.

The exhibition is composed of three parts, including the country's renowned Baroque architecture, a creative recycling art of the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, and a collection introducing Czech gems, such as the Prague castle, the largest castle in the world; peasant Baroque farmhouses; the unique breed of Old Kladruby Horses, and composer Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9.

Koudelka's office would like to support as much cultural exchanges as possible and keep raising awareness of the possibilities for more Taiwanese companies to follow the footsteps of some 30 well-known local corporations -- including Foxconn, computer maker Acer and bicycle manufacturer Giant -- to invest in Czech, he said.

Czech companies are more than welcomed to invest in Taiwan, he said, adding that the current number of Czech companies in Taiwan is "less than we would like to have." Taiwanese companies are also encouraged to take advantage of the Czech Republic's geographic position, which is located in the heart of Europe; its educated workforce with advanced knowledge of science; its lower wages and low production cost; and its emphasis on the rule of law, he said.

Since the Czech Republic has a strong automobile industry, with car maker Skoda Auto, now a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, selling 600,000 cars a year, Taiwanese businesses will be welcomed to explore partnerships. Other sectors, including textile, nanotechnology, environmental technology, and biological and chemical products, also present opportunities, Koudelka said.

Meanwhile, CECO also would like to bring in more Czech investment and imports, although the office could only make suggestions and recommendations, he noted.

Asked about the recent debate in Taiwan about whether to abolish the death penalty, Koudelka said that he will not try to give advice to anyone. As an EU member country, he said, abolition of the capital punishment came naturally for the Czech Republic.

He observed that the discussion regarding the death penalty in his country had also been very difficult and he believed that due process is very important.

Offering observations, he said that several things are quite important as "first, it (the death penalty) is forever and you can't undo it. Second, sometimes it can be misused, which has happened in our history. Third, research has found that the death penalty does not serve as an effective tool to reduce criminality." The Czech Republic abolished the death penalty because "in our view, human rights are very important. They are a very strong part of what we do and what we believe in," said Koudelka. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thailand Week 2010 concludes with food fair

Taipei, March 27 (CNA) A food and products fair was launched Saturday in Taipei as the final event in "Thailand Week 2010, " which was aimed at promoting better understanding of the Southeast Asian country.

At the fair, some 20 booths in the plaza in front of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei offered food, handicraft, and tourism and visa services.

"The purpose of this event is not only to promote Thailand tourism and food, but also to showcase every aspect of Thailand to the people of Taiwan and others who are currently in Taipei, " said Arbhorn Manasvanich, Executive Director of the Thailand Trade and Economic Office (TTEO).

The Thailand Food and Products Fair, which will run through Sunday, is the final event in a series of activities to celebrate 2010 Thailand Week from March 20-28.

The activities included a Thai classical dance performance in Yilan and Taipei, the screening of a Thai movie "Homrong, " and an investment seminar at which several Taiwanese businesses from the alternative energy and pharmaceutical sectors expressed interest in investing in Thailand, Manasvanich said.

At Saturday's food event, the chef who demonstrated how to make traditional Thai dishes such as green curry, spicy shrimp and lemongrass salad was none other than the representative herself.

Manasvanich said she was quite impressed with the participation in and responses to the event, which is being held for the second year.

The fair attracted Taiwanese visitors, Thai workers in Taiwan, and a group of Thai students who are in Taiwan on a two-month language program.

Stressing the importance of friendship between the two countries, Manasvanich noted said they have similar cultures and lifestyles.

"Apart from the observance of Buddhism (in Taiwan) , the way of life is very similar in Thailand and Taiwan," she said.

"In addition, some people always get Thailand and Taiwan mixed up. That tells you we're quite close to each other, " she said jokingly.

"Add to that the fact that an estimated 300,000 Taiwanese tourists visit Thailand every year, we feel like neighbors although we don't share a border," she said.

The TTEO is planning to organize another fair in October and other cultural programs later this year, Manasvanich said, adding that 2011 Thailand Week will be the biggest TTEO event ever.

The office is also trying to promote Thai rice -- which Manasvanich says makes Thai dishes taste better -- as there are now Thai restaurants almost everywhere in Taiwan.

Another area that the office is looking at is collaboration between the Taiwanese and Thai film industries.

Manasvanich said she doesn't know why most Thai movies being screened in Taiwan's theaters and on television movie channels are horror films.

"We have many kinds of movies, not just horror movies. It may be a good idea to organize a film festival in the future," she said. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Friday, March 26, 2010

Taiwan media, politicians trade barbs over botched translation

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) Taiwan's newspapers and politicians continued to trade barbs in a dispute over translation of an analysis from a foreign financial group that made comments on the 2012 presidential election.

The analysis, titled "Taiwan Strategy" and containing a subtitle reading "The KMT as its own enemy," was written by analyst Bruce Warden of Hong Kong-based Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia (CLSA) Asia-Pacific Markets, a brokerage and investment group.

Citing the analysis, the Chinese-language Liberty Times daily reported Wednesday that the firm had predicted a 2012 re-election loss for President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) chairman.

The CLSA report said: "We maintain the view we proposed last June, that the 2012 presidential election is the KMT's to lose. The Ma administration's China policy has broad enough public support that it should be able carry the 2012 election on its own merits." It went on to say: "However, we also believe that 'it would likely require some self-inflicted wound for the KMT to lose in 2012' and events of recent months highlight the ease with which this can happen." The headline of the Liberty Times' Wednesday front page read: "Ma will lose 2012 election: CLSA." By Wednesday night the story was reported and commented on by other local newspapers, Internet forums and television political talk shows, with opposition Democratic Party (DPP) citing the "prediction" while criticizing the Ma administration.

KMT legislator Wu Yu-sheng told a press conference Thursday that the newspaper had mistranslated the analysis.

CLSA also issued a statement in Chinese and English Thursday correcting the Liberty Times story and said the newspaper "obtained and used this report without permission." "The view we proposed in our June 2009 report 'KMT in the driver's seat' is that the 2012 presidential election is the KMT's to lose. This means the report does not predict President Ma Ying-jeou will lose the election," the statement said.

The Chinese-language United Daily News daily ran a front-page story Friday headlined "CLSA misquoted by Liberty Times" although it had also carried a story on the CLSA analysis Thursday that was titled "CLSA's bold prediction: Ma to lose 2012 re-election." The Liberty Times published a story Friday in which it invited a university professor to review its translation and the CLSA analysis word by word, but did not admit it had made a translation error in its original report Wednesday.

It's not unusual for Taiwanese newspapers to lash out at competitors' mistakes amid fierce domestic competition and tense debate over political issues.

Taiwan's newspapers and political parties often quote reports and columns from foreign newspapers as well as analyses by foreign think tanks or politicians when covering domestic political issues. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Australian office declines comment on reports of blocked visits

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) Australia's representative office in Taiwan declined to comment Friday on an Australian newspaper report that said Canberra was blocking ministerial officials from visiting Taiwan.

Greg Sheridan, a columnist of The Australian, wrote in Thursday's "China sends a message, and we tremble and obey" that there had been a policy change in the government of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that blocked ministerial officials from visiting Taiwan.

The Australian Commerce and Industry Office, the country's official representative office in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, declined to comment on the matter.

According to Japan's Kyodo news agency, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade rejected the allegation.

"Consistent with the one-China policy, Australia has for many years sent ministers to Taiwan to support Australian trade. In truth these visits also recognise the political achievements of Taiwan, " Sheridan wrote.

However, he also said: "This will be the first time at least since the (Bob) Hawke government (1983-1991) that a whole parliamentary cycle has gone by without such a visit." He also wrote: "A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told him the Rudd government had not made a formal undertaking to Beijing that no minister will visit Taiwan during the first term of the Rudd government. But the spokesperson confirmed that there is no plan for a ministerial visit to Taiwan." According to Kyodo, Sheridan is a long-time critic of China's communist government and has launched angry attacks on Australia's two major political parties over their China policy.

Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday in Honiara, Solomon Islands -- one of his six stops in a week-long South Pacific trip -- that Australia had changed its view toward Taiwan's effort of forging closer ties with its diplomatic allies in the region.

Ma said that Australia, which once criticized Taiwan for its checkbook diplomacy and interference of local elections in the South Pacific, was no longer on alert for "evil-doing" by Taiwan because the country is offering aid in the right way.

The Australian Commerce and Industry Office declined to comment on Ma's remarks. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Climate refugees an issue for Taiwan

Taipei, March 25 (CNA) The term "climate refugees" became a much talked about issue when it was raised in Taiwan recently following massive damage and loss of life resulting from natural disasters, as well as in President Ma Ying-jeou's ongoing trip to Taiwan's six South Pacific allies.

Discussions about the possible climate refugee phenomenon increased after Typhoon Morakot devastated parts of southern Taiwan last August.

This is partly why a locally produced global warming documentary titled "Plus or Minus Two Degrees Celsius, " inspired by the 2006 documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" produced by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, attracted attention and sparkled public debate over its prediction of an apocalyptic future for Taiwan.

According to the film, the people of Taiwan will be among the first climate refugees -- or "environmentally induced migration" as some prefer to call it -- if the environmental situation keeps deteriorating and protection measures are not immediately put in place.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) , an advocacy organization, claimed in a 2009 report that nearly 10 percent of the world's population is at risk from displacement by climate change. Around 26 million have already had to move, a figure that the EJF predicts could have grown to 150 million by 2050.

The impact of climate change became one of the key themes during Ma's South Pacific trip. He talked about helping Taiwan's allies to fight climate change and rising sea levels. For Kiribati and Tuvalu, global warming is a life-threatening disaster because it is causing rising sea levels that could eventually submerge their homelands, according to some scientists.

"We will help seek possible solutions to the global warming that is causing rising sea levels that could eventually submerge Kiribati, " Ma said during a meeting with Kiribati President Anote Tong.

He also noted that according to research, ancestors of the Austronesian people now living in the South Pacific emigrated from Taiwan some 3,000 years ago.

"We will probably return to Taiwan someday, " Tong responded.

Benjamin T.H. Ho, Taiwan's ambassador to Kiribati, said in a recent interview with CNA that the Kiribati government has devised a plan for "relocation of the whole country" in the event of a disaster and has also been lobbying for more international aid for its life-and-death battle against global warming.

According to the ambassador, Kiribati was exploring whether any country in the world would be willing to provide land or an island to accommodate its total population of about 100,000.

Ho said the plan does not seem feasible. Although Australia and New Zealand are willing to accept immigrants from Kiribati, they would not do so without any prerequisites.

Ho said that in his view, apart from offering vocational training, Taiwan could play a more active role in Kiribati's relocation plan by opening its doors to workers from there.

The ambassador said he had already discussed the proposal with the Council of Labor Affairs and that the plan is likely be implemented if the Kiribati government is willing to set up a fund to offer low-interest loans for prospective Kiribati workers to travel to Taiwan. The travel cost is about US$300 per person, which Ho said could be repaid through phased deductions from the workers' wages.

While Tuvalu also faces the threat of rising sea levels, its government has not been as active as Kiribati's in seeking national relocation. "The Tuvalu government is reluctant to talk about national relocation because it fears its people will panic, " according to James C.K. Tien, Taiwan's ambassador to Tuvalu.

Asked about the possibility of Taiwan accepting climate refugees, Ger Baushuan, deputy secretary-general of the Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) , said the ministry has not heard of anything related to the issue and has no such plans.

Ger pointed out that these South Pacific countries traditionally maintain closer relationships with Australia and New Zealand because of proximity, history and culture.

The New Zealand Foreign Ministry states on its website that its immigration policy does allow for a limited number of people from Pacific countries including Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu to gain residency in New Zealand. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwanese MLB players work ahead of new season

Taipei, March 25 (CNA) Ten days before the opening game of U.S. Major League Baseball's 2010-11 season, Taiwanese fans have received a mixed bag of good and bad news about the four local players in the league.

For pitchers Wang Chien-ming, Kuo Hong-chih, Ni Fu-te and infielder Hu Chin-lung -- as well as anxious fans -- the new season, which will open April 5 local time, presents several uncertainties.

Wang, twice a 19-game winner while with the New York Yankees, is still rehabbing from his shoulder injury in the Washington Nationals training camp and is not expected to pitch in the big league until May.

The "Pride of Taiwan" missed his scheduled bullpen session Wednesday due to right shoulder soreness after throwing 45 pitches in a Monday session. However, Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said it was not a big concern.

"It was not important that he completed his throwing [today], " McCatty said. "He will go out in a couple of days and do it again." It's also not known when Wang will play in a simulated game or Minor League game, but when he does come back, he is expected to fill in as the Nationals' fifth starter.

Meanwhile, Ni Fu-te, who is in his second season with the Detroit Tigers as a reliever, may move up the roster after top reliever Bobby Seay, who's also left-handed, went down with an injury. With Seay out for Opening Day and possibly longer, Ni could end up with a bigger role in the new season.

Ni got a surprise start and notched up a win in a 3-0 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday. He appeared in six games in spring training and had a 5.19 earned run average.

Primarily a one-inning pitcher last season, Ni is trying to keep things in perspective. According to an report, he said through a translator that he hopes to make the 25-man roster at the end of spring and will do his best to compete for a spot.

The outlook isn't as fair for Los Angeles Dodgers lefty reliever Kuo and utility man Hu, both of whom turned their focus back to the new season after returning to Taiwan for an exhibition series earlier this month.

Kuo has been having trouble with a sore elbow that forced him to be scratched from his scheduled start against a Taiwanese All-Star team in the exhibition series. reported that Kuo has pitched in only two games this spring -- 10 days apart -- and that he retired all six batters but suffered soreness both times.

Kuo's elbow has been operated on four times during his MLB career, all with the Dodgers.

The forecast on Hu's future has been mixed. While the Dodgers are reportedly satisfied with his play and think the 26-year-old "can handle shortstop for an extended time if needed, " there have been media reports suggesting that the team is seeking a deal to trade Hu and starting pitcher Eric Stults.

Hu, who was the first MLB infielder from Taiwan but has been played sparingly in the big leagues, told the media in Taiwan that he was not against a trade that could allow him more time outside the dugout.

While Hu is always reliable as a second baseman or a shortstop, it's believed that he must improve his batting performance to secure a regular spot. As of Thursday, Hu has only a .200 batting average in 11 games in spring training. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Purported extraterrestrial figures displayed in Taipei

Taipei, March 25 (CNA) Close to 900 items said to be in the shape of extraterrestrial creatures are being displayed in downtown Taipei by a group who believe some Earth residents originated from outer space.

Located in Taipei's Gongguan district -- near National Taiwan University -- the Museum of Aliens showcases a total of 888 items made of stone and jade. Most of them are sculptures that resemble creatures seen in some Hollywood alien movies.

These items are from the personal collection of Chen Yi-wen, who heads an association of people who are interested in alien culture and believe that "aliens come in various forms and aliens are among us," museum guide Audrey Kuan said.

Most of the sculptures have thin eyes and pointed ears. Some resemble birds or turtles, and some wear strange hats.

"Almost all of these items were from China's Xinjiang province. Four of them were from the Central American region of ancient Mayan culture. According to our research, their history is in the range of hundreds of years to thousands of years old," Kuan said.

The association believes that aliens communicate by electric waves rather than language and are "100 times, even 1000 times smarter than humans, " and that "alien spirits exist inside the body of some human beings and have a tremendous impact on a selected few." "To us, Albert Einstein, Adolph Hitler and Sun Yat-sen were all aliens. They were either great men or extremely evil, which is a sign they have been affected by alien spirits." she said.

Wizards and witches were the first group of humans "created or affected" by outer space creatures, the association says.

A lot of scientists and religious groups have visited the museum since it opened in mid-March, she said, adding that most visitors are curious about these items and the association's theory but that it is difficult to explain to them.

Among the visitors was Lu Ching-chung, a well-known researcher of Taiwan's "UFOlogy" and a self-proclaimed alien spirit.

Scientific research on aliens has stalled for quite some time, said Lee Chia-wei, a paleontology professor at Tsing Hua University.

"The only fact that has been scientifically confirmed is that there are forms of life on other planets... it is difficult to prove that human beings are able to communicate with extraterrestrial life forms by electromagnetic waves, however," he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ECFA helpful despite negotiation difficulties: SEF head

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) The proposed trade agreement with China will be helpful for Taiwan despite its complicated nature making negotiations difficult and time-consuming, Taiwan's top cross-strait negotiator said Tuesday.

"This is going to be a bargain no matter how you calculate it, " said Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) -- Taiwan's quasi-official organization that deals with cross-strait matters -- while addressing reporters on the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).

Negotiation of the ECFA, which is aimed at improving bilateral economic ties and lowering trade barriers, is expected to enter its second round later this month.

"Taiwan's economy is driven by exports. The key for Taiwanese businesses is receiving fair treatment in foreign markets. If they do, they will be fine, " Chiang said, adding that "the saddest thing is when you're competitive but not treated fairly." The talks have been progressing as expected, but have entered the "difficult" part of President Ma Ying-jeou's "first the easy, then the difficult" cross-strait policy, he said.

Given the complexity of the trade pact, which involves many government agencies, negotiations are expected to take some time, he said.

The veteran politician said that Taiwan and China had common interests when they negotiated for the "mini three links, " but the situation was different with the ECFA because both sides see advantages and disadvantages at the same time. The "mini three links" negotiations led to limited connections between Taiwan's Kinmen and Matsu and several cities in China's Fujian province.

Asked about the lack of consensus from the public and opposition from certain domestic sectors, Chiang said that Taiwan was forced to open its market because of World Trade Organization (WTO) stipulations.

Negotiations for WTO accession lasted almost 10 years and involved more than 30 countries, thousands of tariff elimination items and more than 240 meetings, he said.

"We lowered the average tariffs on our industrial products from 7 percent to 4 percent as well as those of some agricultural products from 20 percent to 12 percent. Did Taiwan businesses collapse? No, " he said.

In fact, he said, Taiwan's exports increased significantly after WTO accession.

He said that Taiwanese businesses suffered badly from 1986 to 1988, when the New Taiwan dollar appreciated by 40 percent relative to the U.S. dollar -- from NT$40 to US$1 to NT$25 to US$1.

"But Taiwan businesses survived, " he said.

Japan has taken notice of what Taiwan is doing, Chiang said, and now places the signing of free trade agreements (FTAs) at the top of its national economy policy.

Japan has always wanted to formulate its economic policy through the mechanism of the WTO, he said, but is now resorting to bilateral FTAs or regional FTAs after the stalled Doha talks and Taiwan's aggressiveness in seeking a trade agreement with China.

Chiang admitted that domestic opposition to the deal is still fierce, but said there is no way to reach consensus except through better communication with the people, which the government has been working on relentlessly.

"At the end of the day... without it (the ECFA) , Taiwan's trade volume will be taken away and domestic and foreign investments will move elsewhere," he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Most Taiwanese see Japan as favorite country: survey

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) Over half of Taiwan's people listed Japan as their favorite country but a majority described bilateral ties as neither good or bad, a survey conducted by Japan's representative office in Taiwan has found.

Japan ranks far ahead of the United States and China as the favorite foreign country of Taiwan's people, being chosen by 52 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by the Taipei office of the Interchange Association (Japan) , the country's de-facto embassy in Taiwan.

Only 8 percent of respondents said the U.S. was their favorite country, while 5 percent named China.

"The results show that people in Taiwan and Japan have good feelings about each other in general, " said Chen Tyau-her, secretary-general of the East Asian Relations Commission under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

In terms of the state of Taiwan-Japan relations, 28 percent of those polled described them as "good or very good, " and 63 percent said relations are "neither good nor bad." Around 62 percent of respondents described Japan as a "closely-related" country, with 13 percent among them saying that relations between Taiwan and Japan are "very close." The number was down from last year's 69 percent.

Japan is still highly popular among Taiwanese tourists, as 90 percent of respondents said it was a charismatic country and 44 percent said the northeast Asian country was their preferred destination for an overseas trip.

Europe was the second favorite destination at 29 percent.

Meanwhile, economic, trade and industrial exchanges were listed by 20 percent of respondents as the area of greatest expectations for bilateral exchanges in the future.

However, Japan lagged behind China -- 31 percent to 33 percent -- as the most important country with which Taiwan should try to seek closer relations, the survey found. The U.S. was a distant third at 16 percent.

Among areas of concern in the bilateral relationship, 36 percent of respondents said they were most worried about fishing issues while 30 percent cited anxiety over the impact of the Japan-China relationship on Japan's ties with Taiwan.

Both numbers were up from last year.

A long-standing territorial dispute over the Tiaoyutai Islands (Senkaku Islands in Japanese), which are located northeast of Taiwan, and overlapping economic waters have led to numerous conflicts and escalated tensions between Taiwan and Japan in recent years.

The Interchange Association concluded in the summary of the survey that, while most Taiwanese still view Taiwan's relationship with Japan as close, the percentage of those listing Japan as their favorite country has dropped from last year, and the appeal of Japanese food was also slightly down.

The survey of 1,018 respondents from around Taiwan was conducted from Dec. 12, 2009 to Jan. 11, 2010, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Song Shan High School retains high school basketball championship

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) Song Shan High School won an 83-80 comeback victory over Nen-ren Household and Commercial Vocational High School to retain its title as Taiwan's high school's boys basketball champion Saturday.

The defending champion, which is known for its tenacious man-to-man defense, lived up to its nickname "The Green Shield, " forcing nine turnovers from Nen-ren in the fourth period and tying the game at 80 all with 23.9 seconds remaining before forward Hung Kang-chao made three out of four free-throws to secure the win.

Nen-ren lost to Song Shan in the High School Basketball League championship game for the second consecutive year.

In the girls' competition, Tamsui Vocational High School beat defending champion Pu Men High School for its first title in three years and the seventh title in the school's history. Tamsui surpassed Jinou Girls High School as the only seven-time champion in the HBL girls' competition. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Abolition of death penalty a long and winding road: activist

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) The campaign to abolish the death penalty has been and will be a long and winding road, but ongoing public debate on the issue is more than welcome and will be positive in the long run, a leading activist told CNA in an interview.

"While some people say the campaign is going backwards, I'm not that pessimistic. I can't remember the last time a serious social issue like this was discussed in newspapers and on television for such a long time. More discussion is good for the campaign in the long run, " said Lin Hsinyi, executive director of Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP).

The controversial issue made headlines again in Taiwan over the past month, leading to debates in the legislature and among the public that eventually brought about the resignation of former Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng, who publicly expressed her anti-death penalty stance and pledged not to sign any execution orders during her tenure.

Lin said she respected Wang's integrity in standing by her own belief, but that her choice of words in public addresses could have been better, referring to Wang's remark that she was "willing to go to hell in the place of those death row inmates." There are 44 death row inmates in Taiwan and no executions have been carried out since December 2005. According to Amnesty International, there are 95 abolitionist countries in the world and Taiwan is among 58 countries that retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes -- as opposed to "exceptional crimes" such as those covered by military law or wartime crimes.

Lin said that the comment, like every time a violent crime occurs, stimulated public sentiment that in turn resulted in opinion polls showing more than 70 percent of the public are against abolition of the death penalty.

She said the controversy showed the lack of determination of most Taiwan politicians, who want to be seen as supporting human rights but disappointingly waver in face of public sentiment.

Starting in the previous administration under the now-opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan's government has voiced a long-term goal of abolishing the death penalty. The current administration of President Ma Ying-jeou incorporated a pair of United Nations covenants -- the International Covenant on Civil Rights and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- into domestic law last year.

"Before strong public opinion was aroused, it seemed to be a roadmap for us that would eventually lead to complete abolition, " Lin said.

Although critics accuse Taiwan's Ministry of Justice of doing nothing in the past two years to promote abolition or enhance communication to reach broad public consensus, Lin disagrees, saying the ministry plans to set up a panel that envisions an ultimate goal of abolition through a step-by-step procedure.

The most important task of the panel is to identify an alternative to the death penalty and the most acceptable solution is life imprisonment, she said.

"And we have two options there -- a life sentence without parole or life imprisonment with conditional parole, which means a convict can request parole after a certain time in prison, " she said.

"We can't move forward with the issue until an alternative is decided upon," Lin said.

In addition, she said, the campaign will not be a success in Taiwan without judicial reform and improvement of criminal investigations because, in some cases, death row inmates were blamed for something they did not do or handed down sentences they did not deserve due to bureaucratic mistakes.

Meanwhile, she admitted TAEDP has also learned a lot during the recent controversy, such as not using the term "educating the public" to suggest those who support the abolition hold higher moral standards.

"We prefer to use the term 'dialogue' now to improve the campaign's communication with the public. And we also understand that this will be a long process," she said.

Social factors behind the death penalty can not be ignored either, she said. The results of a 1994 report by Taiwan's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission -- a study of more than 400 executed convicts -- showed a general profile of criminals as "blue-collar workers or jobless people between 18 and 30 years old with junior high school diplomas." "Fifteen years after the study, I believe that the profile hasn't much changed. What does the profile suggest? There is a lot left for us to think about, " she said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

MOFA addresses traveler's Canadian border incident

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) A Taiwanese traveler's problems with Canadian officials were caused by cultural and language differences, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Saturday, but added that the government had called for better attitudes from Canadian border officials.

Lee Chun-hua, 50, was denied entry at Vancouver International Airport March 10 and repatriated to Taiwan, where she wrote a letter to the MOFA and several media outlets complaining about the incident.

Bombarded by local media and legislators, the ministry called a press conference Saturday hosted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang.

Yang said that his ministry had handled Lee's complaint promptly, contacting Canadian authorities in Taiwan and ordering Taiwan's representative offices in Ottawa and Vancouver to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang told the media that President Ma Ying-jeou had called Yang to voice his concern over the issue.

Lo said Ma instructed the MOFA to seek more information from the Canadian authorities about what really happened and ordered that efforts must be made to safeguard the dignity and human rights of Taiwan's people.

Ma said the MOFA should file a protest if the Taiwanese national received unfair treatment at the Canadian airport and if the Canadian side could not give a reasonable explanation for treating the traveler in such a way, Lo noted.

According to media reports, Lee was traveling alone to Canada and had planned to stay 15 days. Upon arrival, she was told by immigration officials that her visa had expired and she would be deported. Lee was asked to sign a document agreeing to voluntarily leave Canada or face detention for two to three days pending further investigation.

After Lee said she was worried the incident would cause her problems traveling in the future, the ministry negotiated with the Canadian border and immigration agency and requested that no records of the visit be kept, Yang said.

Yang said that the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT) , Canada's authority in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties, agreed to the request and said Lee was welcome to visit Canada again. The office also promised to help Lee with her visa application process should she wish to reapply.

Yang urged Canadian law enforcement officials to adopt a better attitude when dealing with foreign visitors and advised Taiwanese travelers to honestly and correctly answer questions from foreign immigration officials when traveling abroad.

Yang said he didn't believe the case would have an impact on Canada's decision on visa-free privileges for Taiwan's citizens, which reports have said will be granted this year.

"There are 150,000 Taiwanese who visit Canada every year. Cases and misunderstandings like this happen once in a while in every country, " he said.

Yang said that if needed, the ministry will help Lee -- who is reportedly seeking compensation from the Canadian government -- with further negotiations. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taichung: a city searching for its soul

Sandwiched between the more characteristic northern and southern parts of the island, the central Taiwan city of Taichung has realized that it has to search for its identity to position itself in the grand scheme of city promotion and marketing.

Nine years ago when incumbent Mayor Jason Hu assumed office, he called Taichung "a city without a face, " said Deputy Mayor James Hsiao.

While other major cities in Taiwan are all known for something, Taichung, a city of roughly 1 million residents whose name means "central Taiwan" in Chinese, has trouble finding anything to distinguish itself from Taiwan's other metropolises.

"Taipei, the capital, is the political and economic hub. Kaohsiung is a port city and Hsinchu is known for its technology development. It looked like we have nothing here. We're nowhere close to the ocean nor the mountainous areas, " Hsiao said.

Residents of Taichung share the same concerns as its officials.

"Talking about Taichung, people would always say 'nice weather' and stop there, having trouble coming up with anything else that interests them," said a Taichung resident surnamed Hsieh.

"It seems to me that Taichung residents are always 'somewhere in between'. People in the north are known as cool, calm and collect living in an advanced lifestyle, while people in the south are known for their passion and focus on the grassroots local culture, (but) this is a city without its own identity, " said resident Jimmy Lin.

Back then, Taichung City Government officials were clueless as to how to find and highlight the city's unique traits before native son Mayor Jason Hu decided to go down memory lane and bring back the city's traditions when it was known as a "City of Culture." Taichung earned the nickname in the 1920s during the era of Japanese rule in part because the city's urban design plan was based on that of Kyoto, a former imperial capital of Japan with rich cultural tradition. It was also a stronghold of Taiwanese Cultural Association, established by intellectuals who called for preservation of local culture and autonomy.

The city government launched the project with the idea of setting up "hardware and software" at the same time, Hsiao said, which means the construction of museums, opera houses, sporting facilities and libraries; and organization of as many cultural events as possible.

Cultural events which in the past skipped Taichung were lured to the city, which has invited Spanish tenor Jose Carrera, American cellist Yo-yo Ma and will host Chinese director Zhang Yimou's opera "Turandot" this month. Hu's ambitious plan -- a bid for a Guggenheim Museum branch -- failed to materialize, however.

The hardwork paid off, Hsiao said, as averaged participation of cultural events for every Taichung citizen per year has increased from 3.8 times a year in 2001 to 35 times in 2009.

Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan's largest and second largest city, both made their presence in the so-called "city marketing" felt when dramas and movies filmed in the cities won international and domestic awards. But Taichung was the first city to collaborate with filmmakers and allocate a NT$5 million budget as subsidies for aspired filmmakers to shoot their films in the city, Hsiao noted.

A city's competitiveness could possibly surpass a country's competitiveness nowadays, Hsiao quoted Hu as saying, which was why Hu had been flying all over the world to promote tourism and investment opportunities for the city.

The results from Hu's relentless promotional trips have been fruitful, he said, as tourists from Hong Kong increased significantly over the past year. With the relaxation of cross-Taiwan Strait travel regulation and Taiwan-China relations, tourists from China have also increased.

All of these are far from what the city government had in mind. A "city of immigrants" in Hsiao's word, Taichung still faces various problems such as downtown regeneration, high apartment vacancy rates and relatively high crime rates, Hsiao admitted.

Taichung has ranked last in crimes for per 100,000 persons among the country's 23 counties for 12 years before 2009, when it managed to rank 19th and lowered the crimes for per 100,000 persons below 3,000 for the first time.

It's not easy to change people's perception, however. Every time there was a violent crime case in Taichung shown on TV news, people would just say "here it comes again, " Hsiao said.

According to the city government's plan, it would take at least five to six years to complete urban regeneration of the downtown area, the city's earliest developed region which has lost its luster after business activities had moved elsewhere as Taichung developed into a multi-core city, the deputy mayor went on.

The central government's plan to merge Taichung City and Taichung County into a special municipality at the end of this year provides a great opportunity for the central region, Hsiao said, because the area of three million residents would be able to integrate their resources and complement each other.

"We will have a seaport in Taichung Port, an international airport after the renovation and upgrade of Ching-Chuang-Kang Airport, and the natural resources of the old Taichung County to promote tourism, " Hsiao said, adding that the planned mass transit transportation system that connects cities in the area will be under construction soon.

"Rebuilding a city like Taichung inside and out will be a long process, but there's no direction for us to go but up, " he said. enditem/bc By Chris Wang CNA Staff Reporter

Taiwan baseball to open what it hopes is season of redemption

Taipei, March 19 (CNA) Still reeling from the aftershock of a league-wide game-fixing scandal, Taiwan's professional baseball league opens the 2010 season Saturday in Taipei with only one goal -- to win back the fans.

The defending champion Uni-President Lions, who are eyeing their fourth straight league title, are scheduled to meet the Brother Elephants in the opening game at Taipei's Tienmu Stadium, with President Ma Ying-jeou scheduled to throw out the first ball. But the focus of the season will not be on wins and losses.

Entering its 21st year, the four-team league hopes to build on the success and fanfare of the just-concluded exhibition series with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week to escape from the shadow of the game-fixing scandal, in which more than 30 current and former players, coaches and staff were expelled from the league.

"With a theme of 'Baseball with Heart, ' the league hopes to regain fan support and encouragement, which is much needed at this critical time, " said Chao Shou-po, the commissioner of Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).

From 1990, the league's first year, to 2009, Taiwan prosecutors have launched five investigations on baseball game-fixing, involving a total of roughly 100 local and foreign players.

Baseball has remained Taiwan's national pastime, however, as some fans showed unwavering support and Taiwan's national team was still relatively competitive in international competitions during the period.

Those still in the league realize they don't have to look far for a brand new start. The only place where they can prove themselves is on the field.

"Life is boring without baseball, " Lions manager Lu Wen-sheng said, adding that the players have no option but to play hard to reward "a lot of fans who never left us when the league hit bottom." It will be a long and difficult season for the Brother Elephants, the perennial fan favorite that lost almost 20 players to the scandal and has had trouble putting together a five-man starting rotation. The La New Bears have had similar problems after losing about 10 players.

"I've told the players that I could care less about our record this year. The most important thing is to work hard and play your heart out on the field so the fans get their money's worth, " said Elephants manager Chen Jui-cheng.

The league will be counting on big-name players, such as a pair of star hitters -- Peng Cheng-min of the Elephants and Chen Chin-feng of the Bears -- to lead by example and keep the fans interested.

"If I was a fan, I might not be going to the games as well (after the scandal). Hopefully, the dedication and hard work of players will some day bring these fans back to the ballparks, " Peng said in a pre-recorded video shown at the press conference.

Chen, who became Taiwan's first player to ever perform in the U.S. Major Leagues with the Dodgers in 2002 but spent most of his time in the minors before returning home in 2006, said in the video that the only thing players can do is play hard, because it's their job.

Teams and the league office have also taken measures to make sure game-fixing at the behest of gambling syndicates will not reoccur.

The Kaohsiung-based Bears used an unusual way to motivate its players, hanging a large banner on the outfield wall of its home field Chengching Lake Stadium with the Chinese character for "shame" and a fuzzy picture of a pitcher implicated in the scandal.

Elephants manager Chen led all of his players to a temple in an annual pre-season ritual and asked everyone to vow before the temple gods that they would not throw games.

The league office has resorted to strict regulations to keep players in check. All CPBL players are required to place 10 percent of their monthly wages in an escrow account with a contracted bank and will get their money back only after retirement, Commissioner Chao said.

If the players are involved in game-fixing, the money will be confiscated, he said.

The players association has also authorized prosecutors to access their call detail records if needed.

A total of 240 games will be played in the 2010 regular season from March 20 to Sept. 26. Uni-President beat Brother 4-3 in the best-of-seven 2009 Taiwan Series to clinch its third consecutive title. The fifth investigation into game-fixing was launched a day after the seven-game series concluded. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tea in Taichung: an accidental culture

It would be a pity to visit the central Taiwan city of Taichung without a trip to a tea house. For local residents, tea drinking culture has become a way of life.

Taiwan has a long tradition of drinking tea at home or at public gatherings -- alone or with friends -- but Taichung residents have taken the tradition to another level.

Traveling through the city of one million residents, visitors will notice tea houses of various styles and sizes scattered almost everywhere.

Many kinds of teas are served, including traditional Chinese standbys like "oolong" tea as well as modern variants like "bubble red tea" or "pearl milk tea" -- milk tea mixed with tapioca balls -- and coffee. All beverages are offered hot or cold.

"Starting when I was in high school, I think I must have gone to tea houses hundreds of times, whether to study or have a casual chat with friends, " said 36-year old Trevor Huang, adding that it was "trendy" at the time and remains so today.

Steve Wamg, 24, said that whenever friends visit from out of town, the first place he takes them is a tea house because it is "a natural thing to do." No one knows exactly how the tradition started; Taichung doesn't have a tea-growing industry. But Spring Water Tea House, one of the most famous local tea houses, claims to be the creator of bubble red tea in 1983 and pearl milk tea in 1987, both of which are now sold throughout the country and as far as Los Angeles, California. The claim has not been challenged.

Visiting different tea houses can be an adventure. Those seeking history and tradition will appreciate Laughtear Chinese Tea House, an 80-year-old bungalow that was the residence of a university professor during the Japanese colonial era. Laughtear serves only Chinese tea.

Others might want to take in Tea Work's unique architectural style, large lawn and an outdoor seating area, or Wu Wei Tsao Tang, a two-story wooden structure that covers 992 square meters and has a Chinese garden. Both shops can seat around 300 customers.

"Back in the old days, we spent NT$25 on a cup of tea each and stayed in a tea house for hours playing cards, chatting or studying. It was the place to go when we wanted to relax. For myself and a lot of Taichung residents, I guess the experience stayed with us and never left, " Huang said.

"I don't really know where it (tea drinking) came from. But it was here, it is here and it will remain here, I guess, " he said.

The Taichung City government has taken notice and recognized the culture as a resource for promoting tourism, even printing a pamphlet that introduces various tea houses in the city.

"When it comes to Taichung, tea houses are probably the first thing we tell our friends and visitors about and the only thing local residents can take pride in -- other than the good weather, " Wang joked. enditem/bc

By Chris Wang CNA Staff Reporter

Taiwan keen to help Africa adapt to climate change

Taipei, March 17 (CNA) Taiwan is pushing forward with efforts to combat climate change and is keen to help its African allies cope with the challenge, Taiwan's government officials and scholars said Wednesday at an international meeting.

Despite the fact that Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) , it will abide by the non-binding results of the Copenhagen Accord, said Stephen Shu-hung Shen, minister of the Environmental Protection Administration, in the "Taiwan and Africa Environmental Leaders Meeting." Taiwan, which is estimated to account for one percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, is taking a series of actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change, Shen told the meeting.

Taiwan's government has announced a Guidelines for Sustainable Energy Policy in 2008 and has been engaged in enactment of four energy-related laws, including: the GHG (Green House Gas) Reduction Law, the Act for Renewable Energy, the Act for Energy Tax, and the Energy Management Act, Shen said.

President Ma Ying-jeou has also vowed to make the year 2010 a year of "conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions, " Shen noted.

Ma has also pledged to cut Taiwan's emissions to 2005 levels by 2020 and reduce emissions by 50 percent before 2010, Shen said.

While Taiwan has a tough task ahead in cutting its own emissions, it is able to help African countries on the issue with its expertise, Shen and academics said at the one-day meeting that gathered environmental officials from Taiwan's allies in the African continent, including Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe and Swaziland.

Shen said Taiwan would like to cooperate with its African allies in knowledge-sharing and promotion of the green energy industry.

Despite the differences between Taiwan and Africa, Taiwan can offer Africa help in education and health investments, as well as developing land-use management, river management and an early-warning system, said Young Chea-yuan, a professor at Chinese Culture University's Department of Natural Resources.

It can also help African nations improve their response capability through the nature conservation systems and develop social networks for protecting the poor from natural disasters, Young said.

Africa is the most fragile continent where agriculture production and food safety are at high risks from global warming, Robert Dixon, leader of the climate change and chemicals investment at Global Environment Facility (GEF) , told the meeting. Climate change will also aggravate water stress in the continent, he added.

Delegates from non-ally African nations, including South Africa, Kenya, Libya and Nigeria, also attended the meeting. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs 

MOFA to protest treatment of Taiwanese traveler in Canada

Taipei, March 17 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Wednesday it plans to lodge a strong protest with Canadian authorities against a reported case of mistreatment of a female Taiwanese traveler by Canadian immigration officials.

According to local media reports Wednesday, Lee Chung-hua, 50, was denied entry at Vancouver International Airport March 10 and questioned by Canadian immigration officials about why she was traveling to Canada on an one-way ticket and an expired visa, and was carrying more than a dozen underwear items in her luggage.

"We will file an official protest with the Canadian government once the facts of this case have been confirmed, " said Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang. "The MOFA will fulfill its responsibility of protecting our nationals." The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT), the official Canadian authority in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties, said that Canada's Privacy Act prohibits sharing an individual's personal information with third parties. "Canada welcomes millions of visitors from around the globe each year. Over 275,000 Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) were issued to Taiwanese from 2005 through 2009. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the entry process is very smooth, " the CTOT said.

According to media reports, Lee was traveling alone to Canada and had planned to stay 15 days. Upon arrival, she was told by immigration officials that her visa had expired and she would be deported, the reports stated.

She was asked to sign a document, agreeing to voluntarily leave Canada or else face detention for two-three days pending further proceedings, it was reported.

Citing Article 42 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Canadian officials asked Lee to leave the country, the report said. They prohibited her from contacting her family in Vancouver and confiscated her mobile phones, notebooks and personal belongings, Lee was quoted as saying.

The MOFA has contacted Lee and notified the Taiwan representative offices in Ottawa and Vancouver about the case, MOFA spokesman Henry Chen said. Taiwan's representatives in Canada have also contacted the Canadian foreign ministry and immigration to express concern over the matter and to request an investigation into the case, he added.

He urged Taiwan nationals to call the toll-free international phone number 800-0885-0885 in case of emergency during travel abroad. Relatives of Taiwan citizens who are on overseas trips can also call the domestic toll-free number 0800-085-095 for assistance, he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

President has packed itinerary for South Pacific trip

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou will have a packed schedule on his first official trip to the South Pacific next week, during which he will discuss among other topics the impact of climate change, unveil a number of collaboration projects and promote Taiwan-made products.

Ma will visit six of Taiwan's diplomatic allies -- the Solomon Islands, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu -- from March 21-27.

His itinerary will include meetings with his counterparts on issues such as fishery cooperation, climate change, energy resource development and vocational training. All of these topics were tailored based on the needs of each country, said Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang at a press conference.

In the Marshall Islands, the focus will be on providing medical services, especially cataract surgeries, while in Kiribati it will be on Taiwan's efforts to establish a fishery cultivation center there.

Taiwan will work with Tuvalu authorities on vocational training for fishermen, collaborate with Palau on indigenous cultural exchanges, set up an agricultural program in Nauru, and discuss with Solomon Islands officials prospects for the development of alternative energy there.

In addition, Yang said, President Ma will take the opportunity to promote Taiwan-made products.

To this end, the president will take mobile phones made by HTC, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of smartphones, as gifts for high-ranking officials of the six countries and promote solar cells made by Motech Industries, one of the top ten solar cell manufacturers in the world.

Acknowledging that the use of such devices might be limited in the six countries because of the lack of 3G mobile telecommunication infrastructure, Yang said that the idea is to promote Taiwanese products.

Those phones "can take good, high-resolution photos," he said.

Meanwhile, the MOFA has already shipped two Luxgen MPV cars -- Taiwan's first automobile brand made by the Yulon Group -- to Taiwan embassies in Kiribati and the Solomon Islands to replace older vehicles.

The idea is to replace older cars and at the same time display the Taiwan-made products to foreigners, Yang said. The ministry could do the same at all Taiwanese embassies abroad to promote Taiwan-made automobiles, he added.

"Diplomacy also includes the promotion of local products and trade opportunities," he stressed. In a departure from former President Chen Shui-bian's format of arranging a leaders' summit in one of the six South Pacific countries, Ma's will make separate state visits to all six nations, Yang noted.

President Ma wants to show his sincerity in deepening friendship and boosting cooperation with the allies, Yang said.

Ma and his 90-member entourage will make a one-hour transit stop March 22 in Guam on the outward leg of the trip and a 90-minute stop on their return, according to Yang.

The delegation will travel aboard a China Airlines 737-800 plane. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

President's South Pacific visit to refuel in Guam: MOFA

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou will make transit stops in the U.S. territory of Guam to refuel during his week-long trip to the South Pacific that will take him to all six of Taiwan's diplomatic allies in the region, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said Tuesday.

"The United States has approved Taiwan's request for the transit stops, " Yang said.

Yang said Ma and his 90-person entourage will make a 60-minute stop in Guam on March 22 on the outward journey and a 90-minute stop March 27 on the return trip.

Ma's first trip to the South Pacific since he assumed office in May 2008 will take him to the Solomon Islands, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu from March 21-27.

Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean, is an unincorporated territory of the United States.

Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), is expected to greet President Ma in Guam on March 27, Yang said.

Yang added that he appreciated U.S. assistance on President Ma's overseas trips in the past two years.

Asked whether the assistance showed Taiwan has gradually mended its relations with the U.S. after the U.S. beef import controversy, Yang declined to comment, but said Taiwan has successfully limited the impact of the dispute over whether to lift a ban on certain U.S. beef products.

"We have had discussions with the U.S. and successfully limited it (the beef controversy) to a trade issue, " he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dodgers conclude Taiwan visit with 11-1 rout

Taipei, March 14 (CNA) The Los Angeles Dodgers beat a Taiwanese All-Star team 11-1 in their second and final exhibition game in Taiwan Sunday, to earn a split with their hosts.

The Dodgers, visiting Taiwan for the second time in team history, exploded for 16 hits against the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) All-Stars less than 24 hours after the game scheduled for Saturday in Taipei was washed out due to heavy rain.

"Both teams played with a lot of energy, " Dodgers manager Joe Torre said after the game. He also voiced appreciation for Taiwanese fans' passion for the game and knowledge of baseball.

The National League team, which sent a split squad to Taiwan, is scheduled to fly back to Phoenix, Arizona Sunday night on a charter flight and resume its preparations for the new season.

The Dodgers offense relentlessly punished local pitchers after only managing three hits in a 5-2 loss Friday in Game 1 of what was supposed to be a three-game series before Saturday's game was rained out.

Designated hitter Manny Ramirez, first baseman James Loney and home-grown Hu Chin-lung each had three hits for the Dodgers, who jumped on the hosts early by scoring three runs in the opening inning and taking a 5-1 lead after the fifth.

Ramirez, the most popular non-Taiwan born player in the series, suggested he will have to play in the outfield a little bit more to get into shape before the season and said that he enjoyed the competition in Taiwan.

Angel Berroa drove in two runs with an RBI double in the eighth inning. Trayvon Robinson, who played for Dodgers' AA Chattanooga Lookouts, had a two-run home run, the series' only home run, off Taiwanese reliever Lin En-yu in the ninth.

The home team had nine hits but was unable to score with runners in scoring position. Chang Chien-ming led off with a double before Pan Wu-hsiung's RBI single sent him home for the only run of the game in the opening inning.

The game, played in Kaohsiung County Stadium in southern Taiwan, was special for the Dodgers' Kuo Hong-chih and Hu, both of whom come from that part of the country.

Kuo had to miss his scheduled start and an opportunity to pitch in front of his family due to a sore elbow. Hu did not disappoint the sold-out crowd with his multiple-hit performance.

"I'm sorry for not being able to pitch for you and my family today, but I'll be gearing up for the new season and hopefully things turn out well, " Kuo addressed the crowd after the game.

CPBL starting pitcher Pan Wei-lun allowed five runs and nine hits in five innings. Kao Kuo-ching was the only Taiwanese batter to get more than one hit.

The Dodgers, the only Major League Baseball team ever to play in Taiwan, first visited the country in 1993 with a full squad that included star players such as Mike Piazza, Orel Hershiser and Pedro Martinez.

The team finished with one win and two losses against a CPBL All-Star team.

Taiwan-UK relations improving as exchanges grow: BTCO director

Taipei, March 14 (CNA) Relations between the United Kingdom and Taiwan have been substantially improving as the result of hard work and growing exchanges on all fronts, the U.K.'s representative to Taiwan said in an interview with the Central News Agency recently.

Increased trade flow and investment, and growing cultural, educational and tourism exchanges have all contributed to the improving bilateral ties, said David Campbell, director of the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) , the country's official authority in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

In terms of tourism, the U.K.'s decision to lift visa requirements for Taiwanese tourists in March 2009 has pushed visitor numbers to Britain sharply higher.

According to statistics from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, the number of Taiwanese visitors to the U.K. between March and December 2009 rose 37.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Also, Taiwan's EVA Air offers flights to London seven days a week and China Airlines will soon launch service to London three times a week, and Campbell believes that with increasing capacity and better packages, even more Taiwanese tourists can be expected to visit the U.K. in the future.

The number of Taiwanese students studying in the U.K. have also increased over the years, with about 15,000 Taiwanese currently enrolled in British educational institutions.

British education officials have been "full of praise" for Taiwanese students' accomplishments, Campbell said.

"It has been one of the success stories," he said. "I'm told that 20 years ago there were less than 50 and now the U.K. is the second most common destination, behind the U.S., for overseas Taiwanese students." The growing number of Taiwanese students in the U.K. had various levels of significance for bilateral ties, Campbell said.

More Taiwanese will understand and appreciate British culture, and Taiwanese businesses in the U.K. will have a larger talent pool of university graduates who can seamlessly blend in with the companies.

Campbell was also upbeat in describing the bilateral investment climate, noting that about 180 Taiwanese companies have invested in Britain.

Kenmark Industrial, an LCD (liquid crystal display) panel manufacturer, established a factory last year in East Midlands in one of the biggest investment projects undertaken by an Asian company in the U.K. recently, and electronics OEM Foxconn, IC design company MediaTek, mobile phone maker HTC and computer vendor Acer also operate there.

The prevalence of larger companies developing a presence in Britain does not mean, however, that smaller companies cannot succeed, Campbell said, citing the success of bicycle manufacturer Giant Manufacturing in the U.K. and Europe in recent years.

"It's not the size of the company, it's the range of your products, " Campbell stressed. He said that as more Taiwanese companies strategize globally, they should consider opportunities in Britain as a gateway to the European market.

The U.K. has been recognized as an ideal place to set up a corporate headquarters, having four times the number of any country in Europe, Campbell said.

Meanwhile, there are over 300 British companies operating in Taiwan, including banks HSBC and Standard Chartered, both of which have made acquisitions in Taiwan in recent years, the diplomat noted.

Cultural exchanges between British and Taiwanese institutions in the U.K. and Taiwan must also be highlighted as a source of increasing mutual understanding, he contended.

In some ways, Campbell said, the U.K. and Taiwan are much alike in focusing on innovation, new ideas, health care, education, urban development and the development of biotechnology.

He said his office has been working with government agencies and corporations in Taiwan on many issues, including climate change and urban regeneration.

On climate change, Campbell said he is happy with the responsive reaction from businesses and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the increased discussions in society, and the practical commitments made by President Ma Ying-jeou.

On the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China, Campbell said that the U.K. supports free trade in general, but his office will have to see more details to have a clearer picture of its content and impact.

The BTCO has been closely monitoring what European and British businesses want and will assess the benefits and impact of the agreement based on various resources, including an independent study by the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei, because ultimately the U.K. will "be very much influenced by U.K. businesses, " he said.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Game 2 of Dodgers-Taiwan exhibition series rained out

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) Game 2 of a three-game exhibition series between the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers and Taiwan's professional All-Stars was canceled due to heavy rain, organizers announced Saturday.

Heavy rain started to fall Saturday morning and continued through the afternoon, making it impossible to start the game at 2 p.m. as scheduled.

Players from the Dodgers and the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) All-Stars waited for more than two and a half hours in Taipei's Tienmu Baseball Stadium before the game was called off.

There was a break in the rain at around 4 p.m., and after consulting with both teams, the organizers announced that the game would start at 4: 25 p.m., only for the rain to start up again and force the contest to be canceled.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre, players and coaching staff went onto the field after the game was called off to show their appreciation to the more than 8,000 fans who had also waited in the rain.

All ticket holders will receive full refunds, series promotor Bros Sports Marketing announced.

Both teams are scheduled to travel to the southern city of Kaohsiung by high speed rail early Sunday for Game 3 of the series to be played at Kaohsiung County Stadium (also known as Chengcing Lake Baseball Stadium) starting at 2 p.m. local time.

The CPBL All-Stars beat the Dodgers 5-2 Friday in Game 1.

The National League team is visiting Taiwan for the second time in team history. The team visited Taiwan with a full squad in 1993 and finished with one win and two losses in a three-game exhibition series.

Torre shares managing experience at forum

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre shared his wealth of experience as a baseball manager with dozens of local baseball coaches and offered observations on Taiwanese players in Major League Baseball at a forum held Saturday before Game 2 of the Dodgers' three-game exhibition series in Taiwan.

The most important assets for a professional baseball manager are communication with the players and leadership skills, Torre said at "The Torre Forum." The 69-year-old manager is leading the Dodgers on their second trip to Taiwan, 17 years after their inaugural visit.

Dozens of local coaches from the amateur and professional levels in Taiwan were eager to learn from Torre, who won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees, during the 90-minute forum which concluded after a question and answer session.

Torre said he always told his players that the goal to win was the same but that everyone has a different way to reach that final destination. As a manager, he said, what he could do was to try and keep players in their best shape, train them and offer suggestions.

He never believed in scolding players and putting too much pressure on them, Torre said, but he doesn't think players should find excuses for themselves either.

It's not a big deal to lose games, he said, but the more important thing is not to lose to yourself.

A manager also needs to have the ability to explain situations and his decisions to players, because sometimes players don't know where and what the problem is.

As for Taiwanese players in the MLB, Torre said he wished Wang Chien-ming the best.

Wang was managed by Torre in New York and is now trying to revive his career with the Washington Nationals as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

"I hope he beats as many teams as possible but mine, " he joked.

Torre said he envisions Hu Chin-lung, who has been trying to secure a place on the Dodgers 25-man roster, as a second baseman rather than a shortstop, Hu's most comfortable position, because the Dodgers already have a good shortstop in Rafael Furcal.

But he said Hu still needed to build up his physical strength.

Also attending the forum were Vice Premier Eric Liluan Chu, who also serves as the convener of a baseball revitalization plan and Tai Hsia-ling, the head of the Sports Affairs Council, Taiwan's highest sports governing body.

Plenty of intrigue as Chen Chin-feng faces former MLB team

Taipei, March 13 (CNA) Chen Chin-feng found himself in an unusual situation when he stepped into the batters' box to face the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers Friday night in the first of three exhibition games between the Major League team and Taiwan's All-Stars.

A member of the Dodgers organization from 1999-2005 before giving up his American dream and returning to Taiwan, Chen spent most of his energy during those seven years punishing opposing pitchers rather than those wearing the organization's Dodger blue and white uniforms.

Now he was facing his former team for the first time since being released after the 2005 season.

Chen could be forgiven for feeling a tinge of bitterness at not getting more of a chance in the Major Leagues, appearing in only 19 games for the big league club from 2002-2005 despite excelling at the minor league level.

Yet the soft-spoken 32-year-old was low-key as always when asked about his feelings toward his former employer before the series, describing it as "just another game in spring training." "I don't feel there will be a feeling of 'revenge' or anything like that, " he said, stressing that he did not hold a grudge and was not looking to prove anything to the Dodgers.

He still showed what he can do, however, recording the Taiwan All-Stars' first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after walking in his first at-bat.

Chen, considered to be one of the most talented hitters in Taiwanese baseball history, dreamed of making a name for himself and for Taiwanese baseball in America when he signed with the Dodgers in 1999 at age 21.

As the first local player to sign with an MLB team, Chen was an inspiration for younger players who dreamed about performing in the United States rather than Japan, the most common destination at the time for Taiwanese players hoping to play professionally overseas.

The powerful hitter from southern Taiwan captured the heart of Taiwanese fans in his first few years in the U.S., being named as the most promising player in the Dodgers farm system at one point.

His popularity grew when he became the first Taiwanese baseball player to play in Major League Baseball when he made his debut on September 14, 2002.

The New York Yankees might have been known as Taiwanese fans' favorite MLB team from 2005-2009, when current Washington Nationals pitcher Wang Chien-ming donned Yankee pinstripes, and the team's merchandise could be seen everywhere.

Before the Yankees, however, "that" team was the Dodgers in large part because of Chen, who became even more popular because of his outstanding performances representing his country in international competitions.

But he never showed the same promise in scattered appearances with the big league Dodgers from 2002 to 2005. In the 19 games he appeared in, he hit only .091 and was eventually released.

He decided to return to Taiwan after trying out with a team in the Japanese professional league. In 2006, Chen signed a three-year NT$30 million (US$946,000) contract with the La New Bears to become the highest paid player in the history of Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).

Chen promptly led La New to the CPBL championship that year and has racked up a .344 batting average over the four years he's been in the league.

Kim Ng, the Dodgers' vice president and assistant general manager, said it was a pity that Chen was not able to stick with the club, but she noted that his performance left the Dodgers with a very positive impression of Taiwanese players.

More than any accomplishment on the field, that pioneering legacy is likely to be Chen's greatest achievement. After his breakthrough, dozens of Taiwanese players signed with MLB teams looking to realize their baseball dreams in the U.S.

And that success has been no better exemplified than with the Dodgers, who became the first MLB team to have four Taiwanese players on its all-time roster: Chen, Kuo Hong-chih, Hu Chin-lung and Tsao Chin-hui.

So while most fans' eyes will be on how Chen hits during the three-game series, the fact that he is facing an MLB team with Kuo and Hu may ultimately be the more telling testimony of his contribution to the game.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Taiwan All-Stars beat Dodgers 5-2 in first exhibition game

Taipei, March 12 (CNA) A team of All-Stars from Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) beat the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers 5-2 Friday in the opening game of a three-game exhibition series that marks the Dodgers' first visit to Taiwan in 17 years.

Taiwanese hitters belted 12 hits against Dodgers pitchers while Taiwan's hurlers gave up only three hits and shut out slugger Manny Ramirez in three at-bats in the game played in Taipei.

The visiting split squad will have to win the two remaining games if they want to keep the promise of two MLB officials.

Paul Archey, MLB senior vice president of international operations, and Major League Baseball Players Association chief operating officer Gene Orza, said at a news conference Thursday that the full-squad Dodgers lost two of three on their last visit in 1993, and they "guaranteed" that wouldn't happen again.

The CPBL All-Stars broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth. Wang Sheng-wei belted a double and Pan Wu-hsiung added a single off the Dodgers' Korean reliever Choi Hyang-nam to give Taiwan a 2-0 lead. It added another three runs an inning later.

The Dodgers blew a scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth when their Taiwanese infielder Hu Chin-lung popped out with two out and the bases loaded, but they avoided a shutout with two runs in the top of the eighth.

Left-hander Lin Ying-chieh started the game against the Dodgers' Eric Stults.

Game 2 will start at 2: 07 p.m. Saturday in Tienmu Baseball Stadium in Taipei. Josh Towers is scheduled to start for the Dodgers, and Taiwan is expected to send Yang Chien-fu to the mound.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dodgers manager meets press in Taiwan

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre held a press conference Thursday in which he praised Taiwanese baseball players for their toughness and said his visiting team will do its best in the three exhibition games it will play here.

The Dodgers' much-anticipated visit started with the press conference for around 100 reporters after Torre and 33 Dodgers players arrived in Taipei late that day.

An all-star team from Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) is scheduled to play the Dodgers at Taipei's Tienmu Stadium March 12 and 13 and at Kaohsiung's Chengcing Lake Baseball Stadium March 14.

With star hitter Manny Ramirez not in attendance, all eyes were on the well-known veteran manager, who has managed three Taiwanese players -- former Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming, who is now with the Washington Nationals, and Kuo Hong-chih and Hu Ching-lung with the Dodgers -- in his career.

"Taiwanese players are not only special in their ability, but also in the way they compete. They are always tough and determined, " said Torre.

Torre described the injured Wang as a special young man and he expressed hope that he will fully recover. Kuo, who has had four operations on his elbows, became one of the most trusted players on staff, while Hu also showcased his talent when he briefly replaced injured shortstop Rafael Furcal last year, Toree went on.

The Dodgers split squad includes 13 players on the MLB roster. Torre announced in Los Angeles Tuesday that left-hander Eric Stults and right-hander Josh Towers will start in the first two games, with Kuo starting in the third.

Responding to a question of why the Dodgers decided to visit Taiwan, Torre said the decision was made in large part because of the two Taiwanese players on the squad.

It also has to do with the team's tradition, as the Dodgers have always been willing to innovate and explore or initiate exchanges with other parts of the world, evidenced by its 1947 signing of Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier in the big league.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dalai Lama's first autobiography published in Chinese after 48 years

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's first autobiography has finally been published in Chinese, 48 years after it was first released in English, the book's publisher said Wednesday.

The Dalai Lama's first autobiography, titled "My Land and My People, " was published in English in 1962, three years after his flight into exile, but it was never published in Chinese due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Chou Mei-li, president of Taiwan Friends of Tibet, an organization supporting Tibetan democracy and also the book's publisher.

The publication date of the Chinese edition was selected to coincide with the 51st anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day, Chou said, adding that the publication "is long overdue for the Mandarin-speaking community." On March 10, 1959, Tibetans took to the streets to demand that the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) pull out from the Himalayan region, nine years after the Chinese invasion. Weeks later, the PLA launched a brutal suppression that the Dalai Lama claims killed more than 80,000 Tibetans.

In order to raise the awareness for Tibet's struggle for democracy and freedom, Taiwan Friends of Tibet was scheduled to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening, as well as a March 14 rally, to commemorate the anniversary, Chou said at a book-launching press conference.

"There are only six million Tibetans. We need your help, " said Dawa Tsering, representative to Taiwan of the exiled Tibetan government.

Helping Tibetans is helping the Taiwanese, because the two countries have both been fighting for their future under the threat from China, Chou said, noting that March 14 will also mark the fifth anniversary of China's passage of an anti-secession law targeting Taiwan.

The torch of Tibet's fight for freedom will be passed down from generation to generation forever, said Tashi Tsering, chairman of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress in Taiwan, in a pre-recorded video.

"We will never forget what China has done to Tibet, " he added.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama said in a statement to mark the anniversary that "despite the great hardships Tibetans have faced for many decades, they have been able to keep up their courage and determination, preserve their compassionate culture and maintain their unique identity. It is inspiring that today a new generation of Tibetans continues to keep Tibet's just cause alive. I salute the courage of those Tibetans who are still enduring fear and oppression."

Taiwan's All-Stars ready to take on Dodgers

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Taiwan's professional baseball players say they are ready to test themselves against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers, especially star hitter Manny Ramirez, in a three-game exhibition series to be played this weekend in Taiwan.

A team of All-Stars from Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) is scheduled to play the Dodgers in Taipei's Tienmu Stadium on March 12 and 13 and in Kaohsiung's Chengcing Lake Baseball Stadium on March 14.

Taiwan's scheduled starter in Game 1, Lin Ying-chieh, said he would do his best against the Dodgers lineup but admitted he would definitely be a little bit nervous facing Major League hitters, especially Ramirez.

"I'm wondering how the hitters will react if I lose my control and hit them, " Lin said half-jokingly.

The La New Bears' Keng Po-hsuan, who pitched in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system from 2005 to 2008, was happy at having the chance to face a Major League lineup.

"I've never had an opportunity to play in the Majors so I want to do my best to show what I'm capable of doing," he said.

Pan Wei-lun of Uni-President Lions, the probable starter for Game 3, expected that watching MLB games on TV and actually playing against big leaguers on the field would be very different, and he said he was curious about the power of MLB hitters.

The Sinon Bulls' Yang Chien-fu is listed as the probable starter for the CPBL All-Stars in Game 2, and Lin En-yu, the top pick in the CPBL draft in the off-season who previously pitched professionally in Japan, will also get some work.

"It will be a honor for me to pitch in the series," said Lin, who was drafted by the Brother Elephants.

The CPBL's 25-man roster for the exhibition series consists of 10 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders and six outfielders.

The most notable player on Taiwan's team will be the La New Bears outfielder/designated hitter Chen Chin-feng, who played in the Dodgers' organization from 1999-2005 and appeared in 19 major league games.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre, well known in Taiwan because he managed the New York Yankees when Taiwanese hero Chien-ming Wang had his best years with the Yankees, will bring a team of 33 players to Taiwan. But only 13 of them are on the Major League roster and only 17 have Major League experience.

The Dodgers have left part of their spring training squad in the United States, including most of their front-line pitchers, to continue competing in exhibition games there.

Local fans expressed disappointment with the split squad roster, with many demanding refunds, and ticket sales have been affected. As of Wednesday, there were 3,000 tickets still available for Game 1 and a combined 1,000 tickets left for Games 2 and 3, the series' promoter Bros Sports Marketing said.

To secure the presence of the free-spirited Ramirez and increase the series' appeal, Bros Sports said it gave Ramirez a US$170,000 appearance fee and endorsement deal.

Though it is not yet known how much Ramirez will play, he will likely garner the most attention of any of the visiting players. He is one of only 25 players to have hit over 500 career home runs, and his 28 career post-season home runs are the most by any player in MLB history.

Also expected to receive plenty of attention are two Taiwan-grown heroes: left-handed reliever Kuo Hong-chih and shortstop Hu Chin-lung.

Kuo, 28, has spent his entire MLB career with the Dodgers and has a record of 9-13 with 14 saves since 2005, when he started pitching for the Major League club. Kuo could start for the Dodgers in Game 3.

The 26-year-old Hu, best known for his defense, appeared in 82 games at the Major League level from 2007 to 2009.

The Dodgers are visiting Taiwan for the second time in team history. In 1993, the brought most of the players on their 25-team roster, including a young Pedro Martinez and Orel Hershiser, and finished with one win and two losses against the CPBL All-Stars.

The Major League team arrives at a critical time for the country's national pastime, which was dealt a severe blow by a game-fixing scandal that rippled through the CPBL. More than 30 players were confirmed to be involved in the case and have been kicked off their teams.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Facebook a rising star in 2010 Taiwan Web ranking: report

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) Social Web sites are dominating Taiwan's top 100 online sites this year, with Facebook the rising star, debuting on the list at No. 2, according to an annual survey by Business Next magazine.

Like elsewhere in the world, online social networking is a major trend in Taiwan, the survey showed. Among the Taiwan sites on the magazine's list, four of the top 10 and 25 percent of the total number were social Web sites.

The ranking was calculated based on four indexes, including average ranking on, which ranks global Web sites; unique visitors; duration per visit; and duration per user., a local site for blogs, photo and video sharing, topped the magazine's ranking for the second consecutive year. Established in 2004 by a group of university students and bought by Yahoo Taiwan in 2006, Wretch has been the most popular site in Taiwan for years.

But Facebook is not far behind. The Web site, which has not yet established an office in Taiwan, now has 5.06 million users -- about half of the total number islandwide. The number of registered Facebook members grew 700 percent in eight months in 2009.

Facebook was central to several Internet-related news items last year. So many Taiwanese became hooked on one of the site's flash games "Happy Farm" that government agencies, schools, corporations and military bases had to ban Facebook usage during work or school time.

The success of Happy Farm has spurred more users to join social networking Web sites and more companies have started developing online flash games.

Another development is that Taiwan's No. 1 and No. 2 Web sites are joining forces. According to Wretch, it will collaborate with Facebook because of Yahoo's strategic partnership with Facebook.

On the magazine's top 100 list, Microsoft's Windows Live and the largest Internet games discussion forum Bahamut came in at No. 6 and No. 8 respectively.

In an attempt in to tap into the power of social networking, e-commerce Web sites have also set up accounts on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Plurk for promotion, marketing and communication purposes, the magazine reported.

Yahoo Taiwan and PCHome dominate Taiwan's e-commerce Web sites, the survey showed, as the two "giants" are battling on all fronts -- online shops platform (B2B2C) , online retails (B2C) and online auction (C2C).

Local e-commerce is expected to enjoy a strong yearly growth of 21.53 percent in 2010 as Taiwanese are forecast to spend NT$358.3 billion (US$11.2 billion) online, according to the Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC) of Taiwan's Institute for Information Industry (III).

In the search engine war, Yahoo is leading at No.3 while PCHome ranks fifth and Google ranks 10th in the top 100.

Video viewing and sharing is still one of the major online activities, as Youtube's No.4 ranking indicates. It has virtually become "a search engine for younger generations" and an effective tool for Internet marketing, the survey found.

Driven by the strong market growth of smartphones and 3G connection, social networking and video viewing Web sites will be looking at smartphones as their next battlefield because users will be able to "do almost everything on the Internet with their cellphones in the future," said Business Next, an information technology-themed magazine.

The "China Factor" is also in evidence, the magazine reported. Five Chinese Web sites made the Top 100 ranking and, China's largest e-commerce site, is hovering around the top 100 in's ranking.

Among top 100 Taiwan Web sites, 15 percent are information and services sites; 13 percent are official Web sites of government agencies or corporations; 13 percent are online entertainment sites; 9 percent e-commerce; 8 percent portal Web sites; 7 percent file sharing, storage and download sites; and 5 percent are news Web sites. of the Chinese-language United Daily News Group, which ranks ninth, is the only news site in the top 10.

As of September 2009, there were 10.6 million Internet users in Taiwan, according to III.