Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Don't Anger Your Taiwanese Wife or ... Face the Consequences!

Are Taiwanese women submissive and passive, innocent and cute, as some people suggest? The following story, although extreme, seems to prove the opposite.

As Apple Daily reported, on Chinese New Year a man surnamed Liu went with his wife to visit her family in the southern part of Taiwan. On February 21st, while the couple were returning to their home in Taichung, they had a quarrel. The man decided to stop at a service station in Gukeng, a township in Yunlin County, to try to ease up the atmosphere a bit.

But his wife was so furious that she took his money, wallet and phone, and just left. "Find a way to go back home, if you can!" she reportedly said as she drove off the service station, leaving her dumbfounded husband alone and penniless.

Without his money and mobile phone, Mr Liu could neither pay for a taxi nor call friends or relatives to help him. Nevertheless, he asked the staff of the service station to call him a cab. He explained to the driver what had happened and asked him to take him to the nearest police station.

At Yongguang police station Mr Liu told the officers his story and borrowed from them money so that he could return home. Jian Liangguang (簡良光), the head of the police station, gave him 1000 TWD (around 30 euros) out of his own pocket.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Chiang Kai-shek's Beheading and Ke Wenzhe's Tears

During an emotional speech commemorating the victims of the 228 Incident, the current mayor of Taipei, Ke Wenzhe (Ko Wen-je), could not hold back his tears as he recounted the suffering that his own family had to bear during the brutal and indiscriminate repression of real or presumed dissent on the part of Guomindang one-party state. Following the revolt of February 28, 1947, Ke’s grandfather, Ke Shiyuan, was arrested, not because he had been personally involved in the uprising, but solely because he was an intellectual. After he was severely beaten by the Guomindang police he became ill and died a few years later.

Thousands of people were killed, imprisoned or tortured during the White Terror that followed the 228 Incident. To a certain extent, February 28 1947 was for Taiwan what June 4 1989 was for the PRC. The state revealed its savage and cruel nature, reasserted its authority by force, and ushered in an era of silence, fear and suspicion, during which the memory and the truth about the historical events were suppressed.

On the eve of the 228 commemoration day, students and activists vandalised several bronze statues of Chiang Kai-shek, the former leader of the Guomindang and of the Republic of China. It was Chiang who ordered troops from the mainland to be transferred to Taiwan and suppress the popular uprising. Days after the massacre of innocent civilians, he still defended his decision.

To many people in Taiwan, Chiang is the symbol of the White Terror and of the restriction of basic freedoms and human rights that lasted until 1987.

In the morning of February 27, members of ‘Taiwan Nation’ (台灣國) and other groups that advocate Taiwanese nationalism, vandalised the bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek located inside Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, one of Taipei’s most popular landmarks.

They took advantage of the changing of the guards to throw eggs at the giant statue and sprinkle it with ink. “Chiang Kai-shek, you evil murderer!”, “When there is no truth there can be no forgiveness!” they shouted. The founder of Taiwan Nation, Wang Xianji (王獻極), and its chairman, Chen Junhan (陳峻涵) and other four individuals were soon blocked by the security guards and were later arrested. They were charged with disrupting public order and face a fine of up to 6,000 TWD. Chen was unrepentant. He stated that what happened in history can be forgiven but cannot be forgotten, and that he wants Taiwan’s society to learn the moral lesson from the past.

The 25-ton heavy sculpture of Chiang is not the only one that was damaged this year on the eve of the 228 anniversary. Other statues were vandalised on the campuses of Zhengzhi University (政治大學), Yangming University (陽明大學), Dongwu University (東吳大學) and Furen University (輔仁大學), as well as in Xinglong Park (興隆公園).

Students of Furen University spray-painted on the statue the sentence: "Guomindang, acknowledge your mistakes so that the dead soul may regret them." On the campus of Dongwu University, students spray-painted the words "Murderer!" "Don't forget 228!"

Similar acts of vandalism were committed throughout Taiwan. A statue of Chiang located in a park in Keelung, the city where the troops from the mainland arrived in 1947 to put down the uprising, was beheaded. Other statues were vandalised in Taoyuan's Zhongzheng Park, Taipei First Girls’ High School, Taipei Municipal Da'an Vocational High School, National Zhudong Senior High School, Donghai University and National Taipei University of Technology. Some students turned Chiang's statues into "artworks", spray-painting and decorating them.

What should we make of these acts of vandalism? Are they justified? Is it acceptable for a democratic country to honour a dictator like Chiang Kai-shek? Should all statues and portraits of the autocrat be removed, as it happened with Hitler's or Mussolini's after their regimes were overthrown?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Taipei-Taoyuan Airport Express Is Finally Coming

When you see scenes like this you know why Taipei really needs an airport express. Last week I arrived at Taipei Bus Station (located right next to Taipei Main Station) and there I saw this huge line of people waiting to board the bus to the airport. When the bus arrived there were so many passengers that I had no choice but to wait for the next one. Overall it took me about one hour and a half to get from the bus station to the airport. 

Then I arrived in Hong Kong. I exchanged some money, bought something to drink, recharged my Octopus Card (the equivalent of Taipei's Easy Card) and took that amazing, super modern, spacious Airport Express that runs from Hong Kong International Airport to Central in just 25 minutes! 

When I first came to Taiwan at the end of 2011, I was quite surprised that this island, known all over the world for its high-tech industry, had no direct MRT connection between the airport and Taipei Main Station. I bought a ticket, exited the airport and looked for the bus stop. Then a guy from the bus company shouted at me in Chinese, asking me where I wanted to go. This was the first time I had to speak Chinese to survive in a foreign country. 

Then I boarded the bus. It took over an hour to get to Taipei Main Station. I must say that for someone travelling alone, for the first time in Asia, who is already quite nervous because of all the expectations and the uncertainty, and who is tired and hungry and doesn't know anything about this new place, the journey from the airport to Taipei is not as comfortable as in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai or other big cities in East Asia.