A Little Anti-ECFA

I went to a small Anti-ECFA gathering on the 26th, unfortunately the rain kept me from taking pictures while there was any amount of people there. I know, ECFA has since been signed and its being debated in the legislature where the DPP is pushing to get full disclosure on the terms of this secret trade agreement. Unfortunately they do not have the support required to actually stop this bill or even to understand what is in it. Oh… wait… whats that you say? Lawmakers are supposed to vote on a law that they cannot see? Yup– you did read my previous sentence correctly. Not surprising, you should really look at the human rights violations that have occurred here lately.

I guess its time to take down the flags and admit that a government that continually breaks the law, without repercussion, is not one that is going to listen to a crowd of people protesting in front of the presidential building. It is really quite sad that so many people in Taiwan have given up their life, liberty and worldly possessions for democracy and now idly sit by assuming that a passive role is going to automatically sweep the full realization of that dream into their lap. Well lets face it, it has come to the point that a plenitude of flagrant violations of a democratic system have infested Taiwan. While martial law has not yet been declared, I would like to ask what is happening now that did not happen then? We have kidnappings, gangs in the streets, scores of human rights violations and a government that is not responsible for their actions. We have land being taken against the will of the owners with new deeds being printed, making the existing ones null and void. We have a larger separation between the haves and have not’s, and lo and behold there is fear of the government.

Well I have said more than enough. Please enjoy some pictures that I have taken.

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Political Backlash – The AhBien Story

As many people, even those who may not know about Taiwan, are aware President Chen Shui-Bian (ahBien) was arrested at the end of his second presidential term. In Taiwan, the source of information or updates on these proceedings has only been the politically controlled media. These media sources have been reporting rumor and third fourth and fifth hand information presented as facts. The inaccuracies have spread so far as to hinder prosecution attempts at information gathering by following hearsay from media sources.

There have been some global calls for accountability in the accuracy and humanity of the handling of this case. In some small response to this pressure recently there was a NYU University dialogue focusing on the trial of Chen Shui-bian. Thank you to NYU for opening this dialogue and posting it on YouTube. It is a long drawn out recap of the conclusions of the AhBien investigation without actually covering the conclusions of the investigation made superficial by the Taiwanese cultural need to save face. However, some very useful information can be gathered from the dialog and its well worth your time to watch considering I don’t have the time to respond to 1/12th of the issues raised here. I have linked the video below.

My Favorite Quotes

Video 1 approx: 1:05:45 Wang Jaw-Perng 國立台灣大學

“The trial of Chens case was independent, although I believe the judge was very bias and Chen did not get a fair trail.”

Video 1 approx:00:33:10 Nigel Li, Esq. 理律法律事務所

“Actually judicial independence or another notion, which is highly related in this case that is another constitutional principle… assumption of innocence. These two basic principles are also novel ideals to the legal culture of the young democracy in Taiwan….”

The trail of ahBien leaves one shrouded in mystery, specifically “What are the facts in the case?”. Unfortunately details of any evidence against ahBien do not come out in this dialogue, however there was an uncontested comment that all evidence against ahBien for extortion and money laundering is circumstantial. In Taiwan acceptance of evidence is the decision of the 3 judge panel, and they can decide if hearsay is admissible.  The additional fact that the maximum time any detainee can be held incommunicado is 2 months with the possibility of a single 2 month extension seems to ignore the fact that ahBien has been held from 2008 until now (2010/06/17). However as we know on the ground, as the time for this deadline draws nearer additional charges are brought against ahBien effectively resetting this 4 month limit. You may also find it interesting that the detention holding cell is 2.5 square meters, and a single 30 min exclusion from this cell is permitted daily. Another important fact of this case is better summed up by another quote from this video.

Video 1 approx: 1:04:30 Wang Jaw-Perng

“Judge B [the judge] was very active and very inquisitorial sometimes he was more aggressive than prosecutors in conducting the trial. In several occasions we can see this judge b [the judge] interrogated the defense witnesses for up to two hours”… “I think he did a good job for the prosecutors, this judge b [the judge] also a lot of times on many occasions he yelled at defense lawyers and yell at defendants he even sometimes mocked defense lawyers and defendants. So to protest the unfairness of judges and judiciary Chen [ahBien] dismissed all of his three defense lawyers and had several hunger strikes in the detention house.”

What happened to ahBien? A man who was able to win presidential election for two terms. A man who was considered a man of the people. Where are the people of his political campaign, his supporters and party? A man, who, as the dust is settling, only has two charges against him (the others have been dropped) and both are by circumstantial evidence. A man who was sentenced to life in prison, although that sentence has now been reduced to 20 years it is still a sentence far beyond any remedy found in the Taiwan legal code. A man who one month was the most powerful man in Taiwan and the next month was locked in a cell smaller than most bathrooms. Well for that answer we need to go to his people and ask.

In my conversations with party members I have attempted to find the source of this lack of support for ahBien. Initially I had began to suspect that many people had started to believe the media propaganda, and while this is true it is not so much the case with his party members. After the fall of ahBien a widespread ‘anti-corruption’ movement plagued Taiwan. Many people in office including several mayors found themselves under investigation and even incarcerated in the suspicion of mismanagement of slush funds. Interestingly enough, some of the accusations spread to those of the KMT party, but not one KMT political leader has been successfully prosecuted. In addition many ahBien supporters were drawn into the charges associated with those currently beimg held against Chen Sui-Bian. “Now is not the climate to be an ahBien supporter” said one party member and he is not the only one to express this sentiment. Many people however have expressed frustration and even anger at ahBien. One persons comments seemed to incorporate many other comments I have heard. “Chen Shui Bien had everything. We gave him 8 years to make changes to Taiwan. We supported him with large amounts of money. He was told the first thing that he should do is kill [not literally] the opposition. But now we find out he [ahBien] has enough money, and did not use that to support the party[DPP]. He was supposed to make Taiwan more better, but what has he done? He didn’t change the legal system, he didn’t use the chance to remove the opposition, he didn’t do anything that was needed. He deserves what he gets.” While the person went on to clarify that ahBien didn’t truly deserve everything that has happened, that person is unwilling to give ahBien any more support.

Unfortunately, it seems that the backlash of Chen Shui-Bians lack of monetary accountability and desire to leave the past behind when he stepped into office has given him a very harsh lesson in reality. Although, I would hope that in the spirit of human rights and concern for the legal system more Taiwanese would support not ahBien, but the legal decisions applicable to his case that have further reaching party implications in the future.

Part 1

Part 2

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Sexual Harrasment 10-second rule

Well many of us remember the days of childhood where a valued piece of candy or food was dropped on the floor. Even though we knew that the food/candy was dirty, somehow in our minds we convince ourselves that minimal impact with the ground for less than X amount of seconds is an acceptable time for the retrieval of said food. Well, now as adults it seems we have another reason to hang on to our pretense that everything is okay. After a court ruling (that in English conveniently does not mention this 10 second rule) which basically states that short periods of unwanted touching that is on the waist and shoulders is legally acceptable. Just keep your unwanted touching sessions to less than 10 seconds. Reading this article also seems to indicate that mitigating circumstances include a personal apology email after charges are filed.

Updated Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:07 am TWN, The China Post news staff

Waist, shoulders not ‘private parts’: court
TAIPEI, Taiwan — An appeals court yesterday acquitted a man of sexual harassment on the grounds that waists and shoulders do not constitute “private parts.”

Chang Guo-hua, a 36-year-old IT company manager, was found guilty and sentenced to 40-day detention by the Hsinchu District local court for wrapping his hand around the waist and shoulder of a female subordinate several times in an after work co-worker gathering in Feb. 2008.

According to the verdict by the district court, Chang had made several advances toward the subordinate, who is in her twenties, via instant messenger chats as early as 2007 but was rejected. The female employee told the district court that she felt offended when Chang touched her. She tried to dodge him by moving her body but he kept holding on to her with his hand. At the end, she stood up and left the party.

Chang apologized to her via email only after she complained to her superior and decided to push for charges.

The district court convicted Chang based on his apology email and the fact that his action against the plaintiff’s will had offended her.

However, the High Court, which heard the appeal case, ruled that Chang only expressed in the email that he was “sorry for all impolite action verbally and physically” but did not specifically admit touching the plaintiff’s shoulder and waist.

The High Court also judged that since the waist and shoulder of a woman are not different from those of a man and that women often wear clothing that reveals the waist and shoulder in summer, these two body parts cannot be regarded as private. Therefore, even if Chang had touched the plaintiff on her shoulder and waist, his action does not constitute sexual harassment as described by the current Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, which stated that the crime involves the touching of “buttocks, breasts or other private body parts.”

The Modern Women’s Foundation’s Executive Director Yao Shu-wen decried the High Court’s acquittal of Chang, criticizing the judges for being “detached from the plaintiff’s feelings” and for failing to understand the different perceptions of a”private part” by men and women, according to the newspaper Apple Daily.

Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), the secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation, also called for the amendment of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act to be amended by substituting the restrictive list of “buttocks, breasts or other private body parts” with more general terms like “the invading and harassing of one’s body” so a better standard for judgment can be formed by the court through field work.

In every legal system there is a difficulty for judges in separating the intent against the letter of the law, and many people question the validity of these decisions. However, a closer examination of situations like this that set precedent or provide clarifications to the interpretation of the law should be evaluated much more carefully. Furthermore, a disciplinary panel or public morality panel should consider the decisions of sitting judges since it appears that independent rulings from a panel of judges is not adequate. While this is not a complete or realistic solution, something needs to be done in the interim since the creation of law in Taiwan and a more mature evaluation of law in this ‘child democracy’ (as the judicial excuses from Taiwan keep pointing out).

Re-evaluating Prostitution in Taiwan

Well lets face it. Prostitution is once again rearing its head as an issue in Taiwan. Sometimes I am a realist, and sometimes I am an idealist. When it comes to prostitution I am a realist. The fact remains that nowhere in the world has any government successfully eradicated prostitution. Some countries have even instituted the death penalty and dismemberment. It is a fact of life, and no matter how you feel about it you aren’t going to stop it. In last years November 7th session in Taiwan one of the discussion points was prostitution. Currently in Taiwan it is illegal to be a prostitute, but it is okay to search for prostitution. This law was deemed inequitable and a choice was given to legislation, either change the law to punish both the ‘John’ and the prostitute, or eliminate this law altogether.

Past Prostitution in Taiwan

Previously in Taiwan prostitution was legal. Prostitutes had to register with the government. This registration process stopped in 1974, and in fact there are still some existing prostitutes today who are registered from many years past (scary huh?). There are three major complaints about prostitution that I have heard from the opinions of local Taiwanese on this issue. Complaint 1, aboriginal and young girls were forced into prostitution against their will. Complaint 2, there was no zoning separation between regular residential areas and red light districts, I happen to know a person who currently lives in one of these districts and they really are not happy about it. Complaint 3, too many girls are lured in by materialistic wants (i.e. they want a new LV purse and cant afford it so they go into prostitution).

Current Prostitution in Taiwan

Current prostitution in Taiwan is an interesting gang relationship with the police. Basically there are 4 major areas of prostitution and KTVs all over the place that have ‘alternative services’. The police are paid off to ignore these areas, and typically the places where the police raids occur are independent operators that haven’t paid up recently. Prostitution in Taiwan is riddled with ‘older operators’ many of whom are old enough to have been registered prior to 1974 . There are many independent ‘college girls’ online who ‘need school money’, and a few paper based call in services. There is no protection for independent operators from rape and theft, and as anywhere there is protection by gangs but at the price of giving services to the gang, or being forced to service clients of their choice. Honestly gangs are not great protection, but they keep you from being arrested. From an outsiders opinion, this is not a safe occupation and its better to go with the ‘dating service for a fee’ services. Ultimately there are no health exams and many dangerous situations.

As of the Nov 7th session result, a legislative decision mandating that the current prostitution laws are inequitable and effective 6 months from that date, the law is dissolved. Further stipulations are in place stating that zoning needs to be resolved and 2 years hence a final solution needs to be in place. This means that all final decisions will be made in this years November 7th legislative session, in order for the laws to take place the following year. Broken down even further, what this means is that as of this moment (this is not legal advice, but an assumption based on past information) there are currently no laws against prostitution as of early June 2010 (now). I believe that there are still laws against solicitation and there is no legal venue (designated place) for prostitution.

Future Prostitution in Taiwan

This is where everything has become hush hush. But my sources lead me to believe that Kaohsiung County,  Taichung County, Tainan County, Penghu County, Hsinchu City, Taichung City and Pingtung County have agreed to set up special zoning for prostitution and Taipei City has rejected outright, however Taipei County (now Xin Bei City) has agreed. I don’t know if this agreement will still be effective if Tsai Ein-Wen is elected, but there is currently approval.

My wish list for prostitution in Taiwan

The whole reason that I am excited for legal prostitution in Taiwan is safety and protection. I want to see the following mandates, 1) Regular, but unannounced official spot checks on the working conditions and age of workers 2) Approval of personal licenses (even though they say that individual licensing wont occur) that are only valid if regular health checks are performed for STD’s 3) All burdens of healthcare, health checks, and any other company requirements of sex workers are those of the employer and are not considered a debt of the employee (too many people force prostitutes by saying that they owe them money for paying for health checks or company required beauty treatments or dress) 4) Locations of services are to be at the primary place of business within the supervision of the premises security/staff, or gps emergency responders are to be provided to each worker and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure safe transport to and from any location outside of the primary place of business. 5) Employees of sex services are entitled to all rights and privileges of the Taiwan Labor Law. 6) Any person under the age of 18 is not allowed within an area zoned for sex work for any reason at the liability of the principle business owner and no transactions or solicitation of services are to be performed outside of; the primary place of business, a private residence or within public view. 7) No area zoned for sex work will be visible or within 500 meters of a school, business whose primary services target children under the age of 18, or within 500 meters of a zoned residential area.

I truly hope this endeavor improves the life of those involved, rather than the shortsighted view that prostitution is wrong. Saying prostitution is wrong does not stop it, has not stopped it and will not stop it. While I have great respect for the Garden of Hope and the services they provide, just like the failure of communism; it was a great idea but planning on perfection in humanity will inevitably fail.

No Platform? No Problem. Join the KMT.

How must it be, simply following other party members. No plan, no success stories, you simply want an office. Well thanks to the KMT, with no clear definition of party plans and huge propaganda campaigns that simply make empty promises things like this become the norm. Anybody who supports the China Communist… oops I mean the KMT should support the party right? We are there for you. That should be the motto, considering they like to say this rather than tell you exactly how they will be there for you and what the positive and/or negative consequences could be. They leave minor details like this to their media branch (local TV stations and newspapers they they control or have acquired) to make up on the fly and conveniently sit back and neither deny or support the fabrications.

So lets look briefly at the case of “Eagle Bear” 殷維雄 Ein Wei Sheung (with many romanizations I always get confused but its close).

Considering this is written left to right lets start with the bear logo and the words surrounding it. Beware the Bear is coming out of line. Very clever, but honestly that koala does not invoke much caution or fear. The bear is coming out of a wordplay from his name, and probably is suggesting something like ‘look out here I come’ if attempted to convert to a phrase.

The three characters to the right is obviously his name.

Lets look at the blue bar of text at the bottom. The warrior fully supporting Mayor Haou and ECFA. Please support me with the phone poll. So basically he is saying, I support the current mayor (who is also up for re-election soon) and ECFA. Right now they are doing phone polls to determine candidates, and you should support him.

Now, lets look at the position that he is running for. Zhong Zheng area City Counselor. Zhong Zheng is a central piece of Taipei although most of it has developed in the last 30 years. It starts almost at the Danshui River and goes from a straight line through 228 peace park almost to the Da An park and a little ways north and south of that line. As a City Counselor for this area, the bear would have nothing to do with ECFA. And quite frankly to support or not support the mayor is not a responsibility that comes with the City Counselor, although there is some interaction between the counselors and the mayor. Many city management tasks are delegated to the counselor, and management of zoning and funding for services in the area have an impact by this person. But ultimately he is the representative of people and business who are in this area. His job is not to support functions that other people have under their control. And he most defiantly will not be controlling trade negotiations with China.

This is just another example of how polarized KMT and DPP elections are, and how little thought other than that enters the mind of voters as they enter the voting booths here. Maybe sometime I will describe how around election times voting borders change based on polls and previous votes to favor specific parties.

New Methodologies for Trash Reduction

One of my favorite propagators of trash reductions is Ma. One of his many brilliant Taipei City mayor decisions is that we need to reduce the amount of trash the city has. So his brilliant idea? Lets reduce the amount of trash bins in the city. If we have less trash bins, then there will be less trash. So a city once populated with trash bins conveniently placed around the city, now has very few. Most of the remaining ones can be found in parks and bus stations if you are lucky enough to find one. Another thing that was done was to reduce the frequency of trash collection. Its not uncommon to see overflowing trash bins in the city. So, hats off to you and thank you Ma for making Taipei more beautiful and clean.

A Pot, a Kettle and the Color Black

Thank you very much MOFA for what a complete outsider to the politics of this situation calls “The pot calling the kettle black”. I have seen very few statements from a countries diplomatic corp so arrogant and so reflective of the true thinking of the current regime as this statement.

Source: This is a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on the MOFA website.

Statement regarding the Incident of South Korean Warship “The Cheonon”

The Cheonon, a South Korean warship, was sunk by an explosion on March 26, 2010, approximately one nautical mile off the south-west coast of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. A joint investigation by the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Republic of Korea reached the conclusion that the battleship was scuttled by a North Korean torpedo. This event has seriously affected the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, rising tensions in the area.
As a responsible nation in East Asia, the Republic of China (Taiwan) highly concerns over the situation and condemns any violent or provocative act that undermines regional peace and stability.
Taiwan supports the efforts of the Republic of Korea, the United States, Japan and other countries in their endeavour to reduce existing tension and to restore regional stability through the United Nations. The government of Taiwan is willing to cooperate with the international community to adopt appropriate measures in order to prevent the conflict from escalating, with the ultimate goal of safeguarding regional peace, stability and prosperity.(E)

This statement “As a responsible nation in East Asia, the Republic of China (Taiwan) highly concerns over the situation and condemns any violent or provocative act that undermines regional peace and stability.”coming from the country best described as the ‘flash point’ of Asia for the past several decades does nothing but grate me the wrong way. Looking past the ‘responsible nation’ statement lets take a look at the form used. Taiwan (ROC) is not a Republic of China (Taiwan), anyone in any capacity in the dip. corps. that knows of Taiwan knows this. Secondly, the international press release in English is not even a proper sentence. Taiwan(on what grounds) condemns a provocative act (on the grounds of the fictional nation they name?). Now, to the real abuser, ‘provocative act that undermines regional peace and stability’. How does a nation well known for pissing on the boot of China, think that this is anything but shit-talk?

Did the main editor for China Post draft this press release by chance, or have the new executives from Beijing finally decided to flex their muscles and give Ma penis breath as he took notes to give to MOFA?