Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tsai's entry signifies new DPP era, raises questions: scholars

Taipei, May 29 (CNA) Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen's entry in the year-end five special municipality elections signified a generation change for the party but raised doubts about the DPP's chances in the 2012 presidential election, scholars said.

The London School of Economics and Political Science-educated chairwoman, 54, announced her bid in the Xinbei mayoral election on May 23, the same day she won the party chairmanship election in a landslide, garnering over 90 percent of the votes.

"Tsai entered the (mayoral) election in order to keep the momentum going, " said Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Soochow University, referring to the DPP's victories in a strings of legislative by-elections after 2008. "It also showed that the party wanted to make sure it's able to win at least three out of five mayoral elections." "If that happens, President Ma could be a lame duck sooner than expected, " he said.

The November municipality elections will take place in Taipei City and Xinbei City as well as in Tainan, Taichung and Kaohsiung. The areas represent over 60 percent of the national population of 23 million and account for about 60 percent of the national budget.

Lo, one of the DPP's nine-member nomination panel for the elections, said that both Tsai and the DPP are probably not thinking about the 2012 presidential election at the moment. Because the party only won four of 17 magistrate elections in 2009, it needs a formidable win in the five special municipality elections or its chance of victory in 2012 is very slim, he said.

Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) politicians, however, said that Tsai still eyes the presidential office. KMT Legislator Lin Hung-chih said that both Tsai and Su Tseng-chang -- the DPP's candidate in Taipei City -- still aspire to the presidency and could use a "play to lose" strategy so they can run in 2012.

Former deputy premier Eric Liluan Chu, Tsai's rival in Xinbei City, has also questioned Tsai's willingness to serve the full four-year term in Taiwan's largest electoral district if she wins.

Lai I-chung, a researcher at Taiwan Thinktank, said Tsai's entry signifies the DPP is ready to embrace a new generation of new politicians because Tsai's leadership in the past two years has been relatively successful in winning back voters with a different rhetoric and approach. But he also pointed out some questions raised by Tsai's bid.

"As a party chair and a candidate at the same time, Tsai will inevitably face the issue of the distribution of resources between five electoral districts, " he said, adding that the DPP will also need to look for a coordinator for the crucial elections.

"Win or lose, Tsai will have to resign her post as the DPP chair at the end of the year, which means we will be looking at a new DPP head in 2011, " Lai said.

Lai urged Tsai and Su to serve for the full term if they win and "let the future decide who will be the DPP's candidate in the 2012 presidential election." (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Nothing to gain for Taiwan from Korean tension: scholars

Taipei, May 29 (CNA) Taiwan has nothing to gain from prolonged tension or full-out war on the Korean Peninsula and it should firmly support its allies -- South Korea, Japan and the United States -- in the confrontation, scholars said.

A "new Korean War" over the sinking of a South Korean naval ship would hurt Taiwan because the U.S. would have to refrain from strengthening military cooperation with Taiwan in exchange for China's assistance in Korea, said Alexander Huang, a professor in Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.

North and South Korea are not likely to engage in a full-out war, but "a strategist will tell you to never say never, " he said. The odds are "98 percent against them waging war." North Korea understands very clearly that if it does launch a war, it would be slapped with a string of international sanctions and have to increase its food production dramatically, Huang said.

"And for South Korea, military conflict is the last thing Seoul wants to see, " he said. "To me, the current stalemate is more of a gesture from both leaders -- North Korea's Kim Jong Il and the South's Lee Myung-bak -- to secure domestic political benefit."

Economically, a Korean war would impact not only the regional economy but also the global one, he said, adding that the idea that it would benefit Taiwan's DRAM and LCD sectors was totally misguided "unless the entire Seoul metropolitan area is flattened."

Relations between North and South Korea appear to have returned to the Cold War era, said Lai I-chung, a researcher at the Taiwan Thinktank. Despite the fact that chances of an all-out war are slim, he urged Taiwan's government to develop a national strategy in case of a military conflict.

Lai said Taiwan should clearly express its support to South Korea, Japan and the U.S. -- as President Ma Ying-jeou did Friday when he condemned violence in response to an interviewer's question about the Korean Peninsula -- so that the international community will not misunderstand Taiwan's position.

Lai also urged Taiwan to support the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led multinational effort to stop the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, as it did in 2003 when a North Korean cargo ship carrying chemicals was intercepted and detained at the southern port of Kaohsiung. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Friday, May 28, 2010

Taiwan could get Schengen visa-waiver by 2011: EU parliamentarian

Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Taiwan's bid for Schengen visa exemption is expected to be discussed in the European Parliament in June and will be granted as soon as the end of the year, a European parliamentarian familiar with the matter said Friday.

"My understanding is that they will be coming up in a short time ... I would expect that to happen in a few weeks, probably in June, " said Simon Busuttil, spokesperson of the European People's Party on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, which is responsible for visa affairs.

The European People's Party is the largest group in the European Parliament.

The recommendation will have to go to the Council of Ministers after clearing the European Parliament to complete EU procedures before taking effect, he said.

"From past experience of visa liberalization for other countries, from the moment we get the recommendation till the moment we decide, you could be looking at around six months. If nothing goes wrong, this could be done by the end of the year, " the Maltese parliamentarian said.

Taiwan has been working on the proposal, which would grant Taiwanese travelers visa exemptions for 25 European countries under the Schengen Agreement, with the European Union (EU) since early last year.

It had said earlier that the proposal would be passed before June.

The delay was because a new European Commission entered into office in February and "there must've been a lot of backlog in the pipeline, " Busuttil said.

The delay was not related to Taiwan's execution of four death row inmates April 30, which sparked condemnation from the EU, the parliamentarian said.

Translation of the documents could also be behind the delay because all EU documents have to be available in 23 languages, said German parliamentarian Michael Gahler.

The visa-exemption recommendation will have a technical component and a political component, Busuttil said.

On the technical side, Taiwan has met all requirements, including security-related issues and biometric passports, he indicated.

"And we don't see any political obstacle in Taiwan's visa liberalization, " he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan announces Haiti debt relief plan

Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Taiwan will pay about US$12-13 million in interest on loans to Haiti and the quake-ravaged country will not have to make any payments on the principal for five years, Taiwan's foreign minister said Friday ahead of a June 2 global Haiti aid summit in the Dominican Republic.

The Haitian government has been informed of the relief and it has expressed its appreciation, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang added.

Yang declined to comment on the amount of the loan, but speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official said Taiwan's loans to Haiti amount to about US$88 million. The magazine Foreign Policy and the Guardian newspaper both reported on their Web sites that Haiti owes Taiwan US$91 million.

"Every country faces different situations, and Taiwan is not able to simply write off the debts, " Yang said.

He said the interest relief was the best Taiwan can offer because the creditors are local banks rather than the government.

Yang said a delegation, headed by Council of Agriculture Chairman Chen Wu-hsiung and including representatives from the Department of Health and the International Cooperation and Development Fund, will announce the measure and detail Taiwan's assistance plans at the summit.

The Paris Club, an informal group of financial officials from 19 of the world's richest countries that provides financial services to indebted countries and their creditors, called on Taiwan in January to offer debt relief after a magnitude-7 earthquake devastated Haiti.

Observers have said Taiwan's national credit is so high that it has to carefully contemplate debt relief to foreign countries because of a possible domino effect, fearing that other debtors of Taiwan will request debt relief if Taiwan agrees to offer relief to Haiti.

The Economist magazine has estimated that Taiwan's national debt is expected to reach US$137.4 billion, equivalent to 39 percent of its gross national product, in 2010, and the Ministry of Finance estimated last September that the national debt will surpass US$43.9 billion in 2010. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taiwan eyes first LPGA event in 2011

Taipei, May 27 (CNA) Taiwan is in position to organize its first ever United States LPGA Tour event hosted by current world No. 4 Yani Tseng in October 2011, a foundation behind the initiative said Thursday.

The Ho Kuo-hua Golf Foundation, associated with the Pei Tou Kuo Hua Golf and Country Club, told reporters that it is in the process of securing a three-year contract with the LPGA Tour for an invitational tournament in Taiwan.

"If all goes well, the first invitational tournament is expected to take place in October 2011, right before the Malaysia event, " said Jennifer Lee, Executive Director of the foundation's LPGA Preparatory Office.

The tournament's total purse will likely range between US$1.2 million and US$1.5 million, consistent with other U.S. LPGA events held in Asia, Ho said. The total budget for the tournament, the name of which has not yet been decided, is around US$5 million, said Emily Ho, president of the foundation.

"It will definitely include Yani Tseng's name in it to increase the appeal for local fans, " she said.

"Mexico went from a country with zero LPGA tournaments to three tournaments because of former world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa. We are optimistic that Yani Tseng will have the same impact," Ho said.

The U.S. LPGA Tour usually makes an Asia swing at the end of the year and will make stops in Malaysia, South Korea and Japan in consecutive weeks in late October and early November 2010.

One of the most pressing issues for the foundation is sponsorship, Lee said, adding that while several foreign corporations have shown great interest in sponsoring the event, sponsorship from local businesses has been lacking because most Taiwanese businesses do not recognize the sponsorship of sporting events as a part of their branding and marketing plans.

The LPGA Tour has been dropping tournaments in the last two years because of the global financial crisis leading to a lack of sponsors. As the global economy is recovering, however, more countries and agencies have begun to arrange LPGA events again, Lee said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Olympic gold medalists hope for good results at Taipei meet

Taipei, May 27 (CNA) Sprinter Michael Frater, a member of Jamaica's world record-setting 4x100-meters men's relay team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said Thursday that he would like to be the first athlete to break the 10-second mark in the men's 100-meters in Taiwan.

Frater was among 15 top athletes, including four Olympic gold medalists, invited to attend the 2010 Chinese Taipei International Athletic Meet scheduled to take place May 28-29 in Taipei with over 600 athletes from 15 countries participating.

The gold medalists are Frater, Polish shot putter Tomasz Majewski and New Zealand women's shot putter Valerie Vili -- all of whom won their golds in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Tim Mack, who won the men's pole vault in the 2004 Athens Olympics, will also compete.

Responding to a reporter's question, Frater said he would love to be the first to break the 10-second mark in Taiwan, where Liu Yuan-kai and Tsai Mung-lin share the national record of 10.29 seconds.

The athletes have a lighter year than usual this year, since there are no major championships this year after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. Vili, who came to Taiwan after a Shanghai Diamond League athletics meet last week, said she will focus on the Diamond League this year.

She said she was hoping for a good result this week in Taipei, before spending a week training in Singapore and competing in the next Diamond League series in New York.

German discus thrower Robert Harting, who won gold in the World Championships last year and fourth place in Beijing, said the competition is a good opportunity for a reunion with his Taiwanese friend Chang Ming-huang, one of the best discus throwers in Taiwan, who uses the same coach as Harting -- Werner Goldmann -- when he is in Germany.

The Chinese Taipei Track and Field Association (CTTFA) , the game's organizer, hopes that the competition's "star power" will inspire local athletes and rejuvenate local development in the track and field category, which has suffered from lackluster performance for some time, said CTTFA Secretary-General Wang Ching-cheng. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thai office describes report on Thai politics as `groundless'

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) The Thailand Trade and Economic Office (TTEO) complained in a letter sent to a local English-language newspaper about what it described as "groundless claims" about the Thai government and judiciary's "abuse of power" set forth in an editorial.

The letter was in rebuttal to an op-ed piece published May 19 in the Taiwan News, titled "The Warning for Taiwan in the Thailand Crisis." The Thai courts were impartial in their guilty verdicts against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies for corruption and electoral fraud, and it was Thaksin himself who jumped bail and fled overseas, rather than the Thai Supreme Court confiscating his bail and ordering his arrest, according to Wanthanee Viputwongsakul, acting TTEO executive director of the TTEO, the de facto Thai embassy in Taiwan.

The letter came days after the close of a massive protest that called for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve the parliament and saw demonstrators occupy a main shopping district of Bangkok for two months, leading to dozens of deaths when government troops cracked down.

Wanthanee said in the letter that the present Thai government came to power through diplomatic means and that Abhisit will continue to press ahead with his roadmap of reconciliation that was announced May 3 but rejected by the Thai opposition.

In a separate letter written by Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to CNN, the ministry also blasted a recent newscast titled "Thailand's Violence" on the network as "shallow and lacking sensitivity" about the Thai monarchy. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan-China negotiations to enter a tough year: SEF head

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Taiwan's top mainland affairs negotiator on Wednesday described the exchanges across the Taiwan Strait during the past two years as "fruitful, " but said that there will be a "difficult year" ahead in Taiwan-China negotiations.

In a press conference marking the second anniversary of his inauguration, Chiang Pin-kung, Chairman of the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF), which is authorized to deal with matters concerning Taiwan's exchanges with China, said that Taiwan maintains a "first the easy, then the difficult" policy in cross-Strait exchanges and it is entering "a tougher year after completion of the easier part of bilateral talks." Taiwan and China have conducted four official negotiations and have signed 12 agreements that cover the launching of direct flights and various cooperation programs since May 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou took office and resumed cross-strait talks the following month after 15 years of stalemate.

That was the easier part, Chiang said.

The ongoing negotiations on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), an agreement that aims to relax trade restrictions and eliminate or reduce tariffs between the two sides, is the "tougher element of the easier part, " Chiang said.

He did not answer a reporter's question on when Taiwan plans to engage in political talks with China.

President Ma has reiterated that he will not hold political talks with China during his term in office and has said that Taiwan deals with China with an "economy first, politics second" strategy.

While Taiwan has targeted June as the deadline to ink the trade agreement, negotiations over a list of the early harvest items, one of the most crucial and anticipated elements in the framework agreement which designates the export items that will enjoy zero tariff immediately after the deal is signed, was still in the works as both sides differed on what items to put on the list.

Chiang said that he cannot predict the exact dates of the third round of ECFA negotiations and the fifth round of bilateral talks, in which the trade deal and the protection of intellectual property rights will be discussed.

"There will be some gains and sacrifices we have to make in the coming year (this year), " Chiang said.

However, he said, reduced tensions across the Taiwan Strait resulting from the rapprochement approach Ma's administration has adopted toward China, has "made a great contribution to global security as the Taiwan Strait is no longer a flashpoint, " Chiang said.

The veteran politician also expects more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan next year as more direct flights have been scheduled and the Chinese government has relaxed its travel restrictions in more provinces. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs

U.S. raises non-immigrant visa application fee

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) The United States is scheduled to increase its non-immigrant visa application processing fee, effective June 4, the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said in aWednesday press release.

From that date, applicants for B1/B2, F and J visas must pay US$140, while those who apply for petition-based visas, including H, L, O, P, Q and R visas, must pay US$150. Applicants for K and E visas must pay US$350 and US$390, respectively.

The increase is to cover the increasing cost of visa processing, the de facto U.S. embassy said in the release, adding that the new tiered fee structure is to cover the higher unit costs for processing certain categories of visas.

Applicants who pay their application processing fee on or before June 3 and schedule their appointments on or after June 4 must pay the difference before the interview, it added.

The procedure for paying visa application processing fees has not changed, with all applicants required to pay the fees at Taiwan post offices, according to the press release. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Taiwan's most-valued basketball player named

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) Center Tseng Wen-ting, who led Yulon Luxgen to its 4th title in the team's history last week, was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2010 regular season Tuesday for the first time in his career.

The 204-centimeter center also received the defensive player of the year trophy in the award ceremony and was selected as one of the five best players in the Super Basketball League (SBL), a seven-team league that was established in 2003 and is Taiwan's top basketball competition.

Tseng, 25, led the league in rebounds and assists, a rare feat for a center.

"In fact, I thought I had a better chance of winning (the MVP) last season, " Tseng said, adding that "as for this (the defensive player of the year award), I've had plenty of those."

Luxgen, which beat defending champion Dacin Tigers 4-2 in the best-of-seven finals last week, became the big winner of the evening. The team's Chen Chih-chung, the finals MVP, also took home the sixth man of the year award. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Opposition aims to sweep year-end elections

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday that the party aims to sweep the five year-end special municipalities elections because the people of Taiwan deserve good governance.

All five of the party's candidates for the special municipality elections attended a party rally to officially confirm their candidacies, two days after Tsai's landslide win for a second term and her widely expected announcement that she will run for the post of mayor of Xinbei City.

"The people of Taiwan deserve -- and have the right -- to ask for good governance, which has not been the case in the last two years, "Tsai told party members, saying that the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou has led Taiwan into dire financial straits, a confidence crisis and a gradual loss of sovereignty to China.

Tsai said her party has decided to recommend its best talent in the key elections, which she said will have a huge impact on Taiwan's future. She expressed confidence that the DPP will win all five elections.

The November municipality elections will take place in Taipei City and Xinbei City (an upgraded Taipei County) as well as in Tainan (a merger of Tainan city and county), Taichung (a merger of Taichung city and county) , and Kaohsiung (a merger of Kaohsiung city and county).

Incumbent Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, former Premier Su Tseng-chang and Legislator William Lai are the DPP candidates for the races in Kaohsiung, Taipei and Tainan, respectively, while DPP Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan will run in the Taichung mayoral election.

The KMT announced its candidates May 11. The incumbent mayors of Taichung and Taipei, Jason Hu and Hau Lung-bin, will run in Taichung and Taipei, while former Deputy Premier Eric Liluan Chu will run in Xinbei City. Legislator Huang Chao-shun and former lawmaker Kuo Tien-Tsai will run in Kaohsiung and Tainan, respectively. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

MOFA denies turning down Iranian trade office request

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang denied Tuesday a media report that a request by Iran to establish a trade office in Taiwan has been rejected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointing out that trade affairs of this nature are nothing to do with the ministry.

The Iranian request to establish a trade office is being evaluated by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) , the country's quasi-official agency for promoting international trade, Yang said.

He made the comment in response to a reporter's question that cited a May 21 Associated Press (AP) story reporting that Taiwan had turned down Iran's request to open a "diplomatic mission" in Taiwan.

Yang told reporters that Taiwan's relations with Iran are largely based on trade and economic activities, which is why TAITRA would be the first agency to evaluate the request.

"If TAITRA has made a decision, the request will not even be submitted to the MOFA, " Yang said.

The AP story quoted the head of Israel's representative office in Taiwan, Raphael Gamzou, who quoted an anonymous MOFA official as saying that Taiwan had already turned down the Iranian proposal after taking account of the position of the United States.

TAITRA spokesman Hsu Chang-ping declined to comment to CNA on the matter.

According to Bureau of Foreign Trade statistics, the total trade volume between Taiwan and Iran, Taiwan's 25th-largest trading partner, reached US$2.5 billion in 2009. Most of Taiwan's imports, valued at US$1.98 billion, are petroleum products. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Abuse case shows lack of knowledge of Muslim culture: Arab officials

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) A recent scandal in which a Taiwanese employer forced Muslim workers to eat pork exposed a lack of knowledge of Islam in Taiwan and could harm Taiwan's international image, representatives from the Middle East said in Taipei Saturday.

While most of them accepted that it was an individual case, the diplomats urged the government to take notice of the severity of the incident, which has drawn international criticism and a protest by labor activists and migrant workers May 16 to demand respect for religious freedom.

"It shows that the Middle East is misunderstood here. And it is an opportunity for Taiwan to learn more about Muslim culture, " said Sulaiwan Al-Mughairy, Director of the Commercial Office of the Sultanate of Oman-Taiwan, on the sidelines of a Middle Eastern Culture Exhibition organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and representative offices of various Middle Eastern countries.

He said he had learned of many cases in which Muslims are prohibited from praying five times a day and observing Ramadan -- the Islamic month of fasting -- and that such employers should be punished severely.

Muzaffer Eroktem, representative of the Turkish Trade Office, said the incident was an individual case but emphasized that all religions should be respected.

Taiwan has good reasons to know more about the Middle East, as there are 60,000 Muslims in Taiwan and bilateral trade between Taiwan and the region in the first half of the 2009 reached US$27.1 billion, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Javier Hou said, adding that 83 percent of Taiwan's oil imports come from the region.

Hou admitted that Taiwan's understanding of the Middle East is limited, which is why the cultural exhibition will also be held in the central city of Changhua May 29-30 and in Pingtung City, southern Taiwan, June 5-6.

Representatives from Jordan and Saudi Arabia also attended the exhibition, which showcased food, artifacts, paintings, clothing and travel information relating to the Middle East. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Friday, May 21, 2010

Justice minister meets with anti-death penalty group

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Minister of Justice Tseng Yong-fu met with an anti-death penalty group for the first time Friday to discuss capital punishment, which has become a hot-button issue since Taiwan's execution of four death-row prisoners last month.

The group and the minister both agreed that while Taiwan's ultimate goal is to abolish the death penalty, it would require collaborative efforts over time to convince the public, Wu Chih-kuang, deputy convener of Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP), told the media after the 90-minute meeting.

According to Wu, the group thinks that a moratorium on executions is an important step toward abolition of the death penalty, and that it should be implemented while the public discussion is in progress, Wu said.

However, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) did not specify whether it would consider the suggestion, he said.

Before the closed-door meeting, Tseng said the ministry realizes that abolition of capital punishment is one of the country's goals, but knows it would be a long process.

Taiwan executed four of the 44 prisoners on row April 30, five weeks after former Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng resigned amid a political storm sparked by her statement that she would not sign any death warrants during her term.

The TAEDP has petitioned the Justices of Constitutional Court, on behalf of the remaining 40 inmates, for a Constitutional ruling.

Asked whether there will be more executions in the future, Wu said Tseng has told the group that the MOJ will respect the Constitutional Court's decision on those cases, but will not set a timetable for abolition of the death penalty.

Nonetheless, the minister promised to speed up the work of a special task force, which comprises scholars, civil groups and officials, to forge consensus on the issue, Wu said.

The alliance is pleased to know that the MOJ will actively support the task force, said Lin Hsin-yi, executive director of the TAEDP.

However, transparency will be very important during the process, she said.

"The more people know, the easier it will be to forge consensus and to communicate, " she said. "The same applies to every major policy and social issue." (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Luxembourg Green Party supports Taiwan's UNFCCC participation

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Visiting parliamentarians from the Luxembourg Green Party voiced their support Friday for Taiwan's participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a country and also urged Taiwan to follow the European course of green development.

They also called for Taiwan to restore a de facto moratorium on the death penalty after four death row inmates were executed April 30.

The Green Party is in favor of Taiwan's participation in the UNFCCC because climate-related issues are global ones and Taiwan, as a well-developed country like Luxembourg, has to be responsible for its high carbon emissions, said Felix Braz, vice president of the party's parliamentary caucus.

As for which name Taiwan will use for its participation in the UNFCCC, Braz said that is a question for Taiwan to answer itself because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Pan Han-sheng, co-convener of Taiwan's Green Party, and Robin Winkler, chairman of the Taiwan Friends of the Global Greens, expressed appreciation for the support and said Taiwan's participation in international organizations is needed so that the government can leverage international pressure to deal with local corporations.

Taiwan has to be part of the global solution to climate change, Braz said, especially because it has become known for its expertise in the development of environmentally friendly technology and has been active in exporting such technology to other countries in recent years.

By following this course, he said, Taiwan will be able to play an active role in the global fight against climate change.

The party also encourages Taiwan to follow the European course of green development and green policies that could benefit the country in many ways, such as creating jobs, Braz said.

For example, he went on, Germany has created 1 million jobs in sectors related to environmentally friendly technology.

He urged Taiwan to reduce its energy consumption and its reliance on imported energy resources, and to focus on energy efficiency. At the same time, he emphasized that nuclear energy is both backward and expensive and noted that he expressed these points of view in a meeting with Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Stephen Shen.

In terms of the death penalty, Braz said his party maintains the position that "a state should not be granted the right by the people to kill other people, " but he added that the issue should not be linked to Shengen area visa-waiver privileges for Taiwanese.

The proposal has not been submitted by the European Commission to the European Parliament for discussion yet, he said, adding that while there has been speculation that the proposal was stalled because of Taiwan's executions in April and subsequent condemnation issued by the European Union (EU), this is not the reality of the situation.

The Luxembourg Green Party was established in 1983 and currently holds seven seats in the 60-member parliament. The party is a member of the European Greens, which is the fourth-largest political party in the European Parliament.

The party's support for Taiwan's UNFCCC bid was in line with a resolution passed by the European Parliament in March to support the country's participation in the international organization as an observer, as well as the International Civil Aviation Organization. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taiwan calls for restraint on Korean Peninsula

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) expressed concern in a Thursday press release about escalating tension between South and North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean warship and urged both sides to exercise restraint.

An international civilian-military investigation team has determined that a North Korean torpedo caused the massive blast that caused the Choenan, a South Korean corvette, to sink March 26 in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors.

"As a member of the Northeast Asian region, Taiwan has expressed its grave concerns over the incident especially now that the international report has held North Korea responsible, " the ministry said in the press release.

The government calls for related parties to handle the incident according to United Nations regulations and resolve the dispute peacefully, it said.

According to media reports, North Korea has accused South Korea of fabricating evidence in the investigation and could retaliate with "all-out war." (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Thai officials address Bangkok protests at seminar

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) Thai officials said in Taipei Thursday that they hope instability caused by some of the biggest civil unrest in Thailand for the last 20 years will be over soon and that Taiwanese investment and tourists visiting the Southeast Asian country will return to normal.

"I personally believe that this unfortunate situation will be short-term and will end soon...Thailand will put everything in order and come back as a peaceful place to live, " said Sorayut Phettakul, Thailand's deputy minister of industry, referring to the massive protests in Bangkok that have caused some 40 deaths since March.

Wanthanee Viputwongsakul, deputy executive director of the Thailand Trade and Economic Office (TTEO) -- Thailand's representative office in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties, expressed hope that people will believe that the protests were taking place only in limited areas of Bangkok and that in most places, life was going on as usual.

However, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) raised the travel alert to red -- the highest grade on a four-color system -- for the greater Bangkok area, advising Taiwanese tourists against visiting the Thai capital unless necessary. The alert was orange -- also very serious -- for other areas in Thailand except for the resort area of Phuket island. Most media outlets around the world were also reporting that the situation in Thailand was very far from stable.

As of Thursday, there was still resistance in downtown Bangkok even after protest leaders surrendered and asked protesters to disperse. More than 20 buildings in Bangkok's main shopping district were still on fire as protesters continued to fight troops.

The Thai officials made their remarks in the 21st Joint Economic Cooperation Meeting between Taiwan's Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association (CIECA) and the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), which promotes bilateral trade.

The two-month long protest demanding the dissolution of the Thai parliament has devastated the Thai economy, with Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij cutting 0.3 percent off an earlier forecast of economic growth of between 4.5 percent and 5 percent this year.

The sector that has suffered the most is tourism, which accounts for 6 percent of Thailand's economy and 15 percent of its workforce. According to Thai government spokesman Puttipong Punnakan, hotel occupancy in Bangkok was down to 20 percent at a time when it is normally at 80 percent or 90 percent.

Responding to a question about the impact of the protests on tourism, Viputwongsakul described Taiwanese tourists as "more supportive" than others. Even though the daily average visa applications ranged from 200-300 -- down from around 1,000 per day before the protest -- the numbers were still a lot higher than those of Western countries, she said.

Her office did not advise Thai workers in Taiwan from going back home during the protests, she added.

"It appears that the situation has calmed down," she said.

In terms of investment, she quoted an unnamed media analyst who said that while investors might want to relocate their businesses away from Bangkok in the short term, the mid- to long-term investment climate will not be affected.

According to Deputy Economics Minister Francis Liang, Taiwan is the third-largest foreign investor in Thailand with more than 2,000 investment projects in the country.

He said that Taiwan, Thailand's 11th-largest trading partner, intends to further liberalize its economic relations and forecast that bilateral trade will see a steady upward trend.

Local businessmen are also pushing for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand after Taiwan signs its proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China.

"Taiwan's Asian partnership will be affected by its increased trade with China (after inking the deal) . An FTA between Taiwan and Thailand would be an important element in fostering better bilateral relations, " said Alfred Chen, chairman of the CIECA's Thailand Committee. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Taiwan seeks expand trade ties with U.S. under TIFA: president

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated Taiwan's intention to tighten ties with the United States under an established trade framework and continue to buy arms from Washington, at a press conference Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of his inauguration.

Ma told local and international media that Taiwan has opted to further develop trade and commercial ties with the U.S. under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) , rather than pursue amore comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA).

He said both sides are trying to use a "block-building" format that would rely on a series of specific deals under the TIFA framework, such as a bilateral investment agreement and an agreement on avoidance of double taxation, to enhance cooperation.

Ma was responding to a question on how he viewed the statement by American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt that "Taiwan might not be ready for an FTA with the U.S." because it still wants to protect some local sectors.

Ma said Taiwan and the U.S. will not discuss an FTA because the Trade Promotion Authority, authorized by the U.S. Congress, has expired, adding that an enhanced TIFA will still be an effective tool for bilateral trade liberalization.

He also acknowledged that Taiwan has concerns over Washington's desire to increase its exports of agricultural products, such as rice and pork, to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the president reiterated Taiwan's wish to procure F-16 C/D fighter jets, which will replace its aging F-5 fleet, and diesel-electric submarines from the United States, but Washington is still evaluating the procurement request.

He also said Taiwan will not engage in an arms race with China despite a growing military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait but will build a national defensive force that is strong and agile.

The U.S. is among a handful of countries that will sell weapons to Taiwan, and Taiwan will continue to pursue buying arms from Washington, he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

'Judge my leadership by results': president

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou Wednesday urged the public to judge his leadership by the results his administration produces and said that he is leading the country by a "silent resolution." In a press conference on the eve of the second anniversary of his inauguration, a reporter asked the president about his leadership, after some accused him of being weak and indecisive during the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot, which devastated southern Taiwan last August.

Ma advised the public and the media to consider the rankings released Monday by the Switzerland-based Institute for Management Development, in which Taiwan's national competitiveness jumped up 15 spots to eighth place. He noted that the country had made a big rebound after plummeting to 23rd place in 2009.

Ma also said he is leading his administration by a "silent resolution, " adding that he had never wavered while dealing with the cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

"Resolution means insisting on doing the right things. You don't have to grab the microphone and shout to show your resolution, " he said.

Ma also said that he did not worry too much about his approval rating, which is around 40 percent, down from 58 percent when he was elected two years ago. Popularity comes and goes, he said, adding that over time people will benefit from his policies. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Taiwanese tennis tournament eyes big-name stars

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) A company that has sponsored a second-tier women's tennis tournament in Taiwan for the past two years is now hoping to attract the likes of Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova to Taiwan to play in a high profile invitational event.

Two European players among Henin, Clijsters and Daniela Hantuchova, an American player, who could be Sharapova or one of the Williams sisters, are among those being targeted for a planned eight-player Taipei Ladies Open in 2011, said Robert Han, president of the Orient Express Container (OEC) Group.

Other participants would include a Japanese player and two players each from Taiwan and China, Han said. The invitational is scheduled to be played at Taipei Arena from Sept. 19-24, 2011.

According to Han, the tournament will have a total purse of US$600,000 and additional appearance fees of US$1 million and would be sandwiched between WTA (Women's Tennis Association) Tour tournaments in China and Japan.

"Our goal is to organize a WTA Tour tournament in Taiwan in the future," Han said.

The group is also trying to lure either former world No. 1 Anna Ivanovic of Serbia or Hantuchova to participate in this year's OEC Taipei Ladies Open, part of the second-tier ITF (International Tennis Federation), which will be played from Nov. 1-7 in Taipei, Han said.

Whether Han will be able to draw the biggest names in women's tennis, especially in a sport notorious for late withdrawals due to injury, is open to question.

Local sports promoters often try to draw big name players or events, but have trouble finding the necessary sponsorship.

A reported visit of the Spanish professional football club Real Madrid this summer as a part of its Asian tour, which received heavy media coverage last year, appears to have been called off. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan to maintain steady course on China: president

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Taiwan will take steady steps in dealing with China and create a period of peace and prosperity that will eventually allow people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to work out a "lasting solution," President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday.

The goal of the government's cross-Taiwan Strait policy is to win time for Taiwan and China to devise a lasting solution "guided by the wisdom of the Chinese people, " Ma said at a press conference marking the second anniversary of his inauguration.

Since taking office on May 20, 2008, Ma has adopted a China policy advocating rapprochement and "flexible diplomacy, " which has eased tensions with Beijing.

The president said his administration is following a three-step diplomatic approach -- reconciliation, cooperation and peace -- and will not enter political talks with China until all necessary steps have been taken, such as economic and trade cooperation.

Taiwan will not take giant steps in cross-strait exchanges because "sometimes Taiwanese people have an inexplicable fear of China," Ma said, citing his administration's cautious opening to Chinese investment and gradual increase in direct flights between Taiwan and China as examples.

He reiterated that he has no timetable to negotiate a peace agreement with China or a plan to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, although he would not rule out the possibility.

Questioned on his comment that signing a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) would force China to consider the removal of its missiles targeted at Taiwan, Ma said the remark was misinterpreted by the media.

According to the president, he was saying that the co-existence of those missiles and warming Taiwan-China economic ties would be "an uncomfortable scene," and would be seen that way by Japan, the U.S., and even some Chinese.

He stressed, however, that Taiwan is very much aware of China's rapidly rising military capability and the increasing imbalance in cross-strait military power, which is why Taiwan is determined to shore up its national defense by purchasing arms and give China second thoughts about launching an attack.

Ma did not answer a question on whether he favored "ultimate unification" with China, saying only that he would not raise the issue of unification in his four-year term.

He also said Taiwan still hopes to ink the ECFA with China in June and that negotiations "have been going quite smoothly." (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Emissions-curbing campaign urges public to do `little things'

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou unveiled a national campaign Tuesday in which the public is encouraged to do the "little things" in life as a part of Taiwan's aggressive initiative to curb carbon emissions to the 2008 level by 2020.

Taiwan accounts for 1 percent of the global carbon emissions, with carbon emissions per capita 2.8 times the global average, which is why Taiwan needs to address the issues of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change before it is too late, Ma said.

He made the remarks at a press conference in which he and Premier Wu Den-yih announced the formation of an "Emissions-curbing Service Team" consisting of technical consultation groups, volunteer groups and advocacy groups with the aim of integrating resources to promote the campaign.

The campaign urges the public to contribute by starting with the "little things, " such as switching off electrical equipment and appliances, conserving water and raising the thermostat on the air conditioner by a few degrees.

If everyone does these little things, the combined results can be fruitful, Ma said, adding that Taiwan is targeting reducing its carbon emissions to the 2008 level by 2020 and down to 50 percent of the 2000 level by 2050.

The initiative also promotes green energy and alternative energy and encourages people to buy energy-efficient products.

Taiwan's carbon emissions were down by 4.4 percent in 2008 and 5 percent in 2009, Ma said. Although emissions are expected to rise again after the economic recovery, he went on, the government will do its best to make sure energy is consumed more efficiently.

Wu, for his part, said that "decades ago, the government did everything it could to promote automation, which later became one of the keys of Taiwan's economic growth. Today we have the same determination to tackle the threat of carbon emissions and climate change, because these are the right things to do. " (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Diplomat pushes for Taiwan investment in Ireland

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) Despite Ireland's economic woes, it is still a good option for Taiwanese investors because of its policy on direct foreign investment, which promises low corporate taxes and high incentives for foreign investors, Taiwan's representative to that country said Tuesday. Ireland's transparency, quality higher education, clear policies and sound integration of corporate and academic resources position it to bounce back soon from its PIIGS listing, said David Lee, head of the Taipei Representative Office in Ireland.

The PIIGS acronym refers to the European countries of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain, which have been plagued by government deficits, huge national debts and high unemployment rates.

According to the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) , Ireland's estimated gross debt in 2010 is expected to be 82.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) and its current jobless rate is 13.3 percent.

Nonetheless, Lee said, Ireland could serve as a springboard or gateway for Taiwanese businesses looking to break into European markets.

"Ireland will be able to rise from its economic slump and other troubles because it has a sound national structure and has always been able to adapt quickly," said Lee.

In the two decades before Ireland was hit by the 2008 financial crisis, it was known as the Celtic Tiger because of its strong economy and fast economic growth, Lee noted.

However, several Taiwanese investors have pulled out of Ireland recently and have opted to relocate in other countries such as Poland because of rising wages, he said. Taiwan has experienced a similar problem of high production costs forcing local businesses to move to China, he noted.

"The more I learn about Ireland, the more similarities I see with Taiwan, " said Lee, who has been stationed in Dublin since May 2008.

In some ways, Ireland-United Kingdom (U.K.) relations are very much like Taiwan-China relations, he said.

Like Taiwan, "Ireland is an island country off the coast of a regional power," he said. "Some 70 percent of Irish exports go to the U.K. market, while 40 percent of Taiwan's exports are to China." In addition, Ireland and Taiwan are both facing the challenge of moving up the value chain in terms of industry upgrade and corporate branding, Lee said.

He encouraged other Taiwan businesses to follow in the footsteps of G-LED Lighting -- a green energy manufacturing company that has invested 5 million euros in Ireland -- and take advantage of the incentives being offered and the country's focus on developing green energy, its financial sector, and the medical equipment and bio-tech industries.

He also urged that more Taiwan students and tourists visit Ireland, which he said is known for its rich history, literature and scenery.

Since Ireland granted Taiwan visa-free status last year, the number of Taiwan tourists to that country has increased and "it is now common to see Taiwanese tour groups on the streets of Dublin," Lee said. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan still awaiting Schengen visa-waiver privileges

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) A proposal for visa-waiver privileges for Taiwanese travelers to Europe's Schengen Area is expected to be submitted by the European Commission, but there is no timetable for when the proposal will be passed, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday.

A proposal to grant Taiwanese travelers visa-free privileges for the 25 European countries under the Schengen Agreement is expected to be discussed and voted on in the European Parliament, with another discussion in the EU Council before it takes effect in the near future, said Chiu Jong-jen, director-general of the MOFA's Department of European Affairs.

"We have met every requirement under the EU visa-waiver program. Our case is a simple one and I expect good news very soon, " Chiu said in a press briefing.

The ministry has been working on the proposal with the EU since early last year and had said earlier that the proposal would be passed before June, although it later changed its statement, saying that the widely anticipated visa-waiver is expected to be granted before the end of the year.

However, the statement was made before Taiwan's execution of four death row inmates April 30 sparked condemnation from the EU.

Catherine Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights both issued statements condemning the executions. Guy Ledoux, head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) , the organization that represents EU interests in Taiwan, also asked Taiwan to restore a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

The MOFA has reiterated its hope that the issue of the death penalty and the visa-waiver program can be kept as separate issues.

The EETO declined to comment on the visa-waiver proposal, saying only that once the proposal is submitted, the office or the EU will make a public announcement on the matter. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yulon wins 2010 Taiwan professional basketball title

Taipei, May 16 (CNA) The Yulon Luxgen beat defending champion Dacin Tigers 71-70 in Game 6 of the 2010 Super Basketball League (SBL) Finals to win their first SBL title in four years.

Yulon, which last hoisted the championship trophy in 2006, won the title despite being the only team in the seven-team SBL not to hire a foreign player.

Yulon point guard Chen Chih-chung, 33, was named the championship series MVP for his consistent performance throughout the best-of-seven series.

Dacin had chances to extend the series to a Game 7 and tied the score at 70-70 after a dunk by American import Byron Allen with 28.3 seconds remaining.

But on the next possession, Yulon forward Yang Che-yi was sent to the line on a foul by Dacin forward Chen Tse-wei with only 1.5 seconds remaining. Yang made the first of two free throws to put his team ahead and intentionally missed the second, leaving Dacin without time to get off a potential game-winning shot.

Yulon, which had led most of the game, seemed headed for a breakdown after starting center Tseng Wen-ting fouled out with 6: 05 to go in the third quarter. But veteran sub Wu Chih-wei picked up the slack, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the final two quarters.

After clinching the title, Tseng said the team was dedicating the championship to its late head coach Chien Yi-fei, who passed away in 2007.

Yulon won three straight titles from 2004-2006 during the league's first three years but had only made it to the SBL finals once in the last three years, losing to Taiwan Beer 4-2 in 2008.

The Yulon Group, which operates the Yulon Luxgen men's basketball team and Taiyuan Textile women's basketball team, also became the first team owner to win men's and women's basketball titles in the same year. Taiyuan won its first Women's Super League Basketball League (WSBL) title earlier this week. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dacin staves off elimination in SBL championship series

Taipei, May 15 (CNA) The defending champion Dacin Tigers overcame the Yulon Luxgen 89-76 to win Game 5 of the 2010 Super Basketball League (SBL) Finals on Saturday and stave off elimination in the best-of-seven series.

Dacin fell behind in the series 3-1 after losing to Yulon 87-81 in Game 4 Friday, but playing with urgency, the Tigers opened an early lead Saturday night with an 11-3 run in the first quarter and led by six at the half, 38-32.

Forward Tien Lei had 11 of his game-high 20 points, including two three-pointers, in the third period as Dacin extended its lead to as high as 14 points, even with American import Byron Allen on the bench for nearly the entire quarter because of foul trouble.

The brilliant play of second-string guards Lo Yu-chun and Huang Bao-tse, who combined for 26 points in the game, helped Dacin answer Yulon's comeback bid in the final quarter as the Tigers were able to maintain their lead at between 7 and 10 points.

Yulon will have another shot to clinch its fourth title in team history in Game 6 Sunday, which will be played at Sinjhuang Gymnasium in Taipei County.

Dacin beat the Taiwan Beer 4-3 in the finals last year to win its first title in the SBL, a seven-team league that was established in 2003 and is Taiwan's top basketball competition. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Friendly soccer games kick off Africa Week celebrations

Taipei, May 15 (CNA) Students from African countries met their Taiwanese counterparts and government officials on the soccer pitch Saturday in a friendly tournament, kicking off a series of events to highlight the upcoming Africa Week and this year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The Africa-Taiwan Economic Forum, consisting of African students and staff from African embassies and representative offices in Taiwan, routed Team MOFA (Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs) 5-1 in a 30-minute opening match at the National Taiwan University (NTU) outdoor stadium.

It marked the first time the ministry organized a sporting event as part of celebrations for the May 25 Africa Day and Africa Week, which runs from May 26-30, said Samuel Chen, director-general of the MOFA's Department of African Affairs.

Teams of students from Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Swaziland and Sao Tome and Principe -- Taiwan's four diplomatic allies in Africa -- and a mixed team of South African and Nigerian students met local university teams from NTU, Yang Ming University, Taipei Medical University and National Taipei University of Technology (NTUT) , in the one-day "Taiwan-Africa Youth Friendship Football Tournament." "Too often we sit in the office and forget to step outside, enjoy sunshine and share time with families and friends, " Njabuliso Gwebu, Ambassador of Swaziland, told participants at the opening ceremony, adding that the tournament is a great opportunity for expats to get together and enjoy the "football fever." Kelson Chimutu, a Ming Chuan University sophomore from Malawi, was an emergency call-up to Team Sao Tome and Principe as the team was short of players.

"Unfortunately soccer is not as popular in Taiwan as baseball and basketball. It's good to have the opportunity to play in a soccer tournament, " said Chimutu, who is studying international trade and plans to establish a business after graduation.

He said he will watch the upcoming World Cup tournament on television even if he has to stay up late for broadcasts due to the time difference between South Africa and Taiwan.

The Malawian, who spoke fluent Mandarin, said he enjoyed almost every aspect of his life in Taiwan -- "except for tofu." Steamed dumplings, known locally as "xiaolongbao, " and bubble milk tea are his favorites, he said.

Mamadi, Ebrima Nijie and Yankuba B., known at NTUT as "the Gambian Musketeers, " played for their school rather than their "national team" in the tournament. They are members of the school's Gambian Information Technology (IT) Elite Program, which now has 25 students.

The IT program and a 25-man civil engineering program are part of plans by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who has pledged to establish an "African Silicon Valley" in the country by 2020, said Samantha Wang of NTUT's International Cooperation Section.

A cocktail party celebrating Africa Day will be held May 25 at Huashan 1914 Creative Park, where President Ma Ying-jeou will unveil a weeklong exhibition showcasing Taiwan's humanitarian relief efforts in Africa in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. An Africa Fair will take place May 29-30 at the same location. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc

Friday, May 14, 2010

Taiwan to develop stronger partnership with EU: President

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Taiwan appreciates the assistance European countries have offered on many fronts and is ready to develop a stronger partnership with the European Union (EU) in the future, President Ma Ying-jeou said at the annual Europe Day dinner Friday evening.

Ma lauded the integration of the EU as an inspiration for Taiwan and China and expressed gratitude for the EU's support, including 11 statements in 2009 alone that supported Taiwan's participation in international organizations.

That support contributed to Taiwan's first appearance at the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer last year.

He also thanked the EU for its assistance with the Typhoon Morakot relief effort last year.

In an appeal for further cooperation, Ma said that Taiwan is ready to enter talks with the EU on trade enhancement measures (TEMs) after the signing of the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China to establish a stronger economic partnership.

He also expressed the hope that Taiwan would be granted visa-free privileges in the Schengen Area -- consisting of 25 European countries -- within this year to make it more convenient for Taiwanese travelers to visit Europe.

Citing the example of the United Kingdom, Ma said the number of Taiwanese tourists traveling to the U.K. increased by 40 percent after the implementation of a visa-waver program.

Over 600 guests attended the dinner, including Guy Ledoux, head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO) and Nicholas Winsor, chairman of the European Chambers of Commerce (ECCT) and many government officials, In his review of Taiwan-EU relations, Ledoux brought up the sensitive issue of the abolition of the death penalty, saying that the EU encouraged Taiwan to resume the de facto moratorium on the death penalty after it executed four inmates April 30, the first executions in Taiwan since 2005.

Winsor praised Taiwan's government for steps taken to make the investment environment more attractive to foreign investors, in particular, for accepting the recommendation made in the ECCT's position papers for a number of years to lower the corporate income tax rate.

The Europe Day dinner is held every year to celebrate the founding of the EU. The year's dinner also celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, which called upon European countries to pool their coal and steel production for mutual benefit.

The declaration led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and eventually to the establishment of the modern EU. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Economists examine Ma's economy policy at mid-term

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Economists on Friday examined President Ma Ying-jeou's economic policies at the halfway mark of his term and expressed hopes for a better performance in the next two years that will pull Taiwan's economy back on track.

Ma had to deal with an unexpected and difficult challenge -- the global financial crisis -- in his first year in office and has had his ups and downs along the way, but Taiwan's economy has shown signs of recovery since the second half of 2009, experts agreed at the seminar organized by the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum.

"That shows you Ma must have been doing something right, " said Lai Shyh-bao, a lawmaker whose expertise is in management and economics.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast Taiwan's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in 2010 at 6.5 percent while Global Insight has put it at 5 percent, both of which would be good enough to outperform Asian rivals South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, he said.

Concerns remain, however, especially over a recovery that has not created many jobs or increased stagnant wages, Lai said.

He suggested that the administration pay more attention to labor-intensive rather than high-tech sectors and be aware of the rapidly widening wealth gap that could possibly lead to social problems and instability.

Hong Chi-chang, a former legislator and former chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) , Taiwan's quasi-official organization that deals with cross-strait matters, concurred.

"Taiwan is experiencing growth that cannot be felt by the general public and a recovery without employment opportunities," he said.

Bert Lim, president of the World Economics Society, a policy study think tank, warned the administration it would be making a mistake if it intends to boost the economy through private investment and private consumption, because private spending and investment have been shrinking for more than a decade.

But the necessary public investment may not be forthcoming because Taiwan's economic policy has progressively moved toward "left-wing socialism, " Lim argued, citing the country's shifting budget priorities.

During former President Lee Teng-hui's time in office in the 1990s, over 40 percent of the government budget was devoted to the economy while 11.6-13 percent was spent on social welfare.

But under former President Chen Shui-bian from 2000-2008, government spending on the economy ranged from 9-15 percent while social spending grew to 36-42 percent, said Lim.

Ma is following Chen's policy rather than emphasizing free trade initiatives and aggressive entrepreneurism -- two characteristics that made Taiwan's economy blossom in the 1970s -- Lim contended.

Citing the example of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, whose economic policy led the U.S. to a "glorious" 1980s, Lim encouraged Ma to move toward further deregulation to stimulate economic activity again.

Day Jaw-yang, a researcher at the Taiwan Research Institute, warned that the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) should be a tool, rather than an objective, for Taiwanese businesses to take advantage of China's resources in their global development.

The Ma administration hopes to sign the pact with China in June as a first step toward normalizing trade across the Taiwan Strait.

"How President Ma handles domestic matters in the 'post-ECFA' era will be crucial in the second half of his presidency," Day said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Economy high on President Ma's midterm agenda

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday in a midterm assessment of his presidency that his efforts to reduce tensions across the Taiwan Strait have paid off and that improved Taiwan-China ties will lead to a better economic future for Taiwan.

If Taiwan can sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China to relax cross-strait trade regulations and reduce tariffs, and complete an industry upgrade to build an innovation-based economy, a "Golden Decade" of sustained development would be a realistic goal, he said.

He reiterated his goal of sealing the deal with China before July and said he will head a special task force to seek free trade agreements (FTAs) with major economies, especially the European Union (EU), Japan and the U.S., after the ECFA is completed.

Ma said he believes China understands the fact that Taiwan is entitled to sign FTAs with other World Trade Organization (WTO) members and would not interfere in Taiwan's attempts to do so.

The ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) policy toward China is a part of its carefully thought out global strategy, said the president, who is also chairman of the KMT, in an interview with the Central News Agency in the run up to the May 20 midpoint of his current 4-year term.

"China is an integral part of our internationalization and globalization strategy, " but it was not part of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) global vision, said Ma, who has adopted an "economy first, politics second" approach in dealing with China.

"We should cherish the fact that the two sides (the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party) , which have fought each other for decades, are finally able to work on building mutual trust, " the president said.

However, Ma said, the time is not ripe for him to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao as "neither side sees any urgency for this." Furthermore, Taiwan has no plans to engage in political and military talks with China at this time, he said.

On the issue of the continued military threat from China, the president said it is an "uncomfortable picture" for him to see on one hand reduced cross-strait tensions and improved economic relations, and on the other hand, more than 1,000 Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan.

China will face increased pressure from the international community if it does not remove the missiles, especially after the ECFA is signed, he said.

Meanwhile, Ma promised, Taiwan will not engage in an arms race with China, but will still pursue U.S. weapons procurement in order to maintain its defense capability and its confidence when dealing with China.

The U.S. is reviewing Taiwan's request to purchase submarines and F-16 C/D fighters, and consultations are in progress on a new arms procurement list that will be based on an innovative and asymmetric strategy, he added.

A strong national defense capability and economic security will give Taiwan the confidence to stride forward and to make up for "the lost eight years" of the previous administration, he said.

He pledged that the economy will be high on the agenda for the remainder of his current term, with job creation as the top priority.

He noted that the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics has upgraded its forecast for the growth of Taiwan's 2010 gross domestic product (GDP) , from 3.39 percent to 4.72. The International Monetary Fund has also raised its forecast for Taiwan's GDP growth rate to 6.5 percent, he added.

Furthermore, the forecasts by most foreign institutions are higher than domestic estimates, which is an indication that "foreigners are even more optimistic about Taiwan's economy than we are," the president said.

As part of its economic goals, the government will recruit more economic and financial experts to the Cabinet in the impending reshuffle to help Taiwan achieve "its new place on the Asian economic map," he said.

Regarding government reform, Ma said that he has no intentions to amend the Constitution during his term because the executive and legislative branches are both functioning well.

He described his working relationship with Premier Wu Den-yih as "seamless, " which he said means that "the dual executive system is functioning well." (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook becomes new gov't tool to promote Taiwan-China trade pact

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) Taiwan's top China policy-making body is using an online game on the social networking Web site Facebook to try to boost public support for a proposed trade agreement with China, which it hopes to sign in June.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) announced Thursday that an online game titled "ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) Negotiation Table" will be launched May 17 as an application on the Facebook platform. The quiz-based game will test registered users on their knowledge of the deal and provide weekly rewards.

"The idea is to let users understand more about the content of the proposal through game-playing, " said MAC Deputy Chairman Liu Te-hsun.

The trade agreement aims to relax trade regulations between Taiwan and China and reduce tariffs on Taiwan and China's exports to each other's markets.

According to the MAC's latest public opinion poll released May 7, 53.1 percent of respondents said they supported the deal, while 33.4 percent said they opposed the signing of the agreement.

Supporters of the deal believe it is necessary to keep Taiwan from becoming economically marginalized as other countries sign free-trade agreements with China. Critics, however, said Taiwan's workers and industries will suffer once cheaper Chinese products flood in, and warned of being too economically dependent on China.

In order to gain more public support for the deal, the MAC decided to capitalize on the power of the Internet. Facebook, which was named the second most popular site in Taiwan's Top 100 Web sites in an annual survey by Business Next magazine, became a natural choice.

In Taiwan, the social networking Web site has over five million users -- about half of the total Internet users islandwide, partly because of the popularity last year of one of its games "Happy Farm." Users in the government's latest game will be able to select different roles they want to play in the eight-week game and are asked to answer three questions about the ECFA each day to collect points which can be used to exchange for rewards.

They can receive extra points by inviting friends to join the game, according to the MAC. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs

Defending champs Dacin face crucial game in basketball finals

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) Defending champions Dacin Tigers will be looking to tie the series 2-2 when they meet challengers Yulon Luxgen Friday in Game 4 of Taiwan's best-of-seven professional basketball finals.

If they lose the crucial game at Hsinjhuang Stadium, Taipei County, the Tigers will suffer a major setback in the 2010 Super Basketball League (SBL) Finals and could face elimination in Game 5 Saturday.

After dropping the opening game 70-66, Dacin bounced back with a 79-65 victory in Game 2, with star forward Tien Lei racking up 31 points and 9 rebounds and American import Byron Allen adding 19 points and 11 rebounds.

However, Tien missed one of two free throws with 2.8 seconds left on the clock in Game 3 and Dacin lost the opportunity to tie the game, going under to Yulon 72-71.

Dacin beat Taiwan Beer 4-3 in the finals last year to win its first title in the SBL, a seven-team league that was established in 2003. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

President highlights importance of job creation, praises Cabinet

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday that job creation is the first priority of his economic agenda after a minor Cabinet reshuffle.

Ma made the remarks in an interview with CNA, adding that he is leading the charge in Taiwan's quest for a "golden decade." The Cabinet reshuffle was made necessary when Vice Premier Eric Liluan Chu resigned that day to run for mayor of Xinbei City in the year-end special municipality elections, Ma said.

One week before the mid-point of his presidency, Ma said that the personnel change, which he said will recruit more economic and financial experts to the Cabinet, has a "special meaning" in Taiwan's global economic strategy and its quest for a decade of solid economic growth.

The economy and the Taiwan people's well-being, rather than political issues, will be the top priority on his agenda, according to the president.

As Taiwan has gradually emerged from the shadow of the global financial crisis and has seen its exports increase, the most important task at hand is to lower the unemployment rate to 5 percent or less, Ma said.

Being a part of regional economic integration is equally important in Taiwan's efforts to revive its economy, which is why Taiwan has been seeking to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement with China aimed at reducing tariffs and liberalizing cross-Taiwan Strait trade, he went on.

Ma praised Premier Wu Den-yih's performance since his appointment last September, saying that Wu has almost completed all three tasks he was charged with -- the 2009 influenza H1N1 control, the rebuilding project in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot, and reviving the economy.

The president said he and Wu have been working together "seamlessly." Meanwhile, the year-end special municipality elections will also be crucial and "unquestionably the prelude for the next presidential election because the results of local elections have always been a benchmark (for later elections), " he said.

Ma, who doubles as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) , admitted that his party suffered a heavy defeat in recent legislative by-elections.

"But that's why we have to reform and why these elections are important, " he said, adding that the municipality elections, which will cover 60 percent of the electorate, will be different because a large proportion of the voters are urban residents who have different voting behavior and mindsets from rural voters.

Ma expressed full confidence in the five KMT candidates -- Chu for Xinbei City, Jason Hu for Taichung City, Hau Lung-bin for Taipei City, Kuo Tien-Tsai for Tainan City and Huang Chao-shun for Kaohsiung City.

"Hopefully we can win them all, " he said. However, he acknowledged that his party will face tough battles in the southern municipalities of Tainan and Kaohsiung. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Olympics gold medalists to attend Taiwan athletic meet

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) Over 600 athletes from 15 countries, including four Olympics gold medalists, will meet in one of the biggest track and field competitions in Taiwan in years, the Chinese Taipei Track and Field Association (CTTFA) said Wednesday in a press conference.

The gold medalists are Polish shot putter Tomasz Majewski, New Zealand women's shot putter Valerie Vili and sprinter Michael Frater, a member of Jamaica's record-setting 4x100 meters men's relay team -- all of whom won their golds in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Tim Mack, who won the men's pole vault in the 2004 Athens Olympics, will also join the competition.

The gold medalists will be the most notable of 15 top athletes among 129 foreign invitees who will attend the 2010 Chinese Taipei International Athletic Meet, which will take place from May 28-29 in Taipei, announced CTTFA President Thomas Tsai.

The CTTFA hopes that the competition featuring a rare strong lineup and "star power" will inspire local athletes and rejuvenate local development in the track and field category, which has suffered from lackluster performance for quite some time, said CTTFA Secretary-General Wang Ching-cheng. A total of 475 local athletes will attend the competition, which the CTTFA said it intends to make an annual event.

"Taiwan's track and field performance may be down, but it is not out, evidenced by a 4x100 meters men's relay gold in the 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong, " Wang said, adding that there have been other potential local athletes who could break out at least on the Asian level.

For example, Wang said, 14-year-old high-jumper Hsiang Chun-hsien, who is 188 centimeters tall, had a personal best record of 2.15-meter and could improve with experience and better training.

Hsiang is expected to learn a lot when he meets Sylwester Bednarek, who won bronze at the 2009 World Championship with 2.32-meter, and from Taiwan record-holder Tsao Chih-hao (2.23-meter), he said.

Taiwan is also working hard in order to duplicate its success in the men's 4x100 meters relay in the upcoming Asian Games, which will be held in Guangzhou, southern China late this year, he noted.

Fans are welcome to attend the free-of-charge event at the Taipei City Stadium, which has undergone renovation before the Deaflympics was held in Taipei last year, Wang said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/cs

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taiwan anticipating vibrant ties with Philippines after election

Taipei, May 11 (CNA) The Taiwan government expects robust bilateral relations with the Philippines after the 15th president of the Southeastern Asian country is determined, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday morning, Benigno Aquino III was ahead in the vote count, with over 40 percent of the ballots from about 78 percent of the precincts having been reported. His closest competitor in the nine-way presidential race was former President Joseph Estrada with 25.5 percent of the vote.

Taiwan has always enjoyed good relations with its closest neighbor to the south, and regardless of who wins, Taiwan expects stronger bilateral ties in the future, MOFA spokesman James Chang said at a press briefing.

Taiwan has signed numerous Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the Philippines over the years to boost bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including agriculture, technology, fisheries, health, emergency relief and weather forecasting, he said.

"Senator Aquino, who is in the lead, is known for his efforts to fight corruption, " Chang said. "We expect the governments of both sides to continue to work closely together on many fronts." Senator Aquino is the son of former Philippines President Corazon Aquino and Benigno Servillano Aquino Jr., who was an opposition leader against former President Ferdinand Marcos and was assassinated in 1983 upon his return home from exile in the United States.

The Philippines presidential election was held Monday, employing a fully automated voting system for the first time in the country.

According to the country's Constitution, the incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not permitted to seek re-election as she had already served in that position. However, Estrada, who was deposed in 2001, was able to compete amid controversy in legal circles over the Constitutional article, including the question of whether or not it applies to both sitting and former presidents. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan-Vatican City ties remain strong: foreign ministry

Taipei, May 11 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday reiterated that Taiwan-Holy See ties remain strong, amid media reports that Taiwan's relations with its only diplomatic ally in Europe are at risk because relations between China and the Holy See are warming up again.

Taiwan enjoys solid and stable relations with the Holy See and expects continued cooperation with the city state, said MOFA spokesman James Chang in response to a reporter's question regarding improving China-Vatican City ties.

Three bishops have been installed in China in the last three weeks with the approval of both China's government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and Vatican City, the Financial Times of London reported Sunday. It also stated that as many as 20 bishops could be ordained over the coming months with the agreement of both sides.

As Pope Benedict XVI has listed establishing diplomatic relations with China as one of his priorities, the recent assignments signalled significant progress in bilateral relations and could mean that Taiwan's ties with the Holy See are in jeopardy, according to the local Want Daily.

"Religious freedom in China has always been one of Vatican's biggest concerns and we understand Holy See's concerns about the 10 million Catholics in China, " said Chang. "However, Vatican City and Taiwan share the same values and enjoy a longstanding friendship. We expect continued exchanges and development cooperation in the future on the basis of solid relations." He said that there have been extensive exchanges between Taiwan and the Holy See over the years, including visits by five Cardinal Bishops and more than 60 archbishops to Taiwan and a visit by Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng to the Holy See in 2009.

Senior diplomatic officials from China and Vatican City have been meeting two or three times a year in their ongoing effort to re-establish diplomatic relations. The last summit was held in Rome in February, and the next one is expected in Beijing this summer, the Financial Times reported.

It will be a complicated matter for the Holy See to establish diplomatic relations with China because Beijing still would not recognize the large number of so-called "underground Catholic churches" in China, said James Lee, deputy director-general of the MOFA's Department of European Affairs.

Diplomatic ties between China and the Holy See were severed in 1951 and bilateral relations deteriorated further in 2006 when China unilaterally consecrated two bishops who belonged to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Taiwan's economy policy should not focus only on GDP growth: scholars

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) Job creation, wealth distribution and industry upgrade, rather than an endless pursuit of gross domestic product (GDP) growth, should be the focus of Taiwan's future economy policy, scholars said at a symposium Saturday.

The panel of scholars, most of whom served as Cabinet-level officials in the previous administration, warned against over-reliance on China to prop up the Taiwan economy.

"Economic growth should not be the only national goal," said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , which organized the symposium on new economic development strategies in the process of globalization.

"The era of government allocating a large part of its resources to the support of corporates in the hope of creating a better environment for the national workforce has long gone, because corporates now relocate overseas in a heartbeat," she said.

While the current administration is seeking closer economic relations with China on grounds that is a preliminary step to economic integration with the rest of the world, most of the working class in Taiwan is suffering as a result of wage stagnation and shrinking job opportunities, Tsai said.

Chen Po-chih, an economist who serves as chairman of the pro-independence Taiwan Thinktank, supported this viewpoint, saying that the government tends to see management as the driving force for high GDP growth and it ignores the needs of the ordinary people.

"It is management that has been reaping the benefits from the process of globalization while the workers are suffering, " Chen said.

Taiwan can no longer gain a competitive edge by means of cheap labor, he added. Increasing unemployment and lower wages are two of the biggest economic issues in Taiwan, said Liu Chin-hsin, a professor at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. Liu urged that the government place job creation and the protection of traditional industry -- especially the manufacturing sector -- high on its economic agenda.

Taiwan should develop an innovation-based economy, support industry upgrade and restructuring, and address the issue of wealth distribution so that it can improve its competitiveness and the well-being of its people, he suggested.

The triangular economic relationship among Taiwan, China and Western developed countries is a conflict of personal interests and macro-interests, which puts Taiwan in a no-win situation, said professor Shih Jun-ji, a former chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission.

A prosperous triangular relationship would likely widen the wealth gap in Taiwan and eventually lead to social instability, he added.

Instead of reaching out to the global market by way of China, Shih said, Taiwan should increase its national competitiveness and explore European and American markets on its own. Despite the numerous challenges Taiwan is facing, former minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh said, she is still optimistic about the future because Taiwan's expertise, performance and dedication to innovation is widely recognized.

"The most important thing for us to do now is to formulate an innovation-based policy on industry development," she said.

According to the DPP, the wide-ranging discussions at the symposium will be incorporated into its "10-year policy guidelines" which are scheduled to be announced in August. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Taiwan boat feared hijacked by Somali pirates

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) A Taiwanese longline fishing boat is believed to have been hijacked by Somali pirates west of the Maldives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Saturday in a press release.

The ministry said it was informed by the Council of Agriculture's Fishery Agency and the Coast Guard Administration late Friday that there had been no contact with the Taiyuan 227 since Thursday night. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Center were immediately appraised of the situation, the MOFA added.

The owner of the boat managed to make contact early Saturday via satellite phone with the vessel, which was sailing toward Somalia, and was asked by unknown persons on board the boat to pay a ransom, the ministry reported.

The MOFA said there are no Taiwanese crew members on the Kaohsiung-based Taiyuan 227, the third Taiwanese fishing boat to be hijacked or attacked near Somali waters in the last two months.

The Zechuhtsai, a longline fishing boat, was hijacked by Somali pirates on March 30 and another vessel, the Juimanfa, managed to escape after a three-hour chase by pirates that same day.

Relatives of the Taiwanese crew members on the Zechuntsai are still negotiating with the Somali pirates and have asked the MOFA not to interfere in the process, Samuel Chen, director-general of the ministry's Department of African Affairs, said in a press briefing Thursday.

Taiwan's representative offices in India and South Africa have been instructed to request assistance from the governments of those countries, the MOFA said.

Another Taiwanese boat, the Win Far No. 161, was released in early February after its owner paid an undisclosed sum to the Somali pirates who had hijacked the ship and had been holding its crew captive since April 6 last year. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Friday, May 07, 2010

Taiwan hospital saves African boys suffering from severe burns

Taipei, May 7 (CNA) A local hospital's medical team has saved two African boys suffering from severe burns in an emergency medical relief mission coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the ministry and hospital said Friday.

The two unrelated 7-year-old boys, from Taiwan's western African diplomatic ally Sao Tome and Principe, arrived in Taiwan on April 11 for emergency treatment due to the lack of medical support in the country and its neighbors, said Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy C.T. Yang.

The boys' initial prognosis was not optimistic, said Tsui Kang, spokesman of Wan Fang Hospital. They had both suffered second-to-third degree burns, with one boy, named Fernando, having burns covering 40 percent of his body surface area (BSA) and the other, Aurelio, having a 9 percent BSA.

Fernando underwent two skin-grafting operations, including one that lasted 10 hours, while Aurelio had one operation. Both are now recovering well, Tsui said.

Fernando, who sustained burns when a pot of hot oil and water fell on him after he bumped into his mother in their kitchen, could barely stretch out his arm when he arrived in Taiwan, but his range of motion increased from just 20 degrees to 160 degrees after several skin grafts, Tsui said.

Aurelio sustained burns to the backs of his knees after spilling and igniting an oil container, leaving him unable to bend his knees, Tsui said. He can now stretch his legs straight and also jump on one foot, according to the spokesman.

"When the accident happened I told myself 'this is it' and my son's chances of recovering were slim. I'd never imagine that we would be here in Taiwan with the medical team and the first-class treatment, " Shela comis Lopes, Fernando's mother, told CNA through an interpreter.

The boys are scheduled to fly back to Sao Tome and Principe May 17 with their families.

A third child who was also suffering from severe wounds was scheduled to be brought to Taiwan for treatment as part of the group but died prior to the trip, said Yang, who initiated the mission after learning of the accidents from a friend.

The mission showed that Taiwan had extended its goodwill and friendship to its allies through concrete actions rather than lip service, said Sao Tome and Principe Ambassador to Taiwan Jorge Amado.

"Today's event is the most valuable testimony of 13 years of bilateral friendship between Sao Tome and Principe and Taiwan," Amado said.

The mission was only one part of Taiwan's continuous effort to take advantage of its medical expertise and provide medical relief to countries around the world, Yang said.

Taiwan has used different formats and services in various countries in practicing medical diplomacy, Yang added, noting that Taiwan has overseas-based medical teams as well as touring medical teams to provide medical care for special diseases.

It also helps other countries train medical staff, he said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Executions affect Taiwan's international image: EU envoy

Taipei, May 7 (CNA) The European Union (EU) has asked Taiwan to restore a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, saying that the resumption of executions will affect Taiwan's image, the EU's top envoy to Taiwan said Friday.

"Taiwan is viewed by Europe as a place of democracy and respect for human rights. Of course, resumption of the death penalty and executions will affect this perception of Taiwan's high standards of human rights, " said Guy Ledoux, head of the European Economic and Trade Office (EETO).

Taiwan drew outcry from human rights groups both at home and abroad after its execution of four death row inmates April 30, the first time since 2005 the death penalty had been carried out in the country, which has cited the abolition of capital punishment as a long-term goal.

The envoy said he met with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng Thursday and urged Taiwan to resume the de facto moratorium. His visit to Wang came days after statements issued by Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the European Parliament's subcommittee on human rights, expressing regret and condemnation of the executions.

Ledoux declined to speculate on the possible effects of the executions on EU plans to extend visa-free privileges to Taiwanese visitors to the Schengen Area, which currently consists of 25 European countries, but he noted that the proposal, which Taiwan had hoped to be granted by the EU by the end of this year, "must be discussed by the ministers of the member states as well as by the European Parliament. And for this proposal to be adopted, the European Parliament needs to vote in favor of it." The government insists that the executions were carried out according to Taiwanese law and has also pointed out that in most public opinion polls, over 70 percent of the respondents have been against abolition.

Responding to the envoy's comment, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said Friday that while the abolition of the death penalty is an eventual goal, it will take a long time for Taiwan to forge a consensus on such a sensitive issue. He added that his ministry will do its best to explain this to EU member states.

Yang said there are no signs at the moment that the visa-free privileges will be negatively affected as a result of Taiwan's executions and he expressed hope that they will be separate issues, as Taiwan and the EU have always enjoyed "multi-layered" relations that include a wide range of cooperation and exchanges.

Ledoux said that he had made two requests to the Executive Yuan to meet with Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu, who replaced Wang Ching-feng after Wang refused to sign any execution orders and resigned over the snowballing controversy.

"Unfortunately, our call has not been heard, " he said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dacin, Yulon to clash in Taiwan pro basketball finals

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) Defending champions the Dacin Tigers will meet Yulon Luxgen Friday in game one of a best-of-seven Super Basketball League (SBL) finals to determine Taiwan's best professional basketball team.

Both teams fought off fierce opposition to clinch their berths in the finals after a grueling five-game first-round playoff series in which Dacin edged out Taiwan Beer 57-55 and Yulon held off Pure Youth 76-69 in decisive games Wednesday.

Led by local star Tien Lei and American import Byron Allen, Dacin came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Taiwan Beer and will try to become the third repeat champion of the SBL, Taiwan's top basketball league. Yulon won the title 2003-2006, while Taiwan Beer hoisted the championship trophies 2007-2008.

Yulon, the only team that does not hire imported players, will ride on the shoulders of star center Tseng Wen-ting and hopes to win its first title in four years.

Dacin and Yulon were tied at 19 wins and 11 losses in the 30-game regular season. Yulon, which is making its fifth appearance in the finals, routed Dacin 3-0 in the 2005 finals, the last post-season meeting of the two teams.

Dacin beat Taiwan Beer 4-3 in the best-of-seven finals last year to win its first SBL champion. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Taiwan Internet merchants warned against Nigerian scams

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) warned Internet merchants Thursday against the increasing number of Nigerian scams.

There were four cases of Nigerian fraud filed with the ministry in April alone, and 11 in the past year, most of which involved false Internet purchase orders from Nigeria, said Chen Shih -liang, director-general of MOFA's Department of African Affairs, in a press briefing.

The ministry was able to cooperate with the Nigerian postal services and recovered most of the products shipped to the African country, he added.

There are many forms of Nigerian frauds, most of which originated in the early 1990's and have come to be known as "419" scams, a reference to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.

The most common form of the scam is the email scam, in which recipients are asked to provide their personal information and bank account numbers for an opportunity to share a percentage of millions of dollars, according to the U.S. Federal Investigation Bureau.

In Taiwan, Chen said, the fraudsters often take advantage of Taiwan's highly developed information technology environment and make false orders on auction websites. They also make false trades, impersonate government officials or princes and gain illegal benefits from false marriages, he said.

Chen advised Taiwanese businesses and Internet merchants to carefully verify the authenticity of documents before shipping any products. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

African, Taiwan students to play friendly soccer games

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) Students from six African countries will meet Taiwanese counterparts in friendly soccer games in Taipei on May 15 to highlight the May 25 "Africa Day" and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.

The friendly meet is one of a series of events the ministry is organizing to celebrate "Africa Week, " which has added importance this year because it is the 50th anniversary of independence for many African countries, said Chen Shih-liang, director of MOFA's Department of African Affairs.

Scheduled for May 15 at National Taiwan University, the friendlies will open with a match between MOFA officials and a team consisting of officials from various African embassies and representative offices in Taiwan. Later teams of students from Burkina Faso, Gambia, Swaziland and Sao Tome and Principe -- Taiwan's four diplomatic allies in Africa -- and a mixed team of South African and Nigerian students will play local university teams, Chen said.

South Africa has offered a 90-day "event visa" for those holding tickets to the 2010 World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in South Africa from June 11 to July 11, so fans traveling there will be able to enjoy expedited customs clearance service, Chen said. (By Chris Wang) enditem/bc