Monday, December 12, 2011

American Freedom Fighter visits imprisoned Taiwanese democracy leader

Missionary pays secret visit to Chen Shui-bian in Taipei jail today, gives him his memoirs of KMT's "White Terror '' days

(Got this story in my e-mail. Media embargoed till Monday evening Taiwan time. But I'm not "media" and I'm not in Taiwan. So here it is...)

webposted by anonymous

Former US missionary in Taiwan Milo Thornberry,  75, who was a central figure in helping human rights leader Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) escape from Taiwan during the years of the White Terror, paid a private personal visit to former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian today, inside the jail where Chen now whiles away his days.

During the private visit, which was intentionally kept out of the
media limelight, and was just a personal private meeting between to
old friends, Dr. Thornberry gave a copy of his memoir about his Taiwan days to President Chen, who is serving a 15 year prison sentence in a Taipei jail.

Thornberry went to Taiwan as a missionary of the Methodist Church at the end of 1965 and over the next few years — as recounted in his
recently published book Fireproof Moth — secretly distributed
money to the families of political prisoners.

He and his wife also worked to inform the outside world of the
torture, the executions and the repression practiced under the Martial
Law era regime of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

In particular, he collaborated with Peng and two former students —
Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏) and Wei Ting-chao (魏廷朝) — who were both arrested, “horribly tortured,” tried in a secret court and served long prison terms.

According to Thornberry, who is now retired but still gives sermons
and speeches as a Methodist pastor, the “shadows” from the period of
martial law had a bearing on the diverging views of Taiwan’s future.

After democratization in Taiwan, none of the officials responsible for
the White Terror were brought to account, Thornberry told the Taipei
Times recently.

“Since the election of the [President] Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)]
administration, not much has been heard from it about the period of
White Terror,” he added.

“Does the KMT [Kuomingtang or Chinese Nationalist Party] simply want to forget that period, believing that younger generations who didn’t experience White Terror will not care about it?” he asked.

However, he said, until this past is acknowledged openly and dealt
with justly, “I wonder if Taiwan can live into the future without

“The shadows of the conspiracy of silence also fall on the US
government,” he says.

“Some in today’s administration seem little more concerned about the
hopes and aspirations of the Taiwanese people than they were during
the period of White Terror,” he says.

“Although they knew the reality, they deemed it in the U.S. national
interest to disregard the Taiwanese people in favor of Chiang
Kai-shek,” Thornberry says.

“Now, I fear that the Taiwanese people’s interests are disregarded
because of U.S. interests in China, not to mention the complication of
our indebtedness to China. The issues now and then are different, but
the readiness to disregard the will of the Taiwanese people is the
same,” he says.

Thornberry's visit to Chen in prison was arranged by Chen's friends,
and was a purely private, personal visit between two old friends.
Thornberry had met Chen two times when he serving as president of Taiwan in 2003 and again in 2008.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Matthew Lien - Music and Liner Notes
from a Canadian Musician in Taiwan

Story By Stephen A. Nelson 
(from The Maple Leaf)

His name is Matthew Lien, a Canadian guy with English first name and what sounds like a Chinese family name.  He's a big star in Taiwan, but when hanging out with Canadians, he’s just a regular guy... I feel like we should be talking about hockey and Taiwanese girls.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Get Smart: Build your house on the rock
Don't buy real estate in an earthquake zone

By Stephen A. Nelson

After I made my first post (in 2005) about Why I Never Invested in Taiwan Real Estate, I got this rebuttal: 

"I'm not sure whether your main reason for not buying is valid, or at least for me it isn't. There are many risks that we all take on a daily basis... The chances of the next big earthquake occurring with the epicentre located where you live and your apartment falling down, all in your life-time, are very slight indeed."

So here I re-present my reply, even as the Japanese calculate the odds against a triple disaster - earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown - all happening at the same place at the same time:
With all due respect, ["very slight indeed"] is what the people in Puli and Taichung [cities closest to the epicentre] said right before the 921 Earthquake in 1999.

But, as I noted, earthquakes are not your only worry. Typhoons and floods happen every year.

The city of Taipei is built on a mud basin.

And as Typhoon Nari showed, anywhere - including the entire city - can be a flood zone.

As for the non-tangible reasons for buying a house (sense of accomplishment, pride of ownership, et cetera): Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

A lot of those non-tangible reasons are not really sound investment principles but things that agents and others tell you to make you feel better about something that is not always a sound financial move.

Yes it feels great to "own your own home." A man's home is his castle. But it is not always a wise investment.

It's like buying life insurance: If you are doing it for someone else, that's great and there are many non-logical reasons you may wish to do so - looking after your family, protecting yourself in case of severe injury, et cetera.

But if you are buying life insurance as a financial investment, there are better ways to get a safe investment and a good return on your money.

In short, I'll continue to rent, claim my income tax deduction, and store up my treasure somewhere else.

Taipei has it's own triple risks - besides being a flood zone.
  • Taipei 101 (formerly world's tallest skyscaper) is built right on an active fault - and building the tower likely destabilized it.
  • The volcanoes of Yangmingshan (mountains at the northern edge of Taipei) are dormant but not dead.
  • There are two nuclear plants near Taipei, just on the far side of Yangmingshan.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Buying property in an Earthquake zone:
Why I never invested in Taiwan Real Estate

By Stephen A. Nelson

In light of the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, I am re-presenting something I wrote in Forumosa about the wisdom of  buying a house or apartment in Taiwan - apart from the legal barriers and technical difficulties.  At the time, people disagreed with me and provided all the formulaic reasons for buying - "pride of ownership" et cetera. But I think this still stands - unlike the apartments in central Taiwan's earthquake zone.

1. First rule of investment:
If it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it.

2. First rule of building houses:
"No man builds a house unless he first counts the cost."

As some have noted, When you buy a house/apartment, there are costs besides the mortgage, including, but not limited to: taxes, maintenance fees, legal fees, and (esp. if you plan to rent it out) agent's fees.

Oh, and insurance, which brings us to the next item...

3. Ancient wisdom about building in a flood zone. 
The wise man built his house upon the rock.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 

The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." 

4. Did you feel that?
Earthquakes happen every day in Taiwan. 
The last "big one", September 21, 1999, was a magnitude 7.3.

The strongest aftershock, three days later, was 6.8. That's like calling Nagasaki an aftershock of Hiroshima
And you know what? Seismologist say that the 921 Earthquake WASN'T "the big one."

Oh, and most of the buildings that were destroyed were new buildings.

5. Rule of thumb for would-be home owners
Never buy a house/apartment in an earthquake zone. 

6. Ancient wisdom from 60s British television
"Anything can happen in the next half-hour!" 

The Last word in edgewise
If you want an investment, buy mutual funds, RSPs or life insurance.
If you want a place to live, rent a house or apartment.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Formosa Displayed, Formosa Betrayed:
Taiwan's 228 Museum Rewriting History?

Taipei 228 exhibits spark controversy
GLOSSING OVER: Critics said the government had demonstrated arrogance with its interpretation of history and had disrespected the incident’s victims and their families 

From The Taipei Times, Feb. 20, 2011
The Taipei 228 Memorial Museum is reopening its doors to the public this morning after a 10-month renovation, but its efforts to reveal the truth of the 228 Incident met with challenges as pro-independence activists and family members of the incident’s victims yesterday accused the museum of glorifying the acts of the then-government and distorting the truth with its selection of documents.  

Full story:

The Way It Was...
The Well of Souls: Taipei 2-28 Memorial Museum

By Stephen A. Nelson
(from The Brandon Sun, May 1, 2010)
A stone’s throw from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, there is another museum; different in every way from the shrine dedicated to Chiang. This is the Taipei 2-28 Memorial Museum.

Everything about the 2-28 museum stands in stark contrast to the Chiang memorial. Instead of a great monument in the midst of a vast parade square, the 2-28 museum is a small building in quiet corner of a downtown park. If Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is the Great Pyramid of Cheops, this is the Well
of Lost Souls.

The museum stands in the shadows of the other great edifices erected by the Japanese: The presidential palace, the parliament buildings, the National Taiwan University Hospital.

And like those public buildings, this place was designed in the Asian Glory style — simple lines incorporating Western elements — that was favoured by the Japanese when they ruled Taiwan in the first half of the 20th Century.

Originally, this building was home to the Taipei Broadcasting Bureau — the model radio network set up by the Japanese for their model colony. When the Japanese were forced to surrender Taiwan at the end of the Second World War, the KMT government took over the radio network and renamed it the Taiwan Broadcasting Company. 

The network played a central role in the events of the 2-28 Incident, as both sides commandeered the radio station to broadcast their messages. From here, the Taiwanese sent out their SOS to the world.

So what is the 2-28 Incident? And why should people want to remember it? My Taiwanese friends describe it as Taiwan’s own Tiananmen Square Massacre, the central event that is at the heart of the story told in Formosa Betrayed: a military crackdown — carried out by Chiang’s troops on February 28, 1947 — that marked the beginning of Taiwan’s martial-law era. Tens of thousands “disappeared” during what became known as The White Terror.

The history books always said that the crackdown was necessary to put down an insurrection, weed out communist agents and protect Taiwan. But if history is written by the winners, this 2-28 museum tells the story of the losers. Here, the faces of those lost souls look you in the eye and silently plead with you to make sure that their stories are not forgotten...


Further reading:

Return to Taiwan's Dark Days

Devils and Angels in Taiwan

Photos from the Old 228 Museum, before the renovations, revisions and rewrites.

Find links to my other Taiwan and travel stories: