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Taiwan Tati Cultural and Educational Foundation

Kaohsiung Incident a good reminder

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979. It was a watershed in Taiwan’s political history, as it galvanized the democratic opposition in Taiwan and overseas Taiwanese into action, and thus ushered in the beginning of the end of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) martial law and one-party police state.

In Taiwan itself, the event is being commemorated with a series of activities, including seminars, a photo exhibition and a concert in Kaohsiung. The irony of the situation is that one of the defendants in the “sedition” trial that followed the Incident was Chen Chu (陳菊), now mayor of Kaohsiung.

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Are human rights still on the agenda?

As the world celebrates International Human Rights Day tomorrow, Taiwan will also be presented with an opportunity to reflect on its progress, or lack thereof, in safeguarding human rights over the past year.

Recent events are likely to cast a pall on Taiwan’s image. Just last week, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Deputy Secretary-General Maa Shaw-chang (馬紹章) announced that the Taichung City Government would designate a 30,000-ping (nearly 100,000m²) “protest zone,” or “opinion plaza,” so that protesters could make their voices heard during the fourth round of negotiations between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) later this month.

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Where the buck stops

In state elections in the US on Nov. 3, the Democratic Party lost out. These were the first elections since US President Barack Obama took office, but many saw them as a local affair, not as a mid-term test for Obama. Rather than blaming Obama, the Democratic Party swallowed the bitter pill. On Saturday it was Taiwan’s turn to hold local elections. Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won the top posts in 12 out of 17 cities and counties, losing only Yilan and Hualien counties among those seats it had held, public opinion sees the results as a defeat for the KMT and blames President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the KMT chairman, for the losses.

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ECFA: Letting the public decide

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) recently said in an interview that the government would only sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China under three conditions: if the nation needs it, if the public supports it and if there is legislative oversight. The three conditions appear to be reasonable, but the government is using them to deprive voters of their right to make decisions.

First, does Taiwan really need an ECFA with China? We must ask whether the “one China” principle is the premise for the government’s negotiations on an ECFA with Beijing: In other words, does the government view Taiwan as part of China? This is something the government must make clear to the public.

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Ma silent on crucial issue of sovereignty

Diplomacy depends on eloquence to promote the nation’s viewpoint and secure national interests, and that is why a mute can be engaged in many things, but not diplomacy. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration may not be mute, but they certainly do not know how to approach diplomacy.

In his recent visit to brief Taiwanese leaders on US President Barack Obama’s visit to China, American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Washington’s understanding was that respect for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was related to the issue of Tibet and Xinjiang and had nothing to do with Taiwan.

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Dubai World and Chinese illusions

Is the world financial crisis rearing its ugly head again? Dubai World, the biggest state-owned conglomerate in Dubai, the second-biggest sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates, has fallen into financial difficulties, and a few days ago asked its creditor banks for a half-year delay on repayments of nearly US$60 billion in debt. This move sparked fears among investors everywhere that the global financial crisis is heating up again and triggered big falls in European, American and Asian stock markets.

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Newsflash

The Ministry of Finance yesterday said the breakdown of cross-strait negotiations on a tax pact on Monday was mainly the result of a dispute over levying income tax on China-based Taiwanese businesspeople according to where they reside or where they get paid.

The ministry said the breakdown was not related to sovereignty, apparently contradicting comments a day earlier by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who said the deal was delayed because the treaty would have treated Taiwan the same as Hong Kong.