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February 05 2014

Podcast: Taiwan

Sinica Podcast held a discussion about Taiwan from their personal experiences. The discussion explores Taiwanese's personal identity, their culture, media situation, health care system, as well as Taiwan's political relations with the mainland.

January 16 2014

More Money, More Problems? Taiwan Opens Door to More Chinese Business

Protest against the Service Trade Agreement in July, 2013. Figure from the coolloud.org. CC: NC.

Protest against the Service Trade Agreement in July 2013. Photo from the coolloud.org. CC: NC.

The Taiwanese and Chinese governments have signed a number of bilateral agreements on economic cooperation since 2010, with the latest Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement signed in June 2013. As the negotiation between the two governments have taken place in a black-box, many are worried that unrestricted entry of mainland capital poses a threat to Taiwanese culture, freedom of expression and even national security even though China is a huge market for Taiwanese businesses.

To address the concerns, civic group Democratic Front Against Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement has led several protests and convinced the Legislative Yuan to hold public hearings [zh] on the latest Service Trade Agreement signed [zh] in June 2013.

The public hearings have started in the Legislative Yuan in November 2013. So far more than 14 rounds have been held and more people from different service sectors will be invited to offer their view. The open discussion has raised public awareness on the political consequences of the economic cooperation. Indeed and many concerned citizens have picked up the discussion on their own blogs and websites.

Unequal agreement

Upon reviewing the terms in the latest trade agreement signed between Taiwan and China, professor Show-Ling Jang from the economics department of National Taiwan University pointed out [zh, pdf] that due to the huge difference in the scale of each country's economy and the “hidden rules” embedded in the terms, the agreement is neither fair nor equal:

中國還有各式各樣的潛規則,讓外國競爭對手無法在中國公平競爭。例如服貿協議明定中國人須擁有股權,未來勢將強迫我國企業進行技術轉移,將智慧財產權交給中國合夥人。

There are tons of hidden rules in China and foreign competitors cannot play a fair game in China. For example, in the Service Trade Agreement, the terms require [foreign investors] to build partnership and share holdings with their mainland business partner. Such an arrangement will force our corporations to transfer their technology and intellectual property to their Chinese partners.

此外,中資來台並非單純商業考量,還夾雜政治戰略目的,我方竟開放攸關國家安全的服務業(如通訊服務業、交通運輸業等), 十分離譜!

In addition, Chinese capital is not purely commercial when entering Taiwan. There are political and strategic considerations. It is outrageous that the Taiwanese government has opted to open up services that concern national security, such as communication and transportation services [for Chinese capital and investment].

Political satire of the

Political satire of the “black box” agreements signed between Taiwan and China governments by etblue

Censorship practice erodes freedom of speech

The authoritarian nature of the Chinese government and its censorship of expression has worried publication industries in Taiwan. During the public hearings, many publishers and bookstore owners believed that the agreement will end up eroding freedom of expression in Taiwan. For example, the owner of a small bookstore, Shiao-Shiao, pointed out [zh] in the hearings that unless the publishers were submissive to China's censorship, their books would never be distributed in mainland China:

中國政府對於出版管制嚴格,中國的出版業由國營企業掌握,少數小型出版者也要向國營企業買「書號」,中國不可能開放台灣出版業者進入中國市場。政府在政策上有利財團化經營模式,將影響現行多元的文化環境。

The Chinese government has very strict control over publication as the publishers in China are all national corporations. The few small independent publishers need to buy “book numbers” from the national corporations to publish their books. There is no way that China's government will allow Taiwanese publishers to enter China. Whereas in Taiwan, our government's policy favors big publishers, [once the publication industry is open to China capital] the cultural diversity in Taiwan would be affected.

In fact, as pointed out by movie director Hong-Hong, upon entering mainland China, Taiwanese cultural industries have started to self-censor their work:

中國並不是自由民主國家。近年來台灣的文化業進入中國之後,已經出現言論自我審查的現象。

China is not a free and democratic country. In recent years, many Taiwanese working in culture-related industries have entered China, and we can see how they have started to self-censor their works.

Fu-Yi Chou, the CEO of Laiho Culture Foundation and Museum, made a suggestion during the public hearings regarding the exemption of culture-related industries from trade agreements:

「文化例外」已成為世界共識:二○○五年,在法國、加拿大主導下,聯合國教科文組織UNESCO通過「文化多樣性公約」。「文化例外」早已是國際周知的事,為何我們的政府完全置之不理?為何文化部也完全沒聲音?那麼又何必談文化立國、文化興國?

“L’exception culturelle” is a worldwide consensus now. France and Canada led the discussion in UNESCO and passed the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2005. While “l’exception culturelle” has already been put into practice worldwide, why does our government ignore it? Why didn’t the Ministry of Culture say a word about it? If so, why do we talk about a nation based on our culture?

Political motivation and security threats through trade

Indeed, the relationship between businesses and government in mainland China is so close that quite often economic activities are closely connected with political aims. Yu-Tsang, an engineer and a blogger, followed the discussion in the hearings and expressed concern on his blog over the political intention of China's investment in Taiwan:

如果中國政府考慮到政治利益,對中國企業進行大規模補助,其實還是有可能會有大批中資企業為了政治目的進攻台灣。因此如何避免來自中國政府的補助?這將會是服貿協議很重要的一點。

Taking into account political considerations, the Chinese government may subsidize their corporations to invest in Taiwan. In fact, it is possible that politics is the main objective for Chinese corporations coming to Taiwan. Therefore, it is very important to prevent political subsidy when we discuss about the Service Trade Agreement with China.

Some even worried that when Chinese corporations enter the Internet service industry, personal privacy and national security would be endangered. Professor Ying-Dar Lin from the National Chiao-Tung University gave a warning to the Taiwan government:

可能會發生設備業者透過後門, 在服務業者不知情的情況下盜取用戶通聯與監聽特定用戶通訊.

It is possible to create a backdoor in the network's facilities [for intelligence agencies] to get around Internet service providers to steal user data and monitor specific users’ communication.

Putting aside political speculations, as Taiwan's economy is composed of predominantly small- and medium-size enterprises while their mainland counterparts are giant national corporations, the difference in economic scales makes it impossible for an equal playing field. Professor Show-Ling Jang explained [zh]:

我國服務業約有93.5萬家,非知識密集型服務業就占86%;且相較美、日平均每家企業員工15人及8.6人,我國只有4.2人,顯示台灣服務業大都是微型企業。

台灣與中國的語言共通、距離又近,經濟規模及勞動條件卻相差甚大,面臨中國龐大資金、低成本的競爭,將對我國的整體就業市場、薪資所得帶來不利影響……

In Taiwan, the service sector is composed of 935,000 enterprises. 86 percent provide non-knowledge-intensive services and the average number of staff in these enterprises is 4.2. Compared to the US (15 staff) and Japan (8.6 staff), most of our enterprises are very small.

Taiwanese and Chinese speak the same language, and we are geologically close to each other. However, the size of the economies and labor conditions are so different. China's huge capital flow and low labor costs will bring an adverse impact to our employment market and labor income structure.

Backdoor for immigration

As the agreement allows China corporation to recruit a certain number of overseas staffs according to their investment scale, some are worried that it will create a backdoor for mainland Chinese immigration to Taiwan. Professor Show-Ling Jang explained how the agreement will serve as a migration channel:

法規明定中國企業投資台灣只要二十萬美元以上,即可申請二人來台,且每增加投資五十萬美元,則可申請增加一人,最多不得超過七人。跟各國的技術移民限制相較,台灣的限制明顯寬鬆。[...]由於無專長限制,加以總居留期間無上限,將成變相移民管道。

Based on this agreement, a Chinese corporation can arrange two staff members to stay in Taiwan if their investment reaches 200,000 US dollars, and they can arrange more employees to stay in Taiwan if they invest 500,000 US dollars for each person up to seven people. Compared to the rules for skilled immigration in other countries, the rules adopted in this agreement are quite generous… Since there is no restrictions on their expertise and no limitation on the period of residency, it functions as a de facto migration channel.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China was signed in June 2010, followed by the Bilateral Investment Agreement signed in August 2012. The latest Service Trade Agreement was signed in June 2013. According to an online survey conducted by a civic group, Big Citizens Is Watching You, among the 61.6 percent of the 2,259 respondents who have some knowledge about the Service Trade Agreement, more than 97.5 percent do not support it, 38.1 percent of the respondents have no knowledge of this agreement, 0.3 percent do not have an opinion, and only 1.6 percent who know about it support it.

January 09 2014

VIDEOS: 12 Stand-Out Music Groups and Artists from Taiwan in 2013

Taiwan Music Writing Group, a collective blog for music commentary, has published a roundup of the music scene in Taiwan in 2013. I have collected and inserted 12 the music videos introduced in the blogpost from Youtube so that GV readers can actually listen to the songs and their presentation.

The most distinctive feature of the year in music coming out of Taiwan was a strong touch of reality, according to the blog: 

社會寫實的歌曲同連續不斷的政治議題、政治問題,一口氣爆炸開來!整座台灣島似壓著一股鬱悶,身為樂手,只好寫歌出氣 [...]

Countless songs that reflect the social reality of Taiwan have emerged against the backdrop of political debates and problems. The whole Taiwanese island is suffocating with a sense of melancholy and depression. Musicians can only express themselves in music [...] 

1. Chang Chen-Yue

伴隨著東海岸在環境保護與發展主義的政治角力下,連痞痞的張震嶽也現出阿美族血統,高呼:「我是海雅谷慕!」

With the tension between environmental protection and economic development in the east coast of Taiwan, even the playful Chang Chen-Yue presents his Amis origin and sings: I am Ayal komod [Ayal komod is Chang Chen-Yue’s indigenous Amis name].

2. Tizzy Bac

想起遊行當天的晚會,也是我第一次聽見Tizzy Bac的新歌<這是因為我們能感到疼痛>,他們想傳達的信念,絕不難

Remember the evening party during the protest [anti-nuclear], that is the first time I heard the new song from Tizzy Bac, “Feel the Pain”. Their message is straightforward.

3. Lin Sheng-Xiang

拿遍大獎的林生祥則聚成樂隊,回歸民謠搖滾,《我庄》充滿詞人鍾永豐自傳式寫作,幾乎可以當作農村社會課本了!

After Lin Sheng-Xiang got all the awards he wanted, he and his band returned to folk rock. Their album “I-Village” almost seems like the autobiography of the lyricist, Yung-Feng Chung. It can be read as a rural sociology textbook.

4. Village Armed Youth

長期於社運現場現身的農村武裝青年,收束憤怒,《幸福在哪裏?》多了許多徬徨,未來怎麼走,就像望水東流,不見盡

The Village Armed Youth, an activist music band in Taiwan social movement, has suppressed their anger. In their new album, “Where is happiness?”, the songs are full of anxiety. What is our future? The future is like a flowing river, and you can't see its end.

5. Softlipa

搖滾之外,更令人驚喜的是嘻哈樂圈,繞舌歌手們能從更另翼的角度切入社會 [...] 蛋堡的<仇人的孩子>亦不惶多讓,畫出一幅破碎的家庭圖像,不論中產與底層,這樣的悲劇似乎一直都在都市各個角落裡發生,他的《你所不知道的杜振熙之內部整修》聽來霧氣瀰漫,就像不停雨的台北城,坐在出租房間裡的男子自白。

Apart from rock bands, hip-hop circles are full of excitement. Rappers tell stories about society from another angle. [...] Softlipa’s “Enemy's Kids” depicts broken families from both the lower class and the middle class. Such tragedies kept happening in the city. His other song, “The Unknown Renovation Inside Du Jen-Shi” sounds foggy, like a man talking to himself in a rented apartment in rainy Taipei city.

6. Ciacia

The 2013 music scene also sees the reemergence of avant-guard singers of the 1980s and 1990s, like Ciacia, who released a new album “She & Me”.

7. Sugar Plum Ferry

Sugar Plum Ferry also released a new album, “Hometown of Glitter”. 

8. Ming-Yu Hsieh

可誰都沒有謝銘祐的《台南》風光,金曲、金音皆獲獎,他的作品裡不見印象中的台南美食、觀光客、文青咖啡店,只有歲月粉刷過的老城門、老朋友、老故事、老記憶,他像是懷舊的中年老者,在鳳凰花艷紅紛飛的台南土地上,彈唱默禱,腳踏實地。

Ming-Yu Hsieh's new album “Tainan” has made a killing of awards. You won't hear the stereotypical impression [of Tainan], like the delicious food, tourists, and cafes of Taiwan, but you will hear about things like the time-honored old city gate, old friends, old stories and old memories. Like a nostalgic middle-aged man, planting his feet in the solid ground, singing and praying on the soil of Tainan, where the sky is covered by the flame trees’ red flowers.

9. Sonic Deadhorse

前有古人回歸,後有來者浮出檯面,他們在音樂元素上,不再留戀於傳統四件式樂器,曲風亦不限於民謠、瞪鞋、後搖、後龐克,更願意結合數位聲響…藏於地下許久的音速死馬(Sonic Deadhorse)終於發行正式專輯,奇情前衛的影音表演,獲得樂評人一致好評。

While the seniors returned to the stage, new faces could not wait to show up. They do not constrain themselves to the conventional four major music instruments, and their music genre is not limited to folk, shoegaze, post-rock, or post-punk. They are more willing to combine digital acoustics in their music [...] Sonic Deadhorse has been hidden underground for a long time. They finally issued their new album. The edgy audio-visual performance has very good reviews from music critics.

10. Chiu-Pi

年輕的藝術家邱比透過一台IPad作曲,唱出極簡主義樂派的愛情神話《我們就要相愛》。

The young artist Chiu-Pi composes his music using an iPad and sings in a simple style a love story, “We Must Love.”

11. Baobu Badulu

保卜,首張專輯《我愛台坂》充斥海洋性格,是相當容易入耳木吉他演奏專輯。

Baobu Badulu’s first album, “Love Taiban”, reminds people of the ocean. The acoustic guitar on the album is simply appealing.

12. Fred Van Hove and Shih-Yang Lee

The Music Writing Group's pick for jazz music is Fred Van Hove and Shih-Yang Lee's “Galactic Alignment: Piano Duo Improvisation”.

More reviews of Taiwanese albums in 2013 can be found in other articles published on the Music Writing Group: (I), (II), (III), (IV), and (V).

Voices from the Victims of Naphtha Cracker Pollution in Taiwan

Residents in the area of a petrochemical processing plant in Taiwan's western Yulin County are at risk for exposure to several toxic air pollutants that can cause various diseases, including cancers, according to a report by researchers from the National Taiwan University. 

The comprehensive research on the impact of Formosa Plastics Group's naphtha cracker No. 6, released in July 2012, found that among the pollutants that residents are likely to be exposed to the carcinogenic and liver-damaging vinyl chloride, which is an essential raw material in the manufacturing of PVC and other plastic products.

The findings echo those of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which saw “extensive” violations at Formosa Plastics' plants in Louisiana and Texas in 2009. The Taiwanese company paid a settlement worth 13 million US dollars in that case to the US Department of Justice.

The Yulin Country naphtha cracker was met with public opposition over its possible health consequences from the start of construction in 1992. In 2009, the local government, which had welcomed the investment in their area, agreed to invite researchers from the National Taiwan University to conduct a three-year study to evaluate the health risk in relation to the complex.

Their damning results have inspired residents to take up a possible lawsuit against the Formosa Plastics Group [zh]. Jung Sheng-hsiung reported on the progress at public news portal PNN:

台西鄉民陳財能則說,他的父親、母親、姊姊、哥哥,甚至年僅19歲的兒子,都因為肝硬化過世,他自己也罹患肝硬化5年[…]「有人說我愛『牽拖』,但如果真的是我爸爸的『種』不好,為何我嫁去外地的三個姊姊都沒事,只有留在當地的人生病死亡?」陳財能強調,六輕讓當地居民活在威脅之中[…]如果居民為了後代子子孫孫,決定對台塑六輕提起集體訴訟,他一定第一個加入。

Tsai-Neng Chen, who lives in Taishi, told me that his parents and sister and brother and son died because of liver cirrhosis. His son was only 19 years old when he died. Tsai-Neng Chen himself also has suffered liver cirrhosis for five years […] “Some people said that I ‘imagine’ the correlation. However, if this disease is due to genetic problems from my father, why are my three sisters who moved out after they got married still healthy and fit? Only us who stayed here get sick and die.” Tsai-Neng Chen emphasized the threat faced by all the residents of the area by the Naphtha Cracker Complex […] If the residents care about their future generations and decide to file a lawsuit against Formosa Plastic Group, he will be the first one to join.

The study has also prompted other nearby areas like Chuanhua County to push for a similar investigation into their situation. Chuanhua County is located north of the plant, and when the summer south wind blows, residents fear that it might carry some of the same air pollutants with it.

Sheng-Hsiung Jung, reporting for PNN, visited the affected villages from Chuanhua County and presented a photo feature titled as “The South Wind”. GV has granted the permission from Jung to republish and translate part of his feature report at PNN.

eelfarm

台西村幾乎人人都會在冬天時下海捕鰻苗。按照老漁民說法,以前入夜後的濁水溪口簡直像夜市一樣熱鬧,四處都擠滿為了貼補家用而下海撈鰻苗的村民。然而好景不常,現在濁水溪口已經沒有什麼人在捕鰻苗了;原因無他,鰻苗正以急遽的速度消失中。

In the past, everyone in the village would jump into the sea to catch eels. Old fishermen would tell you, in the old days, the river mouth would be crowded with people like a night market as villagers would catch grass eels to increase the family income. However, the good old days didn't last long and now you seldom see people fishing for grass eels. The eels are vanishing at rapid speed.

eelfarm

陳金鳳61歲,前年過世的丈夫許世賢幾乎什麼也沒能留給她;除了一棟已經繳了20年房貸還沒結清的破房子,還有幾年來為了治病所欠下的負債。許世賢還在世時,兩夫妻總是一起下田耕種,但他們名下沒有任何土地,只能幫人代種領工錢,家境一直不好。民國95年,不菸不酒不嚼檳榔的許世賢突然罹患口腔癌,四處求醫也無法獲得改善,最終在100年11月轉移肺腺癌過世,享年59歲。
談起許世賢的病,陳金鳳說自己只是沒讀多少書的鄉下人,無法多做說明,但她確實對丈夫的病感到疑惑–何以一名不煙不酒不嚼檳榔的鄉下農夫,會得到口腔癌、肺腺癌呢?

61-year-old Chin-Feng Chen's late husband, Shih-Hsien Hsu, who died two years ago, did not leave her anything except an old house, for which they have paid the mortgage for 20 years but still need to pay more. And the debt for his sickness is yet to clear. When Shih-Hsien Hsu was alive, they always did the farming together. Since they did not own any land, they could only farm for others to make an income. Their financial condition was never good. In 2006, Shih-Hsien Hsu, who never smoked tobacco nor drank alcohol or chewed betel nuts, was diagnosed with oral cancer. His health condition kept deteriorating despite help from doctors. He died in November 2011 at the age of 59 after the cancer spread to his lungs.

Chin-Feng Chen said that she does not have sufficient knowledge to explain why her husband died from oral cancer. However, she wonders how a person such as her husband, who was a farmer in the countryside without any bad habits such as smoking and drinking or chewing betel nuts, died from oral cancer.

scar

魏林星今年74歲,3年前左肺葉長了顆6公分大的腫瘤,才知道自己罹患肺腺癌。考量到魏林星的年紀與腫瘤大小,醫生本來擔心她體力無法負荷,所以建議不要開刀,沒想到魏林星一句「我要和你(腫瘤)拼了」,並且證明自己體力充足,這才說服醫生動刀。
現在魏林星的身上有道長達15公分的疤痕,採訪時她非常大方地褪去衣物展示傷痕,因為那疤痕對她來說,彷彿不只是病痛的痕跡,更是自我堅韌求生意志的勳章。

74-year-old Lin-Shin Wei developed a six-centimeter-large tumor in her left lung three years ago, and was diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma. Considering her age and the size of the tumor, the doctor suggested that the cancer not be removed through surgical measures because her prognosis might not be very good. However, Lin-Shin Wei said she wanted to fight the cancer and proved her body strong enough to receive the surgery. She eventually convinced the doctor.

Now Lin-Shin Wei has a scar 15 centimeters long on her body. She was proud to show the scar to me during the interview. To her, this scar is not only evidence of her illness, but also an award for her will to live.

November 21 2013

Taiwan: Virgin Mary With an Aboriginal Face Tattoo

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with golden facial tattoo based on the Atayal people's tradition. Photo taken by Octopus (章魚)

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with facial tattoo based on the Atayal people's tradition. Photo taken by Octopus (章魚). Non-commercial use.

An Atayal woman with the traditional facial tattoo held her granddaughter. Photo taken by atonny.

An Atayal woman with the traditional facial tattoo held her granddaughter. Photo taken by atonny.Non-commercial use.

When Italian Catholic Father Alberto Papa came to Taiwan in 1963, he learned that face tattoo is an important culture for many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. For example, in Atayal culture, only respectable person would have face tattoo. To deliver the idea that Virgin Mary is a holy figure, the father decided to add a golden face tattoo on the statue of Virgin Mary in his church.

More photos showing Taiwan aboriginal women with face tattoo can be found here.

November 10 2013

Comics Comparing Hong Kong and Taiwan Society

Kevin Tang from Hong Wrong translated a series of comics depicting the differences between Hong Kong and Taiwan by a Hong Kong-based Taiwanese artist JIEJIEHK. Below is one of the comparison that vividly shows the difference between the restaurant services in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Restaurant service in Taiwan and Hong Kong by JieJieHK via Hong Wrong.

Restaurant service in Taiwan and Hong Kong by JieJieHK via Hong Wrong.

October 12 2013

Taiwan: National Day in Protest Mood

Protesters occupied the famous landmark at the Freedom Square. Photo taken by 鐘聖雄, PTS News Network. Non-commercial use.

Protesters occupied the famous landmark at the Freedom Square. Photo taken by 鐘聖雄, PTS News Network. Non-commercial use.

More than 50,000 protesters are demonstrating outside the President Office in this year's National Day of Republic of China on October 10 in Taiwan. They were demonstrating against the 4th nuclear plant [zh], the protest [zh] against the present referendum law and against the top government officials, including the president, vice president and prime minister for the controversial service trade agreement with China and the recent wiretap scandal.

Protesters, barricades and the policemen outside the President Office. Photo taken by Island Nation Youth. Non-commercial use.

Protesters, barricades and the policemen outside the President Office. Photo taken by Island Nation Youth. Non-commercial use.

September 08 2013

Hong Kong: A Cautionary Tale for Taiwan

A group of 300 individuals in Hong Kong published a statement in Taiwanese newspapers warning the Taiwan society against Sinicisation [i.e. the bad influence of mainland China]. The statement has two versions one published in Hong Kong and one in Taiwan. Dictionary of Politically Incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese has translated the Taiwanese version.

September 06 2013

100 Million Signature Campaign for Resolution of Japan's ‘Sex Slaves’ Issues

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan has launched a new campaign to gather 100 million signatures. Their online petition, in eight different languages, calls on Japanese government to offer an official apology and legal reparations to the victims and asks the international community to join their cause. Over 743 thousands have already joined online.

August 19 2013

Taiwan: Occupy the Ministry of the Interior

Protesters' drawing inside the Ministry of Interior. Photo taken by Val Chou.

Protesters’ painting inside the Ministry of Interior. Photo taken by Val Chou.

More than twenty thousand people occupied the entrance of the president office on August 18, 2013 against the Land Expropriation Act and forced expropriation. Later at night, five thousand protester entered the Ministry of the Interior and started their sit-in protest [zh]. Their painted inside the building on the struggle between paddy and excavator.

August 07 2013

Referendum on Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Plant Suspended

Under the immense pressure from anti-nuclear activists, the lawmakers from the ruling Kuomingtang (KMT) party and opposition party the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) decided to suspend moving forward with a referendum on the island's fourth nuclear power plant until September 2013, according to local news report on August 6.

The ruling party was determined to solve the controversy over the fourth nuclear plant by means of a referendum because opinion back in February showed that those opposed to the plant were less than 50 percent across Taiwan. And hence, the Executive Yuan proposed the referendum on the nuclear power plant on February 25, 2013.

But some argue Taiwan's tough referendum law is unfair, requiring 50 percent of voters to participate in the referendum or else the proposal in the referendum will be rejected, even if those who have voted reach a majority consensus. In the last ten years, six national referendums have been proposed, but none of them was passed.

Anti-nuclear activists responded by mobilizing citizen campaigns in major cities for a nuke-free Taiwan. This latest development is a temporary victory for anti-nuclear activists.

March 9 anti-nuclear rally in Taipei city. Photo taken by 孫窮理, coolloud.org.tw. Non-commercial use.

March 9 anti-nuclear rally in Taipei city. Photo taken by 孫窮理, coolloud.org.tw. Non-commercial use.

Outraged by the government's referendum proposal, on March 9, 2013, around 200,000 250,000 protesters [zh] rallied in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Taitung, demanding the government stop the nuclear plant without going through the referendum. The number of protesters has broken the record of all previous mobilization on environmental issues. The mobilization has some visible effects on public opinion. As cultural critic Chang Tie-chih pointed out, the anti-nuclear effort has developed into a citizen-initiated movement [zh] for a nuke-free Taiwan.

Since the island-wide mobilization in March, anti-nuclear activists has started gathering outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in the centre of Taipei city every Friday, inviting university professors to deliver talks about nuclear power, singers to perform, and poets to recite poetry as well as holding citizen forums to plan for future action. In addition to the weekend face-to-face gathering, activists and concerned citizens created a large number of groups and pages devoted to the anti-nuclear campaign. To name a few here:

Anti-nuclear flash mob via Facebook group Anti-nuclear army

Anti-nuclear flash mob via Facebook group Anti-nuclear army

  • Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Action Coalition (台灣反核行動聯盟) - the page is for organizational networking.
  • 2013 Stop Nukes Now (2013廢核大遊行) - a page for recording and coordinating anti-nuclear protest.
  • Anti-Nuclear Out of Love (為了親愛的你,我反核) - the page collects personal photos that express love and anti-nuclear messages.
  • Coalition of Mothers for the Monitoring of Nuclear Plants (媽媽監督核電廠聯盟) - a page to recruit mothers active against nuclear.
  • Coalition to Determinate the Fourth Nuclear Plant with a Vote (終結核四催票大聯盟) - a page to mobilize Taiwanese to vote in the referendum against the fourth nuclear plant.
  • I Am Human, I Am Against Nuclear (我是人,我反核)- the page coordinates weekend activities against nuclear power.
  • No More Nuke 4 or 5 or 6 in Yilan (宜蘭不要核456運動)- a page devoted to local Yilan mobilization against future nuclear plants.
  • I Am a Dog, I Am Against Nuclear(我是狗,我反核)- a page to remind people that animals and all living creatures are victims of nuclear accidents.
  • Anti-Nuclear Army (反核部隊)- a group for coordinating and sharing anti-nuclear flash mob action.

Disregarding people's wish for a nuke-free Taiwan, on April 26 the government submitted the referendum proposal to the Legislative Yuan for a second reading and lawmakers had one month for internal discussion and negotiation. Anti-nuclear groups responded with a rally in Taipei city on May 19. When the one-month negotiation period came to an end on May 26, activists surrounded the Legislative Yuan [zh], demanding the lawmakers put an end to the nuclear plant project.

On August 2, the referendum proposal was submitted to the Legislative Yuan for a second and third reading but lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party occupied the chairperson's stage and stopped the vote.

rotesters demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan in August 2 against the fourth nuclear plant and the referendum. Photo taken by 陳逸婷, coolloud.org. Non-commercial use.

Protesters demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan in August 2 against the fourth nuclear plant and the referendum. Photo taken by 陳逸婷, coolloud.org. Non-commercial use.

Anti-nuclear activists are prepared with two strategies. On one front, they protested outside the Legislative Yuan and explained to the public the problem of existing referendum law. On another, they also prepared to mobilize and win the referendum despite the rule of the game being unfair to them. By August 1, a survey conducted by a marketing company on “The Trend of Taiwan Society” [zh] showed that 70% of the opinion is against the development of nuclear plant.

Before the second reading, the Anti-Nuke Action Coalition reinstated their position [zh] against the referendum:

我們認為,停建核四已獲絕大多數民眾的支持,立法院作為全國最高民意機關應善盡職責、充分反映民意,作出停建核四的決議,不必再勞師動眾,舉辦全國性公投。
我們認為國民黨立委若執意要舉辦核四停建公投,則應滿足以下兩個條件後,再處理公投提案,否則,核四停建公投將是玩弄人民、為核四續建備書的技倆:
一、提出核四工程品質現況檢驗報告,證明核四值得投入預算、繼續興建。
二、修正公投法,降低公投案通過之投票率門檻,以正確反映民意。
我們要求立法院在完成上列條件後,再處理核四公投提案,不應貿然在本次臨時會予以表決。
我們呼籲支持非核家園的立委們全力反對核四公投提案之表決。

Considering the majority of the citizens agree on ending construction of the fourth nuclear power plant, the legislators should stop the construction to reflect our opinions and fulfill their duty as our representatives in the Legislation Yuan. We should not wait for the national referendum to bother all of us.
If the legislators from Kuomintang insist to have the referendum for the fourth nuclear power plant, they should fulfill the following two requirements before they vote for the referendum. Otherwise, this referendum will only become a trick to fool the citizens to endorse the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant:
First, they should accomplish the report of current construction quality of the fourth nuclear power plant and confirm that it is worth our tax money so that we can consider continuing the construction.
Second, they should amend the Referendum Act. The threshold stated in this Act should be lowered to reflect citizens’ opinions faithfully.
We ask the legislators to fulfill these requirements before they vote. They should not vote for the referendum now without sufficient preparation.
We also ask the legislators who support the no-nuke activities to avoid the referendum going through the voting process.

Several organizations have prepared for the worse case scenario that the referendum be passed in the Legislation Yuan, as reported [zh] by Taiwan independent media coolloud.org:

綠盟秘書長崔愫欣[…]強調反核的民眾已經準備好面對公投,將會透過組織化動員,正面迎戰。

Secretary General of Green Citizens Action Alliance Tsui Hsiu-Hsin […] emphasized that the protesters are ready for the referendum. They will fight the government face-to-face through organizational mobilization.
The placard said:

The placard said: “If you don't vote for the referendum, you vote for nuclear disaster.” via Facebook 洪雅書房. Public photo.

Now that the Legislative Yuan has agreed to suspend voting on the referendum proposal, the anti-nuclear activists will continue to pressure the government to stop the fourth nuclear power plant from operating with its administrative power.

August 05 2013

Nuclear Opponents in Taiwan Work to Change ‘Unfair’ Referendum Law

Lawmakers exchanged punches in Taiwan's parliament on August 2, 2013 ahead of a vote on whether or not to hold a referendum on the island's controversial fourth nuclear plant.

The plant, which has been under construction for more than a decade, is a divisive issue for Taiwan and has been met with large-scale protests because of safety concerns. The next round of debate regarding the referendum controversy [zh] will take place on August 6, 2013. Legislators from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will continue to try to delay the vote, while ruling party Kuomingtang wants to pass the referendum by end of August.

The question of letting the people vote on the plant's fate has thrust Taiwan's tough referendum requirements into the spotlight. Lawmakers from the DPP oppose a referendum, calling the mechanism unfair.

The Referendum Act in Taiwan, which was was passed [zh] in November 2003, requires 50 percent of voters to participate in the referendum or else the proposal in the referendum will be rejected. In the last ten years, six national referendums have been proposed, but none of them was passed.

As the act requires a referendum to meet the participation threshold of half of the electorate, even if the majority of the voters reach a consensus, the referendum will become invalid. Since the voting rate in Taiwan is about 75 percent, the mobilization of 30 percent of voters to boycott the referendum will override a consensus reached by a majority of the voters.

Protesters demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan against the fourth nuclear plant and the referendum. Photo taken by 陳逸婷, coolloud.org. Non-commercial use.

Protesters demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan against the fourth nuclear plant and the referendum. Photo taken by 陳逸婷, coolloud.org. Non-commercial use.

For example, in 2004 two referendums [zh] did not pass even though more than 90 percent of the voters had reached a consensus.

The first one was on whether Taiwan should acquire more advanced anti-missile weapons if mainland China refuses to withdraw the missiles it has targeted on Taiwan. 45.17 percent of the electorate went to vote, and 91.8 percent of them voted yes.

The second referendum was on whether the Taiwanese government should engage in negotiations with China on President Chen’s proposed “peace and stability” framework for cross-strait interactions. 45.12 percent of the electorate went to vote, and 92.05 percent of them voted no.

Both of them failed to pass. In short, passing a referendum is more difficult than winning a presidential election in Taiwan.

Lin Yi-Hsiung, a member of DPP and a devoted advocate against nuclear power since 1989, is currently working on amendment to the Referendum Act, described [zh] why the current Referendum Act cannot reflect the opinions of the citizens:

習慣專制的國民黨政權,為了阻遏這種人民做主的公投潮流,所以在2003年制定了所謂的「公民投票法」,以非常不合理而嚴苛的規定,使公民投票幾乎不可能舉辦或通過。十年來,除了總統及國、民兩大政黨外,沒有人有能力提案公投。而所有成案的公投案,也都沒有一個通過,可見這個公投法阻遏公投的威力有多大。

Kuomintang [the dominant party in the Legislation Yuan], which is used to autocracy, wanted to suppress people's power through highly unreasonable and strict rules when they put forward the Referendum Act in 2003. It is almost impossible for citizen to initiate and pass a referendum according to the Act. In the past ten years, only the president and the two major parties, Kuomingtang and the Democratic Progressive Party, are able to propose a referendum, and none of them passed. We are convinced that this Referendum Act is designed to avoid referendum.

依照目前的公投法來辦理公投,不是政治人物的政治遊戲,就是在開人民的玩笑。所以,公投法制定以後,我所參與的核四公投促進會,就不再談核四公投,而只要求補正公投法。因為公投法如果不做合理的補正,依該法舉辦公投事實上不會有任何意義。

If we have a referendum based on the current Referendum Act, it would either become a political game played by the politicians or turn into a joke that turns citizens into fools. That's why after the current Referendum Act was passed, the organization I joined for advocating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Referendum did not talk about referendum anymore. Instead, we ask to amend the Referendum Act. If the Referendum Act is not amended, the referendum itself does not make any sense.

As a result of the unreasonably high threshold for passing a referendum, the advocates of a referendum prefer the wording of the question to be against their own position. For example, considering the dispute of the fourth nuclear power plant, the government and the ruling party prefer the question to be set as, “Do you want to stop the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant?” On the other hand, the opposition party prefers the referendum question to be set as, “Do you want to continue the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant?”.

The wordplay in referendum questions is not favorable to the opposition party because the government-appointed referendum committee holds the power to reject a referendum before it goes to the voting process. For example, a referendum was proposed in 2009 regarding the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. The referendum was initiated by a joint-signature of more than 109,000 Taiwanese [zh] but eventually rejected by the referendum committee because the wording of the referendum question was against the referendum proposer’s stand. After the referendum proposer made an appeal to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ruled that the rejection issued by the referendum committee is not consistent with any requirements stated in the Referendum Act in 2012.

Last but not least, in the current Referendum Act, if a referendum is not passed it cannot be proposed again for another eight years. Blogger Otto Hsu was [zh] very anxious about the fourth nuclear power plant referendum:

在核四這種重大政策案,一旦公投了,不論結果怎樣,接下來八年都不能再提同樣的公投。

這種限制,在投票人數夠多的情形下,固然有維持安定的正面功能。但如果只有小貓二三隻出來玩[…] 也要拘束公民全體八年內不得再提同種公投,實在也是不合理。

這方面,有待修法來解決了!(或者,我們應該先公投一個新的「公民投票法」!)

For these kind of major policies like the Nuclear Power Plant 4, once it is initiated, regardless of its result, we cannot propose the same referendum in the future for eight years.This restriction has its positive function to keep a stable consensus for the policy if we have sufficient voters [i.e., more than half of the electorate]. Nevertheless, if there are only very few people coming to vote […] , the result of a minority will restrict all Taiwanese from putting forward the same referendum again.

This is unreasonable. We need to amend the Act to solve this problem! (Or we should have a referendum for a new Referendum Act!).

Reposted byglobalrevolution globalrevolution

Taiwan: Don't Stop Rabies by Killing Animals

An animal right activist locked himself in an animal cage outside Council of Agriculture against the killing of stray dogs and cats to prevent the spread of rabies. He advocates for vaccination. Photo from 張敬偉 Facebook.

An animal right activist locked himself in an animal cage outside Council of Agriculture against the killing of stray dogs and cats to prevent the spread of rabies. He advocates for vaccination. Photo from 張敬偉 Facebook.

Reposted byglobalrevolution globalrevolution

July 30 2013

Student Movement in Taiwan

“The Far Eastern Sweet Potatoes” has written a review and analysis of the development of student movement in Taiwan in reaction to issues such as media monopoly and land justice against the background of cross-strait relation.

July 28 2013

Taiwan: Flash protests against land expropriation

The dispute over land expropriation in Miaoli County has lit a fire for a series of flash protests targeting the President and the Premier for their indifference to citizens’ suffering. Several policemen from a “special district branch” were reported to check protesters’ I.D. and take away those who refused to show their I.D. to the police stations. More from The Far-Eastern Sweet Potato.

July 25 2013

Taiwanese Professor Arrested in Protest Against Forced Demolitions

A professor in Taiwan along with a number of student protesters were arrested [zh] during a demonstration against the forced demolition of homes to expand Jhunan Science Park in Miaoli County, Taiwan.

Hsu Shih-Jung (徐世榮), a professor of the Department of Land Economics at National Chengchi University, was yelling a protest slogan, “Today you demolish Taipu, tomorrow we demolish the government”, when Taipei police officers arrested [zh] him on July 23, 2013. He was transferred to the local police station and indicted [zh] on the charge of endangering the public. Hsu was released on the next day and the charge against him dropped as the jury did not agree with the police's accusation.

Hsu was one of the attendees in a negotiation meeting between protesters against expropriation of rice fields in Jhunan and the Executive Yuan represented by the then Prime Minister of Taiwan Wu Den-yih in August 2010 after a 72-year-old woman committed suicide in protest. In that meeting, an agreement was made that four houses own by four different families located at the margin of the science park would be preserved.

However, endorsed by Wu Den-yih, who is now the current vice president of Taiwan, the Miaoli County government ordered these four families to move before July 5, 2013 for demolition.

Protestors painted a huge mural on the wall of Chang's house. Photo taken by Taiwan Rural Front from.

Protestors painted a huge mural on the wall of Chang's house. Photo taken by Taiwan Rural Front from.

Outraged by the Miaoli government's violation of the agreement, protesters had gathered together around the four houses to defend them against expropriation for more than two weeks. Chang who is a Pharmacy is one of the four families who resist moving. Their house is located at the junction of Justice Road and Love Road and hence become a symbolic site for the protest.

On July 18, while most protesters went to Taipei to protest in front of the president's Office, Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-Hung, ordered police to expel the rest of protesters who were gathering in front of the homes ordered several excavators to tear the houses down. Even though the houses were destroyed, protesters refused to leave and kept on demonstrating.

Since professor Hsu Shih-Jung had attended the negotiating meeting back in 2010, he explained the land expropriation in Jhunan is against Taiwan's Constitution [zh] in his blog on July 16, before he joined the protest in Taipei on July 18:

土地是人們溫馨及賴以為生的家園,絕不可隨意予以侵害。那麼,何時才能剝奪?[…]必須是符合《憲法》第23條「促進公共利益」才得以為之。何謂公共利益?吳庚前大法官一針見血的指出[…]「在多元社會須持續的透過公開討論形成共識」才是公共利益,但我國現行相關的計劃體制卻嚴重缺乏這樣的思維與設計,致使基本人權遭致嚴重剝奪。

People depend on their land for building their family and house, such rights cannot be infringed. Such rights can only be exploited when the decision is in alignment with Amendment 23 in the Constitution: “The enhancement of public interest”. What is public interest? The Grand Judge, Wu Keng-Chien, pointed out […] “A consensus through public deliberation in a diverse society” is public interest. However, our urban planning system has not incorporated such concept or process. Thus our basic human right has been seriously violated.

我國相關計劃體制對於公共利益之決定,仍然停留於威權時代的委員會專制模式,也就是由少數人所組成的都市計劃委員會、區域計劃委員會、土地徵收審議委員會等來決定。

In Taiwan, the definition of public interest in urban planning is dominated by a group of minority political elites in urban planning committee, local planning committee, and land levying committee. This is a residue of the authoritative era.

在這些委員中屬「主管業務機關首長或單位主管」及「有關業務機關首長或單位主管或代表」,就幾乎佔了一半[…]因此真正的多數其實是政府行政官僚。首長不僅沒有利益迴避,也幾乎完全掌控議案同意權,這表示公共利益少數人即可掌握生殺大權。

In these committees, half of their members are from the administrative unit and related government organizations. […] In fact, most of the committee members are from the government. The leading cadre does not avoid conflict of interest. Moreover, the leading cadre always forces these projects to be passed. As a result, the so-called ‘public interest’ is controlled by a handful number of people.
Sit-in protest after the house was torn down. Photo taken by Taiwan Rural Front.

Sit-in protest after the house was torn down. Photo taken by Taiwan Rural Front.

In fact, independent reporter AboutFish from citizen media outlet Taiwan Good Life pointed out that the decision to expand the Science Park has led to an increase of local government debt. Members of Miaoli community do not benefit from the project, on the contrary, each resident has to shoulder 73,000 new Taiwan dollars (approximately 2,320 US dollars) government debt. The public debt in Miaoli has reached 41 billion new Taiwan dollars (1.29 billion US dollars) and potential debt to emerge is 10.3 billion new Taiwan dollars (33.5 million US dollars).

Echoing Aboutfish's report, professor Hsu explained [zh] the embedded interest in land expropriation by local governments:

政府財政赤字嚴重,所需財源由何而來?政府不僅不敢對政經權勢優位者下手,而且還給予各式各樣的減免與優惠;但面對社會弱勢時,卻是強勢介入,隨意取走他們的土地。透過區段徵收,地方政府約略可取得三分之一的土地,經由這些土地的標售與讓售來彌補財政。再者,地方派系的主要利基乃是土地投機炒作,透過區段徵收也可遂行鞏固及拉攏樁腳的政治目的。

How can the government earn the money they need when they face a budget deficit? The government does not dare to get money from those wealthy and powerful people. Instead, the government provides these people exemption and preferential. On the other hand, the government intrudes in the lives of the disadvantaged minority and takes their land away without their agreement. Through sectional land acquisition, the local government can obtain one-third of the land they want. They can sell the acquired land to make up for the budget deficit. In addition, the local interest groups usually make money by investing the real estate. By expropriating the land section by section, the local governor can build up a strong relationship with the local interest groups and make sure they can win their political support in return.

Protesters continue to demonstrate, asking the government to return the expropriated land, investigate these scandals, and revise the related law.

Professor Hsu was yelling: Today you demolished Taipu, Tomorrow we demolish the government, when the police dragged him away. Photo taken by 陳韋綸 from coolloud.org. Non-commercial use.

Professor Hsu was yelling: Today you demolished Taipu, Tomorrow we demolish the government, when the police dragged him away. Photo taken by 陳韋綸 from coolloud.org. Non-commercial use.

July 06 2013

Fishermen Organize First Migrant Workers’ Union in Taiwan

Eighty-nine Philippine fishermen in Taiwan's Yilan County have formed the island's first migrant workers’ union, three years after an amendment to the Labor Union Act was passed giving migrant workers the right to organize their own labor unions.

The fishermen union was formed on May 25, 2013, but represents only a fraction of the migrant fishermen legally hired in Taiwain — currently, there are more than 6,000 [zh]. Among them, Indonesians are the majority, and the rest are mainly from Vietnam and the Philippines. The majority haven't been unionized and face serious exploitation from employers.

The meeting. Figure from the Coolloud report taken by Haochung (顥中).

The meeting. Photo taken by Haochung (顥中) from coolloud.org. CC: NC.

Taiwan independent media Pots.com reported [zh] the common unfair employment practices for these migrant fishermen:

Jose Toquero說,契約上寫8小時,但若漁船故障需等到隔天,往往從晚上11點開始連續工作14個小時,而遠洋一次出海就需三、四天的作業,也很難明確劃分工作與休息。「我們沒有真正的休假,雖然滿月時不會出海,一個月本來規定有五天休假,但如果還需要補網子、做其他的工作,常常整個月都沒有休假,而且能不能休假也要看雇主,有的雇主完全不讓你休息。」

Jose Toquero said that although the working hours should be eight hours based on their contract, if the fishing boat has any trouble, they need to wait for another day until they can disembark the boat. They usually work for 14 hours from 11 p.m. In addition, if they are on a fishing vessel for pelagic fishery, a single trip usually takes three to four days. In that case, it is difficult to define working hours and resting hours. Jose said, “we do not have real holidays. Based on our contract, we do not go fishing when it is a full moon and we should have five holidays in a month. However, if we need to do other work like mending the nets on those days, there is no real holiday for us. Having a holiday or not depends on the employers. Some employers do not let you take any rest.”

Rolando說,剛來台時曾經連續十八個月都只拿到8000元薪水,光仲介費就需扣掉一萬多。談話時,我注意到他眼睛裡有不尋常的泛紅血絲,一問之下,他才說那是因為工作內容不只漁船作業,全部的事情都必須做,他的眼睛就是因為被老闆叫去做焊接時,因為沒有足夠的安全措施而導致眼睛被火花噴濺受傷。

Rolando (Mahinay) said that he only received 8,000 new Taiwan dollars [266 US dollars] as monthly salary for his first 18 months because the commission fee was deducted from his salary, which is more than 10,000 new Taiwan dollars [333 US dollars] per month. When I talked to him, I noticed that his eyes were red. He said that he is requested to do all kinds of work other than fishery by his employer. His eyes were hurt when he did welding without proper protection.
The fishery boat. Figure from the Coolloud report taken by Haochung (顥中).

The fishing boat. Photo taken by Haochung (顥中), from Coolloud.org CC: NC.

Taiwan independent media outlet coolloud.org described [zh] the vision of this newly formed migrant workers’ union:

工會監事會召集人何希(Jose Toquero)表示,來台前與雇主之約定通常也是每日工作8小時,但海上狀況多,幾乎不可能按時下班,不只是加班費該給而未給、工時過高是一大問題,未來希望能透過工會與雇主協調並解決。

Jose Toquero, the convenor of the board of supervisors, said that the migrant fishermen would like to discuss with employers through the union to solve the problems of long working hours and unpaid overtime work. Before they came to Taiwan, their contract signed by their employers said that the working hours should be eight hours. However, it is difficult for them to get off duty if they have any kind of troubles on the fishing boats.

由於工會組織最早的人際網絡是菲律賓Ilonggo的在台同鄉會,所以目前加入工會的都是菲律賓籍,不過Jose強調,希望工會能持續擴大,未來能不只服務菲律賓人,要讓更多印尼漁工也一起加入…現場也有來自漁業興盛的高雄、屏東等地的移民團體前來「取經」,盼能讓移工組織工會的風氣持續擴散。

Because the members of this union are mainly from the Ilonggo Seafarers Organization, most of its members are from the Philippines. However, Jose emphasized that they want to expand the size of the union. In the future, they want to serve the Indonesian fishermen as well as the Philippine fishermen…Several migrant worker associations from Kaoksiung and Pingtung, which are also famous for their fishery industry, came to their meeting to learn how to form a migrant workers’ union.
The fishermen. Figure from the Coolloud report taken by Haochung (顥中).

The fishermen. Photo taken by Haochung (顥中), Coolloud.org. CC: NC

Coolloud also interviewed [zh] Lee Lee-huan (李麗華), a staff member from the Haoran Foundation, who helped establish this union, about the difficulties in organizing the migrant fishermen in Taiwan:

雖然《工會法》在2年前就修正開放外籍人士加入工會,但還欠缺許多配套,例如語言就是重要問題,多數移工不諳中文,就連要了解相關法令的內容都相當困難,此外,船上工作工時不固定、臨時狀況多,四散在不同船家的漁工們,要湊在一起開會,也實屬不易。

Although the amendment to the Labor Union Act was passed two years ago so the migrant workers should be able to form their own unions, there are not sufficient supplementary measures. For example, language is a big problem. Most migrant workers do not understand Chinese, so they have difficulties in understanding the details of the Act. In addition, their job on the boats does not have regular working hours because a lot of things can happen on the fishing boats. It is very difficult to organize a meeting for all the fishermen working on different boats to gather together.

May 31 2013

Taiwan Copyright Bill Worse Than SOPA

An online poster against Taiwan copyright amendment. via Billypan

An online poster against Taiwan copyright amendment. via Billypan

It said the U.S Stop Online Piracy Act demands IP blocking requests to be determined in court while the Taiwan copyrights amendement filter list will be managed by a government administrative body.

May 29 2013

Copyright Amendment Could Bring Web Filter System to Taiwan

CK Hung believes that  the "black list" for blocking is dictators' favorite tool for censorship. Image from Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog.

Image from Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog.

The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (IPO) [zh] recently proposed [zh] to amend the Copyright Act and provide legal justification of IP and DNS blocking at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level through a black list system. The government claims that the amendment would stop the illegal sharing of movies and music protected by copyright law.

Although IPO has stressed that the Internet service providers will only block overseas online platforms which are “specifically designed for copyright infringement activities” or websites which have “obviously violated copyrights,” such as Megaupload, the authorities will target online platforms that enhance peer-to-peer transmission including Bit Torrent, Foxy, and FTP sharing.

The Taiwanese government proposal is similar to the United States bill, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was suspended last year following criticism from companies and civil society groups asserting that the legislation would threaten online freedom of expression and information flow. If the Taiwanese copyright amendment is implemented, the Island will have a mechanism that blocks and filters away “illegal websites” that host material that infringes copyright laws. This could be detrimental to sites like YouTube, where users regularly upload videos that may violate copyright laws. Although the company has a system for removing these videos, a law like this could lead to the site being blocked altogether.

Many Taiwanese find the proposal backward and contrary to the principle of an open society. Blogger I-Chen Tsai explained [zh] in Q&A format how the amendment has violated citizen's rights:

問:你是不是想看盜版?
答:不,我從不看盜版院線片,每個月平均進電影院兩次。我想捍衛的是一種價值。
如果今天政府找個理由,不經由法律程序,就能立即封掉任何境外網站。那麼,安個「言論影響國家安全」,就能立刻封掉「想想論壇」(hosted byAcquia);安個「影響我國傳統市場秩序」,就能封掉「好魚網」(hosted byAmazon);安個「錯誤引導年輕人就業觀念」,就能封掉「Mr. Jamie」(hosted by Media Temple)。
不管你做平台或電子商務,隨時暴露在歸零的危險裡,脖子上永遠架著經濟部的這把刀。你能接受嗎?
安個「侵權影片過多無法管理」,就能封掉 facebook (hosted by facebook);安個「常被使用於傳送非法軟體」,就能封掉 Dropbox (hosted by Dropbox)。你能接受嗎?
這不是「盜不盜版」的問題,這是「侵害人民權益」的問題。

Q: Do you want to see pirated movies?
A: No, I never watch pirated movies and I go to the cinema at least twice a month to see movies. I want to defend a principle.

If today the government finds a reason to get around legal procedures for blocking foreign websites, some day, it could block Thinking Taiwan [a blog hosting platform] (hosted by Acquia) because it has threatened national security, or block fish.123 [an online shopping platform for fish lovers] (hosted by Amazon) because it has affected our conventional market order; or block Mr. Jamie [a platform for start-ups] (hosted by Media Temple) because it has misled our young people's attitude in their career development.

No matter if you are the operator of a platform or commercial business, you will be exposed to the threat of being blocked. The knife of the IPO is against your throat. Can you accept that?

Can you accept the blocking of Facebook (hosted by Facebook) because there are too many infringed movies or the blocking of Dropbox (hosted by dropbox) because it is frequently used for the transmission of illegal software? This is not a copyright infringement issue, it is an issue of the violation of people's rights.

Ching Chiao, the CEO of DotAsia, an operator of a top-level domain registry, believes [zh] that the amendment is a setback for democracy and offered an alternative solution:

但是, 封網站就是不對, 就是開民主倒車, 勞民傷財的豬頭政策. 有執行封網站政策的國家聯上的是Intranet, 而不是Internet. 封網站是現代國家邁入鎖國的第一步.

智財局若想以行政命令的方式, 用”管好ISP業者就能防堵侵權內容散佈”的思維, 無非是自亂陣腳, 落入了開民主倒車的困境中. […] 要求ISP以黑名單的方式封堵網站, 短期間可能有效, 長期下來必定會造成用戶體驗不佳, 或是用戶繞過ISP既定的路由模式, 自行訪問被封鎖的站點, 情況就如同大陸的網友進行所謂的”翻牆”來訪問Youtube, Facebook等政治敏感的網站.

智財局其實可以積極地對付侵權網站, 尤其是侵犯到我國著作權人經濟利益的網站. 網站的宿主可能是在台灣境內, 可能是境外. 網站使用的網域名稱可能是.tw, 可能是其他如 .com / .net的國際域名, 這些管理單位都有通報機制, 智財局建立起良好的通報和聯繫機制, 讓國內外業者來配合執法, 每年定期出國開會吸取新知新做法, 遠比替自己要到一個封網站落後國家的臭名來的強.

Blocking websites is wrong, it is a setback for democracy, and a stupid policy that wastes people's money. Countries which have implemented ISP-level blocking are turning the Internet into an Intranet, the first step for turning a modern country into a self-enclosed country.

If the intellectual property bureau wants to implement the policy with an administrative order under the rationale of “blocking copyright infringement by pressuring the ISPs,” it will fall into a trap. […] To request ISPs to block websites according to a blacklist may have some effects in the short run. In the long run, the users will be dissatisfied with their online experience and use circumvention technology to get around ISPs to visit the blocked sites, like what has happened in mainland China, they “jump the Great Firewall” to visit politically sensitive websites such as YouTube and Facebook.

There are other measures that could be utilized by the bureau to fight copyright infringement, in particular if the infringement has harmed Taiwanese copyright holders. Every website has to register under a top level domain, the domains can be .tw (local) or .com / .net (international); all of the top level domain registry has a notice system to communicate with government authorities for law enforcement. The IPO should spend more time communicating with the international communities rather than pushing through a notorious policy for ISP-level blocking.

CK Hung, a writer from collective science blog PanSci.tw, pointed out [zh] that most of the copyright-related legislation in Taiwan is serving US-based copyright holders’ interests and that the side product of the blacklist system is the favorite tool of a dictator for censorship:

臺灣的智財法律/檢警體系/教育系統所發生的智財保護政策或重大案件, 從來就是由美國的利益團體在主導的, 從來就不是在服務國內的著作權人。 還記得 Now.in 抄臺事件 嗎? 主導者是 國際著作權權利組織 IFPI。 傷害無辜的獨立創作者不說, 就連正在談權利金的 國內著作權權利組織 MUST 的利益都受到傷害。 請告訴我這個行動保護了國內哪一位創作者的權利?

Most of the policies or incidents related with IP protection in Taiwan have been dominated by US-related interest groups. You still remember the police shutting down music platform Now.in (an online radio and podcast platform) last year? IFPI is behind the incident. The collateral damage has harmed many independent writers and the Music Copyright Society of Chinese Taipei (MUST) [as Now.in has secured initial consensus with MUST for uploading their music online]. Please tell me who in Taiwan can benefit from this kind of incident?

「以 IP 位址或 DNS」 的方式封鎖侵權網站, 這個封鎖黑名單不能公開, 因為一公開就更加替這些網站廣告。 這個清單會一直改變, 因為被封鎖的網站會搬來搬去。 具有這種特性的黑箱作業封鎖清單, 正是獨裁政府最喜歡的言論管制工具。

The blacklist for blocking websites at the IP and DNS level cannot be disclosed or else the list would make them more popular. The list will keep updating as the blocked sites will keep changing their DNS. Authoritarian states love these kinds of blacklists which operate in a black box to help them censor the Internet.

Briian argued [zh] that the policy goes against the emerging business model that is based on online sharing:

早就有研究指出盜版的存在對於正版的銷售有相當大的幫助,連台灣一堆唱片公司 […] 都搶著把自家歌手的 MV 搬上 YouTube 讓大家免費欣賞、免費收聽(以前都是網友私自分享的「侵權」行為啊)。而去年紅透全球的 PSY 江南大叔的騎馬舞也都是免費放上網路上讓大家看、讓大家聽,儘管在唱片的銷售方面可能無法 100% 賺到錢,實際上演唱會、商演與其他周邊的銷售,卻讓該公司賺到了以前的模式賺不到的更多的錢。更別說藉由分享的方式可能讓商品擴及到以前接觸不到的族群或國家、地區。

There is research pointing out that the distribution of pirated copy can enhance the sale of original copy. Even music companies in Taiwan […] now upload their singers MV to YouTube for free consumption (in the past, such kind of sharing was defined as infringement). Last year, PSY's Gangnam Style horse dance became a global hit because of free distribution and consumption online. Although the music company can't take 100 percent of the profit from record sales, it makes a huge amount of profit from PSY's global performance contract and other side products. The free distribution has help the company to extend the market to those countries and regions that cannot be reached before.

Concerned citizens have created an event page [zh] on Facebook to gather information and mobilize against the amendment.

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