On Happiness Road

On Happiness Road 幸福路上 is an animated film following Chi, a Taiwanese woman born in 1975, as she grew up during Taiwan’s transition to a democracy, moved to the US, but returned to attend her grandmother’s funeral. A touching tear jerker highly relatable to Taiwanese in their 30s and 40s, the film manages to “condense four decades of Taiwanese politics, economics, traditional and pop culture as well as everyday life into 109 minutes without mucking up the narrative.” The story mirrors that of the film’s director, Sung Hsin-ying, who is making her debut through support of the Golden Horse Film Project, as well as countless others who grew up in Taiwan with grand aspirations but had to come to terms with reality.

See the trailer

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Labor law change sparks protests and police action scrutiny

As the Tsai administration and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) prepares to pass amendments to the Labor Standards Act, the law that governs employer-employee relationship and workers’ rights in Taiwan, protests and demonstrations have followed over remarks from officials and the proposed changes, seen as catering to business demands. Low wages and long working hours have long been the norm for the Taiwanese work force, but expectations from the younger generations seem to make the status quo untenable.

This culminated to yesterday, where over 10,000 demonstrators protested the changes at various places in Taipei. New Bloom’s detailed account is worth a read. While police declared parts of the protests illegal due to an unapproved route change, the Taipei Bar Association and rights groups have accused the police of illegally detaining and transporting several demonstrators and volunteer lawyers at the scenes of protest and demanded apologies from the government.

Prosecutors searched and questioned pro-unification party officials

Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau and police searched the homes of four New Party officials early Tuesday morning. Investigators entered New Party spokesperson Wang Bingzhong’s home with a search warrant after a 40-minute standoff, streamed lived on Wang’s Facebook page. Three other party members, all considered the upcoming new blood of the party, were searched and questioned before being released past midnight on Wednesday. Investigation Bureau did not provide additional details, but it is speculated that the searches are connected with Zhou Hongxu, a Chinese citizen serving a 14-month sentence for attempting to bribe a Taiwanese diplomat and recruit spies for China.

New Party was originally a faction within Kuomintang, but splintered off in 1993. It is a conservative party supporting Chinese unification (Group E on the spectrum). The party was once the third largest political party in Taiwan after the KMT and DPP, winning 21 and 11 seats in the Legislative Yuan in 1995 and 1998. It has since failed to garner support for electoral success, currently occupying no seats in the legislature and two seats in the Taipei City Council. New Party Chairman Yu Muming denounced the searches as politically-motivated, citing the party’s lack of governing status and lack of access to any classified information. Yu and a New Party delegation including Wang had just returned from a trip meeting Communist Party of China officials last week.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office condemned the moves “oppressing pro-unification forces”, while Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council countered the importance of judicial independence and expressed disapproval over “external intervention and commenting… [and] misunderstanding of democracy and rule of law.”

Parliament passes transitional justice legislation

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passes the Act Promoting Transitional Justice in a late-evening session today. The 21-article act mainly aims for truth-seeking and reparations from Taiwan’s authoritarian era. The law specified the authoritarian era as between August 15, 1945, when Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan ended, and November 6, 1992, when martial law on Kinmen and Matsu was lifted (martial law lifted in Taiwan proper in July 1987).

The law establishes the Promotion of Transitional Justice Committee as an independent agency under the Executive Yuan, with nine committee members nominated by the premier and confirmed by the Legislative Yuan. The committee will be in charge of acquiring Kuomintang historical archives to clarify the history of repression during rule of Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.

Establishment of the committee follows the establishment of the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee, responsible for investigating and returning ill-gotten political party assets during the same authoritarian era, mainly targeting the KMT and its affiliated organizations. The Promotion of Transitional Justice Committee is tasked with utilizing the returned assets.

China’ playbook for conquering Taiwan

Ian Easton, author of The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia, composed an excellent piece in the Diplomat about how Beijing intends to annex Taiwan.

[Xi Jinping’s] playbook is not to win heart and minds in Taiwan. Given the stark differences between the political value systems espoused by the two sides, that would be impossible. China will instead seek to weaken hearts and minds in Taiwan. Beijing will engage in a long and intermittent war of nerves with Taipei, using advanced psychological warfare techniques to convince the Taiwanese that they are in a hopeless situation. China will apply propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, history manipulation, espionage, and economic warfare. Ultimately, Xi’s goal will be to infiltrate and subvert key pillars of Taiwan’s democracy.

We are beginning to see more Chinese fighter jets circling the island and expect more to come. We have seen diplomatic allies lured away by economic opportunities and foreign aid, while other countries shove us under the bus to get better deals with China. We saw people who supposedly represent Taiwan at the Communist Party Congress swear allegiance to Xi and the party, while the fifth column in Taiwan is protected by the very freedom and rights they are encroaching and eroding. We saw one of our own sentenced to jail for supporting democracy and human rights. Continue reading “China’ playbook for conquering Taiwan”

Taiwanese activist sentenced in Chinese court

Yueyang People’s Intermediate Court sentenced Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh to five years in jail for state subversion today. Lee was first abducted by Chinese authorities when crossing the border from Macao in March. The court held a “trial” in September.

Lee Ching-yu, Lee’s wife and fellow activist, attended the sentencing with two Straits Exchange Foundation staff and is currently confined to her hotel. Former MP Wang Li-ping (DPP) also traveled with the group but was denied entry to China after landing in Yueyang. After the sentencing, Lee stated he would not appeal the sentence and motioned that he was bugged when briefly meeting his wife.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council stated the sentence to be unacceptable and demanded Lee to be released immediately, although the demand would likely fall on deaf ears due to China cutting off official communication with Taiwan.