Summary: DPP lawmakers want to ban the KMT logo. The racto-pork battle gets weird. The WHO battle that wasn’t, and the insurgency. But up first, some headlines.
Two days, and two big breakthroughs in transport.
Monday, as I’m recording this, Taichung’s MRT system launched on a trial basis.
Meanwhile, up in New Taipei, the new section of the Danhai Light Rail Transit system started operations Sunday, extending the service along a route to Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf.
Taiwan on Saturday confirmed three new imported cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number in the country to 600.
The European Values Center for Security Policy, a Czech Republic think tank that studies misinformation campaigns by China and Russia, is considering the possibility of opening an office in Taiwan to work with Taiwanese partners to counter the malicious influence of China.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repudiated an allegation that Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil received US$4 million from Taiwan for his visit in August.
They cited Czech news site Aktualne.cz, which reported the claim originated from Swiss consultancy RefinSol Advisory Services, which has close ties to Chinese “united front” organizations.
DPP lawmakers want to ban the KMT logo
Two DPP lawmakers have announced they are planning to propose an amendment that would prohibit the use of party emblems with a high degree of similarity to national symbols.
No prizes for guessing which party they are targeting.
Notice the wording, though: “High degree of similarity”.
Technically the national symbol and the KMT emblem are different, in the KMT emblem, the sun is larger and its 12 rays touch the outer edge of the blue circle that encompasses them.
In other words, the sun is identical, the only difference is the amount of space around it.
One of the lawmakers, Wang Mei-hui (王美惠), stated “In the past, there was no distinction between the KMT and the state, but times have changed — Taiwan is no longer a one-party state,”
This amendment is straightforward and well-intentioned.
We are only aiming to avoid confusion between party and state symbols, and the KMT does not need to be so sensitive about it.”
That’s a rather disingenuous statement, of course it is meant to try and break the bond between the KMT and the ROC.
It’s almost certain that they would much rather have gone after the national symbol than the party symbol, but that would be much harder to accomplish legally.
It is very galling to many, especially many in the DPP, that the KMT symbol and the national symbol are essentially identical–and both represented a regime that inflicted horrible atrocities on Taiwanese.
The KMT, naturally, isn’t keen on this.
The KMT stated “They are not just after our assets, now they want our emblem too.”
The symbols are similar, because the KMT established the state, it said, adding that the party’s emblem is symbolic of its reverence for the revolutionary martyrs of its past.
That’s true, but those martyrs were in China, not Taiwan.
Johnny Chiang, the KMT chair said that the DPP was “afraid to face the history of the Republic of China.”
I highly doubt that, they’re very well aware of the ROC’s history–they simply don’t like it.
The real question, though, is will this go anywhere?
So far, under President and DPP party Chair Tsai Ing-wen has avoided going after symbols, preferring to keep her–and her party’s–political capital devoted to other issues.
It is pretty clear that the President views other issues as more substantial, such as stripping the KMT of their ill-gotten gains.
If this were to pass, it would set up a huge political fight.
If the past is any guide, this will die a quiet death, in spite of the DPP having a large enough majority to pass it.
The racto-pork battle gets weird
The KMT has announced they will boycott Premier Su Tseng-chang’s report to the legislature on the 17th.
Assuming they do so, it will be the ninth straight time the premier has been unable to report to the legislature.
The KMT boycott is in opposition to the lifting of the ban on imports of meat, especially pork, from the US containing the leanness-enhancing agent ractopamine.
They’ve been showing up with signs and a life-sized pig prop, which is a rather unusual addition to a legislative floor.
The KMT has been playing this for all it is worth, given they have some public support on this, and are determined to take their political pound of flesh over the issue.
President Tsai, who backed opening Taiwan to the imports, is being forced to spend political capital on the issue.
She is hoping that it will lead to a trade agreement with the United States, as this issue has been a major stumbling block.
The local political battle has recently taken some bizarre turns, besides the life-sized pig.
The Council of Agriculture (COA) has asked the KMT to remove a video on Facebook that allegedly shows pigs at an American slaughterhouse convulsing after being given ractopamine as an example of “fake news”.
The video was posted by the KMT to drum up support for an anti-ractopamine rally to be held on the 22nd.
The problem with the video, however, is as CNA put it:
A representative of Animal Outlook, the Washington, D.C.-based group that provided the footage, told CNA it had informed the KMT it had no evidence that ractopamine was being used at the facility.
In response to an email query, the group explained that the video “was shot in 2015 by one of Animal Outlook’s undercover investigators at Quality Pork Processors, a high-speed pig slaughterhouse in Austin, Minnesota.”
“We made it clear when we gave the Kuomintang Party permission to use this footage that we have no evidence of ractopamine use (at the facility) but that they were welcome to use the footage to illustrate the suffering of pigs subjected to high-speed slaughter,” the group wrote.
The KMT is refusing government calls to take down the video, and doubled down, again as CNA put it:
The KMT, meanwhile, stood by its claims, stating in a press release on Friday that it had independently verified that pigs at the Quality Pork Processors plant are given ractopamine.
It cited articles by Reuters and the Minnesota-based news outlet Progressive Farmer DTN, which show that China banned imports of meat from the plant because of its use of the drug.
Additionally, it noted, the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) has in the past used the same footage to document the side effects of ractopamine on pigs.
“While it would be scientifically impossible to prove that ractopamine caused a pig’s behavior at a given moment, we can be certain that ractopamine is used at this slaughterhouse and that the behavior of these pigs corresponds with scientific research (on the drug’s side effects),” EAST Vice President Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said of the footage, according to the statement.
To look into this, I found a paper in Translational Animal Science that basically said that in the higher doses that were originally given to the pigs, there were lots of side effects such as the ones described above, but that in 2006 the dosages were reduced, and with it much of the side effects.
In short, the video likely has nothing to do with ractopamine and is, as Animal Outlook stated “illustrate(d) the suffering of pigs subjected to high-speed slaughter”.
So, the government is likely right here, and the KMT wrong, but it doesn’t look like the KMT will take it down.
If this weird segue wasn’t enough, now former Executive Yuan spokesperson Evian Ting (丁怡銘) put his foot in his mouth and triggered a firestorm.
He claimed that an award-winning beef noodle soup restaurant serves meat that contains ractopamine, in an attempt to show that the feed additive does not pose a health risk.
Unfortunately, he was just making it up.
Royal Beef Noodle Restaurant refuted Ting by posting on Facebook a copy of its SGS food residue certification showing that no ractopamine residues were found in its beef.
Ting then apologized and walked back his comments, saying he had intended to show that American beef had become commonplace in Taiwan since former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) opened Taiwan’s market to it in 2012, and in spite of the fact that American cattle are often fed ractopamine, even if it does not show up in residue testing.
He also spent NT$39,000 to purchase 100 bowls of beef noodle soup from the restaurant, and posted an apology on Facebook.
So, story over?
Not even close.
It turns out that on the NT$39,000 purchase the Executive Yuan’s tax number was used.
In other words, most likely so that he could be reimbursed for the cost, using taxpayer money.
Of course, the KMT went had a field day with this, and for besmirching the restaurant’s good name.
A whole series of KMT politicians went to eat at the restaurant to show their support.
Of course, Ting’s boss Su Tseng-chang had to step in.
He dragged Ting down to the restaurant and they delivered an apology in person.
In fact, last I saw, Su has issued four apologies over the issue already.
The KMT is calling for Ting’s head, saying Ting’s remarks constituted dissemination of false information, which is not something that a spokesman should do, and he should be held accountable by voluntarily resigning from the position.
KMT Chair Johnny Chiang, who once held Ting’s post, also called for him to resign.
The KMT caucus is also calling for Ting to attend a legislative committee session, presumably to rake him over the coals.
Ting legally doesn’t have to attend, but to save his skin he may have to.
If this seems rather excessive, it’s worth keeping mind the value placed in Taiwan on both reputation and beef noodles.
Taiwanese are acutely aware that the reputation of a restaurant is critical to its survival and success–especially in a serious foodie culture like Taiwan–so this is a serious matter with a clear victim.
In the end, the restaurant now probably has had so much press that it ended up helping, but Ting was clearly in the wrong here.
However, if things couldn’t get any worse, a report came out accusing Ting of having an extramarital affair, with claims of there being pictures of him with a woman in “sexy underwear” eating lunch.
Adultery is a crime in Taiwan, so if true he is in serious trouble.
Finally, after all of this, Ting on Sunday resigned.
Premier Su, who had up until then been backing him, accepted his resignation.
The WHO battle that wasn’t, and the insurgency
The WHO convened their World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva in an online format, but the hoped for vote on allowing Taiwan to attend in future as an observer never happened.
As regular listeners to the show know, that would have been a very interesting test of China’s power in the organization in the face of growing support for Taiwan.
It didn’t happen.
The committee chair, a Norwegian, simply refused to allow it on the agenda.
This may be because of an agreement made with China by the WHO some years ago–without consulting member countries–to follow China’s lead on Taiwan.
It could be because Norway was brow-beaten by China into a humiliating agreement with China in recent years following Chinese outrage at a Nobel prize going to a Chinese dissident, in spite of that not being the decision of the Norwegian government.
Norway also recently starting putting “China” on Taiwanese ID cards as their nationality.
Regardless of why, it prompted an encouraging insurgency.
Taiwan’s representative office in Geneva cheekily erected a billboard reading “Taiwan Can Help” outside of the UN’s Geneva Office, which some bigshots–including the US ambassador–posed with for photos to underscore their support for Taiwan.
They also ran bus ads in Geneva, providing more photo ops.
A whole host of countries spoke out in favour of Taiwan during the session, including the United States, Japan, and eleven of Taiwan’s fifteen diplomatic partners–though Paraguay’s absence from the list has caused some concern.
Trying to stem the tide, the chair cut short some speeches, including a video presentation by Palau in support of Taiwan, saying they should only address the items listed on the agenda and not “discuss this issue of observer” in their future addresses.
Outside of the meeting, support was voiced for Taiwan by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison; New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern; Japan’s former PM Shinzo Abe; and foreign ministers and deputy ministers of Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the U.K.
More than 1,700 lawmakers from 80 legislatures, international organizations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and World Medical Association, and 60 plus global media outlets also expressed support for Taiwan.
Two promotional videos produced by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have garnered 16 million views.
MOFA called this international support “unprecedented” and thanked them for their support.
Netizens also joined in in support of Taiwan, especially after it became clear that the WHO’s Facebook page was blocking the terms “Taiwan” and “China”.
This prompted a tidal wave of creative people coming up with ways to get around the block, like using special characters, spaces and other ways to make it clear Taiwan was being mentioned.
Reuters described the WHO’s attempt to defend themselves this way:
The WHO defended the move.
“During the World Health Assembly, WHO faces an onslaught of cyberattacks by online activists on a number of controversial issues, using keywords such as ‘Taiwan’ and ‘China’,” it said.
That hindered its ability to moderate conversations for people who came to their pages to discuss health issues, it said, and when that happened “our social media team applies content filters”, the WHO added.
“This is a practical measure that does not reflect a value judgment or any policy of the World Health Organization.
The aim is to enable our users to avoid being spammed through cyberattacks, including from bots, and to find a balanced way to keep information and conversation flowing.”
Note that no “value judgment” was preceded and followed by value judgments, calling supporters of Taiwan spammers conducting cyberattacks, instead of what they really were: reasonable people bringing up a legitimate issue as to why an organization whose mission is “health for all” isn’t actually including “all” in their organization.
Apparently, Taiwanese aren’t human enough to be included in “all”.
In the end, the WHO gave up, and removed the block on their Facebook page.
Image courtesy of the KMT Facebook page