Processing the US PEOTUS-Taiwan phone call

There are so many reports, think pieces, and social media postings after the report of a phone call between US PEOTUS and Taiwan President 蔡英文 Tsai In-Wen. It’s difficult to process everything.

What we know is that there was a phone call that was not within normal protocol. Unfortunately the protocol is the basis of peace on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The threat of China is always there, and now it is expanding to other areas in the South China Sea.

Historically, the US Republican Party in has always been supportive of stronger ties to Taiwan. Earlier this year, the RNC adopted a Resolution Affirming Strong Support for the Republic of China (Taiwan) [pdf]. The cornerstone of this is Regan’s Six Assurances from 1982. The parts to Taiwan’s benefit are the sale of arms for defense, and the support for participation in international organizations. So it is not outside the possibility that there are pro-Taiwan opinions in the PEOTUS administration.

But no matter what the US supports, Taiwan will always be hindered by China in international organizations. Especially now that China is not happy with the Taiwanese government. Ever since 蔡英文 has taken office, Taiwan has been given a hard time. Taiwan was not allowed to be a observing member in UN committees where it was trying to gain observer status. Other countries have been sending criminals with Taiwanese nationality to China because China tells those countries to do so.

For Taiwan, a change to the status quo would be welcomed. Taiwan in 1982 is not the Taiwan of now. The people of Taiwan identify as Taiwanese, want their say in the world, and be recognized. If the incoming US PEOTUS administration has plans to change the status quo, I am sure the Taiwanese government would be willing to listen. It would need to make sure that the Chinese government is willing to listen as well.

Day to day life will go on for the citizens of Taiwan, but who knows what is around the corner? The concern is beyond one phone call, or the reaction to one phone call. The concern is protecting a democratic island nation and its people.


2016 總統就職典禮 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

The inauguration of President of Taiwan, 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-Wen), took place on May 20, 2016. She is the first female president of Taiwan. She is in office during a time when her party, the DPP, has the majority in the legislature, making the Taiwanese government a majority DPP government.

The inauguration celebration started with the formal proceedings inside the presidential building.

Then the story of Taiwan’s history was covered through a performance. It started with the indigenous peoples on the island, and the arrival of Europeans. The description of indigenous peoples was not very sophisticated, as the narrator described the European missionaries as people that changed the indigenous people’s backward cultures and that the indigenous people loved to sing and dance. As part of moving Taiwan forward, we should also move away from bigotry and prejudice against indigenous cultures and people. I also have never understood why the indigenous groups are lumped together and dance the same dance, when they have separate languages, cultural practices, songs, and dances. It would have been nice to see them represented fully, instead of just by different costumes.

The 1600s brought 清朝 (Qing dynasty) rule to Taiwan. The narrator even mentioned that this was when Taiwan became 殖民地 (colony) of 清朝.

As the production moved through different eras of Taiwanese history, I, like many others, wondered how the era of the Republic of China rule would be represented. The 228 Incident and the White Terror era was fully represented. The terror of the time was performed for all to see. A part of history that was previously hidden, whose secrets have not all been revealed, was on display during the inauguration.

The modern Taiwan included the new immigrants to Taiwan. There were dances from Vietnam, with Vietnamese songs. It was a true look into the future of Taiwan: the modern era, mixing history and the present.

There were three music groups that performed, and sang in different languages: Amis, Hakka, and Taiwanese. The highlight was obviously 滅火器, who sang the old new classic 向前行, and the new new classic, 島嶼天光, the anthem of the Sunflower Movement.

There was a 排灣族 (Paiwan) chant before the national anthem to bless the land. The national anthem was then mixed with the melody of chant in a way that made it sound celebratory. The national anthem has the melody of a dirge, so it was nice to hear a different take. Even though the melody was upbeat, the lyrics were unchanged, and still had the same language as the party song of the KMT.

Tsai opened her speech by saying hello in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and 排灣語 (Paiwan). Not only does this represent the population of Taiwan, but it also represents Tsai’s own ancestry as she is of Hakka, Min-Nan, and Paiwan descent. The complete text of speech is available, as is the English translation.

In her speech, Tsai touched on the major issues impacting Taiwan: stagnant economy; social safety (including the care of the growing elderly population); social justice; cross-strait issues; and diplomacy.

In regards to Taiwan’s own history, Tsai is looking to the past to make amends. The establishment of 真相與和解委員會 (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) will work to find the truths of the aftermath of the 228 Incident and the White Terror era. Also, she stated:


The new government will address issues concerning indigenous peoples with an apologetic attitude. My administration will work to rebuild an indigenous historical perspective, progressively promote indigenous autonomous governance, restore indigenous languages and cultures, and improve the livelihood of indigenous communities.

Apologizing to the indigenous peoples is something that has needed to happen for a long time now. Often we speak of the atrocities of the KMT, but we do not speak nearly enough about the way the indigenous peoples have been treated historically by Han migrants from China since the 1600s. It’s about time that we right that wrong, and give back what we have taken from the indigenous communities. After all, they are the original Taiwanese peoples.

When it comes to cross-strait relations, however, Tsai is definitely not looking towards the past.


The two governing parties across the Strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides.

Notice in the entire speech, she never mentions 中國 (China) or 大陸 (continent; often referred to as mainland in English). She calls it 兩岸 (literally “both sides”; “both sides of the Strait” is implied). She does not mention the 92 Consensus by name, only referring to it as


the 1992 talks between the two institutions representing each side across the Strait (SEF & ARATS), when there was joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground.

She states past events as historical truths, but not necessarily current truths. I like the change in nomenclature, and am looking forward to her policies in dealing with the governing party across the Strait.

At the end of the inauguration was a very historical and tear-jerking moment. The song 美麗島 (Taiwan the Formosa) was previously banned because of its connection with the independence movement. So for it to be sung at the inauguration really showed how far we have come.

It’s amazing to think, that Taiwan has now moved from being under Japanese rule, to being under KMT martial law, to being a democracy, to a majority DPP government, all within my grandparents’ lifetime. And after 20 years of direct presidential elections, a female president is elected. I also love how the color on the 總統府 (Office of the President) website is now an aqua color: a mix of blue and green. We are moving into a new era of Taiwanese politics. It is no longer just about the two major parties, but Taiwan as a whole moving forward.

This is a great time for Taiwan. I sincerely hope that Tsai can lead the way she wants to, and is able to do all she can under the circumstances. And I hope all Taiwanese will keep Tsai’s slogan in their hearts as they enter this new presidency and government:


My translation:
Is the country extraordinary?
The country is extraordinary because of you.


Election 2016

I spent the end of the 2016 election coverage in tears. That wasn’t much different from the end of the 2012 election coverage. But the difference was that this time, the tears were for joy and relief. Taiwanese people have spoken through their votes and what they want is change.

民進黨 (Democratic Progressive Party; DPP) not only won the presidency through 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-Wen), but also, for the first time, the majority of the legislature. 時代力量 (New Power Party), a brand new party, has become a major third-party in just one election cycle.

The press conference was a breath of fresh air.

The text is available at Tsai’s election website. Notice how carefully the terms 臺灣 Taiwan and 中華民國 Republic of China are used.

Although the election ended with happiness, the hours before the election started was filled with anger when a disturbing apology video from 周子瑜 (Tzuyu) was released. I do not want to describe the whole situation (it is also currently unfolding), but it is pretty well explained in the link. I only saw the beginning of the video because I could not keep watching. Her first sentences and her demeanor was really chilling. She looked absolutely terrified, and those words were just horrendous. I think for anyone, being forced to denounce one’s nationality is one of the scariest things. I think the only time I was equally disturbed on this level was seeing the violence unfold on March 24, 2014. I sincerely hope that no matter how this settles, Tzuyu is able to continue pursuing her dreams.

For now, we celebrate a little for the DPP, keep Tzuyu in our thoughts, and keep our wishes and hopes alive. The hard work has already started for 蔡英文 and the newly elected members of the legislature. 臺灣加油!

Sit-in at Ministry of Education continues

As part of the ongoing protest against high school curriculum changes, students have continued an over 24 hour sit-in in front of the Ministry of Education. Protest groups have announced a rally at the Ministry of Education at 7pm (August 01 2015).

Since the latest break-in and sit-in occurred, the international news and news wires have picked up and written about the situation.

BBC: “Taiwan students storm education ministry in textbook protest”
Voice of America: “Taiwan Students Protest Student Leader’s Death”
NY Times Sinosphere blog: “Protesters Upset Over Textbook Changes March on Taiwan’s Education Ministry”
Associated Press: “Taiwan students storm legislature, Education Ministry in curriculum protest” (via LA Times)
Reuters: “Textbook protest: Taiwanese students storm education ministry” (via The Sydney Morning Herald)

Update to protests against high school curriculum changes

The latest round of news started with the Ministry of Education announcing it would seek charges against students arrested on July 24 for breaking and entering. Among those that would be charged were journalists, who also protested against arresting journalists and defended their rights as members of the press. In response to the unprecedented news of the MoE suing students, an English translation of the news was published on 新頭殼.

Sad news broke the afternoon of July 30, when it was reported that 林冠華, a member of a student group protesting against the curriculum changes, was found dead from an apparent suicide. The Taipei Times articles “Student protester commits suicide” and “Curriculum Protests: Interview: Lin gave interview three days before death” are good reports in English.

Students broke into the MoE at roughly 1:30 in the morning on July 31. As of 11am, they were still there, calling for the resignation of the current head of the MoE. Note that the head of the MoE has never had direct discussions with students regarding the curriculum change. The response to the students is that the minister has events away from the office and will be unavailable.

The latest news is that 立法院 (the Legislative Yen) will hold a discussion at 3pm on July 31 to determine if an emergency session will be called to deal with the issue of the curriculum change.

For those following the news, 新頭殼 has organized all their articles on the issue. 苦勞網 has also been updating their facebook page. And of course, there is the facebook page of 北區反課綱高校聯盟.

北捷運殺人事件 MRT (Taipei Metro) stabbing incident 05.21.2014 (will update as neccessary)

Perhaps 05.21.2014 started out like any other day in Taiwan. I had heard about the 豪雨 that had passed. 豪雨 are sudden storms that can have typhoon (hurricane) force winds and a riduculous amount of rain. It’s never fun being caught in one and can also cause flooding issues. An earthquake centered in 花蓮 happened at around 8 am in the morning, measuring at 5.9 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes of that magnitude are not surprising, and I haven’t heard of any major injuries or damage.

What I did not expect was finding out that a second year college student had stabbed passengers on 捷運 (Taipei Metro; MRT) at around 4 pm just as rush hour was starting. Four people have died and twenty-one were injured. Violence like this is uncommon in Taipei and all of Taiwan.

This is especially scary because people take 捷運 all the time – to work, to school, just as a general mode of transportation. It is usually a place where the hospitality and generosity of Taipei can be seen. Designated seats for the elderly sometimes sit empty because no one wants to take those seats. The stations and trains are clean. There are designated train cars for bikes. People wait for passengers on the train to exit before boarding.

I’m in complete shock and had to stop looking at news articles and pictures. There was blood on the train and on the platform. There is video footage, but I decided against looking at it. I read some first-person accounts of the incident and they are frightening. There were some courageous uncles who used umbrellas to try to keep the assailant at a distance.

Unfortunately this type of situation is one of the few times Taiwan makes on the global news. It looks like many papers decided to publish the Associated Press article on this incident; I don’t remember seeing that many papers publish the AP or Reuters articles on the Sunflower Movement. This is also the type of situation where the Taiwanese media starts showing poor journalism ethics and sensationalizes the incident. I’m going to try to choose the better articles, but sometimes it might not be possible because it may be the only article that mentions something important.

4 People Killed in Taiwan Subway Stabbing Spree – Associated Press
Taiwan Student Detained After Four Killed in Subway Attack – Bloomberg
MRT attacker kills 4 people, injures 22 – Taipei Times

Blaming the Sunflower Movement for the 521 Massacre – Thinking Taiwan
Sunflower Activist Terrorizes Taipei Subway, 4 Dead – Dallas Blog
This is really scary. I did read in the Taiwanese media that some politicians were trying to blame this on the Sunflower Movement. The stabbing and the Sunflower Movement are completely unrelated. I was glad that J. Michael Cole wrote an essay regarding this issue on Thinking Taiwan. However, I did not think this falsehood would be published in English.

北捷隨機砍人 21歲大學生:從小立志做大事 – 新頭殼newtalk
不要進去! 染血婦逃出大喊:裡面有人有刀 – 聯合報
走開走開!雨傘哥、白髮伯 勇擋凶嫌 – 聯合報
北捷砍殺案鄭嫌 法官複訊後裁定收押 – 新頭殼newtalk
我是江子翠人,我想活在更好的社會 – 想想Thinking Taiwan
Fw: [討論] 由台北江子翠捷運案討論犯罪心理學 – 看板 PublicIssue – 批踢踢實業坊
精神醫學會:悲劇後面都有求援的聲音 – 新頭殼newtalk
民眾為北捷亡者獻花:會讓台灣變更好 – 新頭殼newtalk