Lee Teng-hui dies at 97

Source: BBC News (7/31/20)
Lee Teng-hui: Taiwan’s ‘father of democracy’ dies

Lee Teng-hui

Lee won Taiwan’s first presidential vote by a landslide

Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, considered the “father of Taiwan’s democracy”, has died at the age of 97. He served as president of Taiwan, from 1988 to 2000.

Lee was credited with ending autocratic rule in favour of pluralism and democracy – but was also a controversial figure.

His attempts to delink the island from China sparked tensions with Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunited one day. Continue reading

Taiwan Lit online journal/forum

Dear Friends,

We are happy to announce the publication of Taiwan Lit, a new online journal/critical forum on studies of literature and culture from Taiwan. The journal has evolved from a website project that faculty, alumni, and graduate students at The University of Texas at Austin have worked on for quite some time.  Ironically, it is the COVID-19 lockdown that has enabled us to reach the finish line.  The link is http://taiwanlit.org/.  Below is an outline of the website:


Taiwan Lit, launched in the summer of 2020, is an online journal centering on studies of Taiwan literature and culture. It aims to reinvigorate the intellectual climate of the field by building a transnational critical forum, disseminating substantive research ideas, and facilitating innovative modes of scholarly exchange.

We invite submissions in either English or Chinese with no fixed length requirements. Continue reading

John Thompson photo exhibit

From July 18th to mid-October 2020, ShungYe Museum of Formosan Aborigines (順益台灣原住民博物館) in Taipei will exhibit fifty photos of Taiwan in April 1871 (and related 30 original woodcuts) by John Thomson, travelling with fellow Scotsman Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell — who established the first Presbyterian chapels in Taiwan and its first western style medical dispensary.

Practically no silver-based albumen prints of this series have survived. The fifty pigment-based digital prints exhibited are by Michael Gray, from his (film contact) high-resolution scans  of Thomson’s original glass-negatives preserved at Wellcome Library.

This exhibition is an updated version of a first one by Françoise Zylberberg and René Viénet in 2006  during Taipei International Book Exhibition, then in 2008 at National Taiwan University Library, with lectures by Richard Ovenden, John Falconer, William Schupbach, Barbara & Michael Gray —  together with the only known framed set of the original 96 collotypes plates (218 views) from Thomson’s “Illustrations of China and its people…Continue reading

As China strengthens grip on HK, Taiwan sees threat

Source: NYT (7/1/20)
As China Strengthens Grip on Hong Kong, Taiwan Sees a Threat
The sweeping new security law in Hong Kong has further eroded what little support there was in Taiwan for unifying with the mainland.
By Javier C. Hernández and 

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, center, has repeatedly pledged to defend the island’s sovereignty against threats from China. Credit…Taiwan Presidential Office, via Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has long tried to convince Taiwan that unification was a historical inevitability, alternately enticing the democratic island with economic incentives while bluntly warning that any move toward formal independence would be answered with military force.

Now, the incentives are gone and the warnings seem more ominous following Mr. Xi’s swift move to strengthen China’s grip on Hong Kong, a semiautonomous territory that only last year he held out as a model for Taiwan’s future.

The new security rules for Hong Kong that China passed this week — without input from the city’s Beijing-backed leadership — have made Mr. Xi’s promise of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework seem hollow. And it has raised fears that China will move more aggressively to bring Taiwan, too, under its control. Continue reading

Eclipse film review

Source: Taipei Times (6/25/20)
Movie Review: Eclipse
A 45-second classic television commercial is turned into a gripping and entertaining 83-minute thriller that addresses current social issues such as abuse in the military and transitional justice
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

Kai Hsieh, left, and Kelvin Chi star in Eclipse. Photo courtesy of atmovies.com

It’s hard to know what to expect from a film that takes a popular 1990s “Iron Ox” (鐵牛運功散) herbal remedy television commercial and expands it to 83 minutes. There’s infinite room for imagination, as the commercial basically consists of a young military conscript calling his mother and telling her how effective the remedy is.

“Mom, it’s A-jung!” (媽! 我阿榮啦) he exclaims into the old-school payphone, the catchphrase serving as the Chinese title of Eclipse. He enthusiastically describes the medicine’s benefits, after which his father takes the phone and asks him to come home soon. The ad is still shown on television every now and then, giving rise to the running joke that A-jung is still stuck in military service over 20 years later and still hasn’t returned home. Continue reading

A great loss for Taiwanese literature

Source: Taipei Times (5/24/20)
Taiwan in Time: A great loss for Taiwanese literature
Chung Chao-cheng, who died last Saturday, didn’t learn Chinese until he was 20 — but he became one of Taiwan’s most celebrated Mandarin-language authors
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

A portrait of Chung Chao-cheng in his later years. Photo: Taipei Times file photo

Three months before his 90th birthday in 2015, Chung Chao-cheng (鍾肇政) woke up shortly after midnight and experienced a inexplicable sense of clarity.

“Suddenly, my mind started going all over the place. There were some recent memories, but also many that I thought I had long forgotten. They would appear and disappear from my brain one after another, and they were so clear, so lucid. Even the memories from 70, 80 years ago felt like they happened yesterday. I suddenly thought, if I still remember so much, why don’t I write everything down?”

Despite his solid reputation among Taiwan’s literary giants, Chung had never felt comfortable writing a memoir, declaring his aversion in the introduction to the 1998 book, Memoirs of Chung Chao-cheng: Struggle and Uncertainty (鍾肇政回憶錄:徬徨與掙扎), a collection of personal essays put together by his friend Chien Hung-chun (錢鴻鈞). Continue reading

Taiwan strikes down adultery law

Source: NYT (5/29/20)
Taiwan Court Strikes Down Law Criminalizing Adultery
The decision was hailed by rights activists who said the law had disproportionately targeted women.
By Amy Qin

Chief Justice Hsu Tzong-li, center, in 2017. He called the law a “serious invasion of personal privacy.” Credit…Sam Yeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s constitutional court on Friday struck down an 85-year-old law that made adultery a crime punishable by up to a year in prison, a decision hailed by activists as a major step forward for women’s rights on the island.

The law is a “violation of a person’s sexual autonomy” and a “serious invasion of personal privacy,” Chief Justice Hsu Tzong-li said during a news conference announcing the ruling. While adultery may violate the marital promise, he added, it does not necessarily harm the public interest.

With the ruling, Taiwan has become the latest place in Asia to decriminalize marital infidelity — following South Korea in 2015 and India in 2018 — and one of the last non-Muslim places in the world to take it off the criminal books. Some U.S. states still have criminal adultery laws, though they are not typically enforced. Continue reading

Taiwan promises support for HK people

Posted by Joseph Allen <jrallen@umn.edu>
Source: The Guardian (5/24/20)
Taiwan promises ‘support’ for Hong Kong’s people as China tightens grip
President Tsai Ing-wen pledges ‘necessary assistance’ after a resurgence in protests against newly proposed security legislation from Beijing
By Lily Kuo and agencies

Hong Kong police fired teargas and pepper spray onto demonstrators after thousands took to the streets in Causeway Bay protesting against Beijing’s declaration that it intends to impose national security laws

Hong Kong police fired teargas and pepper spray at demonstrators after thousands took to the streets to oppose Beijing’s declaration that it intends to impose security laws. Photograph: Ivan Abreu/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Taiwan will provide the people of Hong Kong with “necessary assistance”, President Tsai Ing-wen has said, after a resurgence in protests in the Chinese-ruled territory against newly proposed national security legislation from Beijing.

Taiwan has become a refuge for a small but growing number of pro-democracy protesters fleeing Hong Kong, which has been convulsed since last year by protests.

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of people who rallied on Sunday to protest against Beijing’s plan to impose national security laws on the city. Continue reading

Yu Lihua dies at 90

Source: NYT (5/19/20)
Yu Lihua, 90, Dies; Writer Spoke to ‘Rootless’ Chinese Émigrés
In her fiction she depicted “the struggle of Chinese immigrants in American society” — not the “Oriental exoticism” preferred by many publishers in the ’60s.
By Amy Qin

Yu Lihua’s more than two dozen novels and short story collections resonated with many of the readers she called the “rootless generation” of Chinese immigrants. Credit… Lena H. Sun

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Yu Lihua, a writer whose nuanced portraits of overseas Chinese students and intellectuals in America captured the cultural displacement and identity crisis felt by many in the Chinese diaspora, died on April 30 at her home in Gaithersburg, Md. She was 90.

The cause was respiratory failure brought on by Covid-19, said her daughter Lena Sun, a reporter for The Washington Post who has been covering the coronavirus pandemic since January.

Ms. Yu produced more than two dozen novels and short story collections over five decades, drawing on her experience as a Chinese émigré in postwar America. She was celebrated in the diaspora for giving voice to what she called the “rootless generation” — émigrés who had left for a better life but remained nostalgic for their homeland. Continue reading

Chung Chao-cheng dead at 96

Chung Chao-cheng, 鈡肇政, the Hakka novelist hailed by media in Taiwan as “The Source of Taiwanese Literature” 台灣文學之母, died this last Saturday at the age of 96. Michael Berry’s History of Pain discusses Chung, principally for his addressing of the February 28 incident in his 1990s novel 怒濤 Angry Tide. But he had long since established himself as the most prolific author of roman fleuve in Taiwan, having completed four trilogies (濁流 Turbidity, 1961; 台灣人 Taiwanese People, 1974; 高山 Alpine; and Angry Tide). Several of his works of short fiction have been translated into English in Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series. 

The most detailed English description of his career I can find online is from Taiwan’s Hakka Affairs Council website, and Focus Taiwan has a report on his passing.

Charles A. Laughlin
University of Virginia

Taiwan’s weapon against coronavirus

Source: NYT (5/9/20)
Taiwan’s Weapon Against Coronavirus: An Epidemiologist as Vice President
Chen Chien-jen has embraced a rare dual role, using his political authority as vice president to criticize China’s response to the virus even as he hunkers down to analyze trends in transmission.
By Javier C. Hernández and 

Vice President Chen Chien-jen of Taiwan in 2018. Credit…Tyrone Siu/Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The calls come at night, when Taiwan’s vice president, Chen Chien-jen, is usually at home in his pajamas. Scientists seek his advice on the development of antiviral medications. Health officials ask for guidance as they investigate an outbreak of the coronavirus on a navy ship.

Like many world leaders, Mr. Chen is fighting to keep the coronavirus at bay and to predict the course of the pandemic. He is tracking infections, pushing for vaccines and testing kits, and reminding the public to wash their hands.

But unlike most officials, Mr. Chen has spent his career preparing for this moment — he is a Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist and an expert in viruses. Continue reading

Taiwan says ‘play ball’

Source: NYT (5/5/20)
Taiwan Says ‘Play Ball!’ (With Cardboard Fans and Robot Drummers)
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Players must submit to temperature checks several times a day, but professional baseball games go on amid the coronavirus pandemic, even if the stadium is empty.
By Javier C. Hernández; Photographs by Ashley Pon

Dummies and cardboard cutouts replaced fans during a game between the Rakuten Monkeys and the CTBC Brothers at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium in Taiwan on Saturday.

TAOYUAN, Taiwan — On a balmy Saturday evening inside one of Taiwan’s largest baseball stadiums, the floodlights flickered to life and the players took their positions.

Cheerleaders began their rah-rah routines. Organ music blared through the speakers.

But as the first batter stepped up to the plate and the pitcher took a deep breath, the only fans inside the 20,000-seat stadium in the northern city of Taoyuan were cardboard cutouts and plastic mannequins.

Some wore hot-pink wigs and surgical masks. Others held signs with this cheery message: “We will always be with you!” A five-member band of robots played drums from the stands — a substitute for the usual cacophony of live music. “Welcome to the one and only live sports game on the surface of the planet,” an announcer said. Continue reading

Causeway Bay Books reopens

Despite the paint-spray attack by pro-China thugs just days before the planned opening, brave bookseller Lam Wing-kee re-opened Causeway Bay Books in Taipei April 25, with lots of people, and media coverage.

Lam Wing-kee himself, red paint still visible in his hair, spoke movingly about standing up for freedom of reading, publishing, and speaking. He joked about his new hairstyle — and described Hong Kong as already under Communist Party rule and too dangerous for him to dwell in — after he himself, along with 4 bookstore colleagues in Hong Kong, was seized and forced to make ‘TV confessions’ and he himself later managed to flee and speak out about his treatment and about the original bookstore shuttered by China.

In Taipei, on the Big Day, there were flowers and a greeting from President Tsai Ing-wen as well as warm words from the Speaker of Taiwan’s Parliament (Legislative Yuan), among others. Continue reading

Lam Wing-kee hit by ugly attack

Lam Wing-kee, famous colleague of bookseller Gui Minhai and getting ready to re-open their bookstore in Taiwan this Saturday, hit by ugly attack today Tuesday, drenched with paint by assailants who fled the scene on foot but who are currently pursued by Taiwan’s police. It seems obvious this attack on free speech and free expression is launched by agents of the Beijing regime, and this is also Lam’s interpretation. –It’s outrageous and very ominous. Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

It’s a breaking developing story, but in English see these:


–and these in Chinese: Continue reading

Taiwan reports no new cases

Posted by: Joseph Allen <jrallen@umn.edu>
Source: NPR (4/14/20)
Taiwan Reports No New Coronavirus Cases, Adding To Success In Fighting Pandemic
By Bill Chappell

Cheerleaders wore face masks as Taiwan recently prepared for the the first professional baseball league game of the season. The island has emerged as a success story in containing coronavirus, avoiding the need for a strict lockdown. Ann Wang/REUTERS

Taiwan reported no new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, marking the first time authorities there have reported zero new cases in more than a month. It’s also the latest achievement for a health system that first acted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 back in December.

Taiwan, with a population of around 23 million, has just 393 confirmed COVID-19 cases; six people have died from the disease.

The last time Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center announced no new cases was on March 9 – 36 days ago.

Taiwan has won praise for keeping the coronavirus under control despite its close links with China. Millions of people travel between the island and the mainland every year — including 2.7 million visitors from the mainland last year. Continue reading