Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DPP to focus on party's China policy

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is planning to establish a think tank to help formulate its China policy and improve the party's engagement with China, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday.

The DPP welcomes any form of dialogue with China as long as no prerequisites are set, Tsai said in a briefing for foreign media three days after her defeat in the Nov. 27 municipality mayoral elections.

The DPP secured just two of the five municipalities but won more of the popular votes than its rival, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).

Tsai also highlighted the party's progress in the city council elections that took place alongside the mayoral elections, as the DPP won as many seats on the five city councils as the KMT, with both parties tied at 130.

The DPP plans to spend several months discussing its China policy, which will be a part of the party's "10 year platform" covering a wide range of issues, she said, although she did not set a timetable.

The DPP's new China policy under Tsai is greatly anticipated, as she has been trying to move the party more to the middle and appeal to moderate voters after its previous hardline stance earned it an "anti-China" label.

Tsai, who received more than a million votes in the Xinbei City mayoral election but lost to the KMT's Eric Liluan Chu, said the funding for the think tank will come from her election subsidy of more than NT$30 million. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Wikileaks could jeopardize Taiwan-U.S. relations: lawmaker

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) Thousands of classified documents illicitly obtained from the United States (U.S.) government could jeopardize Taiwan-U.S. relations if they are publicized by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, a Taiwan lawmaker warned Tuesday.

Citing Wikileaks, legislator Lin Yu-fang said that 3,456 cables between the de facto U.S. representative office in Taiwan and the U.S. State Department were among more than 250,000 documents the website had obtained.

None of the Taiwan-related confidential documents have been published so far, but their release "could cause misunderstanding and affect Taiwan-U.S. relations," Lin said.

He urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Council to immediately contact the U.S. and take precautions to minimize the potential damage.

According to Lin, the number of documents relating to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) was the ninth highest among those from the U.S. agencies that have been hacked by Wikileaks.

The AIT-related documents are more than those from the U.S. Embassies in Russia, China and Israel, he said.

The website said that 1,425 of the AIT documents were listed as "confidential" and 136 were listed as "secret."

Among the documents already published is a cable dated April 30, 2009 and purportedly sent from the U.S. embassy in Beijing to the AIT.

It showed that a Chinese official told then-U.S. Charge d'Affaires Dan Piccuta that "the agreement allowing Taiwan to participate as an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA) meetings in Geneva in May was 'one step forward' toward better cross-Strait relations and demonstrated what could be achieved through consultations based on "one China, very broadly interpreted."

The official was also quoted as saying that China hoped the U.S. would feel "less burdened, frustrated and nervous" as cross-Strait relations were improving.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs learned of the matter last week and has been in close contact with the U.S. since then, MOFA spokesman James Chang told CNA.

Meanwhile, AIT spokesman Chris Kavanaugh said that "the U.S. government condemns the unauthorized disclosure of classified information," and that the AIT would have no further comment.

Wikileaks said on its website that 251,287 cables, originating from 274 embassies and dating from Dec. 28, 1966 to Feb. 28 2010, will be released in stages over the next few months. (By Chris Wang) Enditem /pc

AIT head lays out priorities for upcoming TIFA talks

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) Agricultural issues will be among a wide range of matters on the United States' priority list in the upcoming talks under its Trade and Investment Agreement (TIFA) with Taiwan, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Tuesday.

The agenda of the TIFA talks will include "IPR (intellectual property rights) enforcement, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, standards, agricultural issues and others relating to technical barriers to trade, " Burghardt said in an address to the members of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei.

The TIFA framework has provided an official channel for Taiwan-U.S. dialogue on trade and economic issues since it was signed in September 1994, but the two sides have not held TIFA talks since 2007. The next round of talks reportedly will be held late December or early 2011.

The list of U.S. priorities in part reflect its assessment of where Taiwan's policies may be having a negative impact on the ability of U.S. exports of goods, services, and agricultural products to fairly compete in the Taiwan market, Burghardt said.

The U.S. provided strong support in Taiwan's accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization) and its participation in the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and the World Health Assembly (WHA), said the AIT head.

The U.S., arguably the largest and the most open market, wants to ensure that the bilateral trade relationship is "governed by the principle of fairness, " he said in his speech titled "The U.S. and Taiwan: An Important Economic Relationship."

At the same time, the U.S. will not allow general bilateral trade relations to be overshadowed by Taiwan's failure to implement a beef protocol, although the issue did hurt Taiwan's credibility and reliability, he said.

He said the U.S. welcomes the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China earlier this year and is encouraging Taiwan to notify the WTO of the ECFA "in a manner consistent with requirements for agreements that cover substantially all trade."

The U.S will be closely observing the ECFA process, and if the pact succeeds in making Taiwan a better investment environment, American and other companies will also benefit from it, Burghardt said.

Burghardt has a long history of involvement with Taiwan. He served as director of the AIT, which represents the interests of the United States in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, from 1999 to 2001. He also studied for a year in the central city of Taichung at the U.S. State Department's Chinese Language School in the mid-1970s. (By Chris Wang) enditem/pc

DPP to focus on party's China policy
2010/11/30 22:36:51
Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is planning to establish a think tank to help formulate its China policy and improve the party's engagement with China, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday.

The DPP welcomes any form of dialogue with China as long as no prerequisites are set, Tsai said in a briefing for foreign media three days after her defeat in the Nov. 27 municipality mayoral elections.

The DPP secured just two of the five municipalities but won more of the popular votes than its rival, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).

Tsai also highlighted the party's progress in the city council elections that took place alongside the mayoral elections, as the DPP won as many seats on the five city councils as the KMT, with both parties tied at 130.

The DPP plans to spend several months discussing its China policy, which will be a part of the party's "10 year platform" covering a wide range of issues, she said, although she did not set a timetable.

The DPP's new China policy under Tsai is greatly anticipated, as she has been trying to move the party more to the middle and appeal to moderate voters after its previous hardline stance earned it an "anti-China" label.

Tsai, who received more than a million votes in the Xinbei City mayoral election but lost to the KMT's Eric Liluan Chu, said the funding for the think tank will come from her election subsidy of more than NT$30 million. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

'No position' on Taiwan's status in fact a position: AIT head

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) The United States' "no position" on Taiwan's international status is in fact a position, which has drawn objections from Beijing, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Tuesday in Taipei.

"We take no position on the political status of Taiwan. That may sound like a dodge but it's a position. Taking no position is itself a position because that means you're not taking their (China's) position, " Burghardt said in a question and answer session after delivering a speech in an event organized by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Taipei.

The U.S. position has been consistent since 1979, and it is a position that infuriates Beijing, he said, adding that "they (China) know it and complain about it."

Burghardt compared studying Taiwan's "unusual and unclear" international status to studying theology. "It's not terribly productive to spend time on it, because each way you go, you get yourself in more trouble."

In response to another question on U.S. arm sales to Taiwan, the veteran diplomat underlined the fact that the Obama administration had notified the U.S. Congress of a US$6.4 billion arms sale in January and on its US$320 million commercial sales of equipment.

One weapons system that the U.S. has yet to approve for sale to Taiwan, however, is the advanced F-16 C/D fighter jet, leading many in Taiwan to speculate that the proposed purchase was dead and the U.S. commitment to the country's defense was on the wane.

But Burghardt insisted that saying that the U.S. has declined to sell Taiwan F-16 C/Ds or to upgrade the F-16 A/Bs is incorrect because the U.S. government "hasn't said yes or no and hasn't announced anything."

He also stressed that Washington's defense commitment to Taipei goes well beyond the sale of arms, he said.

Burghardt said his experience of working with the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii in the capacity of the AIT chairman had provided him with a special perspective on overall U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation, which includes training activities, and exchanges of information and intelligence.

That was why judging the commitment "by how fast decisions are made on F-16 C/Ds is a skewed analysis, " he said.

Current U.S.-Taiwan relations are "excellent, " he said. The U.S. government has found it easier to interact with the Ma Ying-jeou administration, which he described as making decisions in a more pragmatic and rational way and did not spring "surprises."

He also highlighted the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in great length, saying that the U.S. law "sometimes doesn't get the credit it deserves" because it's more than the U.S. defense commitment to Taiwan.

The TRA set up the entire AIT-TECRO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office) relationship and enabled the U.S. to continue its economic and political relationship with Taiwan, he said.

"And the way we set up the AIT in 1979 ended up being the model for so many other countries" to deal with cross-Taiwan Strait relationships, he noted.

Burghardt has a long history of involvement with Taiwan. He served as director of the AIT, which represents the interests of the United States in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, from 1999- 2001. He also studied for a year in the central city of Taichung at the U.S. State Department's Chinese Language School in the mid-1970s. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Monday, November 29, 2010

MOFA raises travel alert for South Korea

Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Monday raised its travel alert level for South Korea and five islands near the maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea over concerns of escalated tensions in the region.

The travel alert for the islands of Yeonpyeong -- twice shelled by North Korean artillery in the past week -- Daecheong, Socheong, Baengnyeong and U islands has been elevated to red, the highest level in the MOFA's four-color system, the ministry said in a press release.

The five islands are located near the Northern Limit Line, a disputed western maritime border shared by North and South Korea.

The travel alert for other regions of South Korea was raised from gray to yellow, the second lowest level, the MOFA said.

The ministry said the adjustment of the alert level was aimed at protecting the safety of Taiwanese tourists in the region because of rising tensions due to the North Korean shelling and an ongoing South Korea-United States joint military exercise.

Premier Wu Den-yih said on Nov. 24 that the government did not have any plans at that time to evacuate Taiwanese expatriates from South Korea because of the Korean Peninsula flare-up. (By Chris Wang) Enditem/ls

Regional divide, `Yeltsin effect' concerns after Taiwan elections

Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) The regional divide between northern and southern Taiwan could be clearly seen in the Nov. 27 elections for five municipalities, which could also cause a so-called "Yeltsin effect, " scholars at a forum said Monday.

The north-south divide remains, as northern Taiwan leans toward the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) while the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) receives strong support from the south, said Nathan F. Batto, an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica who has been observing Taiwan elections for almost 20 years.

The election results show that "each side won races on its own turf... and that central Taiwan is the battleground, " Batto said in the forum organized by the Institute for National Policy Research (INPR) to examine policy directions after the five municipal elections.

The KMT posted big wins in the northern cities of Taipei and Xinbei and narrowly won the central city of Taichung by about 2 percentage points, while the DPP swept the two southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung.

The results are a clear victory for the KMT, which won three of the five seats, but statistics show that the DPP had above-average performance in Taipei, Xinbei and Taichung compared to in the past, Batto said, adding that "the surge toward the KMT in 2008 is gone."

The expanded or upgraded five municipalities could bring a so-called "Boris Yeltsin effect, " said Antonio Chiang, a political commentator who served as deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council from 2000-2004, because the five cities will have much greater resources, funding and power that the country's other smaller cities and counties.

The "Yeltsin effect" was first seen when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after Boris Yeltsin seized power in the aftermath of a failed coup that had attempted to topple reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev.

When he became the first popularly elected president of Russia later that year, Yeltsin declared that Russian law took precedence over the law of the Soviet Union and that Russia enjoyed absolute sovereignty and self-determination, relegating the other countries of the former Soviet Union to far lesser status.

"These elected mayors will probably have stronger mandates than Cabinet ministers and could have their own China policies and their own "cabinets, " which means we're looking at a potential clash between local and central governments, " Chiang said.

The effect could cause internal strife for both the KMT and the DPP, Chiang said.

The veteran commentator said that the DPP is going through a transformation period under Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and "has become very different from the Chen Shui-bian era, " referring to the former president who doubled as DPP chairman at one point.

The DPP is waiting for the new generation to take over after this particular election -- the party's first election in 10 years without Chen's direct or indirect impact, he said.

At the same time, the KMT's local election machine appeared to be cracking, said INPR President Tien Hung-mao, a former foreign minister. The party has long been known for its ability to mobilize voters at the grassroots level.

This time around, though, the KMT had trouble gaining support from local factions in central and southern regions, he pointed out. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Taiwan's political system maturing: U.S. scholars

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) The results of Saturday's municipal elections indicate that Taiwan is moving into a mature two-party political system, as both parties came away with something in the polls, visiting American scholars said Sunday.

With the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) securing three of the five municipal seats at stake and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winning the total vote share, "nobody really lost in the elections, " said Stanley Rosen, Director of East Asian Studies Center at University of Southern California.

Rosen was among a group of United States-based scholars who visited Taiwan to observe the five special municipality elections, which were seen as midterm polls.

The scholars said they saw other good signs in the elections, such as the DPP's shift to the middle and the restrained reactions of both parties to an election-eve shooting.

Lien Sheng-wen, the son of former vice president Lien Chan, was shot in the face and a bystander was killed at campaign rally for a city councilor candidate less than 12 hours before the polls opened.

Both parties refrained from using the incident as a tool to mobilize voters, the scholars said.

Another observation was that the DPP candidates in the northern cities of Taipei and Xinbei used a lot of pink in their campaign promotion materials, they said.

This signified the party's attempt to move from its hardline "deep green" stance on national identity to the middle of the road to appeal to moderate voters, said Rosen, who has been observing Taiwan politics since the 1970s.

He said he has noticed changes not only in the DPP, but also a long-term trend of "Taiwan-ization" by the KMT to reach out to grassroots Taiwanese.

In the campaign, the DPP strategically avoided issues related to cross-Taiwan Strait affairs and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China and voters tended to focus more on social and economic issues, said Sam Zhao, Executive Director of Center for China-U.S. Cooperation at University of Denver.

Allen Chaote, Vice President of the Asia Foundation, said he noted something admirable about the Taiwan elections -- there were no ideology-driven achievements.

He made a comparison with the U.S. midterm elections, saying that in both countries domestic and practical issues, rather than foreign policy and international affairs, dominated.

However, in the U.S. the Tea party movement, driven more by ideology than by platforms, was still able to make headway, he said.

"I didn't see this happen in Taiwan," he said.

During their stay, the scholars visited the campaign headquarters of all four candidates of the two parties in Taipei City and Xinbei City, and observed two campaigns in the southern city of Kaohsiung, prior to Saturday's elections. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Taiwan concludes Asian Games with 13 golds

Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) Taiwan took home 13 gold, 16 silver and 38 bronze medals as the Asian Games concluded in Guangzhou, China Saturday, finishing with its second biggest gold medal haul and its best performance in 12 years at the games.

Taiwan recorded its best performance in the Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand in 1998, when it bagged 19 golds, 17 silvers and 41 bronzes. It only won nine gold medals at the quadrennial games in Doha, Qatar four years ago.

Compared to other countries, Taiwan came in 7th in terms of the number of gold medals won, and 5th in terms of the total number of medals its athletes clinched.

Taiwan did not win a medal on the final day of the two-week event. Its women's volleyball team beat Mongolia to finish for the 7th place, while marathoner Chang Chia-che ranked 10th.

Four of Taiwan's 13 gold medals came from roller sports. The country also won two golds each in taekwondo, soft tennis and tennis. Cyclist Hsiao Mei-yu surprised everyone with her gold medal victory in the 100-kilometer women's individual road race.

While Taiwan's baseball team failed to defend its title, Taiwan made a major breakthrough in track and field with a silver in the men's 4x100 meter relay.

However, what caught most Taiwanese people's attention during the Games was a controversy over the disqualification of Taiwan's women's taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun.

She was disqualified after referees said she wore electronic sensors on her socks to help her score points, which was not allowed. Yang, a gold medal hopeful, had denied she wore the sensors during the match.

The ruling had subsequently turned into an international incident and caused diplomatic tension between Taiwan, China and South Korea. Taiwan's president, premier and sports officials have all demanded justice for Yang. The case is being investigated by the Asian Taekwondo Union and World Taekwondo Federation.

The 2014 Asian Games will be held in Incheon, South Korea. (By Chris Wang) Enditem/cs

Friday, November 26, 2010

KMT seeks unlikely upset wins in southern Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) Led by President Ma Ying-jeou, the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) made efforts Friday in campaign rallies ahead of Saturday's five municipality elections, trying to pull off comeback wins in the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung.

The port city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, and Tainan have been strongholds of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose mayoral candidates were favored to win in both these municipalities.

President Ma, who doubles as the KMT Chairman, admitted Friday when he campaigned for Kuo Tien-tasi, the party's candidate in Tainan, that Kuo "has been in a difficult situation, " but Ma urged voters to support the former educator born in Tainan.

The mayoral race in Tainan has been given less media attention than those in the other four constituencies because it is widely seen as a shoo-in for DPP candidate William Lai, a well-known legislator.

The ruling party also faces a tough battle in Kaohsiung, where incumbent DPP Mayor Chen Chu is the clear front-runner over KMT's Huang Chao-shun and incumbent Kaohsiung County magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing, who lost to Chen in the DPP primary and entered the race as an independent.

Less than 24 hours before the electorates head to the voting booths, Huang, who has trailed in the polls, still showed concerns that her supporters will engage in "strategic voting" and opt for Yang, who is seen as having better chances of beating Chen.

Yang is a supporter of Taiwan independence, Huang said Friday, adding that although Yang ran as an independent, his ideology has always been a lot different than that of the KMT.

But Yang received a boost Friday night when James Soong, chairman of the People First Party (PFP) , endorsed him at the election eve rally. The PFP and the KMT were considered a "pan-blue alliance" which supports reconciliation and cooperation with China.

The greater Kaohsiung area is considered a DPP stronghold, although its advantage in the past has been in Kaohsiung County, with voters in Kaohsiung City more evenly divided. Though the DPP has held Kaohsiung City for 12 years, its wins in 1998, 2002 and 2006 were all achieved with relatively narrow margins.

Unlike the situation on the national level, the DPP is not viewed exactly an opposition party in Tainan City and County. The area, with a combined population of more than 2.7 million, has long been a DPP stronghold.

Tainan County, which is heavily populated by farmers and fishermen, has been held by the DPP since 1993 and Tainan City since 1997.

In 2004, when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian was seeking reelection as president, he gained 64.8 percent of the votes in his home county of Tainan and 57.8 percent in Tainan City. His got 50.11 percent of the national vote.

Although by 2008 the DPP's popularity had plummeted nationally due to corruption charges against Chen, the party's support in the region remained strong.

The DPP lost the presidential election that year, but its showing in Tainan County was 56.2 percent and in Tainan City 49.3 percent, compared with a national showing of 41.55 percent.

It is this kind of unwavering support that Lai, the DPP candidate, a 51-year-old medical doctor who has served as a legislator representing Tainan City since 1999, is counting on come election time. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

KMT candidate cuts short Taichung rally over shooting

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) Jason Hu, Taichung mayoral candidate of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), ended his campaign rally early on the eve of election day after a fellow KMT politician was shot in a similar campaign event in northern Taiwan.

Lien Sheng-wen, also known as Sean Lien, the eldest son of KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan, was shot in the face by a gunman when speaking on behalf of a candidate at arally in Yungho, near Taipei City, at around 8: 30 p.m. He is a member of the KMT central committee.

Lien was reportedly in stable condition and undergoing surgery although another man, apparently a KMT supporter who happened to be at the rally, was killed. The assailant has been apprehended.

Hu asked his supporters to observe a moment of silence and to pray for Lien before cutting short the rally at 9: 20 p.m., citing safety concerns. The rally was to end at 10 p.m.

President Ma Ying-jeou and KMT candidates in other constituencies, including Taipei City's Hau Lung-bin, condemned the violent incident.

A "three-in-one" elections, which will elect five special municipality mayors, 314 city councilors and thousands of ward chiefs, are scheduled to be held Saturday. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Central Taiwan election countdown cut short by incident in north

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) Both candidates bidding for the mayoral seat of the central city of Taichung called for voter support in their final rallies Friday night ahead of Taiwan's special municipality elections Saturday.

Incumbent Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) , who saw a comfortable lead of his re-election bid dwindle toward the end, appealed to supporters to go out and vote in the poll.

The rally was cut short, however, when news broke that a fellow KMT politician was shot at a similar gathering in northern Taiwan's Taipei County.

Hu called for supporters to pray for Sean Lien, the eldest son of former Vice President Lien Chan, and ended the rally well before the 10PM deadline.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as KMT Chairman, appeared earlier at the KMT rally and offered his support and endorsement for Hu, who said Friday that he had the confidence to win but would never underestimate his rival.

His only opponent, Su Jia-chyuan, candidate of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , told supporters that he was close to unseating Hu, who has been mayor since 2001, for a victory that could shape a better new Taichung City, a merger of the current Taichung City and Taichung County.

The DPP candidate has made headway since he threw his hat into the ring in May, when Hu was expected to defeat any DPP nominee in a landslide.

Su made the most of Friday, campaigning in Fengyuan, the largest city in Taichung County, before heading back to Taichung City for the final rally, where he pledged that he would "take care of the poor and always seek justice" if elected.

With a population of 2.6 million, the expanded Taichung City will be a merger of Taichung City and Taichung County, both of which have been held by the KMT since 1989, except for 1997-2001.

Hu, a popular former foreign minister known for his wit and quick reflex, has relentlessly pushed for upgrading and expansion of Taichung City.

He has also worked hard to secure support from major political factions in Taichung County to give him solid backing throughout the expanded constituency.

The DPP's Su, a two-term magistrate in the rural county of Pingtung in southern Taiwan and a former minister of agriculture, appealed to supporters with a campaign theme of "change, " which is similar to the slogan American President Barack Obama used in his 2008 presidential campaign.

Su has pushed his candidacy hard in Taichung County, where agricultural issues are important, hoping to use it to upset Hu's advantage in the city. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

More than 100 detained on suspicion of vote-buying

Taipei, Nov. 26 (CNA) More than 100 people have been detained on suspicion of vote buying ahead of Taiwan's five special municipality elections and local elections Saturday, according to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

The MOJ's statistics showed that 130 people had been detained ahead of Saturday's "three-in-one" elections, which are the election of five city mayors, 314 city councilors and thousands of ward chiefs.

Among the detainees, 78 were suspected of being involved in buying votes for ward chief candidates while 52 were suspected of acting for city councilor candidates as of Thursday, according to the statistics.

The ministry said that 2,795 cases of alleged vote-buying had been reported and 35 suspects in 11 cases had been prosecuted as of Thursday.

The figures suggest that vote-buying is still rampant in Taiwan, especially in local elections, despite all the political parties, including the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), condemning such behavior.

However, the phenomenon had been anticipated since the total number of city councilors had reduced after eight cities and counties were merged or upgraded into five expanded special municipalities. Vote buying has also been common in grassroots-level elections in Taiwan.

The MOJ has made the crackdown on vote buying one of its top priorities. Premier Wu Den-yih had also asked the ministry last week to step up efforts to uncover instance of vote buying. (By Chris Wang) enditem

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taiwan's EU visa-waiver clears last legislative hurdle

Taipei, Nov. 25 (CNA) Taiwan's inclusion in the European Union's visa-waiver program cleared the last hurdle Thursday in the Council of the European Union in Brussels and will take effect in January 2011, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said late Thursday.

"The visa-free proposal was approved unanimously by acceptance without discussion earlier in the Council of the European Union. This is a great news we all have been waiting for, " Yang said at a press conference.

The proposal cleared the Competitiveness Council after Taiwan worked hard to move the agenda forward by a week, as it was originally scheduled for Dec. 2 at a session of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

Addressing the issue, Yang told reporters that "since the proposal is expected to be approved without any debate, it doesn't matter which council screens it."

Having completed the 15-step procedure, the proposal should be able to be signed by the European Parliament speaker and rotating EU President in Dec. 15 and take effect in January next year, ensuring Taiwanese passport holders will be able to visit 35 European countries visa-free, Yang said.

The visa waiver means that Taiwan passport holders will be able to enter the European countries included in the program visa-free and stay for up to 90 days within a six-month period.

The exemption will apply to 25 Schengen Area countries, comprising 22 EU member states and three-non EU states -- Norway, Iceland and Switzerland -- and three non-Schengen EU member states -- Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus.

The program will also apply to seven European countries and territories, including the Vatican, Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, to bring the number of European countries that grant Taiwan visa-free exemption to 35.

The visa-waiver drive, which aimed to boost the number of countries that grant Taiwan such privilege to 100, has been the Foreign Ministry's top priority to celebrate the Republic of China's centennial anniversary.

The total number of such countries has now reached 96, including 75 granting Taiwan passport holders visa-waiver privilege and 21 providing Taiwanese visitors with visas on arrival.

Taiwan will be exploring visa-free opportunities in countries such as the United States, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines and 18 oversea territories of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands, according to Yang.

Yang said Taiwan will also keep seeking visa exemptions in six European countries -- Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The proposal previously cleared the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) by a 47-1 vote on Oct. 26 and the European Parliament plenary by a 559-40 margin with 13 abstentions on Nov. 11.

The exemption came three days after Canada granted Taiwan the same privilege Monday. The ministry said that the EU and Canada exemptions would save Taiwan nationals visa application fee of around NT$1.5 billion every year, including more than NT$ 1 billion for the Schengen visas and NT$450 million for Canadian visas.

An average of 310,000 Taiwan nationals visit Europe every year, according to the MOFA. (By Chris Wang) enditem/sc

Municipal elections will shape wider political landscape: scholars

Taipei, Nov. 25 (CNA) The results of the Nov. 27 municipality elections in Taiwan will help shape the wider political landscape over the next few years, scholars said in Taipei Thursday.

Although they are just local elections, the outcome will have implications for President Ma Ying-jeou and his China policy as well as for the two main political parties in Taiwan, the scholars said in a forum held by the think tank Taiwan Brain Trust.

For starters, they said, the share of seats and votes in the five municipality elections will give an indication of the national standing of the two main competing parties -- the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -- and their chances in the 2012 presidential elections.

The results will also be viewed as an endorsement or rejection of Ma's policies of deregulation, liberalization and reconciliation, particularly with regard to China, the scholars said.

If the KMT scores at least a 3-2 win in the five races, it will be seen as a vote of confidence in Ma's general policies and performance, said Joseph Wu, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi University.

On the other hand, a 3-2 win for the DPP will give it "the right momentum to contest the 2012 presidential election," he said.

China, meanwhile, will be closely gauging the elections in Taipei City, Xinbei City, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung in order to plan its future moves, he said.

"For China, the share of votes may be a better indicator of the 2012 election outcome" since the electorate in the five cities make up almost 65 percent of Taiwan's total population of 23 million," Wu said.

China will be looking for a clue to Ma's chances of retaining power in 2012, but is not likely to react strongly to the election results but rather will be trying to play down their importance, said Wu, a former chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top China policy-making body.

Liu Shih-chung, a research fellow for national security affairs at the Taiwan Brain Trust, said "a KMT victory would increase the chances of both the party and its Chinese counterpart to at least create some atmosphere for political talks in Ma's second term. "

Meanwhile, a DPP victory would signal a rebirth of the party after its catastrophic loss in the 2008 presidential election, Liu said.

For at least two of the candidates in the elections, the poll could serve as a launch pad to bigger ambitions, one of the scholars said.

The neck-and-neck race in the two northern cities of Taipei and Xinbei is like a presidential primary for the DPP, according to Hsu Yung-ming, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Soochow University.

The DPP candidates, Su Tseng-chang in Taipei City and DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen in Xinbei, are the two favorites to win the party's nomination for the 2012 presidential election, Hsu said.

They are seeking not just mayoral seats but also wider electoral support, he said.

He expressed the view that this time voters are more focused on economic issues and the candidates themselves rather than on the thorny independence-unification issue that has dominated the polls in the past.

The forum was held under the theme, "The special municipality elections: the possible impact and implications" and was attended by more than 20 foreign representatives. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taiwan enjoying best Asiad showing in 12 years

Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) Taiwan added a silver and four bronzes Wednesday in the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad to bring its total medal counts to 57, the best showing in the Asian Games in 12 years, one day after setting a record of winning four golds in a single day.

Winning a silver and two bronzes in karate and a bronze each in men's archery and women's roller sports Wednesday, the Chinese Taipei delegation has secured 12 gold, 12 silver and 33 bronze medals as of press time to ensure its best overall performance since 1998, when it won 77 medals, including 19 gold, 17 silver and 41 bronze, in Bangkok, Thailand.

On Tuesday, Taiwan won four gold to bring its gold medal haul to 12, surpassing 10 it won in Busan, South Korea in 2002 and a disappointing nine golds in Doha, Qatar four years ago.

Taiwan currently ranks fifth place in gold medal tally, behind China, South Korea, Japan and Iran, and fourth in total medal counts.

With three days to go in the quadrennial event, Taiwan is hopeful to increase the medal counts by doing well in women's softball and men's 4x100 meter relay.

The women's softball team is scheduled to meet Japan in the semifinal Thursday. The men's 4x100 meter relay team, which won its round 1 heat with 39.34 seconds to finish only behind China's 39.03 seconds, will vie for a medal in the final on Friday. (By Chris Wang) enditem

Taiwan men's basketball setback in Guangzhou goes unnoticed

Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) Taiwan men's national basketball team dropped out of the quarterfinal this week, losing to the Philippines and finishing with one win and four losses in the preliminary round of the competition at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

However, the loss was not widely reported in Taiwan, as it appeared to have been overshadowed by the controversial disqualification of Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun, an issue that has been the center of media attention for the past week.

Huang Chao-he, secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA), said that the association was expecting non-stop calls from disgruntled fans the day after Taiwan lost 82-73 to the Philippines on Nov. 22.

However, the CTBA did not get any irate calls, despite the fact that it was the first time that Taiwan was knocked out of the final eight in Asiad men's basketball.

Yang's return to Taipei from Guangzhou on Nov. 23 probably eclipsed the basketball team's loss, Huang said.

But while the CTBA may have gained some breathing space, it still has to figure out why its men's team won only one game -- against India -- and lost to Japan, Qatar, Iran and the Philippines, Huang said.

The 2010 Taiwan's men's national basketball team was hampered by the absence of 2.04-meter starting center Tseng Wen-ting, who skipped the event because of injury.

The team's poor showing marred the debut of Taiwan head coach Zhang Xulei, who grew up in China and played for the Chinese national team in his 20's, and was a setback for the CTBA in its plan to nurture local coaches.

South Korean head coach Chung Kwang-suk led Taiwan to fifth place in the 2009 FIBA Asia men's basketball championship, its best finish in the tournament since 1999. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Vote on Taiwan's EU visa waiver to be moved forward by a week: MOFA

Taipei, Nov. 24 (CNA) The final step in the European Union's screening of Taiwan's inclusion in its visa-waiver program will be moved forward by a week to Nov. 25 or 26 so that it can take effect as soon as possible, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said Wednesday.

The vote was originally scheduled for Dec. 2 at a session of the Justice and Home Affairs Council under the Council of the European Union, but Taiwan worked to move it forward to a session of the Competitiveness Council on either Nov. 25 or 26, Yang said.

The Council of the European Union, more commonly referred to as the EU Council of Ministers, is the EU's main decision-making body, representing the member governments.

The Central News Agency's Brussels-based correspondent reported that the proposal will be on the competitiveness committee's Nov. 25 agenda and is expected to be approved by "acceptance without discussion, " citing the council's press office.

"Since the proposal is expected to be approved without any debate, it doesn't matter which council screens it," Yang said.

By accelerating the screening process, Taiwan hopes that the ensuing translation of the documents into different EU member languages and other administrative procedures will be completed by the Christmas break so that the proposal can be adopted by the end of the year, he said.

The vote will be the final hurdle after the proposal cleared the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) by a 47-1 vote on Oct. 26 and the European Parliament plenary by a 559-40 margin with 13 abstentions on Nov. 11.

The visa waiver means that Taiwanese nationals will be able to enter the European countries included in the program visa-free and stay for up to 90 days within a six-month period.

The exemption will apply to 25 Schengen Area countries, comprising 22 EU member states and three-non EU states -- Norway, Iceland and Switzerland -- and three non-Schengen EU member states -- Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Taiwan still weighing legal options in disputed taekwondo case

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) Taiwan government is still weighing its legal options against Asian and world taekwondo authorities which disqualified a Taiwanese athlete in the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, a sports official said Tuesday in a press conference.

Taiwan has launched an appeal of the controversial disqualification of Yang Shu-chun within the Olympic Family and has been contemplating to file a lawsuit against taekwondo officials in a Guangzhou court, said Steven S.K. Chen, deputy mister of the Sports Affairs Council (SAC).

One week after Yang's controversial disqualification, Chen addressed the reporters after the third meeting of an inter-agency task force, which Taiwan government has set up to appeal the case.

However, there was no concrete decision made Tuesday, when Yang and her coach Liu Tsung-ta returned from China and attended the meeting for the first time.

Yang was disqualified during her first-round bout in the women's taekwondo under 49-kilogram weight division on Nov. 17 after she scored a 9-0 lead over her Vietnamese opponent.

According to World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Secretary-General Yang Jin-suk, who did not have any role in the actual decision but served as the main spokesman for the taekwondo world in the incident's aftermath, said Yang was disqualified for wearing extra sensors on her socks in an attempt to score more points, which was an act of cheating.

While video footage showed the sensors were removed before Yang began the contest, a statement posted on the Asian Taekwondo Union's (ATU's) website described the incident as a "shocking act of deception of Chinese Taipei."

The incident, which has ignited public outrage and an anti-Korea sentiment in Taiwan and has received coverage from international media, was so high-profile that Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih had personally addressed the incident as "unfair" and had described it as damaging Taiwan's national pride.

A task force, headed by Vice Premier Sean Chen, was established with officials from the SAC, the Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice as well as Sung Yao-ming, a lawyer with Lee and Li, the law firm appointed by the government to handle legal matters.

Members of the task force, along with Yang and Liu, reviewed the video footage and every details of the Nov. 17 bout again in the two-hour meeting Tuesday to collect information which can be used as evidence in future lawsuits, Chen said.

Although Sung had said earlier that suing Yang Jin-suk in Guangzhou would be a better option than taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an independent organization handling sports-related arbitrations, the task force could not decide who the plaintiff and the accused would be and when to file the lawsuit, according to Chen.

The task force was unsure whether a Guangzhou court has the jurisdiction over the case, Chen said, which was why it could not determine whether and when to take the case to court.

However, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) has lodged an official protest against the ATU and the WTF with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and has requested the OCA review the disqualification and mishandling of the two organizations, Chen said.

If the CTOC finds the results unacceptable, he said, it would then bring the case to the CAS. (By Chris Wang) enditem/S. C. Chang

Taiwan, South Korea sign youth working holiday deal (Update 2)

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced on Tuesday that after more than a year of negotiations, Taiwan and South Korea have signed an agreement to set up reciprocal youth working holiday programs.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by Benjamin Liang, Taiwan's representative to South Korea, and Yang Keun-koo, representative of the Korean Mission in Taipei, Tuesday morning in Taipei, MOFA spokesman James Chang said.

South Korea joined five other countries -- Japan, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada -- in signing such an agreement with Taiwan.

Under the MOU, which took effect immediately, multiple entry visas will be issued for people aged 18-35 from Taiwan and South Korea who wish to travel and work in each other's territory for up to one year, he said.

Both sides will start accepting applications from Jan. 1, 2011, according to Chang, but the quotas that will apply remain to be discussed.

The announcement came amid an upswing in anti-Korea sentiment in Taiwan after a Taiwanese taekwondo athlete was disqualified from the Asian Games Nov. 17 by a technical committee official of Korean descent.

The anger was further fueled after the South Korean secretary-general of the World Taekwondo Federation accused Yang of cheating.

Speaking on Monday night before the deal was officially signed, Chang said that launching working holiday programs with different countries has always been a major goal of the foreign ministry to help more Taiwanese young people gain a wider global perspective.

Chang said Taiwan and South Korea have enjoyed a close relationship in recent years in various realms such as cultural exchanges, tourism, trade and investment.

"We hope that through such programs, the young people of both countries will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other's culture and heritage, " Chang said.

There was mixed reaction to the agreement before it became official Tuesday morning among those who have contemplated participating in a working holiday program.

Ian Chen, 26, said he would not be interested in going to South Korea because most of his friends who have traveled there for vacation, work or study have had negative experiences.

"My friends described people there as narrow-minded and unwelcoming to anyone who is not Korean, " he said, saying he would choose either Japan or Germany as his destination.

Chen stressed that his lack of interest in South Korea had nothing to do with the ongoing taekwondo controversy.

But 25-year-old social worker Edward Chien said he would not rule out South Korea as a destination for a working holiday because every country has something unique to offer.

The government has repeatedly urged supporters of the Taiwanese taekwondo athlete to remain calm and rational and vowed to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport on behalf of the accused athlete.

Taiwan and South Korea severed diplomatic relations in 1993. In 2003, the two countries agreed on waving visa requirements for each other's citizens.

Earlier this month on Nov. 12, South Korea signed a working holiday program MOU with Hong Kong. According to Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, Hong Kong was the 10th region to reach this agreement with Korea. In 2009, approximately 53,000 Korean youths participated in the program. (By Jenny Hsu and Chris Wang) ENDITEM/ls

Taiwan urges Malaysia to grant visa-free exemption

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) Taiwan's government reiterated its call Tuesday for Malaysia to grant visa-free privileges to Taiwanese visitors on the basis of mutual benefit.

Taiwan has allowed Malaysians to visit Taiwan without a visa since 2002, and it hoped that the Malaysian government would grant the same treatment to Taiwanese visitors, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman James Chang said at a press briefing.

"We are treating this matter as an important issue and urge Malaysia to provide visa-free treatment for Taiwan visitors as soon as possible based on mutual benefit, " he said.

Malaysia has canceled visas on arrival for all countries since Aug. 15, claiming that many visitors had abused the privilege and overstayed the visas they received.

Lo Yu-chung, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia -- Taiwan's representative office in the country in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties -- was quoted by Malaysia's Sin Chew Daily Tuesday as saying that Taiwan may introduce visa requirements for Malaysian visitors in the future.

Lo was quoted as saying that it would be inconvenient for some 200,000 Malaysians who visit Taiwan every year if Taiwan were to re-impose a visa requirement.

Taiwan's Legislative Yuan urged the MOFA earlier this month to do something about those countries that were granted visa exemptions by Taiwan but did not provide the same treatment to Taiwan's citizens. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan's ties with El Salvador 'solid': MOFA

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday that Taiwan's diplomatic ties with El Salvador remain solid amid reports that the Central American country is considering switching its allegiance to recognize the People's Republic of China.

"Relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and El Salvador remain solid, " MOFA spokesman James Chang said in a press briefing.

According to the Associated Press and Reuters, El Salvador President Mauricio Funes told reporters at the opening of a Chinese trade fair in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador that his country was exploring the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations with China.

"If it is good for the country, we will do it, " Reuters quoted Funes as saying.

Chang said Taiwan's representative office in El Salvador contacted Salvadoran authorities upon learning the news and reaffirmed the two countries' bilateral relations.

He said the strength of the relationship was demonstrated by continuing visits of high-ranking Salvadoran officials to Taiwan, including its foreign minister and deputy speaker of the parliament.

"However, we understand why El Salvador is looking to increase its trade and economic relations with China, which President Funes said in his comments, " Chang said.

El Salvador's representative office in Taiwan was not immediately available for comment.

President Ma Ying-jeou said on Jan. 13 that Taiwan will not oppose China's development of unofficial economic and trade ties with El Salvador because the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have achieved reconciliation on multiple fronts.

Ma attended Funes' inauguration in San Salvador in May 2009, and when the two presidents met, Funes promised to strengthen diplomatic ties with Taiwan, according to Ma.

In response to Funes' goodwill, Ma said he also told him that Taiwan would not oppose El Salvador's interest in forging unofficial ties with China.

Funes had previously hinted at seeking to establish official relations with China after assuming office last year.

The "flexible diplomacy" approach advocated by President Ma has reduced cross-Taiwan Strait tensions and kept the two sides from engaging in a battle to lure diplomatic allies, Chang said.

Taiwan has not lost any diplomatic allies since Ma took office in May 2008.

Twelve of Taiwan's 23 diplomatic allies are located in Central America and the Caribbean. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Monday, November 22, 2010

U.S. envoy lauds Taiwan's anti-trafficking efforts

Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) A visiting anti-trafficking envoy of the United States on Monday lauded Taiwan's efforts in combating modern slavery and called for intensified prosecutions of traffickers in the future.

Taiwan's achievement could be seen in its being the only Asian country to move into Tier 1 -- the highest rank -- in the U.S. Department of State's 2010 Trafficking in Persons report, said Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large of the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, at a press roundtable.

The ambassador, in Taiwan for a five-day visit, met Premier Wu Den-yih Monday morning before attending the press briefing organized by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) , the U.S. representative office in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

He said the authorities of Taiwan, a destination, source and transit territory for men, women and children subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor, have fully complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

The most unique part in Taiwan's efforts is its victim protection approach over the past few years, most notably providing victims with work permits and allowing them to earn income while waiting to testify in cases against their traffickers or to be deported, CdeBaca said.

In some Asian countries, most victims were "locked up" in shelters or detention centers.

"That makes Taiwan stand very tall in the region as far as its compassion and pragmatic treatment (of trafficking victims) , " he said.

He also praised Taiwan for training law enforcement and labor officials on victim identification and protection and working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

He called on Taiwanese officials, however, to "continue to intensify their prosecution efforts" and to extend labor protection to all categories of workers. He also cited victim identification as a challenge in Taiwan.

Asked if Taiwan's lack of official diplomatic ties with source countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, could hamper its efforts, CdeBaca said that in bilateral agreements between those countries and destination countries, some labor protection provisions were built in to ensure foreign workers' rights, such as guaranteeing a minimum wage and a day off per week.

The ambassador did not believe, however, that the lack of diplomatic ties made Taiwan a favored country for traffickers, citing instead Taiwan's "vibrant economy and vibrant opportunities."

With regards to the possible impact of decriminalizing prostitution on human trafficking, he said the legalization of indoor prostitution in the U.S. did "create a zone of impunity in which traffickers can operate and law enforcement cannot go, " and some of the concerns could also apply in Taiwan.

After being ranked as a Tier 2 country from 2007-2009 in the annual Trafficking in Persons report, Taiwan regained Tier 1 status this year, which it enjoyed from 2001-2004.

Taiwan was rated Tier 2 in 2005 and was put on the Tier 2-Watch List in 2006, its lowest rank in the past decade. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Intrigue in Kaohsiung mayoral race, despite clear frontrunner

The mayoral election in the new Kaohsiung special municipality may have a clear favorite, but a split in the stronger political party in the region could still have unpredictable consequences come Election Day on Nov. 27.

Kaohsiung City and neighboring Kaohsiung County will be merged into a greater Kaohsiung municipality after the election, making it the second largest administrative district in Taiwan, with a population of 2.77 million.

Incumbent Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is the clear frontrunner in the race, maintaining leads by substantial margins over her two main rivals, but talk of "strategic voting" has added some intrigue to the race.

Chen's main threat appears to be incumbent Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing, who announced on Aug. 9 he was withdrawing from the DPP to enter the race as an independent after losing the DPP primary to Chen.

Yang, who has served two terms as county magistrate from 2001 to the present, and Chen, who assumed office in 2006, both believe they have solid chances of winning for two reasons: tradition and performance.

The greater Kaohsiung area is considered a DPP stronghold. Kaohsiung City has been held by the party since 1998, while Kaohsiung County has not seen a Kuomintang (KMT) magistrate during the last quarter century.

In past elections, the KMT and the DPP have had roughly the same support rates in Kaohsiung City, while the DPP has fared much better in Kaohsiung County.

Both candidates have also been popular and enjoyed considerable support during their terms. Yang had the highest approval rating from his constituents and Chen the third highest in a survey conducted this year by CommonWealth Magazine on how residents of 21 administrative districts saw their leaders.

A former civil engineer and legislator, the 54-year-old Yang earned the nickname of "The Southern Little Giant" for his hard work to strengthen the local economy and improve the mountainous county's infrastructure.

He also had to shoulder some of the massive responsibility of reconstruction and recovery after Typhoon Morakot killed hundreds and wiped out several mountain villages in the region in August 2009.

Chen, 60, is known for her dedication to human rights during Taiwan's struggle for democracy in the 1970s and 1980s and her status as one of the founding members of the DPP.

She also served as chairman of the Council of Labor Affairs under the previous DPP administration.

Chen reached the peak of her career after the city's organization of the 2009 World Games was widely considered a success.

She ran into trouble later, however, for inviting the Dalai Lama and Uyghur political activist Rebiya Kadeer for visits, a move that infuriated China and led to its blockage of Chinese tourists visiting Kaohsiung.

With most attention focused on the battle between Chen and Yang, KMT candidate Huang Chao-shun has seemed to be marginalized, despite having served as a legislator representing Kaohsiung City for the past 17 years.

When Yang split from the DPP, the conventional wisdom was that the internal strife would help Huang because it would divide DPP voters.

But polls taken in recent months indicate Yang's candidacy has drawn at least as much support from the KMT support base as the DPP's, leading to concerns in both the Huang and Yang camps that their supporters will engage in "strategic voting" to mount a challenge against Chen.

In Taiwan, strategic voting refers to when voters decide to abandon the candidate they support to vote for the candidate they think has a better chance of beating a disliked rival.

The campaign has also seen Huang file legal complaints against both of her rivals. She accused Chen of malfeasance that left part of the city flooded by heavy rains brought by Typhoon Megi in September, and she took Yang to court for using public resources in his campaign.

The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office decided, however, not to press charges against Yang and Chen.

Chen also accused Yang of mishandling the typhoon disaster in his county. By Chris Wang, CNA Staff Reporter enditem/ls

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Anti-Korea sentiment over taekwondo dispute spreading in Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 20 (CNA) Anti-Korea sentiment in Taiwan sparked by a taekwondo controversy at the Asian Games has expanded in cyber space and spread to the real world, as unidentified Taiwanese threw eggs at the Korean Elementary School in Taipei Saturday morning.

The egg-throwing incident was the latest of a series of anti-Korea moves launched by angry Taiwanese, who have called for a boycott of South Korean goods, foods, television programs and entertainers.

Dozens of posts from Taiwanese users were also posted late Friday and early Saturday on the Facebook page of Cheongwadae, South Korea's presidential office, before being removed, with most users blasting the country for its unfair treatment of taekwondo star Yang Shu-chun.

To keep the uproar from going any further, Taiwan's National Police Agency (NPA) has tightened security for the South Korean representative office in Taipei, NPA spokesman Huang Chia-chi said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also requested the agency to provide extra security personnel for the South Korean office.

"The MOFA is closely monitoring the situation and believes the police will provide protection to the office and the Korean community, " MOFA spokesman James Chang said.

The South Korean representative office in Taiwan on Friday advised Korean, students, business groups and organizations in Taiwan to take safety precautions and warned them against making comments on the incident, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

Yang, one of Taiwan's top gold medal hopes at the Asian Games, was disqualified from her opening round bout in the women's under 49 kg. division on Wednesday for using extra sensors on her electronic socks to increase her chances of scoring.

Video of her bout revealed, however, that the sensors were not attached to her socks during her battle with a Vietnamese opponent.

Anger has been directed at South Korea because Koreans hold most of the top positions in the sport and two of the main figures in the Yang incident were Korean or of Korean descent.

Hong Sung Chon, the technical committee member who disqualified Yang, is a Philippine national of Korean descent and a high-ranking official of the Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU).

The union drew fire when it accused Yang in a press release of committing a "shocking act of deception."

The other figure, World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Secretary-General Yang Jin-suk, has been unable to give a consistent explanation of why Yang was disqualified, earning the wrath of Taiwan's media and people.

The anger directed at South Korea, one of Taiwan's biggest economic and sports rivals in Asia, was so intense that President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih both addressed the incident personally and demanded an apology from the ATU.

Some have accused South Korea of conspiring with China to arrange Yang's disqualification, but Vice Premier Sean Chen said Friday in a press conference that "no evidence suggests the Chinese and South Korean governments were involved (in the incident)."

Anti-Korea sentiment was initially expressed in cyber space and rose to a fever pitch after the ATU's inflammatory press release issued Thursday that brand Taiwan and Yang as cheaters.

Taiwanese hackers left messages on the ATU site, saying "we all Taiwanese" and "shame on you" and demanding that the ATU "give our gold medal back."

An image showing a middle finger pointing upward between the national flags of South Korea and the People's Republic of China was also posted. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Friday, November 19, 2010

Taiwan loses to South Korea in Asian Games baseball final

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Taiwan failed to defend its Asian Games baseball title Friday night when it was overpowered by South Korea's relentless attack and power pitching in the 2010 games' baseball final.

Taiwan's pitchers were mercilessly punished by the Koreans in the 9-3 loss, giving up 17 hits and three home runs, including two by Kang Jung-ho.

South Korea, which won its third Asian Games baseball gold after previous titles in 1998 and 2002, was also proficient on the mound, with its pitchers striking out 15 Taiwanese batters.

Taiwan's offense was on and off against South Korean starter Ryu Hyun-jin and reliever Yoon Suk-min, who limited Taiwan to eight hits.

South Korea broke the game open in the third inning. Taking advantage of inexperienced amateur left-hander Chen Kuan-yu, it rallied for four runs, including one on a solo home run by Lee Dao-ho and two others on a two-run homer by Kang, to jump to a 6-1 lead.

Taiwan answered in the bottom of the fourth, when Chang Tai-shan led off with a double and scored on Hu Chin-lung's RBI single. Chen Chun-hsiu later rushed home for the second run of the inning on a Lin Che-hsuan grounder to cut the deficit to 6-3.

But that was as close as Taiwan could get in its third straight Asian Games final appearance. South Korea added another run in the seventh, and Kang blasted his second two-run shot of the game in the ninth off Huang Chih-lung.

Taiwan won its second silver in Asian Games history after finishing as the runner-up in 2002. It won bronze in 1994 and 1998.

Japan defeated host China 6-2 in the bronze medal game. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Taiwan government reiterates support for disqualified athlete

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Taiwan's government said Friday it would fight to uphold the innocence of a Taiwanese taekwondo athlete disqualified at the Asian Games and expressed its anger toward the Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU), which accused the athlete of cheating.

All evidence obtained so far proved that Yang Shu-chun, who was disqualified from the Asian Games on Wednesday for using extra sensors in her electronic socks, did not cheat in the competition, Vice Premier Sean Chen said at a press conference Friday.

Chen said the wording the ATU used in its Nov. 18 press release, titled "Shocking act of deception by Chinese Taipei, " was "irrational and emotional" and looked like an "imprudent reaction" by the organization that governs taekwondo in Asia.

A full-length video of Yang's bout in the women's under 49 kilogram division was played for reporters and showed that Yang was asked by the referee to remove two extra sensors before her match started and that she did not have them attached during the bout.

It also showed that after Yang's bout was stopped late in the first round, a taekwondo referee went to the other side of the mat to pick up the two sensors that had been previously discarded and brought them back to the taekwondo official who eventually made the decision to disqualify Yang.

Chen also complained that the technical meeting called after Taiwan's protest of the disqualification never consulted Taiwanese staff and athletes. It merely informed the Chinese Taipei Taekwondo Association of the decision after the meeting, he said.

Public outrage toward China and South Korea has escalated because Zhao Lei, vice president of the ATU, is Chinese and Yang Jin-suk, secretary-general of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), which has defended the decision, is from South Korea.

Some people have called for the boycott of South Korean goods and entertainers, but Chen said the controversy was "purely a sporting incident."

"No evidence suggests the Chinese and South Korean governments were involved (in the incident), " he said.

Chen urged the ATU and the WTF, which said Yang and Taiwan's coaching staff could face possible sanctions for their protest, to conduct their investigation into the incident "rationally and fairly."

If Taiwan finds the ATU's conclusions unacceptable, it will file for arbitration of the matter with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Chen said.

According to Chen Shih-kuei, vice chairman of the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) , Taiwan will have 21 days after receiving the ATU decision to file a case with the court.

The vice premier also pledged that Taiwan's government will help Yang, who remains unsure about her future, with her employment and training.

The vice premier was the latest Taiwanese official to speak on the controversy. President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Wu Den-yih also pledged government support for Yang. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taiwan to meet South Korea in Asian Games baseball final

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) Defending champion Taiwan will meet South Korea in the gold medal game of the 2010 Asian Games baseball event after defeating Japan 4-3 in extra innings in the semifinal game Thursday in Guangzhou, China.

A victory over South Korea, which beat China 7-1 in the other semifinal that same day, will give Taiwan its second consecutive Asian Games title after winning gold four years ago in Doha, Qatar and will be sweet revenge for its 6-1 loss to the Koreans in the preliminary round.

Taiwan did not go into its third consecutive Asian Games final -- it won silver at the 2002 games in Busan, South Korea -- without suspense. Trailing by three, Japan made a final push in the bottom of the ninth as Toshiyuki Hayashi hit a game-tying three-run homer off Taiwanese reliever Yang Yao-hsun to send the game into extra innings that adopted tie-breaking rules.

After Taiwan scored a run on a fielder's choice in the top of the tenth inning, the coaches decided to stay with Yang as pitcher and he did not disappoint. With two out and bases loaded, Yang forced none other than Hayashi to a grounder before shortstop Kuo Yen-wen put out the runner at second base to secure the win.

Taiwan launched the first wave of its offense in the fourth inning. Chang Chien-ming had a single and Chen Yung-chi followed with a double as Taiwan put runners on second and third base with no out and chased off Japan's starter Tsugio Abe.

Right-handed reliever Takashi Fujita could not hold off Taiwan's momentum. Chang Chien-ming scored on a fielder's choice before designated hitter Chang Tai-shan added another hit to bring the score to 2-0.

Lin Chih-sheng, whose winning hit helped Taiwan to upset Japan and won its only gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games, had a solo home run off Japanese reliever Manabu Mima in the top of the sixth to increase the lead to 3-0.

The gold medal game was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. the following day at the Aoti Baseball Field. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Anger simmers over Taiwanese disqualification in Asian Games

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) Taiwanese sports fans and lawmakers were still furious Thursday about the disputed disqualification of a Taiwanese taekwondo athlete in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, while the facts about the controversial decision remained unclear.

One of Taiwan's gold medal hopefuls at the 2010 Asian Games, Yang Shu-chun was disqualified during a Tuesday bout in the women's 49 kilogram division when the chief referee ruled that she had extra sensors in her footwear that increased her chances of winning.

The disqualification immediately sparked outrage in Taiwan, with government officials saying they were not ruling out filing for arbitration by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Taiwanese sports fans vented their anger on the Internet, with several fan pages set up on the social website Facebook to support Yang receiving over 200,000 responses. Fans expressed their anger toward China and South Korea, because Zhao Lei, vice president of the Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU) , is Chinese and Yang Jin-suk, secretary-general of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) , is from South Korea.

A large part of the criticism against Taiwanese officials was directed at Chen Hsien-tsung, deputy chairman of the Sports Affairs Council, whose "weak comment" in a press conference in Taipei Wednesday, called after the disqualification, was lambasted. Chen said that it is not the first time Taiwan has been treated unfairly in international sports, but that it probably needed to "swallow" the injustice again.

Taiwanese lawmakers also condemned the decision. Lin Yi-shih, a legislator of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), launched a petition in the Legislative Yuan to organize a protest march for Yang.

Speaking in a television program, KMT official Su Jun-pin said the incident was "obviously unfair treatment."

Huang Hsi-lin, a city councilor candidate in the Nov. 27 municipality elections, burned a South Korean flag in front of the SAC building Thursday in protest.

The facts behind the controversial decision were still unclear. Yang Jin-suk said in a press conference that day in Guangzhou that Yang actually put extra sensors into her footwear after passing a pre-match inspection, but the ATU promised to launch an investigation to further review the incident.

In a statement posted on the ATU website, the organization said the incident was a "shocking act of deception."

While Taiwanese government officials threatened to take legal action against the decision, Chen Kuo-yi, secretary-general of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Association, told CNA by telephone that certain preconditions must be met before filing for arbitration.

Chen said from Guangzhou that information about the incident has been chaotic so far and that the Taiwanese team and the ATU have provided conflicting stories. Taiwan will not be able to file arbitration before learning all the details and facts, he said. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

U.S. anti-trafficking envoy to visit Taiwan: AIT

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large of the United States Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, is scheduled to visit Taiwan Nov. 20-23, the U.S. representative office in Taiwan said in a press release Thursday.

The ambassador will meet with Taiwan government officials and local non-government organizations (NGOs) to exchange views on working together to end trafficking in persons, said the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

Taiwan was listed in "Tier 1" -- the highest level -- in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, which was published by the U.S. Department of State in June, because of Taiwan's full compliance with the minimum standard for the elimination of trafficking.

CdeBaca was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama in May 2009 to direct the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and to coordinate U.S. government activities in the global fight against contemporary forms of slavery. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

MOFA issues travel warning for Germany based on terror alert

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) Taiwanese nationals visiting Germany are advised to be on the alert against potential terrorist attacks around the end of the month, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

The travel warning was issued after German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Wednesday that his ministry had obtained concrete evidence that terrorists were planning to launch attacks in Germany by the end of November, MOFA spokesman James Chang said in a regular briefing.

For now, the travel alert for Germany will remain gray, the lowest level in the MOFA's four-color system, Chang said. However, Taiwanese visitors to Germany should take safety precautions, he stressed.

German officials said that the terror warning was serious enough for them to "expect an attack at any time." The potential attack has reportedly been planned by Islamists from India and Pakistan, along with a German Moroccan and German Syrian. (By Chris Wang) Enditem /pc

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lawmakers condemn disqualification of Taiwan athlete at Asian Games

Taipei, Nov. 17 (CNA) Taiwan legislators condemned the disqualification of a Taiwanese female taekwondo competitor in the 2010 Asian Games Wednesday and requested the country's sports-governing body to file a protest.

In her first match, Yang Shu-chun was leading 9: 0 in the first round against a Vietnamese opponent in the women's 49kg division when she was disqualified for "wearing non-certified electronic foot equipment."

The coach of the Taiwan taekwondo team Liu Ching-wen told reporters at Guangdong Gymnasium in China that the foot equipment had passed the pre-match inspection. Yang put on that footwear after the one she was wearing originally failed to pass the inspection, he said.

"The decision was inconceivable and ridiculous, " said Kuomintang Legislator Huang Chih-hsiung, a former taekwondo athlete who won a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics, at a hastily called press conference in Taipei.

He said the decision was unfair because the equipment had passed pre-match inspection and Yang was allowed to compete in the match.

From his experience of more than 20 years as a taekwondo athlete, Huang said, wearing unqualified gear would have resulted in a referee's warning or points deduction. However, Yang was handed a 12-0 loss.

Kuan Bi-ling, a legislator of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , urged Sports Affairs Council (SAC) Chairwoman Tai Hsia-ling, who is currently in Guangzhou, to file a protest with the Games officials and do her best to protect the integrity of the Taiwanese athletes.

"I would like to tell our athletes (in Guangzhou) that the people of Taiwan are on your side, " she said. The SAC should do everything it can to overturn the decision "even if it means we have to boycott the Games," she added.

The SAC said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that Yang had entered the match with certified equipment. It said the disqualification was unfair and was a pity, especially as the Taiwan delegation was not given an opportunity to present its opinion in the arbitration meeting of the technical committee.

Yang Shu-chun was disqualified from the Games for her "malicious behaviors" that could lead to a disadvantage for her rivals, said Yang Jin Suk of South Korea, Secretary-General of the World Taekwondo Federation, at a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Guangzhou.

The official said Yang Shu-chun and the Taiwan coaches are expected to face sanctions for staging an on-site protest.

Asked why Yang Shu-chun had been disqualified after passing the pre-match inspection and entering the match without being questioned by her Vietnamese opponent and the chief referee, Yang Jin Suk said he "couldn't explain in detail because it involved personal privacy." (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

DPP expects easy win in Tainan mayoral election

The mayoral election in the southern city of Tainan has been given less attention in the media than the other four municipal races because it is seen as a shoo-in for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

As the Nov. 27 poll approaches, the party is expecting an easy victory unless something crazy happens, like a comet hitting the Earth, DPP Secretary-General and national campaign manager Wu Nai-jen has said publicly.

Opinion polls show that is not just an empty boast. The DPP mayoral candidate in Tainan Lai Ching-te has been leading Kuo Tien-tsai of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) by substantial margins since May.

Despite KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung's assessment on Nov. 12 that Kuo has been gaining momentum in the past few weeks, Kuo's chances of pulling off a upset win appear to be slim.

Unlike the situation on the national level, the DPP is not exactly an opposition party in the new Tainan City -- a merger of Tainan City and Tainan County. The area, with a combined population of more than 2.7 million, has long been aDPP stronghold.

Tainan County, which is heavily populated by farmers and fishermen, has been held by the DPP since 1993 and Tainan City since 1997.

In 2004, when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian, a native of Tainan County, was seeking reelection as president, he gained 64.8 percent of the votes in his home county and 57.8 percent in Tainan City.

Although by 2008 the DPP's popularity had plummeted due to corruption charges against Chen, the party's support in the region remained strong. The DPP lost the presidential election that year, but its showing in Tainan County was 56.2 percent and in Tainan City 49.3 percent.

It is this kind of unwavering support that Lai, a 51-year-old medical doctor who has served as a legislator representing Tainan City since 1999, is counting on this November.

His campaign got off to a shaky start earlier this year after he defeated the five other candidates in the DPP primary -- former Tainan County Magistrate Tan Sun Chen, legislators Lee Chun-yee and Yeh Yi-jin, and incumbents Tainan City Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair and Tainan County Magistrate Su Huan-chih.

After Hsu lost the primary, he was reportedly considering running as an independent, which could have destroyed Lai's chances of winning the seat.

In the opposing camp, Kuo, a native of Tainan, has tried to gain points by claiming that he knows the region better than Lai, who is from Taipei. Kuo called attention to the efforts he had been making to close the education and economic gap between Tainan County and northern areas of the country, drawing on his experience as a former educator.

However, Hsu and Su later both pledged full support for Lai, who promised to continue the policies of the incumbents and develop a new metropolis based on its rich history and potential for innovation.

Tainan, which means "southern Taiwan" in Chinese, takes pride in the fact that it was the first settlement established by the Dutch when they colonized Taiwan from 1624-1662.

Later, troops led by Chinese military strategist Koxinga first landed in Tainan in a successful assault against the Dutch to take over Taiwan. A large percentage of Tainan's income is generated from tourism that is centered on visits to the historical sites around the city.

Tainan County lies in the southern half of the Chianan Plain, the largest piece of flat land in Taiwan on which rice and other grains are grown. The livelihood of the county's residents is heavily dependent on agricultural development.

With these issues at the forefront, the people of Tainan will decide on Nov. 27 whether or not something crazy should be allowed to happen. By Chris Wang, CNA Staff Reporter Enditem/pc

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

AIT chairman to make post-election visit to Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 16 (CNA) American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt is scheduled to visit Taiwan and deliver a speech soon after the Nov. 27 special municipality elections, the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) announced Tuesday.

Burghardt is slated to deliver a speech titled "The United States and Taiwan: An Important Economic Relationship" in Taipei Nov. 30, three days after the elections that will shape the political landscapes of the five special municipalities -- Taipei, Xinbei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung, AmCham said in the announcement posted on its website.

The veteran diplomat will talk mainly about trade and economic issues. He is expected to address various topics in these areas, including the implications of Taiwan's recent economic cooperation framework agreement with China, efforts to revive the stalled Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks between the U.S. and Taiwan, the anticipated TIFA agenda and U.S. trade policy considerations, according to the announcement.

Burghardt has a long history of involvement with Taiwan. He served as director of the AIT, which represents the interests of the United States in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, from 1999- 2001. He also studied for a year in the central city of Taichung at the U.S. State Department's Chinese Language School in the mid-1970s.

(By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Panelists forecast opportunities, challenges in new municipalities

Taipei, Nov. 16 (CNA) There will be new business opportunities and political challenges in five mega cities after the Nov. 27 special municipality elections, the panelists at a forum on the subject said Tuesday.

The immediate changes in the cities of Taipei, Xinbei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung will be massive budget increases, which are expected to bring various business opportunities to foreign companies, said Joanna Lei, head of Taipei City Government's Economic Development Commission.

Lei was among three panelists at a forum titled " Taiwan's New Urban Landscape: The elections for five new mega cities and transforming business strategies." The forum was organized jointly by the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (ECCT) and International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT).

More business opportunities will arise because the total population of the five cities will account for more than 60 percent of Taiwan's population of 23 million, she said.

However, an important question that needs to be addressed is "what will happen to the 'leftovers' as the mega cities absorb much of the national resources, " Lei said, referring to smaller cities or counties such as Chiayi and Pintung.

Among the five mega cities, Taipei is the only one that will have no changes in terms of population or administrative borders. Taipei County will be renamed Xinbei City. The new Taichung City will be a merger of Taichung City and Taichung County and the same formula of a city-county merger will apply to Tainan and Kaohsiung.

"How successful they will become as cities is still left to be seen, " said Eric Chen-hua Yu, a professor at National Chengchi University's Election Studies Center.

In the past, the political rivalry between neighboring cities and counties like Taichung City and Taichung County, for example, was rooted in the distribution of resources, he noted. Counties tend to have larger land areas and more residents, while cities have more resources, including bigger budgets, he said.

"The new cities of Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung will have to deal with this issue and find solutions quickly," Yu added.

On the significance of the Nov. 27 mayoral elections, Yu said it remains to be seen whether they would be a "precursor" to the 2012 presidential election.

The results of mayoral elections will be a more important indicator to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) because its presidential candidate is not yet known, while incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomingtang is more than likely to be seeking a second term, he said.

John Liu, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, National Taiwan University, argued that rezoning of the cities and counties was based simply on "political considerations."

"It was a mistake that could actually jeopardize Taiwan's national and regional competitiveness, " Liu said. (By Chris Wang) Enditem /pc

Taiwan will not consult China on international activities: MOFA

Taipei, Nov. 16 (CNA) Taiwan does not need to consult China on the island's participation in international activities, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Tuesday, in response to a comment on the issue by Chinese President Hu Jintao last week.

Hu said Nov. 13 that Taiwan and China can handle such matters through "communication and coordination," according to Lien Chan, Taiwan's representative to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit who held talks with Hu on the sidelines of the forum in Yokohama, Japan.

"The Taiwan government's position remains unchanged -- the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign country, " said Wu Rong-chuan, vice chairman of the MOFA's Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Affairs Committee, at a regular press briefing.

"We will not consult with any country prior to Taiwan's participation in NGO activities, " he added.

Wu's position was in line with that of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top China policy-making body, which said earlier this year that Taiwan will not negotiate with China on participation in international activities.

President Ma Ying-jeou has not made an official response to Hu's comment, but said in an interview with the Central News Agency Sunday that "it would be difficult to improve cross-strait relations" if Taiwan's NGOs keep encountering obstruction by China at international events.

His remarks came after a Chinese delegation attempted to downgrade the status of the Taiwan delegation at an international film festival in Tokyo last month.

Ma said the achievements of the ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement), a landmark pact to liberalize cross-Taiwan Strait trade in goods and services, would "evaporate" if one or two other such incidents occur. (By Chris Wang) enditem /pc

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opposition playing catch-up in Taichung mayoral race

The mayoral election of the central city of Taichung, one of the five special municipalities that will see elections Nov. 27, has turned up the heat in what is seen as a "no-brainer" race, becoming the talk of the country.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Su Jia-chyuan has been playing a "catch-up game" for months, trying to overtake popular incumbent Taichung Mayor Jason Hu of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in the election that will decide the head of the Taichung City special municipality, a merger of Taichung City and Taichung County.

Little attention had been paid to the Taichung election at the national level until recently, when a pundit used a profanity against President Ma Ying-jeou's mother in a speech at a Su campaign rally last week, igniting public discussion.

Hu, who is seeking re-election, has been enjoying a comfortable lead in most public opinion polls ranging from 10 percentage points to 30 percentage points since May, when the DPP scrambled for its nomination before naming Su, then-DPP secretary-general, as its candidate.

Hu, who was brought up in Taichung and who has been head of the city since 2001, is known for his humor and mild personality, as well as his expertise in international affairs. He has served as foreign minister and as Taiwan's representative to the United States.

The 62-year-old politician described Taichung as "a city without a face" when he assumed office nine years ago, and is running his campaign on a platform of "a global Taichung, " seeking to increase the city's international profile.

Hu also prides himself for having rebuilt the city's 1920s reputation as a "city of culture, " a moniker that originated during the era of Japanese colonial rule because the city's urban design plan at that time was based on that of Kyoto, a former imperial capital of Japan with a rich cultural tradition.

According to Hu, his hard work has paid off, as the average participation in cultural events by each Taichung citizen per year has increased from 3.8 times a year in 2001 to 35 times in 2009.

Hu has also pledged to keep working toward boosting the city's tourism and economic development.

However, even the Hu campaign admits that the mayor has not been flawless in his past nine years in office. According to Deputy Mayor Hsiao Chia-chi, Taichung still faces various problems, such as downtown regeneration, high apartment vacancy rates and a high crime rate.

This has been picked up on by Su, who enters the race with a profile and public service career easily equal to that of Hu, as he has served as magistrate of the southern county of Pingtung, interior minister and minister of the Council of Agriculture.

Su, 54, has underlined the importance of balanced regional development in his campaign because the new Taichung City will be a region with a variety of characteristics, such as high-tech, agriculture and the cultural innovation industry.

He has also pledged that he will bring changes to the metropolis, where he says progress has been slow during the nine years of the Hu administration.

The opposition campaign has especially focused on the issue of social order after the murder of gang member Wong Chi-nan in late May, which involved several active and retired Taichung police officials.

While the DPP said Nov. 12 that Su had narrowed his deficit in the poll down to 5 percentage points according to its own polls and could post an upset victory, history appears to be tipped in Hu's favor, as both Taichung City and Taichung County are seen as KMT strongholds, with the party having ruled both since 1989, apart from 1997-2001.

Both candidates understand that the deciding battleground could be Taichung County, where agricultural development is seen as important by around 1.5 million residents, rather than the more urbanized city.

One factor concerning Hu and King Pu-tsung, KMT secretary-general and its national campaign manager, is the party factions -- most notably the "red" faction and the "black" faction -- in Taichung County, where some local KMT politicians claim that the county has been ignored by the party for far too long.

Both Hu and King are trying to seek consolidation in the county by visiting faction leaders such as Presidential Office Secretary General Liao Liao-yi, a former Taichung County magistrate, and Legislator Yen Ching-piao, and have secured promises of cooperation.

Su has also tried to seek support from the KMT's local factions and to win over farmers and fishermen in the county with his agricultural expertise.

The DPP is cautiously optimistic about Su's chances of victory, as the margin has been narrowed to a single-digit percentage and past experience has favored the party under such circumstances, DPP spokesman Lin Yu-chang said Nov. 12.
By Chris Wang, CNA Staff Reporter ENDITEM/J

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taiwan opens Asian Games baseball tourney with loss to South Korea

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) Taiwan's national baseball team lost 6-1 to a strong-pitching and power-hitting South Korean team Saturday in its opening preliminary game in the 2010 Asian Games at the Aoti Baseball Field in Guangzhou, China.

Korean slugger Choo Shin-soo, who plays for the Cleveland Indians in the Major League Baseball (MLB), set the tone early with a pair of two-run homers off Taiwanese starter Lin Yi-hao in the first and third innings, as South Korea quickly took a 4-0 lead.

The Taiwanese batters, who were in Guangzhou to defend Chinese Taipei's title won four years ago in Doha, Qatar, were completely dominated by Korean southpaw starter Ryu Hyun-jin before breaking through in the fifth, but they failed to score with bases loaded.

Lin Chih-sheng, whose winning hit helped Taiwan to upset Japan and won its only gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games, drove in Taiwan's only run in the top of the sixth, but the Koreans added two more runs to make it 6-1 in the bottom of the inning.

Despite the game being highly anticipated, the loss is not the end of the world for Taiwan, which is expected to advance to the semifinal round along with South Korea as the top two teams in Group A. If both teams fare well in their upcoming games, they could meet again in the gold medal game.

South Korean players have strong motivation to win the quadrennial tournament. According to Korean military regulations, athletes will receive exemption from 30 months of military conscription if they win gold in the Asian Games.

In other games Saturday, Japan shut out Thailand 18-0 and Pakistan beat Hong Kong 5-3.

China, Japan, Thailand and Mongolia are in Group B, with Japan and China favored to make the semifinal.

Taiwan is scheduled to meet Pakistan and Hong Kong, the less competitive teams in Group A, on Sunday and Monday to wrap up the preliminary round. (By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J

Woman cyclist wins Taiwan's first medal in 2010 Asian Games

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) Cyclist Hsiao Mei-yu won Taiwan's first medal in the 2010 Asian Games Saturday morning in Guangzhou, China, finishing with a bronze in women's 500m time trial.

Hsiao earned Taiwan's first point on the medal tally with a record of 35.440 seconds. Hong Kong's Lee Wai Sze won gold with 33.945 seconds while Guo Shuang of China won silver.

Hsiao was a silver medalist in the same category in the 2006 Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar.

Taiwan won 9 gold, 10 silver and 27 bronze medals in Doha. Tsai Szu-chueh, deputy leader of the Taiwan delegation, said the goal in Guangzhou is to do better than four years ago, implying that Taiwan is hoping to win at least 10 gold medals. (By Chris Wang) enditem/jc

Giants, Diamondbacks won't play in Taiwan: MLB

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) The San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks will not play a pair of games in Taiwan to open the 2011 Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season as planned, the MLB said in its official Web site.

"We were informed that a deal couldn't be pulled together at this time, " the MBL.com quoted Diamondbacks spokesperson Shaun Rachau as saying.

The original deal would have two teams play two exhibition games plus two regular season games in Taiwan in late March. The regular season games will be counted as the Diamondbacks' home games.

The Bros Sports, organizers of the games on the Taiwan side, was not informed of the decision and is contacting the MLB for further information, according to Hu Lung-chih, the sports company's general manager.

The Diamondbacks had agreed to give up a pair of home dates for the trip and had said that player compensation was not a factor.

However, the proposal had never been approved by Giants players, who will received a reported US$10,000 payment apiece for the Taiwan trip, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report published Nov. 6.

The Giants are scheduled to open the regular season against the Dodgers in Los Angeles and the Diamondbacks will open against the Rockies in Coors Field April 1, according to MLB.com. (By Chris Wang) enditem

Friday, November 12, 2010

Former Yankees manager to visit southern Taiwan

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Former New York Yankees manager Carl "Stump" Merrill will visit southern Taiwan to conduct a cultural program with the themes of tolerance and teamwork from Nov. 16-17, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced in a press release.

Merrill, who managed the Yankees in 1990 and 1991, will visit Taiwan's second largest city of Kaohsiung and the surrounding Kaohsiung County, the AIT's Kaohsiung office said.

The 66-year-old coach will observe the 2010 National Junior Baseball Tournament in Gangshan, Kaohsiung County, and conduct baseball clinics with Chung Hsiao Junior High School baseball players on Nov. 16.

He will attend a press conference in Kaohsiung City to meet with the local media, baseball managers, coaches and players on Nov. 17, according to the AIT. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls

Nationals pitcher Wang expects MLB return early next season

Taipei, Nov. 12 (CNA) Washington Nationals pitcher Chien-ming Wang said Friday after returning home for an off-season break that he was around 80 percent recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in 2009 and expected to pitch in the majors next April or May.

"As you all know, I have only pitched in two games in the instructional league, " the 30-year-old Tainan native said at a press conference. "I will have to wait until next April or May to see whether I'm ready to pitch."

Wang spent the entire 2010 Major League Baseball season rehabilitating a shoulder injury he suffered in July 2009 and had surgically repaired later that month.

He signed a one-year US$2 million contract with the National League team prior to the 2010 season after his previous team, the New York Yankees, did not tender him a new contract.

Wang said he felt great and that all he was hoping for at the moment was a full recovery. "It is what every athlete lives for, to be able to actually play in games," he said.

The right-hander spent about eight hours per day rehabilitating his shoulder while in the United States, a daily grind that included applying hot compresses, lifting weights, running and pitching.

"That kind of life can be very boring, " said Wang, who took up golf as a diversion and now has about an 18 handicap.

Wang's contract will expire during the off-season, but he said he did not want to think too much about signing a new contract with the Nationals since "it was too early to tell."

The Nationals' management has said the team was pleased with Wang's performance and planned to negotiate a new deal with Wang's agent.

Wang is expected to stay in Taiwan for about two months before returning to the U.S. for spring training ahead of the 2011 season. Back in Taiwan, he said he could not wait to go home and see his parents, who live in the southern city of Tainan.

He also offered his best wishes to Taiwan's national baseball team, which is in Guangzhou, China, for the 2010 Asian Games.

Having played in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, Wang said he had unforgettable memories of that time with his teammates during pre-tournament training sessions and the actual tournament.

Wang made his MLB debut in 2005 with the Yankees, and had consecutive 19-win seasons in 2006 and 2007, before injuries started taking their toll in mid-2008.

A foot injury in June of that year kept him out of the second half of the 2008 season and may have indirectly led to his shoulder injury in 2009.

He has a career record of 55-26 with a 4.16 ERA. (By Chris Wang) enditem/ls