Saturday, February 27, 2010

Supporters send new signal to KMT in by-election defeats: scholars

Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) Supporters of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) sent a new signal of discontent to the party Saturday, when the KMT managed to win only one of four legislative by-elections, scholars said later that day.

The ruling party suffered a fresh setback after losing in Taoyuan County, Hsinchu County and Chiayi County, with its only victory coming in Hualien County. The by-elections were held because local lawmakers that previously held the seats were elected to serve as county magistrates.

The KMT's supporters sent a clear message by not turning up at polling stations, said Lin Huo-wang, a professor at National Taiwan University who also serves as senior advisor to President Ma Ying-jeou.

"It (the defeat) tells President Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, that he should stop trying to woo voters from the opposition Pan-green camp. A political party will not be able to hold its core support if it drifts further away from its ideals, " Lin said.

The low turnout rate and crushing election results are evidence that the party's supporters staged a "silent protest" by not voting, said Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Soochow University.

The KMT lost three other legislative by-elections last month and also did not fare well in any of the five elections that have taken place since Ma assumed office in May 2008. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , on the other hand, has gained more ground thanks to the elections, boosting its number of seats in the 113-member Legislative Yuan from 30 to 33.

At a post-election press conference, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung conceded defeat for the party but pledged continued reforms, saying that introspection is vital for the party if it wants to win back support in future elections.

The candidate nominations were the key reason behind the defeat, according to legislator-turned-television pundit Jaw Shao-kong, who noted that the KMT neither placed local politicians at the top of the nomination lists nor went with the momentum during the nomination process.

"You have to go with the flow rather than trying to create the specific momentum of your desire, " he pointed out, adding that the KMT needs to find a way to "stop bleeding." The KMT's nomination strategy presented mixed messages, Lo said, because it went with a candidate like Wang Ting-sheng, a university professor who narrowly beat the DPP's Hsiao Bi-khim in Hualien, but compromised with local factions and nominated Cheng Yung-tang in Hsinchu, where he ended up losing.

He noted that the KMT has been having trouble "turning the game around" and said the momentum could cause a ripple effect that will negatively impact its prospects in five special municipality elections at the end of the year that are considered even more important than the two recent legislative by-elections.

"It seems to me that more white-collar workers and middle-class people are supporting the opposition. And bear in mind that there are more voters like this in the five special municipalities, " he said.

There is no such place as a "stronghold" nowadays in Taiwanese elections, Jaw said, because voters are no longer fooled by politicians and political parties.

Ceremonies, Hollywood movie remember 228 Incident after 63 years

Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) A series of ceremonies, exhibitions and concerts are being held across Taiwan and a Hollywood movie is being screened in the U.S. over the weekend to commemorate the 228 Incident, an anti-government uprising on Feb. 28, 1947 that was violently suppressed by the military and government at the time.

The incident, in which the beating of a Taiwanese woman selling unlicensed cigarettes by then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT) police led to rioting that spread across the island and was brutally crushed by KMT troops sent over from China.

It marked the start of the KMT's infamous "White Terror" purge of "dissidents, " which is considered one of the darkest periods in modern Taiwan history. People suspected of being anti-government were jailed and many of them died or disappeared, with no explanations given to their families.

On Sunday, President Ma Ying-jeou will attend an annual ceremony, with a theme of "remember the past, embrace the future, " organized by the government in southern Tainan city, while local groups will also organize various events in Taiwan's major cities.

In the United States, a film about the assassination of a Taiwanese-American in the United States in 1983, during Taiwan's martial law period, is being screened this weekend across America. The film "Formosa Betrayed, " a political thriller, takes its title from abook published in 1965 by former U.S. Consul George Kerr, who documented his observation of the incident.

It is produced by second-generation Taiwanese-American Will Tiao and directed by Adam Kane.

Discussion about the 228 Incident is no longer a taboo, which had been the case during the 38 years (1949-1987) of martial law in Taiwan, although it is sometimes seen as a tool for political mobilization and a topic that could destabilize ethnic harmony between longtime Taiwanese residents and people who immigrated to the island from China in the late 1940s.

President Ma as well as former presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian have all offered government apologies over that period of history in official settings. More than a dozen memorial monuments to commemorate the victims of the 228 Incident have been erected around the island. One of them, the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum, was established in the 228 Memorial Park, which was renamed by then-Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian in 1996.

Taiwan's Executive Yuan or Cabinet designated Feb. 28 a national holiday in 1997 and completed a full investigation report of the incident in 2003.

"Only when we can face historical truths squarely, without any cover-ups, will we strike the right attitude," President Ma said last November in a ceremony to mark the integration of the planned memorial hall and the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum.

However, there are still controversies surrounding the incident.

Death counts in the incidents ranged from less than 1,000 to "somewhere between 18,000-28,000, " as stated in the Executive Yuan's report. Some victims and families of victims disagree on the amount of compensation offered from the government as well as whether Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was the person responsible for ordering the brutal killings.

Almost 63 years after the incident, a class action suit was filed Friday against the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) by 33 victims and 75 relatives of victims, who demanded that the KMT pay NT$2 billion for the construction and future operations of a National Taiwan 228 Memorial Museum. The group also demanded the KMT - the ruling party at the time - apologize.

Wellington Koo, an attorney representing the 228 Incident victims in the case, said that although the government has made Feb. 28 a national holiday and paid compensation to families, the truth has not been fully revealed and some murderers have yet to be prosecuted.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two crewmen of Taiwanese vessel die during Somali hijacking: MOFA

Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Two crewmen -- an Indonesian and a Chinese national -- of a Taiwanese fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates that was later used to attack the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama, have died, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.

The MOFA also said it had not received any information from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which reportedly wants the original crew of the Win Far 161 for questioning in connection with the piracy attack against Maersk Alabama.

The 700-ton longliner Win Far 161 and its crew of 30 were released Feb. 11 by Somali pirates who hijacked the vessel near an island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean April 6, 2009. Two days later, the vessel was reported to have been used by Somali pirates as a mother ship in the April 8 attack against the U.S. ship.

Earlier this month, the MOFA said all the crew were safe and denied a report from the maritime watchdog Ecoterra International saying that three men -- two Indonesians and one Chinese crewman -- had died of malnutrition and disease.

The Win Far 161 is expected to return to Taiwan in mid-March, said Samuel Chen, director-general of MOFA's Department of African Affairs.

According to Ecoterra International, the 10-month Win Far 161 ordeal was the longest-running case of Somali piracy.

"During the 10 months the vessel was held in Somalia, information received by the ministry was vague and conflicting due to a lack of electronic communication, " Department of African Affairs section chief Huang Chih-yang said.

The ministry had trouble sending staff to Somalia due to safety concerns and had to rely heavily on the ship owner for information. The ship's owner did the negotiation for ransom and did not allow the ministry to interfere, Huang noted.

Chen rebutted reports that the hostages' respective authorities did not provide assistance to the crewmen and said the rescue was a coordinated international effort that involved many international organizations.

The ministry is aware of the report that the Win Far 161 was used to attack the Maersk Alabama right after it was seized, Huang went on, adding that global positioning system information shows the Taiwanese vessel was close to the U.S. ship at the time.

"It could have been used, but there is no way for us to confirm that at present, " Huang said.

MOFA confirms Taiwanese fishermen detained in Tanzania

Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Two Taiwanese nationals have been detained in a Tanzanian prison since last March after a Taiwanese vessel was arrested for poaching in Tanzania waters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed Thursday.

FV Tawariq-4, an Omani-registered fishing boat with a Taiwanese owner and a crew composed of 15 Chinese, five Vietnamese, two Taiwanese, eight Filipinos, five Indonesians and three Kenyans, was detained March 8, 2009 and the crew have been held in two prisons ever since, according to a report from maritime watchdog Ecoterra International.

Samuel Chen, director-general of the MOFA's Department of African Affairs, confirmed the case and the detention, which had not been reported previously, but said the ship owner did not seek help from the ministry until last October.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also confirmed the detention of the eight Filipinos.

The ministry first learned of the case after receiving information from the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) office based in Nairobi, Kenya late last year, MOFA's Department of African Affairs section chief Huang Chih-yang said.

Upon learning the news, the MOFA requested representatives of the TAITRA office in Nairobi to visit the detained fishermen and provide necessary assistance and relief, MOFA spokesman James Chang said.

"After the visit, we are sure that there are no safety or health concerns for the crewmen, " Chang said.

Overseas Taiwanese in Tanzania also helped arrange the visit and communication, Huang went on, adding that the case is now in the Tanzanian judicial procedure, with the next trial expected to take place in March. He said the department will monitor the progress of the case closely.

The Omani company to which the vessel is registered has been trying to deal with the case, Yang went on, and the fishing company and the owner are expected to be fined subject to Tanzanian laws.

The detained Taiwanese are believed to be a crewman and the vessel's owner, who went to Tanzania to help with the case but was also detained due to identification and license troubles, he said.

Ecoterra has reported that one of three Kenyan crew of Tawariq-4 died under mysterious circumstances in a Tanzanian prison and that the crewmen, who have appeared in a Tanzanian court three times, have complained that none of their embassies have been following the case.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canada-Taiwan forestry management workshop to be held Thursday

Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) A workshop will be held Thursday to study and share forestry management experience and development in Canada and Taiwan, with the goal of maintaining a sustainable and livable environment, organizers said Wednesday.

The "Sustainable Forestry Management Workshop", organized by the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT) and Forest Products Association of Canada, will be a one-day event to discuss sustainable forest management in Canada and study the development of a forest product industry in Taiwan.

"With 10 percent of the world's forests, Canada accepts the reality that its forest management has global implications, " CTOT Executive Director Scott Fraser said. "Every year, Canada regenerates close to 700,000 hectares of forest -- more than all other countries combined." Fraser said he hopes the workshop will provide both countries with an opportunity to share that experience.

Taiwan is currently one of Canada's biggest trading partners and imports about C$60 million (US$56.8 million) worth of lumber from Canada every year. Taiwan, once a lumber exporter, has 72 percent forest coverage, according to the CTOT.

Young Taiwan squad to clash with Australia in Davis Cup first round

Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) Taiwan has opted to send a young Davis Cup team to face Australia in the first round of Asia-Oceania Zone Group I play next month in Melbourne, Australia after its top veteran players decided not to play.

Representing Taiwan in the world's premier team tennis competition against Australia will be Yang Tsung-hua, Yi Chu-huan, Huang Liang-chi and Lee Hsin-han, all 22-years-old or younger, the Chinese Taipei Tennis Association (CTTA) announced recently.

Taiwan's top players Lu Yen-hsun and Wang Yeu-tzuoo decided to pass on the tournament so that younger players could have an opportunity to gain valuable experience in major international competitions, according to a statement released by the association.

The pair believed that the exposure would benefit the development of these young talents as well as Taiwanese tennis in the long run, the CTTA said.

Lu currently ranks 103rd on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Tour while Wang was ranked as high as 85th in 2006 before sustaining various injuries that have kept him out of competitive tennis for much of the past two years.

Wang hopes to resume tournament play in the coming weeks after doctors cleared him to play following wrist surgery last year.

Lu and Wang could still join the team in later rounds, whether it means gaining promotion to the World Group or avoiding relegation to Asia Oceania Group II, said CTTA Secretary-General Liu Chung-hsing.

The absence of Lu and Wang is somewhat unfortunate since Australia will be without veteran stalwart Lleyton Hewitt and could be vulnerable.

The Australian team will consist of Peter Luczak, ranked 75th in the world, 17-year-old phenom Bernard Tomic, Davis Cup veteran Carsten Bell and doubles specialist Paul Hanley.

Taiwan's tennis association has high hopes for its new faces, led by 19-year-old Yang Tsung-hua. Yang is currently ranked 330th in the world, and had the top singles/doubles combined ranking for juniors in 2008.

Yang will be hoping to avenge a loss to Tomic in the boys' singles final of the 2008 Australian Open.

Huang Liang-chi was ranked No. 3 in the ITF Junior ranking at one point while Yi and Lee won the men's doubles gold in the World University Games last year.

It will be only the third time that Taiwan's Davis Cup team will not have either Lu or Wang since the country won promotion in 2004 to Asia-Oceania Group I, just one step away from the top level World Group.

At the time, most tennis observers believed that with two players of their caliber, Taiwan would have plenty of opportunities to finish in the top two of the eight-team Group I and get a shot at a playoff to reach the World Group.

But injuries, conflicts with the CTTA, and disappointing performances have derailed those hopes, and without Lu or Wang this year, the six-year streak of not reaching the World Group playoffs is likely to continue.

In the other matchups of the Asia-Oceania Zone, Japan meets the Philippines, China takes on Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan will play South Korea.

If Taiwan beats Australia, it will play the winner of the Japan-Philippines clash in a battle for promotion, but if it falls, it will have to play the loser of the Japan-Philippines match in a relegation battle.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Parties gear up for final push to Feb. 27 legislative by-elections

Taipei, Feb. 20 (CNA) Taiwan's ruling and main opposition parties wasted no time during the nine-day Lunar New Year break to make a final push for the four legislative by-elections that will take place next Saturday, races that both parties see as must-wins.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), spent his holiday campaigning for KMT candidates in the four electoral districts at stake, desperate to reverse a slump that has seen the party lose all three legislative by-elections on Jan. 9 and perform poorly in county and city government elections on Dec. 5, 2009.

The latest polls suggest it will not be an easy task because opposition Democratic Progressive Party candidates are running strong in the four electoral districts, in Taoyuan, Chiayi, Hsinchu, and Hualien counties, and the KMT is split in two of them.

Yet DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who was also on the campaign trail in the four areas during the New Year's break, said the elections will be "a tough battle" because three of the four districts have been traditional KMT strongholds.

But the DPP has momentum on its side, fueled by the government's low approval ratings.

The DPP won the three seats contested in Taoyuan, Taichung and Taitung counties last month to boost its seat total in the Legislative Yuan to 30, more than the one-quarter of the body's 113 seats needed to be able to launch motions to amend the Constitution or recall the president.

Another sweep Feb. 27 would further boost its status after it suffered humiliating defeats in the 2008 legislative and presidential elections and would put it in prime position for the five special municipality elections to be contested late this year.

Ma and his right-hand man King Pu-tsung, the KMT's secretary-general, have stressed in rallies how critical the by-elections are for the party. Regardless of the outcome, the KMT will still control a healthy majority in the legislature, but it clearly wants some electoral success to boost its flagging confidence ahead of the end-of-year mayoral races.

They have also stressed the importance of "consolidation, " especially needed in Taoyuan and Hualien counties, where several KMT members have entered the contests as independent candidates and could draw support away from the party's official nominees.

In Taoyuan, KMT candidate Apollo Chen faces DPP rival Huan Jen-shu and two former KMT memebers, Lin Siang-mei and Wu Yu-tung.

In Hualien, KMT candidate Wang Ting-sheng not only has to face the DPP's Hsiao Bi-khim, who has no connection to the eastern county but has made great strides since the campaign began.

He also must deal with the challenge from Shih Sheng-lan, a former KMT member entered as an independent who has the backing of incumbent Hualien County Magistrate Fu Kun-chi.

Fu, also a former KMT member, won the race for county magistrate in December with 56 percent of the vote as an independent against two other candidates, one of them the KMT』s official nominee. In the Chiayi County race, DPP candidate Chen Ming-wen enjoys an advantage as the southern county's previous magistrate and its traditional status as a DPP stronghold. But the KMT said last week its candidate Lin Teh-jui has pulled even.

According to the National Cheng Chi University's Swarchy market prediction Web site (http: // , which uses a stock market mechanism for members to predict results of future events and has enjoyed relative success in predicting Taiwan's election outcomes in the past, the DPP is ahead in three of four races being contested.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nationals to introduce Wang in Florida spring training

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) The Washington Nationals of the U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) is scheduled to introduce Taiwanese pitcher Chien-ming Wang Saturday in Viera, Florida, the team's latest addition, according to the MLB Web site.

A news conference to announce Wang's signing is scheduled to take place at the Space Coast Stadium, the Nationals announced on its official Web site.

Octagon Baseball, the agency that represents Wang, confirmed Thursday that the former New York Yankee agreed to terms with Washington on a one-year, US$2 million contract with an incentive of up to US$3.2 million.

Nationals pitchers Brian Bruney, Tyler Clippard and Ron Villone, who all played with Wang in New York, are elated to learn about Wang being a teammate again, according to the MLB.

Wang will not be ready for opening day because he is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. He will not be able to pitch in the MLB until sometime in May.

However, his "new ex-teammates" are still confident in Wang, who is known for his hard sinker and who had a combined 38-13 record with a 3.67 ERA for the Yankees in 2006 and 2007.

"I saw him in 2007 at his best. He was contending for a Cy Young Award that year. He won 19 games in a couple of years. He is a great pitcher... and I am excited that we signed him, " Clippard was quoted as saying.

Bruney, a relief pitcher, said that anyone affiliated with the Nationals or a fan of the Nationals will be happy about Wang's performance, adding that "I would like to come in and get the win for him."

The 29-year-old's signing with Washington has been one of the biggest items of sports news in Taiwan during the nine-day Lunar New Year break. Fans are looking forward to Wang duplicating his peak performance before injury.

Wang has been plagued by injury in the past two seasons, during which he only pitched in a combined 27 games. In 2008, he did not pitch after the All-Star break because of foot problems. This past season, Wang had a shoulder injury and missed the Yankees' World Series run in October.

Friday, February 12, 2010

All crew released by Somali pirates safe: MOFA

Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) All 30 crew members of a Taiwanese deep-sea fishing vessel are safe and on their way back to Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reiterated Friday, rebutting media reports that three of its crew had died.

The 700-ton longliner Win Far 161 and its crew of 30 were released the previous day by Somali pirates who hijacked the vessel near an island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean April 6, 2009 and held them for 10 months.

According to the ministry's most recent contact with the boat's owner, the crew of 30, including 17 Filipinos, six Indonesians, five Chinese and two Taiwanese, are safe, a MOFA official said, adding that military vessels in adjacent waters will escort the boat and its crew, as well as provide food, water and health services during its return voyage to Taiwan.

"Reports of the death of two Indonesians and a Chinese are false and groundless, " the official said.

The official also rebutted reports that the hostages' respective authorities did not provide any assistance in attempts to facilitate humanitarian relief, saying that the rescue was a coordinated international effort that involved many international organizations.

The MOFA helped the owner to contact various international maritime and anti-piracy organizations to seek humanitarian aid and protection for the ship and its crew upon release, according to the official.

The ministry had also been in contact with United Kingdom's Maritime Trade Operations, the office of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, the United Nations' International Maritime Organization, as well as government agencies in Somalia and the Seychelles for assistance over the past 10 months, the official went on.

The rescue efforts were fraught with difficulty because of the Somalian interim provisional government's inability to rule the country and because of the withdrawal of U.S., British and U.N. bases and other international organizations from the country due to the political unrest there, the MOFA said.

According to the maritime watchdog Ecoterra International, the Win Far 161 had been poaching in Somali waters when it was hijacked in the longest-running case of Somali piracy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bombardier officials visit Taiwan to promote new plane

Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) Officials from Canadian transport manufacturer Bombardier wrapped up a two-day visit to Taiwan Thursday in which they gave demonstrations aimed at promoting the company's lower-emission and fuel-efficient airliners.

Bombardier Aerospace arranged two demonstration flights of its Q400 NextGen turboprop airliner at Taipei's Songshan Airport for representatives from almost all Taiwan's air carriers, many of which expressed interest, said Kelvin Hung, a representative of Bombardier's commercial agent in Taiwan.

"The demo tour received positive responses from the representatives but they will conduct reviews before making decisions," Hung said.

The visit to Taiwan, part of an Asia-Pacific tour, presented an opportunity to showcase one of the world's most technologically advanced turboprops optimized for the short-haul regional market, said Trung Ngo, the company's Asia Pacific vice president of sales.

Taiwanese carriers are looking to replace older airliners in their fleets and, after the Taiwan High Speed Rail began operating in 2007, have changed their operating strategies to focus on flights serving outlying islands such as Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu instead of other domestic flights, Hung said.

They are expected to use their jet planes for direct flights between Taiwan and China and to use turboprop airliners with a capacity of between 56 and 80 passengers for flights to the outlying islands, he added.

The planes could also be used for the "mini three links" that allow for limited postal, transport, and trade links between China's Fujian Province cities of Xiamen, Mawei and Quanzhou, and Taiwan's islands of Kinmen and Matsu.

Veteran diplomat Hu named Taiwan's top national security aide

Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou wasted no time to appoint his new top national security advisor as Hu Wei-chen was selected to fill the void left by Su Chi, who resigned as the Secretary General of the National Security Council Thursday.

Hu Wei-chen, 63, will assume the post Feb. 23 right after the nine-day lunar New Year break, replacing Su Chi, who resigned, citing health concerns and family reasons, the Presidential Office said in a press release.

Hu is a seasoned veteran on foreign affairs and national security matters and has a military background.

His father Hu Tsung-nan was a high-ranking general as well as a close confidant of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in the Kuomintang (KMT) government during World War II and the Chinese civil war in the 1950s.

His background and familiarity with military affairs will help Hu in his post at the NSC, said Justin Chou, a ruling KMT legislator.

Hu started his career as a diplomat, serving as Director General of the Department of Protocol in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was posted in Chicago and other cities in the United States. Later he served as Taiwan's representative to Germany and Singapore.

He was also familiar with national security affairs, serving as the deputy chief of the National Security Bureau under former Presidents Lee Teng-hui and deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council under former President Chen Shui-bian's administration.

The timing of Su's resignation is intriguing, said Lo Chih-cheng, a political scientist at Soochow University. Lo said he believes there have been internal and external pressures -- from the U.S. or China -- that forced Su to step down.

Choosing to announce the resignation right before the lunar New Year break, Lo said, is a tactic to avoid the resignation turning into a hot topic in the media during the nine-day break.

Legislator Chou said that while it is a pity to see Su go, Hu's appointment is a correct move. He praised Hu as "a man of integrity and decency" and expected his "brilliant performance" at the NSC.

"With his military background and expertise in foreign affairs and national security, he will do a good job, " Chou said.

As Taiwan's representative to Singapore, he criticized his own government in 2007 when then President Chen attempted to "de-Sinicize" Taiwan and to play down the legacy of Chiang. Hu was forced to resign over the ensuing controversy.

Hu is expected to pick up where Su left off in terms of national security policy and he alone will not be able to make dramatic changes, which means the policy of the Ma administration will remain unchanged, Lo said.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Taiwan's top women's basketball team withdraws from season

Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) The Cathay Life women's basketball team, which has won 17 straight women's titles in Taiwan's domestic league, announced Tuesday that it will pull out of the 2010 season over a player registration controversy.

The team decided to miss the 2010 season of the Women's Super Basketball League (WSBL) over what it claims is a violation by the Chunghwa Telecom team in signing Chiang Feng-chun, a former Cathay Life star forward who came out of retirement and signed with Chunghwa Telecom, it said in a press release.

The WSBL consists of five teams and is Taiwan's top women's basketball league. The 2010 season is scheduled to begin in March.

Chiang, a national team regular, returned to basketball one year after a surprising retirement in February 2009 at the age of 28. Her unexpected return sparked controversy and highlighted an "unwritten rule" that Taiwanese women players stay with a single team throughout their careers or face being boycotted by the other teams if they try to switch teams.

The teams invest millions of dollars in every player and it is unfair for teams to lose players to other teams, according to Cathay Life assistant coach Chien Wei-chuan.

The Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA) , Taiwan's highest basketball governing body, changed the rule in 2008 when lawyers said it violated the Constitution, which rules that people's right to work should be protected.

All players -- men and women -- are now free agents and free to sign with any team after their contracts expire or they receive letters of clearance.

However, Cathay Life still opposed the transfer of Chiang, who retired after a falling out with the team's head coach, Hung Ling-yao.

Chiang was quoted by the media as saying she decided to leave Cathay Life because Hung kept rejecting her wish to play U.S. college basketball or elsewhere overseas.

The case was submitted to the CTBA Disciplinary Committee for further review.

Cathay Life, which established its women's basketball team in 1969, has been one of the most successful basketball teams in Taiwan. More than half of the Taiwan national team players are from Cathay Life.

Legislation required for Taiwan's NPM to exhibit in Japan

Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) Japan is very much interested in exhibiting some of the collection of Taiwan's National Palace Museum (NPM), but it must enact a law first to make such an event possible, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

The two countries have long discussed the possibility of exhibiting NPM artworks in Japan, but before an exhibition takes place, Taiwan hopes Japan will pass legislation that ensures the return of the precious objects to Taiwan, said Charles Chen, the secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations.

The association, which is part of the MOFA, is in charge of Japanese affairs.

Japan's representative to Taipei Tadashi Imai said Japan's parliament is likely to pass a law in the first half of this year so that Taiwan can begin preparations to send art objects from its Palace Museum to be shown in that country.

Negotiations have been tortuous because of Taiwan's political plight. China has long claimed ownership of the NPM's assets, which the Kuomintang (KMT) brought to Taiwan as it was losing the Chinese civil war to the communists in 1949.

According to NPM spokeswoman Chen Chang-hua, if China were to file an ownership claim against NPM objects that are being exhibited abroad, the exhibition would have to be suspended and the artworks could potentially be seized.

But the risk will not exist if legislation is passed by the host country guaranteeing that the exhibits will be safely returned to Taiwan.

Such legislation has been required before the NPM arranged any of its overseas exhibitions, Chen said, noting that France, Germany, and the United States all passed bills to protect NPM exhibits before they were displayed in those countries.

Detained boat captain expected to be released soon: MOFA

Taipei, Feb. 9 (CNA) The captain of a Taiwanese fishing boat, who has been detained in Japan since Feb. 3, is expected to be released soon once his court case ends and he pays the required fine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

Ke Ching-kuo, captain of the Yilan-registered fishing vessel the Chuansheng No. 36, was taken to Yakohama for questioning after his fishing boat was seized by the Japanese coast guard for allegedly crossing a temporary marine boundary between Taiwan and Japan in waters near the Iwo Jiwa islands, 1,200 km south of Tokyo Feb. 3.

Ke was indicted by a Japanese court Feb. 2 on several charges that included evading investigation and fishing illegally. He is facing a likely fine of up to one million yen (approximately NT$359,000), said Charles Chen, secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations, an agnecy set by Taiwan to handle exchanges with Japan in the absence of official relations.

"Ke has admitted to Japanese prosecutors that his boat illegally entered Japan waters, " Chen said.

Taiwan has asked Japan to speed up the court case so that Ke would be able to return home soon. Immediately after his release, he is expected to join the 10 Indonesia fisherman who were aboard the vessel and are currently being held in the Bonin Islands.

The Japanese court is expected to announce its verdict Feb. 12, and if Ke pays the fine immediately, he should be able to fly to the Bonin Islands via Iwojima the next day and leave for Taiwan with his crew, Chen said.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Early birds get Super Bowl action in Taipei

Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) Football fans in Taiwan had a chance to watch Super Bowl XLIV live and feel the same excitement as audiences back in the United States. The difference is they had to get up early rather than stay up late, which was exactly what they did Monday to see the New Orleans Saints win their first Super Bowl.

The game was broadcast live at eight locations in Taipei and in Taiwan's second largest city Kaohsiung, at six sports restaurants and the American Institute in Taiwan's (AIT's) offices in both cities, for fans to watch the biggest U.S. sports event of the year.

The game kicked off at 6:25 p.m. Sunday U.S. eastern time, which meant fans in Taiwan had to get up early Monday to catch the kickoff at 7:25 a.m. local time. But that did not deter them.

Canadian Lalit Golani, a former college offensive lineman who arrived in Taiwan two days ago on a two-week tour, said he was surprised to learn about the live broadcasts in Taiwan.

What he found even more surprising, he said, and was the sight of more than 200 screaming fans packed into the Brass Monkey pub in Taipei City.

"I think this game will be a toss-up. What do you think? " Golani said. Three hours later, the Saints had beaten the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to win their first NFL title in their 43-year history.

The game was tight in the first half, which ended with Indianapolis holding a 10-6 lead, but the tension was broken by the funny TV commercials that had fans laughing and applauding.

A man surnamed Tsai, wearing the No. 9 jersey of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, chanted with his friends whenever New Orleans gained ground.

Brees tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions and was named Most Valuable Player of the game.

Tsai said he skipped work to watch the live broadcast and that he idolizes Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

"I also brought Manning's jersey with me but since my friend's a Saints fan, we're going to root for New Orleans today," Tsai said.

It seemed that the Saints fans in the pub were louder and outnumbered the Colts supporters, some of whom were diehard fans.

Jay Lin, an associate research fellow at the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering, said he supported the Colts because he was educated at the University of Illinois.

"I've been following American football since high school when I was on the Jianguo High School rugby team, " said Lin.

"It is natural for me to support Midwest sports teams such as the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis because of my alma mater, " Lin said, adding that when he's on business trips in the U.S. he takes the time to watch National Football League (NFL) games live whenever possible.

The NFL has not been very popular in Taiwan because, traditionally, baseball and basketball are the dominant sports here, Lin said. But it has become even harder to follow American football since sports channels in the country stopped carrying NFL games three years ago, he added.

Challenges, opportunities for ECFA negotiations: SEF

Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) The upcoming Year of the Tiger will present both challenges and opportunities for negotiations on a proposed cross-Taiwan Strait trade pact that Taiwan hopes to ink with the consensus of the public, Taiwan's top China affairs negotiators said Monday. Speaking at a year-end press conference, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Ping-kung said the priority for the coming year will be signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China on the basis of consensus among the Taiwanese public.

In terms of cross-strait relations, the coming year will be more challenging than previous years because of ECFA, while at the same time presenting more opportunities than ever before, he said. "The ECFA will be the core of cross-strait exchanges in the new year, " he went on.

While both sides concluded their first round of talks in late January and a substantial part of the agreement has yet to be discussed at all, Taiwan still intends to sign the agreement as soon as possible, preferably before the Legislative Yuan's June recess, so that the agreement can take effect in 2011, Chiang said.

As the ECFA support rate plummeted from 70 percent in April last year to 50.9 percent in an Executive Yuan survey in early January, the administrative branch knows it must do a better job of convincing the general public, as well as the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as to why the deal is important for Taiwan's economy, he added.

Waving goodbye to the Year of the Ox, the government has vowed to be transparent during the negotiations process, to notify the legislative branch about progress of the negotiations and to put the agreement under legislative review. It has also promised to improve its communication with the public on the ECFA, which many fear would cause an influx of Chinese products and job losses.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) , Taiwan's top China policy-making authority, said the ECFA negotiation team is scheduled to brief the Legislative Yuan 10 times from February to June. The MAC also plans to step up its communication on ECFA with three groups -- residents in central and southern Taiwan, those from low- and middle-income households and owners of small- and medium-sized businesses -- in which ECFA support is particularly low.

Chiang acknowledged that both sides are present in a "World Trade Organization (WTO) -minus" status, as Taiwan has banned 830 Chinese agricultural products and about 1,300 industrial products from being imported while China has demanded "normalization of cross-strait trade relations, " but he said Taiwan and China should work the issue out together.

While the WTO norms are important, so is the special relationship between Taiwan and China, Chiang said, adding that both sides should negotiate on the basis of that special relationship.

President Ma Ying-jeou has pledged that the ban on Chinese agricultural imports will not be lifted, but the opposition has questioned the promise, saying that under WTO regulations, Taiwan will in that case have to make concessions in other areas.

According to Chiang, Taiwan is determined to boost its exchanges with China but will uphold the interests of Taiwan people's every step of the way.

He also said U.S. arms sale to Taiwan will not threaten the future of bilateral exchanges with China. "The U.S. arms sales to Taiwan... are nothing new to us. They will not have any negative impact on Taiwan's future negotiations and exchanges with China, " Chiang said in response to a reporter's question.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Funding, culture key to developing soccer in Taiwan

Taipei, Feb. 5 (CNA) With the 2010 soccer World Cup only a few months away, World Cup fever is picking up around the world.

Even in Taiwan, the event will attract a devout following, but contemplating the day when the national team actually makes the big event is an entirely different story.

Local soccer experts agree that funding, culture and a proper structure are the keys to developing the sport in Taiwan, where the game has long struggled to gain a foothold.

The foremost goal is to create a "soccer culture, " which to date has been nonexistent in a nation far more passionate about basketball and baseball, says Lin De-jia, secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Soccer Association (CTFA).

Without a professional league and a soccer culture, children don't have the motivation to participate in the sport, Lin tells the Central News Agency.

It's not a secret that Taiwan, currently ranked 162nd in the world, has long been an international soccer minnow, registering five wins, five draws, and 41 losses World Cup qualifying matches from 1958-2010. It scorded only 28 goals in those games while surrending 182.

Led by Japanese head coach Toshiaki Imai, Taiwan's World Cup qualifying campaign for the 2010 event quickly evaporated in October 2007 when it was swept by Uzbekistan in a home-and-home series by an aggregate 11-0 score.

In order to change its lowly status, Taiwan needs to focus on developing its youth soccer programs, said David Camhi, who is familiar with Taiwanese soccer and has been running a soccer camp for children in Taipei with friends for six years.

All training and competitions in Taiwan take place within the education system, based on the U.S. model, as was the case in Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Camhi wrote in his Kick-Off magazine, and he argues it is the wrong approach.

"Japan now has three professional leagues, nine regional leagues, 46 prefecture leagues and many more municipal leagues. A football pyramid with eight levels," Camhi wrote.

With such a structure in place, Japan managed within approximately 12 years to progress to the second round of the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and qualify for the 2006 and 2010 editions.

"It's something the football authorities and other sporting bodies in Taiwan should look into," Camhi wrote.

When there is a much larger talent pool in Taiwan, the overall competition level of the sport will be elevated, said Camhi, who arrived in Taiwan in 1999 and has been working on promoting the game and teaching fundamentals to children since then.

Other than the lack of a professional league, funding also has been a problem, Lin said.

"Taiwan's government sees the CTFA as nothing more than one of more than 60 sports associations in the country, " he complains.

According to Lin, the association previously received NT$10 million in funding from the government every year, but the amount dropped to NT$6 million last year.

That's a pittance compared to the NT$30 million alone the association must spend to send national teams ranging from under-13 to the senior level abroad to play in 20 to 30 international competitions every year, Lin says.

He does acknowledge that there have been some sparks of interest over the past decade, including after the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea when Taiwan's passion for "the beautiful game" did pick up a little.

Since then, Lin said, more schoolchildren have participated in the game, and more schools have organized soccer teams, enabling Taiwan's national youth teams to fare better in competitions.

Camhi said a number of elite young Taiwanese players are even capable of playing professionally overseas now, though because they lack exposure they are not recruited by European or South American clubs.

But both Lin and Camhi acknowledge that the development of the local game will take a long time and requires patience.

Lin urged the government to plan for the long-term rather than rush for immediate results, and he urged authorities to rethink their policy of establishing "sports classes" -- which gather athletes into a single class -- because it works against achieving the objective.

Such classes actually limit participation in sports and discourages schools without sports classes from organizing athletic teams because they cannot keep up with better schools, he argues.

And that's not good because the future is with the younger generation, Camhi insists. Only by working from the bottom up can Taiwan improve its soccer performance and some day "reach my ultimate goal for Taiwan to qualify for the soccer World Cup."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ex-U.S. Major leaguers impressed with Taiwan's youth baseball

Taipei, Feb. 4 (CNA) Former U.S. Major League baseball stars Barry Larkin and Joseph Logan said Thursday they were impressed with the development of youth baseball in Taiwan and they encouraged young players to work hard on the fundamentals of the game and "dream big." Larkin and Logan are visiting Taiwan as part of the Sports Envoy Program co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the American Institute in Taiwan -- the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The pair have been coaching high school players in various clinics in northern Taiwan over the past three days, and are now in the south of the country. Larkin, a former All-Star shortstop, focused on infielders' training, while Logan coached pitchers.

At a press conference held midway through the week-long tour, Logan praised the enthusiasm of Taiwan players and the "above-average velocity and potential" of the young players.

Larkin said one of his surprises was that while young players in the U.S are not receiving enough training and attention due to the economic downturn, this is not the case in Taiwan. He said he has seen "a lot of voluntarism, hard work and attention from coaches, who have been doing a phenomenal job." A legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame, Larkin was one of the rare players in the modern era who stayed with the same team throughout his entire career, starring at shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds from 1986 to 2004.

He was a key member of the Reds' 1990 World Series championship team and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1995. He also earned three gold gloves and was a 12-time All-Star.

Citing his own history as an example of persistence, Larkin said when he was a boy his feet were turned inward and had to be treated by doctors. However, his love of the game, dedication to baseball and perseverance helped him to reach Major League stardom, he said.

He said he was very happy that after he told his life story to youngsters in the clinics to inspire them, the number who said they wanted to someday play in the Major League rose from "maybe one or two to almost 120." The Cincinnati native declined to comment on a game-fixing scandal that has rocked Taiwanese professional baseball, but he urged Taiwan baseballers to "do what's right" and resist temptation because "regardless of what you do, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day." He also paid respect to all those foreigners, including players from Taiwan, who chase their dreams of playing in the Major League.

There are many barriers and obstacles to the dream of playing in the U.S., including language, a different culture and different skill levels, he said.

"You have to be a special talent, a special person, and then the skills, work ethic... all of these are important" to get into the Major League, which is "an elite class," Larkins said.

Larkin finished his career with 2340 hits, 441 doubles, 198 home runs and 960 runs batted in. He had only one season in which he made more than 20 errors. He is considered to be a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.

Logan pitched in the Montreal Expos organization between 1989 and 1991.

Larkin and Logan will travel to Kaohsiung and Pintung where they will hold more clinics before concluding their Feb. 2-6 visit to Taiwan.

More cross-strait personnel movement discussed

Taipei, Feb. 4 (CNA) Officials of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said Thursday that they are studying the issues of allowing Taiwanese people to accept work in China's public agencies and of allowing Chinese basketball players to play professionally in Taiwan.

The United Daily News reported that day that China's Fujian Province plans to invest 200 million Chinese yuan (US$29.36 million) to attract overseas talent, including professionals from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, over the next five to 10 years to work for corporations. It will also recruit Taiwanese to work in public institutions.

Responding to the report, MAC Vice Chairman Liu Teh-hsun said that according to the Statute Governing the Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, Taiwanese are not allowed to work for Chinese political, government or military institutions without approval from the Taiwan government.

Meanwhile, ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislators Ting Shou-chung, Chang Hsien-yao and Huang Chih-hsiung discussed in a public forum the possibility of bringing Chinese players into Taiwan's professional basketball league, the Super Basketball League (SBL) to "increase cross-Taiwan Strait basketball exchanges." Some of Taiwan's top basketball talent has opted to play in China this year, attracted by higher salaries, but Chinese players are still banned from playing in Taiwan, which has created "an imbalance between cross-strait sports exchanges," Ting said.

Liu said for his part that one of the important issues in hiring Chinese players will be how their presence and status in Taiwan is recognized, Liu said, adding that if they are classed as workers rather than "professional expertise exchange personnel, " a legislative resolution will be required.

As cross-strait relations have relaxed over the past year, more bilateral personnel exchanges and movement have been discussed or implemented, including the enrollment of Chinese students in local universities and further opening Taiwan to Chinese white-collar workers.

The recruitment of Chinese basketball players will probably squeeze out job opportunities for local players, which is why the proposal should be carefully examined, Liu added.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

CNA celebrates launch of new English-language Web site

Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) Nearly 100 guests representing foreign missions in Taipei, as well as international and domestic media and government officials attended a launch party Wednesday for CNA's new English-language Web site, Focus Taiwan (

Guy Ledoux, head of the European Economic and Trade Office, said that since the establishment of the CNA, the foreign community has always relied on it as a truly dependable source of information.

"It is precisely due to this reason that a Web site like Focus Taiwan will play such an essential role for us," Ledoux said, adding that the news agency's effort is "testimony to Taiwan's freedom of speech." "The function of a Taiwan editorials abstract is extremely valuable as it gives an insight of Taiwanese opinion makers, " Ledoux noted, referring to a new section on the Web site.

Welcoming the guests, CNA President Chen Shen-ching said the agency is offering news services for the Internet age. Focus Taiwan provides real-time English-language news reports, while mobile phone news services in Chinese and English started Feb. 1, and video news will soon be available online and for mobile phones.

Addressing the occasion, Vice Premier Eric Liluan Chu said that while the 86-year-old CNA has reported on major news events and has recorded the history of the Republic of China over the decades, the agency's English-language news serves as the voice of the nation to the world.

Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) Chairman Wang Chi-kang said in his speech that like economic and trade personnel, journalists play the roles of pioneers on the international frontier.

In today's era of globalization, Taiwan's contributions should be made known to the world, Wang said, adding that TAITRA and CNA should work together to promote the country's integration with the world.

The features of Focus Taiwan include Talk of the Day, a roundup of various newspaper reportage on the events of the day; editorial abstracts from six of Taiwan's major newspapers; Forum, which presents views on issues of concern; and Who's Who, which offers background information on the newsmakers.

Presenting Taiwan's many faces through real-time, objective and in-depth reports in English, Focus Taiwan hopes to function as the prime English-language news resource in Taiwan.

In Ledoux' words, CNA's new package of service provides easy access to news stories and more communication options in a time "when we are sometimes lost in identifying what information is relevant."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

King working from outside in to reform KMT: scholar

Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) The ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) latest hire of a human resource expert shows its Secretary-General King Pu-tsung's determination to reform the century-old party despite mixed responses to his decision across party lines, scholars said.

King confirmed Saturday that Ryan Wu, former executive vice president of the online 1111 job bank, has been hired to help plan KMT human resource initiatives. Wu will work as a personnel project manager in the party's Administration Committee on a one-year contract.

"This is a move that aims to bring a breath of fresh air into the KMT's rigid system and transform its image into that of 'youth-friendly' party, " said Liao Da-chi, a political scientist at National Sun Yet-sen University.

King's first major hire since he assumed office last December drew attention because of the timing and Wu's controversial past. King, however, brushed off the criticisms from some quarters, and said he hired Wu for his expertise.

The appointment came in the wake of King's pledge to reform the KMT in three years and turn the party into an election machine. Since last year, the KMT has suffered three straight setbacks in two by-elections and a mayoral election, and many of the party's employees have expressed fears about losing their jobs.

Post-election analysis suggested that the KMT needs more young talent at the local level to boost its appeal to young people.

Wu, 43, worked as a media relations chief at the Taipei City Department of Labor in 2001 when King was deputy mayor. However, his appointment to the party post came as a surprise as he has had little connection to the KMT and is seen as an "outsider".

Several KMT legislators have spoken against the appointment. Legislator Lu Hsueh-Chang said that while it's a good thing to bring in "corporate management, " Wu is not familiar with the way party affairs are run, which could be dangerous. Some KMT legislators have claimed that they do not know Wu.

"It seems to me King is trying to use outside resources to carry out his reform, working his way in from the outside rather than taking the 'inside-out approach', " said Hsu Yung-ming, a political scientist at Soochow University.

Wu's appointment could be the "turning point" for the KMT, which now has little or no appeal for young people because of all its old politicians, Liao said.

"In addition to having a human resource background, Wu is media-savvy and outgoing. That can be a plus for the party. And he has been hired on a one-year contract. If he does not deliver, he can be let go. The KMT has nothing to lose," Liao asserted.

Meanwhile, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Huang Wei-cher was quoted as saying that Wu's appointment was "a brilliant tactic because, as an outsider, Wu carries no baggage and can do what he wants based on his own assessment."

For a party with 106 years of history, a full-scale reform will be difficult, Liao said. That is why King is giving priority to party image and communication before restructuring, the scholar added.

King's main options now are to create a new image for the party and build a human resource pool so that the young generation can step in when the current generation fades away, Liao said.

"I also think it would be better if King avoided any action that involved local party factions, as it is one of the most complicated factors related to party reform," she said.

According to Liao, King's short-term goal would be winning the next two elections -- a by-election involving four legislative seats in late February and the elections in five special municipalities later this year.

MOFA raises travel alert for Indonesia, U.K.

Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has elevated its travel alert level for Indonesia and the United Kingdom (U.K.) over concerns of potential terrorist attacks, the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

The ministry has elevated the travel alert level for Indonesia and the U.K. to yellow, the second lowest on the MOFA's four-scale system, and also issued a red travel alert, the highest on the scale, for Iraq.

The MOFA said Indonesia, and especially Bali which attracts the most Taiwanese tourists, could possibly be targeted for a terrorist attack.

The ministry issued the new alert for Britain after the U.K.'s Home Office raised its domestic terrorism threat level in late January from substantial to severe, the second highest in its five-tier threat warning system, which means an attack is highly likely.

A yellow alert warns travelers to take extra precautions and reassess their travel plans for the place in question.

The terrorist group Al Qaida could also possibly launch attacks in Iraq, prompting the ministry to issue the highest red alert before the country holds its parliamentary elections on March 7. The ministry again advised Taiwanese travelers against visiting the Middle East country.