Taiwan Studies takes centre stage at ANU

Taiwan the view from south conference anu

I’ve just spent the past week in Canberra attending a Taiwan Studies conference at Australian National University (ANU). The conference titled “Taiwan: The View from the South” was hosted by the Australian Centre on China in the World. The conference brought together scholars from Australia, Taiwan and other countries

It was the first time that I had been involved in a Taiwan related academic activity in Australia. It was great to renew some of my connections with Taiwan, especially meeting with my supervisor Dr David Blundell. It was also a good opportunity to learn more about the work being done in the field of Taiwan Studies in Australia. Continue reading “Taiwan Studies takes centre stage at ANU”

Taiwan needs absentee voting

The following letter was published in the Taipei Times today. In the letter I suggest that Taiwan should adopt pre-poll and absentee voting to reduce the level of disenfranchisement in elections.

On the same day that voters turned out for the nine-in-one elections in Taiwan, there was also a state election in Victoria, Australia.

I followed both elections with interest and voted in my home state of Victoria.

Voters in both Victoria and Taiwan can be pleased about the way the elections were conducted and have a high degree of confidence in the integrity of the results.

One major difference between the two elections is that in Victoria almost 30% of voters cast their votes via pre-poll or postal vote.

Voters in Victoria also had the option of casting an absentee vote, i.e. voting in a district other than the one they were registered in on election day.

However, in Taiwan many people are denied the opportunity to vote because they cannot attend the polling booth near their registered residence on election day.

This leads to significant disenfranchisement of military and emergency services personnel, as well as university students, shift workers and other people living away from their registered residence.

Rather than informal arrangements such as a student association organising buses for students to travel home (University students, military members take steps to vote, Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2014) the Central Election Commission needs to implement pre-poll and absentee voting to ensure all Taiwanese have an opportunity to vote.

These measures could initially be trialled at by-elections before being adopted for nationwide elections.

Taiwanese community in Melbourne shows support for Sunflower Movement

330 action in Melbourne in support of Taiwan's Sunflower Movement

About 500 members of the Taiwanese community rallied outside the State Library in Melbourne yesterday. The rally was part of a worldwide action with other events taking place in major cities of Australia, Europe, Asia and North America to show solidarity with Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement.

At the same time as the event in Melbourne a crowd estimated at 350,000 was turning out in Taipei. This represented a massive show of public support for the student-led Sunflower Movement which has occupied the Legislative Yuan in Taipei since 18 March. The movement’s key aim is to ensure that the Cross-Strait Service and Trade Agreement (CSSTA) and other agreements with China are subject to proper scrutiny by the legislature. Continue reading “Taiwanese community in Melbourne shows support for Sunflower Movement”

DFAT documents on human rights in Taiwan

Last year I submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) via the website Right to Know. The purpose of the request was to find out about Australian government’s attitude toward and monitoring of human rights issues in Taiwan. In particular the request focused on information regarding the detention and trial of former president Chen Shui-bian and other officials from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on corruption related charges.

After several months the documents have been released by DFAT. There were a total of 24 cables from the Australian Office Taipei in the release. They cover the period from May 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou took office, to January this year.

The cables reveal several matters which were of particular interest to Australia. The first of these was the PNG bribery scandal. This involved a payment of US $30 million dollars to two middlemen in Singapore in an attempt to gain “diplomatic recognition” from PNG. The scandal resulted in then Vice-Premier Chiou I-jen and Minister for Foreign Affairs James Huang resigning in May 2008, shortly before President Chen Shui-bian’s term expired.

The cable dated 7 May 2008 notes that, “the most likely explanation for the whole affair would seem to be that [Huang and Chiou] were taken in by two conmen.” This analysis has proved correct although it was not until June 2012 that Chiou was found not guilty in the High Court. Continue reading “DFAT documents on human rights in Taiwan”

The Story of Smangus at Students of Sustainability

This morning I gave a presentation about Smangus at the Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference. This year the conference is being held in Bendigo, which is not far from where I live in Australia. I attended because it was a good chance to reconnect with the academic world and activists in Australia. It was also the first time I have done a presentation about my research in Taiwan for an Australian audience.

SoS is an annual conference organised by the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) which connects campus environment collectives from around Australia. I first attended SoS in 2004. Incidentally the 2004 conference was also the first time I met John Seed. I later had the chance to travel around Taiwan with John and visit some indigenous communities including Smangus.

My presentation, titled “The Story of Smangus: Indigenous Rights in Taiwan,” started with some background information about Taiwan and its indigenous peoples. I then followed this with some discussion of the Smangus community and the legal case about the right to use wood from a wind-fallen tree. As the key theme of the conference is sustainability I wanted people to know more about how the people of Smangus have used their traditional knowledge as the basis for a sustainable community. The word sustainability is often misused, but I think the people of Smangus and other indigenous peoples around the world have practiced sustainable ways of living for hundreds or even thousands of years. There are many lessons that can be learnt from them.

Indigenous issues are a major theme at SoS. The plenary on the first day of the conference was on sovereignty. Grassroots Aboriginal activists spoke about the topic. Their perspectives presented a radical challenge to the mainstream discourse on this issue in Australia. This afternoon I had the chance to further explore some of these issues in a workshop about working with indigenous communities. The workshop talked about the need for “decolonising our minds” in order to work effectively with indigenous peoples for justice.

*You can find the pdf file of my presentation here.

Call for papers – 2010 Taiwan Studies Postgraduate Symposium

The Asia Institute, the Taiwan Research Reading Group, and the Chinese Studies Research Group of the University of Melbourne cordially invite all postgraduate (PhD, Masters and Honours) scholars working in the field of Taiwan Studies to present their work at a symposium to be held in Melbourne on the 7-8 December 2010. The theme of the symposium is “Taiwan Studies: the State of the Field”. The deadline for submitting abstracts is 14 June 2010.

The symposium will be held at The University of Melbourne, Australia, in conjunction with an international conference on Taiwan Studies — focused on the theme of space and culture — on 9-10 December 2010.

More details here.

Australia Conference at NCCU

An International Conference on Australia and Cross-Straits Economic Relation, organised by the College of International Affairs, was held at National Chengchi University today. The conference included scholars from Australia and Taiwan discussing Australia’s relations with Taiwan and China as well as links with ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region.

Acting Representative of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office, Richard Matthews, gave a brief welcoming speech. He noted that both Taiwan and China were important trading partners for Australia. Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrew Hsia (夏立言), also welcomed participants. He said the Australia Studies Centre at NCCU was founded in 2002 and it has held eight international conferences. The centre has enhanced understanding of Australia and Australia is a good friend of Taiwan. Continue reading “Australia Conference at NCCU”

April breakfast meeting

This month's breakfast meeting held on Saturday morning in Taipei featured two speakers from Australia, Dr Lily Wang and Professor Bruce Jacobs. Our usual chronicler of these events, Michael Turton, was absent so Jerome asked me to write a brief report.


Dr Lily Wang was born in Taiwan, went to high school in New Zealand and then got her medical degree in Australia. She is now a second year registrar in radiology and studying for a Master's degree in Public Health. She is also the CEO of the Australian Taiwanese WHO for Taiwan Action Association

Taiwan's bid to obtain observer status at the WHA was the topic of Lily's presentation. Lily began by talking about the time of the SARS outbreak in 2003. It was not until seven weeks after the first SARS case was identified in Taiwan that the WHO sent any officials to Taiwan. She said Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO is like a "hole in the net" in the event of a major global outbreak of avian flu or other diseases.  

Lily has written to many members of parliament in Australia about the issue and received responses. She also wrote a letter to the Western Pacific regional director of WHO and was surprised to get a response. In 2005 she got a motion passed on WHO membership for Taiwan at the NSW Young Liberals conference. She also raises the issue with her colleagues in the medical profession.

Bruce Jacobs is Professor of Asian Languages and Studies at Monash University in Melbourne. His connections with Taiwan go back more than 40 years. The main topic of his talk was 400 years of Taiwan history and seeing that history in terms of colonialism. The key point Bruce wanted to emphasize was that the Taiwan issue should not be framed in terms of independence versus unification, but as a process of decolonisation. He believes the KMT can also be considered a colonial regime and gave several examples of similarities between the Japanese colonial period and the KMT rule.

Bruce also shared his opinions about Ma Ying-jeou and the incoming KMT government. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's recent visit to China also came up for discussion. I'll have some more about Kevin Rudd in the links on Monday.

Update: Jerome has also written a report of the meeting.