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Taiwan Tati Cultural and Educational Foundation

Trying to hide discontent

Most people understand the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Most, but not Chinese officials visiting Taiwan. How else how could one explain Straits Exchange Foundation Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian’s (高孔廉) announcement on Wednesday that a “special zone” would be set up for protesters during next month’s cross-strait talks in Taichung?

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Obama in chains

It is hard for international observers of the US to grasp the political paralysis that grips the country, and that seriously threatens its ability to solve its domestic problems and contribute to international problem solving. The US’ governance crisis is the worst in modern history. Moreover, it is likely to worsen in the years ahead.

The difficulties that US President Barack Obama is having in passing his basic program, whether in health care, climate change or financial reform, are hard to understand at first glance. After all, he is personally popular, and his Democratic Party holds commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet his agenda is stalled and the country’s ideological divisions grow deeper.

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Police impartiality in question

The image of the nation’s law enforcement authorities was severely tarnished by the visit to Taiwan in November last year of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

During the visit, the public witnessed police infringe on the rights and freedom of expression of Taiwanese by confiscating flags and other items without legitimate reason, stopping and questioning people who wore T-shirts that read “Taiwan is my country” and ordering a music store located near a hotel where Chen was dining to shut down because it was playing the Song of Taiwan, claiming the music was too loud.

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Obama Loses a Round

While the jury is still out on what President Obama’s China visit has achieved for the long term, the president has most decidedly lost the war of symbolism in his first close encounter with China.

In status-conscious China, symbolism and protocol play a role that is larger than life. U.S. diplomatic blunders could reinforce Beijing’s mindset that blatant information control works, and that a rising China can trump universal values of open, accountable government.

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A warning ahead of negotiations

Beijing doesn’t need excuses to do as it pleases, even when violating its own laws — and it certainly is not concerned about the world knowing. The carefully watched case of Huang Qi (黃琦), a man labeled a dangerous dissident simply for trying to help victims of last year’s Sichuan Earthquake, came to a close on Monday when Huang was sentenced to three years in jail.

The court did not even bother to give his family a copy of the verdict, as his lawyer says is required by law. But Huang, long active on social issues, seems to have been targeted because of his calls for a transparent probe into schools that collapsed during the quake. Thousands of children died or are still listed as missing after their schools collapsed, yet China’s investigation into the matter was a whitewash that denied the role of corruption and substandard construction in the tragedy.

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Ma’s ‘pragmatism’ is a sham

After years of blasting the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for “creating trouble” in the Taiwan Strait by seeking admission into the UN — at one point under the name “Taiwan” — the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) vowed to engage in “pragmatic” diplomacy to better ensure the interests of the nation.

One important aspect of this strategy was to seek admission into “specialized” branches of the UN rather than join the world body as a whole, efforts that, under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), always irked Beijing and, some said, caused unnecessary tension, given Beijing’s assured vetoing of any such initiative. The UN’s inflexible “one China” policy, meanwhile, also made this objective unattainable.

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Newsflash

A-list movie stars about to make a grand entrance at the prestigious Tokyo International Film Festival became the latest victims of turbulent cross-strait relations on Saturday after both the Taiwanese and Chinese delegations missed the star--studded ceremony amid a spat over names.

Despite spending days preparing for the 11-day event, Taiwanese actors and actresses failed to reach the eco-friendly “green carpet” after a Chinese delegation insisted that the Taiwanese group add the word “China” to their country’s name.