Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RE: China Post "Taipei voters forced to choose between bad and worse"

The author of this piece couldn't be more off-base. In fact, he (or she, but I will continue to use "he" for the sake of simplicity) is buying exactly in to what the hardened politicians of the KMT want him to: the mud-slinging, nonsensical babble that does nothing to teach voters about the candidates or their positions, and does everything to make sure voters stop caring enough to actually get out and vote.

You see, voters are not stupid; they vote relatability, trust, and of course - policy. If the author of this editorial compared the policy platforms of these two candidates he would have written an entirely different story. You can and should examine a candidate's background to get a sense of how much we relate to them and how much we trust them, but to do so at the expense of all context and political issues is irresponsible.

Notably, in looking at Ko's background, the author has left out some key information. For example, did the author mention that Ko Wen-je has been diagnosed with the syndrome formerly known as Asperger's, and said many times that he regrets that his filter is not always at 100%, and that he is trying his hardest to improve his own views on the things people have criticized him for? No, of course not, because this article is about mud throwing. As long as the mud isn't thrown at Sean Lien.

The author of this piece is clearly a very deep blue supporter who tries to maintain an air of "impartiality." Well I can tell you right now, that's a facade and it's quite easy to see through if you know anything about Taiwanese politics and these two candidates. Here's some key points:

Ko's party (well, the party he would be in were he not an independent) supports him only "halfheartedly," while Lien has "possibly the most solid backing any election has ever seen" from his party. This is very far from the truth, as Lien has been unable to secure support from a number of KMT bigwigs, while Ko, on the other hand, is well liked by the DPP and the DPP folks tried to recruit him to run as their candidate - hardly "halfhearted."

The third to last paragraph is really telling (emphasis mine):
It is not news that Lien has been serving as the butt of too many campaign jokes since the announcement of his mayoral bid. His website was hacked, words twisted and campaign commercials lampooned; all his campaign team did was succeed in making him look like a puppet, confused and annoyed at his tangled strings.
So there you have it folks. Sean Lien is actually a very intelligent, well-spoken candidate with a solid platform and it's would be well liked by the people of Taipei, if only his campaign team didn't go around screwing everything up! I think the more intelligent readers among us will be able to surmise: perhaps it isn't just his campaign team that's screwing everything up.

However, the biggest errors in this piece are actually the errors of omission. First, in the Lien camp, Lien's policies have from day one been unable rouse the crowds. He started out with some ideas for expanding Easycard (of which he's the former CEO - go figure) into nightmarkets - a sure loss with vendors who don't want to pay for the machines or hand over a cut of their slim profits to Easycard. Later, Lien decided it would be good move the city government into the area around Taipei Main Station to encourage redevelopment in that area. In other words, Lien is totally out of touch with the needs of his constituency (he has admitted this implicitly through his "working stay" campaign strategy; Ko has even pointed out - "isn't it strange that Mr. Lien is struggling with learning how to be a normal, everyday, working man while I'm struggling to learn how to be mayor?")

On the other hand, let's look at Ko's policy positions: Ko wants to make Infant Care more accessible by training more professional nannies. He wants to make sure there are high quality bicycle lanes throughout the city that let bikes ride without being in the way of both pedestrians and cars. He wants to add more government housing at below-market rates to help push down the enormous Taipei real estate bubble. He wants to turn the website of the mayor's office into a forum for voters to share their opinions and ideas openly with one another, make formal proposals, and discuss how to improve the city, so that "everyone can be the mayor" (one of his campaign slogans). These are the reasons why Ko is polling ahead.

I, for one, refuse to buy into the mud slinging "spitting war" as it's called in Chinese. The vitriol that comes from the KMT and their cronies against Ko Wen-je is beyond ridiculous, and luckily, the voters are not playing into their design. Sure, let's look at the background of these candidates, so we know who we're getting into bed with; but that doesn't give us leave to neglect looking at their policy platforms - because that's what we'll have to live with the morning after. So for the author of that China Post editorial who can't seem to figure out why Ko is pulling ahead in the polls - I've got some news for you - it's because voters can relate to him as a normal guy with normal flaws, but one who is serious about keeping their best interests at heart. What's that old saying between candidates? May the best man win.

Lien Campaign Hires Known Plagiarist for TV Spot While Accusing Ko P of Organ Harvesting in China

The Lien campaign and the KMT cronies behind it seem to be rapidly running out of good ideas. Recently, they put out a new TV spot (they put out TV spots weekly and run them on a large number of stations during prime time every day, vs. the Ko P campaign which has put out zero TV ads and continues to lead polls by 15-20%), and the advertisement was quickly recognized by some netizen sleuths as a remake of a California Lottery ad campaign from a year or so ago.

Of course, Mr. Lien claims zero knowledge of the advertisement, and his spokesperson Alex Tsai claims that the original did serve as "inspiration" but it's not plagiarism. The director in question, Fan Ko-chin, is a known plagiarist who was first outed last year in the big inflatable yellow duck scandal, where he sold counterfeit yellow duck merchandise to make an extra buck off all of the press around the duck.

The netizen sleuths thankfully made a nice Youtube compilation of the Lien campaign ad synced frame for frame to the original California Lottery ad. Here's that remix:

And the original:

Is it plagiarism? Should Sean Lien and his campaign be held responsible, at the very least for being aware of the possibility that people would make such a claim? Let me know what you think in the comments!

As if that weren't enough, it has "mysteriously come to light" that Ko Wen-je has been colluding with the Communist Chinese, anti-Falun Gong, organ harvesting mafia to import organs from China to Taiwan. Of course, there is absolutely no truth to these accusations, but when you're running out of ideas, I guess you just go with what you've got! What'll be next from the KMT? In the coming weeks, don't be surprised if we find out that Ko Wen-je is responsible for the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Good grief!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Summary of Forward Taiwan’s Complete List of Immigration Reform Proposals

The following proposals with the full text of proposed amendments to the law can be found on Forward Taiwan's website. Here I've provided a brief summary of all proposals, please check the Forward Taiwan PDF (English | Chinese) for details and an explanation of the benefits associated with each change.


South Korea
Hong Kong
Permanent Residents (% of pop.)
Professional Workers (% of pop.)

Overview and Summary of Issues
Residence Rights:

Current Situation
Set a target of 200,000 (0.87%) foreign professionals (FPs)
No target for number of FPs
Recognize lawful marriages and civil unions in foreign jurisdictions
Allow for gaps in ARC continuity for Permanent Residence (PR) applicants as long as the 183 day requirement is met
Gaps in ARC continuity reset the PR clock
Allow a university degree as an alternative requirement for spouses and children of PRs to obtain work rights
Same work rights for spouses and children of PRs as for non-resident foreigners, i.e., heavily restricted
Quota and point system immigration to take effect after Taiwan attracts at least 100,000 FPs
No quota system or points system in place
Count aggregate income of PR and PR’s spouse for monetary requirements towards PR spouse’s own PR application
Already counted this way for spouses of TW nationals; only individual income currently counted for PR spouses (who are often dependents and don’t have enough income on their own for PR)
Allow change of residence and employment to be reported online
Already allowed for TW nationals; FPs must report in person at NIA office
Allow FPs to engage in activities not specified on their ARC (i.e., performing arts, unpaid volunteer work, rallies and assemblies)
Not allowed; deportable offense


Current Situation
Specify in the law that all provisions of the Labor Standards Act apply to all FPs
Unspecified; Results in confusion about which labor laws apply to FPs
Loosen restrictions on FPs employed in the Culture and Innovation industry (visual arts, music, performing arts, exhibitions, handicrafts, TV & radio, design, etc.)
Heavily restricted or unavailable for FPs
Allow PR dependents the same work rights as dependents of a TW national
Must secure own work permit; often not possible due to work permit regulations
Allow FPs to leave employment without being sanctioned
Leaving employment without notice may leave FPs ineligible for a future work permit
Remove two-year work experience requirement
Two-years post-university work outside of Taiwan in a related field is required for FP work permit
Adjust FP minimum salary requirements to be more competitive with local salaries and other advanced countries, i.e., Singapore
FPs must have a salary that is more than double the average entry-level worker’s salary in Taiwan
Eliminate or scale business capital requirements for hiring FPs with the size of the company
High capital requirements to employ FPs favors large businesses and prevents small businesses from accessing international talent
Reduce operating expenditure requirements for foundations to employ FPs to 1,000,000 NT in the past three years; reduce membership requirement to 30 members
Foundations must have operating expenditure of 5,00,000 NT in the past 3 years to employ FPs; membership requirement of at least 50 members
Reduce or eliminate capital requirements for start-ups bringing in managers/directors, or employees
Same capital requirements as for large, established enterprises


Current Status
Remove requirement to renounce foreign citizenship to naturalize
Must renounce original citizenship as part of the naturalization application process; success of application is not guaranteed
Allow dual nationals to teach at public schools and universities
Dual nationals are not allowed to teach in public schools and universities since they are government employees and dual nationals may not hold any government office

Living in Taiwan:

Current Status
Equal access to credit
Banks are allowed to discriminate against foreigners on the grounds that they are more likely to leave Taiwan and not repay credit
Deferred retirement benefits (pension) for teachers and university faculty
Pension must be paid as a lump sum; significantly reduces deferred compensation
Require businesses that use TW ID numbers to also allow using ARC numbers
Many businesses require TW ID numbers (i.e., booking tickets or making online purchases) and do not accept ARC numbers

Thursday, October 16, 2014









ROC Nationality Law: What's Wrong and Why It Matters

The current situation regarding naturalization and loss of nationality in Taiwan is very clear, both according to the law and in practice: non-nationals wishing to acquire ROC nationality are required to first renounce their current nationality, while current nationals who acquire a foreign nationality may (but are not required to) apply for renunciation of ROC citizenship.

These requirements are spelled out in the law:

In other words: if you are born an ROC national, you can lose your nationality only with the permission of the Ministry of the Interior, that is, only through application and after obtaining a different nationality, and furthermore, such requests may be denied; while if you are a foreign national who wants to obtain ROC nationality you are required to lose your original nationality, regardless of the nationality laws of the country of origin and Taiwan’s own nationality law as it relates to natural born ROC nationals.

In practice, the vast majority of nationals here are unconcerned about this discrepancy in the Nationality Act, because for the most part Taiwanese nationals know that they can be dual nationals without losing ROC Nationality. However, they should be concerned. Here’s why:

Firstly, the ROC Nationality Law goes against the UN Conventions on the Reduction of Statelessness. The 1961 UN Convention requires that loss of nationality should be conditional upon the prior possession of another nationality. However, ROC Nationality Law requires the certificate of stateless status to be submitted with the application for naturalization; i.e., a person must become stateless without prior possession of (or assurance of acquiring) another nationality. This results in the horrible situation where a spouse who divorces during the naturalization process, but after already renouncing their original nationality, is left in the ROC as a stateless person. This is exactly what the UN Convention seeks to stop, as these people are left without the protection of any government.

There are many thousands of these victims who are stuck in Taiwan without being able to return to their country of origin; many are not even able to reunite with their own families or children. These people are not good for Taiwan socially or economically, and yet it is Taiwan’s own nationality laws that continue to exacerbate this small scale humanitarian crisis.

What's more, ROC nationality law runs counter to the common will of the Taiwanese people. Would Taiwanese prefer to have more low-wage, low-education blue-collar workers from Southeast Asia, or would they prefer to have more high-wage workers, business owners, and highly educated entrepreneurs from countries that have close relationships with Taiwan? Would they prefer to have people choose Taiwanese nationality based on economics, or based on loyalty to Taiwan? Unfortunately, the nationality law works in direct opposition to what the Taiwanese people want. It prevents those highly educated, high-wage workers from living permanently in Taiwan, while at the same time encourages low-wage, low-education workers to live here permanently.

An American or European citizen with long-term plans to stay in Taiwan would certainly like to obtain Taiwanese nationality for the many benefits it confers: the right to pay into the pension fund, to apply for low interest home mortgages, to sponsor family members with the right to work in Taiwan, the right to travel between both home countries at any time and for any amount of time, the right to vote and participate in politics, etc. However, almost no Americans or European citizens are willing to give up their original nationality to get those benefits. In the past 30 years, less than 30 American and European nationals have given up their nationality to take that of the ROC. That’s less than 1 per year. The cost of giving up an American (or European) passport is simply too high.

On the other side of this argument, for foreigners from countries that are less well-off than Taiwan, notably countries in Southeast Asia, losing their original nationality is a very small price to pay to get all of the benefits that ROC nationality has to offer. These nationals are more than happy to renounce their original nationality, which confers no or little right to work or travel in other countries, a poor education and health care system, and few social services, in exchange for the ROC nationality that gives them a comparatively better lifestyle. In the past 30 years, more than 110,000 individuals from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Cambodia have obtained ROC nationality because they felt that losing their original nationality was a small price to pay.

Is this the system Taiwan wants? To encourage people to decide whether or not to obtain ROC nationality based on whether ROC nationality is subjectively "better" or "worse" than their original nationality? Under the current system, nationals of any country that is relatively “worse” than Taiwan in terms of the economy and social/political stability would be happy to exchange their nationality, while nationals of any country that is relatively “better” would not. Or, do the Taiwanese people want a law that allows people to acquire Taiwanese nationality based on loyalty to Taiwan, regardless of conditions in their home country?

The solution is clear. Here’s a proposal for amending the nationality law of the ROC: treat foreign nationals wishing to acquire ROC nationality the same way ROC nationals expect to be treated when obtaining a foreign nationality. In other words, remove the requirement to submit a “document certifying stateless status” from the nationality application, and allow other countries to determine when and if nationality should be revoked based on the acquisition of Taiwanese nationality. That’s it. Remove Article 9 from the Nationality Act, and the associated terms in Item 1, Article 8 and Item 2, Article 9 of the Enforcement Rules of the Nationality Act. Together, these 3 short paragraphs have caused many broken hearts, a small-scale humanitarian crisis, and have actively worked against the desires of the Taiwanese people.

Repeal Article 9. Let us become Taiwanese!

(A shorter version of this article will be printed as an editorial in tomorrow's Taipei Times, October 18, 2014. Edit: Here's the Taipei Times editorial. Also, for more detailed information please check out Forward Taiwan's comprehensive list of proposals on immigration reform.)


Monday, October 13, 2014

The Liens: A Modern Day Dynasty

The Liens
Lien Te-cheng was from an immigrant family that originally came from Zhangzhou City, Fujian Province. He once admonished his son, Lien Hong, for not reading up on his Taiwanese history books, saying "if you want to be seen as a Taiwanese, you must know how Taiwan works." Lien Hong took this seriously, and ultimately wrote his own treatise on Taiwanese history called "Comprehensive History of Taiwan" that brought the Lien family to fame for generations. An article in the Taipei Times from 2004 entitled “The book that built the Lien family” is really a must read (it's only two pages, go on) for an overview of what happened here.

Suffice to say, Lien Hong's tome was little more than an early version of Chinese history propaganda, and modern scholars have criticized much of Lien Hong's work as wrong if not outright fabricated (check Lien Heng's Wikipedia article linked above). From the Taiwanese colonial period, to the story of Wu Feng (a Han Chinese who "civilized" the Taiwanese aboriginals), to plagiarism, and even to getting the origin story of the name "Taiwan" completely wrong - Lien Hong's work was not doing much in the way of helping his family be seen as very "Taiwanese."

As if that weren't enough, Lien Hong wrote an editorial supporting the Japanese colonial government's pro-opium policies in the pro-government daily of the time (the equivalent of today's People's Daily in the PRC) in spite of massive public opposition, as he made money from the opium trade. After realizing that he was not finding much of a warm welcome after publishing these two propaganda pieces, Lien Hong retreated back to China in 1931, where he was welcomed by the KMT for contributing such an important work of Chinese history.

Lien Chen-tung, with a recommendation from his father Lien Hong, obtained a position in the government (KMT), and after the war was sent to Taiwan and appointed as Chairman of the Taipei State Council. He was criticized as a traitor for abandoning Taiwan until after the war, and for using his father's book to impress government officials to secure his own political promotions. In 1953 after being promoted to Unit Director at the KMT's central office, Lien Cheng-tung used his own clout in turn to obtain a position at NTU in that very same year for his own son, Lien Tsian, who was only able to secure admission into military school after his examinations. Lien Cheng-tung went on to hold nearly 30 different positions throughout his tenure in the KMT, including Minister of the Interior, Secretary General, Executive Councilor, and National Strategist and Adviser to the President. Importantly, he was also heavily involved in land reform, and ensured that Lien Tsian would have a prime piece of real estate (farmland, at the time) in downtown Taipei, currently the site of the Yongsheng building on Zhongshan N. Rd.

Lien Tsian, after returning from his studies and a short teaching stint in the US, married a recent Miss China winner and became the Director of the Political Science Department at NTU for six years, until he was appointed as Ambassador to El Salvador for three years. On his return to Taiwan, he went through at least 20 different government and public-private roles, including such varied responsibilities as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Foreign Affairs, President of the Executive Yuan, Vice President of Taiwan, Chairman of the National Policy Research Foundation, and Chairman of the Foundation for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities.

And now, of course, we come to Sean Lien, a man who claims that he was born and raised in Taipei, but was actually born in Tainan - the lies and half-truths start right from the very beginning. Sean, unlike his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, has little-to-no political experience, having spent most of his time thus far gallivanting around the world, managing hedge funds at Morgan Stanley, starting financial companies that mysteriously collapse leaving investors broke, and taking credit for popularizing Easycard.

What's interesting about Sean Lien's course of events is that some facts simply remain unclear: how is it that someone who, under his own academic strength in the university entrance examinations, was only admitted to middle-ranking Fu-jen University, was later able to gain admission into not one, but two of the best law schools in the US, Columbia and Harvard? What's more, having studied law, hw is it that Sean Lien was able to go straight into finance without any certifications or studies, and was then appointed as the CEO of Easycard immediately upon return to Taiwan? His actual business dealings are no less clear and rife with "coincidences" (i.e., scandals) to which he claims complete and total lack of involvement despite being at the center of the storms, while it would seem that he knows almost nothing about the decisions being made in his mayoral campaign - to date, whenever the campaign has made any missteps, Sean Lien has been the first to come out pointing fingers at campaign staff.

In fact, we could go on for days about the mysteries surrounding Sean Lien. Like how, for example, he is constantly showing up in photos driving different fancy cars around town, but claims he doesn't own a single car; or, despite living in Dibao (the most expensive condo in Taiwan), he doesn't own a single piece of property; or, despite how he claims that his success is his own and not his father's, he owned his first home at the age of 18 - in San Francisco!

Or, we could talk about the recent tainted oil scandals that actually started last year, and how the Liens are close family friends with the Weis, the owners of the company at the heart of the scandal. And I don't just mean that they're close in that they live near one another (they do though, the Weis own 9 units in Dibao, the same condominiums that Sean Lien calls - or rather, doesn't call - home), but to the point that Lien Tsian (Sean's father) acted as officiant at Wei family weddings.

And Sean, for all of his talk about humble upbringings and lack of a car or house to his name, has a father who owns more than 1,000 pings (that's almost an acre) of real estate in Taipei City, and has an estimated net worth of over 20 billion (with a 'b') NT - nearly three quarters of a billion US dollars - a fortune that started off with government subsidized Chinese propaganda and opium profits, both of which were severely damaging to the Taiwanese people.

But I digress. What I wanted to show here is a pattern, and I think that pattern is clear enough. For five generations, the Liens have been using and abusing the Taiwanese people for their own financial and political goals, and the people of Taipei now have the ability of stopping this dynasty dead in its tracks. Sean Lien and his forefathers, going back at least 5 generations, have considered themselves Chinese and been unable to find a real place in Taiwanese society, apart from as members of the government-in-exile that is the ROC.

Many of these facts about Sean Lien's murky background are just starting to come to light as he is scrutinized by the Taiwanese electorate in the run-up to the elections. The vote is on for November 29th - we'll find out soon enough whether the people deem him worthy of "continuing the legacy." Let's sure hope not.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Open Letter to 柯文哲: Bike-Friendly Taipei




一,荷蘭的自行車規劃是1970 年代才開始設計,而在那之前荷蘭的市區交通問題和其他國家一樣,比方說目前的台北市。

  • 自行車佔各類通勤交通工具高達35%
  • 超過50%的市民天天騎自行車
  • 自行車佔所有市區車次的25-30%

三,標誌與障礙:和其他的路面 (汽車、人行道) 需要不同的顏色、不同的高度、而各種路面之間需要具體的分類障礙,例:短的水泥護欄。

請注意影片 0:40-0:45:停車位與自行車專用車道隔了一條15cm 高的水泥護欄,而水泥護欄在禁停路段會直接凸出來(綠色植栽部分),阻止車輛暫停台灣「原來的紅線」,同時會保護停止的車輛與最外一層的自行車車道與人行道。

請注意 1:10-1:20: 這兩條路的十字路口面積並沒有改變。只有延長自行車專用車道直到十字路口裡面,讓左後方的汽車駕駛看到等待的自行車,同時縮減汽車轉彎半徑使汽車駕駛減速慢行。



記得,如果以上四個重點不完整設計,荷蘭的經驗已經一清二楚:自行車使用者會覺得不方便,也不會選用騎自行車,就像前幾年敦化南路自行車專用車道大失敗,到最後直接被去除最新的信義路自行車專用車道規劃算是往對的方向邁進 (自行車道與汽車道分隔較開) ,但還有許多尚未解決的問題,例如:自行車道上的障礙物 (路燈桿、變電箱)、自行車與行人共用路段、自行車專用車道突然消失或連接方式不明、路網不完整、而更重要的是完全沒有考慮到保護式叉口的任何規劃。