Sunday, April 27, 2014

Nuke 4 - The story of the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant leading up to the 427 protests

The protests against Nuke 4 have started again in earnest, and recently you may have seen banners, flags, or signs like this pinned up around town:

Of course, we all know about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that happened back in 2011, but even Japan has recently said that they will reconsider nuclear power going into the future. So what's the problem with the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant, or as it is commonly known: Nuke 4 (核四 hésì)?

The story of Nuke 4 goes back to the oil crises of the mid-to-late 70s, at which point three nuclear facilities were already operational: Nuke 1 (Jinshan NPP) and Nuke 2 (Kuosheng NPP) both on the North coast of New Taipei City, and Nuke 3 (Maanshan NPP) at the southern end of the island, in Kenting. After the crises of '73 and '79, an energy diversification policy was announced in 1979, and plans for Nuke 4 were first announced in 1980, and protests started almost immediately. Citizens in Kungliao, the site in New Taipei City where construction was started in 1982, started protesting over environmental concerns in 1985 and the construction was temporarily halted.

In 1991, DPP lawyer (and later legislator) Lin Yi-hsiung started an organization to push for a referendum about the continuing construction of the plant, but the new KMT President Lee Teng-hui restarted construction in 1992, which continued until the DPP took office in 2000. The plans to open the plant in 2004 were again put on hold. During the DPP's time in office, many issues came to light about the construction quality of the plant, the surplus of energy Taiwan will have as manufacturing moves overseas (especially to China), as well as some scares due to malfunctions and earthquakes in Nuke 3 in 2005 and 2006. Nuke 4 is only rated for 0.4g of acceleration, as was the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. The earthquake that struck Fukushima produced forces of 0.56g, which exceeded the design specification. Nuke 4 faces the exact same problem, given that Taiwan sits in a similar geographic location full of seismic activity. Many protestors have said that they are "不反核能,卻反核四" ("not against nuclear power, just against Nuke 4"). Given the construction and design specification safety issues, this makes perfect sense.

Lin Yi-hsiung's "Referendum Coalition" (公投盟 gōngtóu méng) obtained limited success in 2004 with the passage of the Referendum Act, but the voting threshold was kept high enough by KMT and PFP opponents to be essentially useless. DPP legislators opposed the passage of the bill, likening it to being trapped in a birdcage: you can see the outside but you can't actually get out. The threshold of the bill requires that 5% of the voting population jointly signs a proposal, 1/2 of the population casts a valid ballot, and that 1/2 of those votes are in favor of the referendum. Compare this with Switzerland, where 100,000 signatures (approximately 1.3% of the population) can petition for a referendum that passes with simple majority rules.

In other words, under the Referendum Act, anyone opposed to a given referendum should simply abstain and count on the fact that it will be essentially impossible to mobilize a full 50% of the voting population to vote in favor, especially considering that the voting day would likely be a regular work day (given that the Central Election Commission can choose any date they like) and ballots must be cast in the district where the voter holds household registration. 49% of the population voting in favor of a referendum with 0% opposed means that the referendum fails. (As a side note, the public servant recall election system is the same, which means that in practice it is also impossible to recall public servants in Taiwan.)

All of this has come to a head in the current protests following the start of the Sunflower Movement a month ago.

On April 15th, Lin Yi-hsiung announced (Chinese) that he would commence a hunger strike on the 22nd, and that he would continue until the Nuke 4 project was completely shut down (停建 tíngjiàn) or his own death. On Saturday, April 26th, Nuke 4 opposition groups met in Taipei in front of the Presidential Office, and again led a march around the city on the 27th. Approximately 50,000 people occupied the area in front of the Presidential Office and Taipei Main Station on Zhongxiao W. Rd., leading to the Executive Yuan releasing a press statement saying that there will be a work stoppage (停工 tínggōng) on Nuke 4, but the statement fell short of the demand to shut down the project.

The protest is still going on at the time of this post, well into the early house of the morning, and Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin has stated that the protestors will be evicted before morning rush hour. Let's hope we don't see a repeat of 323 with the bloodied bodies of students being pulled out of the Executive Yuan.

(Source: ETT Today)

The mainstream media has been repeating a new and very appropriate slogan as of late, 漂亮島嶼:憤怒之國 ("Beautiful Island: Angry Country"). Just remember that there is a long and complicated history behind all of this, and the current generation, my generation, is caught in the middle of this battle that has been going on since the end of WWII. Anger is not the answer, but given this extraordinary situation, I have nothing but sympathy and support for these ongoing protests.

天色漸漸光! A New Day Will Come!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Taiwan: Independent or Province of China?

I want to be very clear about my position on the status of Taiwan right from the start of this blog. My position is this: the status of Taiwan is extremely complicated. Not to fear! Complicated as it may be, I am confident that it can be fully understood with a little explanation.

The idea that Taiwan must be either an independent country or belong to China is a false dichotomy, and of course, it depends on what the words Taiwan and China actually mean. So, let's set the record straight:

Taiwan is the name of an island, the "Big Island," if you will, that most people think about when they think of the word Taiwan. There is no country called Taiwan, nor has there ever been one. The history of Taiwan (the island) has been a long and convoluted one, with many twists and turns owing to various waves of immigrants and colonial powers, coming not only from China, but also the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and American colonial powers. Taiwan was first inhabited, it is believed, around 3,000 B.C. by tribes coming from Southeast Asia, and the descendants of these are known as the Taiwanese aboriginals today.

The "modern" history of Taiwan starts around the 16th or 17th century with the first colonization by Western powers. Later, the island was taken again by China for a time, and then by Japan, America, and again once more by China. It is this final sequence of events (Japan-America-China) that needs further exploration to understand the current situation.

By the time Japan surrendered at the end of WWII, it was clear that the PRC was taking control of the Chinese mainland. The ROC government, led by the KMT (Kuomintang, trans: Chinese Nationalist Party) and under the authority of the Allied Forces and the US military, took over administration of Taiwan from Japan, but never officially received the territory as a sovereign government under any of the post-war treaties. When the ROC realized its own defeat on the mainland in 1949, the government fled and reestablished its temporary headquarters on Taiwan, which they refer to until this day as "the free area of the Republic of China." The "official" capital of the ROC is still in Nanking, but it would be quite impossible for the ROC to maintain a presence in Nanking given the current situation!

Since no transfer of sovereign rights was ever established after the transfer from Japan to the Allied Forces (led by the US), and since the Allied Forces / US do not recognize ownership over the island of Taiwan, the legal status of Taiwan's sovereignty remains undetermined. It is certainly administered by the ROC, and not administered by the PRC, this much is clear. At the same time, both governments claim that the territory under their control is part of the same sovereign state as the territory under control of the opposition.

Indeed, this uncertainty has led to a number of politically viable but legally questionable solutions over the past few decades. For one thing, most countries today recognize the PRC as the sole government of China (including Taiwan), but maintain separate "unofficial" diplomatic relations with Taiwan via "Economic and Trade Offices" or some other such nonsense. Taiwan has not been able to join the UN, as indeed, it has not declared independence as a sovereign nation, nor has it been granted independence by the Allied Forces since the end of WWII.

So what's next?

Well, there is a small group of people here on Taiwan that want to unify with the mainland under the PRC government. Thankfully, they are few and far between. There are probably more (but still not many) who would like to unify with the mainland, if the mainland could accept Taiwan's democracy as an independently functioning system, much like the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau. There is even an organization called "The Government of Taiwan" that considers itself to be the true government since ROC was never officially granted sovereignty, and another that pushes for the Allied Forces (specifically, the US government) to exercise their right to administer Taiwan according to the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII. None of these groups have much power, but that is not to say that they are wrong, either. Mostly, the people here want to be citizens of a sovereign state comprised of the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen & Matzu, whether that state is called the ROC or something else (like the ROT, Republic of Taiwan). Why doesn't this happen? The China threat. China has threatened to invade and take Taiwan by force if Taiwan declares independence, effectively stopping most pro-independence movements from ever finding the political viability they need to become a reality.

So, for now, Taiwan is stuck in legal limbo. The best way forward, in my opinion, is to improve Taiwan's democracy and relationships with other countries, while maintaining a relationship with the PRC that doesn't force political or economic concessions that would not be given to other countries, such as the recent CSSTA debacle that sparked the Sunflower Movement. In the end, I, like most locals, hope that Taiwan will one day free itself from the political shackles imposed on it by both the PRC and ROC governments, and that it will make itself a free nation. Unfortunately, that day is still a long way off.

Let's wrap up some terminology:

  • China (One China): a territory, defined by two different governments (the ROC and PRC) as consisting of both the mainland and the island of Taiwan; "political" usage of the name China
  • China (country): the country controlled by the PRC government, namely, mainland China controlled by the Chinese Communist Party; "common" usage of the name China
  • PRC: the government in control of the mainland
  • ROC: the government in control of Taiwan (and outlying islands); possibly acting under the authority of the Allied Forces / US after WWII and the surrender of Japan
  • "The free area of the ROC": the territory of China controlled by the ROC, namely, the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matzu; commonly referred to as Taiwan; capital is Taipei
  • Taiwan (island): the island known as Taiwan
  • Taiwan (province): a province in China, administered by the ROC; consisting of the islands of Taiwan and Penghu; capital is Zhongxing New Village in Nantou County
  • Taiwan (country): the likely future name of the free republic if (and when) the ROC and PRC end their ongoing cold war; indeed, even without the political or legal environment to make this possible currently, this name has already taken root and ROC citizens are proud to call themselves Taiwanese!

So the next time someone asks you if Taiwan is independent, just link them to this article. But at the same time, I hope you will join me and the millions of Taiwanese in our journey for a Free Taiwan.

Welcome to Tairadical

Tairadical (台份子) is not your typical Taiwan food, travel, or "cultural experience" blog. Learn about what goes on behind the scenes in Taiwan's ongoing two-decade struggle for democratization and how it is experienced by the locals in life and politics; how the younger generation's web culture has gone from a counter-culture to the 6 o'clock headline news; and how perhaps you can even join me as I explore a new language. Welcome to Formosa, the beautiful island!

Since I haven't written anything substantial on here yet, I just want to give you an idea of what you can expect to see:

  • Translations of breaking or important Chinese-language news and articles that haven't yet found their way into the English papers
  • In-depth background, history, and current developments of local politics that might be common knowledge for an educated Taiwanese, but hard to come by without being able to read Chinese
  • Developments in immigration policy or other topics relevant for foreigners. I hope this can be an authoritative source for this type of thing as most other forum posts and websites (looking at you, Tealit) can't ever seem to keep up
  • Exploration of the Taiwanese web culture, especially memes, trends, and other viral hits
  • Taiwanese language lessons and practice materials
  • Shameless plugs for my own translation/interpreting and English tutoring/training services
If there's any other type of content you'd like to see, just drop a note below or shoot me a message. Enjoy!