Saturday, April 14, 2007

More Immigration Injustice

Just after an American woman in Hualien gets fined NT$6,000 for swearing at someone, a Japanese man married to a Taiwanese woman gets convicted of a similar offense--publicly insulting an official during the course of his official duties. This offense, defined in Article 140 of the Criminal Code) carries a prison term of up to six months. Prison terms of less than six months are routinely suspended as in this case where the man was sentenced to a reasonable 30 days for his hissy fit.

A Japanese man was given a suspended sentence of 30 days' detention and barred from the country for five years for cursing immigration officials at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in September 2005, aviation police sources said yesterday.

The man, who is married to a Taiwanese woman, often travels between Taiwan and Japan. He became so enraged by what he called the snail-paced immigration inspection at the airport that he burst into a volley of curses when an immigration officer checked his travel documents.

His banning from Taiwan for five years though is arbitrary, unreasonable, and disproportional to his offense especially in view of the fact that he is married to a Taiwanese national. Unlike the 30 - day suspended sentence, the decision to ban him from reentering Taiwan is a purely administrative decision. Since I don't have all the facts, I'm not going to speculate on which agency made the ruling and what their legal basis is but it should suffice to observe that nowhere in Article 140 is it provided that one can be banned from re entering Taiwan because of this offense.

In other words, this individual was meted out an additional and far more serious punishment in addition to the punishment for which the law provides. And he was of course denied due process since there was no hearing by an independent immigration tribunal--the Immigration Bureau simply tacked his five-year ban on out of spite and without any outside supervision using their sweeping administrative powers to deport and bar foreigners.

While it is somehow comforting to learn that at least some Japanese are susceptible to fits of 'Taiwan rage' and inappropriate behavior and that this behavior is no limited to westerners, the cumulative and extra-judicial punishment did not fit the crime at all. And then the Immigration Bureau had the nerve to complain that the man did not express 'remorse' for his crime and further had the audacity to file appeals--presumably appeals against his unjust banning from Taiwan.

Immigration officials said they felt compelled to file the lawsuit to defend the government's "prestige" and "authority." They expressed regret that the man had not shown any remorse and has fought the charges by filing petitions with several agencies.

Surely the appropriate course of action (if the man was causing a disturbance that was affecting other travelers) would have been to detain him at the airport until he cooled off. If he was foolish enough to strike an officer or destroy property, he could have been duly charged on those grounds. No doubt when he came to his senses he would have felt remorse and apologized.

But instead the Immigration Bureau, which we just learned today is riddled with officials colluding with human traffickers, takes refuge behind a outdated and authoritarian law to protect its questionable dignity and then abuses its administrative powers to bar someone from Taiwan. Talk about petty!

Rank thinks it's the Immigration Bureau that owes someone an apology. Fat chance he'll ever get it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Judge Judges English

"Don't think that Taiwanese judges don't understand English" crows this Libery Times article about an American woman in Hualien who was fined NT$6,000 for telling her former coworker to fuck off in front of Tzu Chi Hospital.

She was fined for publicly insulting the woman in small claims court. This follows a similar conviction a year or so ago in Taoyuan where a Taiwanese woman was fine for saying 'shit' to another Taiwanese woman.

But the great part of this story is that in their decision, the panel of judges rejected the American woman's defense that she had in fact said 'Forget you' on the grounds that the correct English usage is 'Forget it!'

The accompanying story explains that the defendant had had the misfortune of running into Judge Zheng Guang-ting who "studies English assiduously with a private foreign tutor and plans to do graduate work in the US." Zheng, whose English was "excellent" in school, had her doubts about the usage and asked her undoubtedly illegal private tutor whether the usage 'Forget you' was correct. Her tutor confirmed that 'forget you' is not a valid English construction.

The broad-minded judge, however, concedes that someone somewhere in the English-speaking world might use the phrase 'forget it', but ultimately rejected the defense on the grounds that the pronunciation of 'fuck' and 'forget' are too far apart.

So don't think you can fool a Taiwanese judge about English.

A related piece on the same page in the print edition tells the story of how the owner of a gold shop in Chiayi County managed to use the same defense successfully when she was charged with cussing out another woman with 'gan li niang' [Yo Mamma in Taiwanese]. Her defense, corroborated by a witness, was that she had actually said 'ga li niang'--a less offensive phrase. But she was also able to argue that she didn't use the phrase 'gan li niang' because it is 'inappropriate' for a woman to say to another woman and because it was ungrammatical in context.

So the moral of these two stories is that if you must tell someone to fuck off in Taiwan, you'd probably better doing it in Taiwanese.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

曾韋禎的部落格:本日退役 - 樂多日誌

Using time wisely

One of my favorite Taiwanese bloggers Tseng Wei-chen has just finished his 17 months of alternative military service. During that time he made 160 posts to his blog, 108 of which were published as op-ed pieces in Chinese-language media. He says he earned more than NT$117,000 for his efforts.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Great Taiwan Bike Rides V: Chiayi-Alishan-Meishan-Chiayi Loop

In case you haven't figured it out from my earlier routes, some of Taiwan's best cycling is in the Chiayi area.

A real Taiwanese glove

For a weekend trip, I recommend getting down to Chiayi on Friday night because you'll want to be off to a dawn start the next day--it can very hot down here at any time of year. Whether you're coming down by train, high speed rail, or plane, there are a host of reasonably priced hotels (c NT$800/double) in the small streets opposite the rain station.

Tea fields at 2,000 meters await you in Meishan

Day 1

The easiest way out of town is east on Minzu Rd, which eventually turns in to Daya Rd. before finally morphing into Chiayi Route 159A. Let all the tour buses and SUVs get their kicks on Highway 18 (the Alishan Highway) while you cycle in peace on 159A.

You'll cycle pass the Lantan Reservoir the Formosa Freeway, the Renyitan Reservoir, and Highway 3 through some hills. Note the junction with Highway 3--this is the way you will be coming back.

The oddly named 'Mainlander Noodles' shop.
All the noodle dishes listed are typically Taiwanese

After Highway 3, we knock about 8km in the nondescript countryside of Fanlu ('Aboriginal Road') Township. The fun begins just after the impoverished village of Kezhuang where you climb a few km up to the temple complex at Bantianyan. There is a nice outside cafe on the right just before the temples and some shops where you can stock up on food and water.

Be careful or this might happen to you on 159A

The riding gets really good here. 159A is a wild one lane country road rising from betel nut country up into tea farm country. Almost zero traffic even on holiday weekends. You'll probably need a good four hours or so to reach Shizhuo (石桌) at the junction of 159A and the Alishan Highway.

Farmhouse on 159A near Shizhuo

Shizhuo is a good spot for a late lunch at the restaurant on your left at the junction. There is also a breakfast shop on the right and across the parking on the second floor is a cheap hostel (Minsu) where a double usually goes for about NT$500.

Truck with bamboo shoots and firewood

You may well see other cyclists in Shizhuo. That's because you have so many route options from here. You can turn right and head down the Alishan highway to Longmei where you can continue on with the Chiayi-Pingtung ride Rank wrote up in Great Taiwan Bike Rides III. Or turn left ride 55km up to Tatajia, the Yushan trail head. Neither of these routes is recommended on holiday weekends although you might not have such a horrible time with the traffic if you stay in Shizhuo and get off to a pre-dawn start. Whatever you do, stay far away from the town of Alishan, one Taiwan's most horrid tourist hell holes.

A detail from a sign showing the traumatizing effect of forest fires

Another area to explore from Shizhuo is the Dabang/Jiali area accessible on Route 169 heading east from Shizhuo. SatelliteTV of Forumosa fame lives up in Dabang.

But this loop takes the other way on 169 back toward the tourist town of Fenqihu, a much smaller and tolerable version of Alishan. At Shizhuo, you can stay at the large hostel attached to the Catholic Church and managed by a Polish priest. About NT$700/night.

Tea leaves out to dry

A tradition on Rank bikes rides especially in the summer is to while away hot afternoon by a waterfall or swimming hole. If you have the time in Fenqihu, head down the steep access road toward Zhonghe Village (中和村). This road is a left after the Catholic Church but before you get into Fenqihu proper. The road heads down steeply for two or three km. When you hit some tea fields look for a private access road on your left near a farming shack. If you see signage for an old trail just before a big construction site you have come about 300 meters too far.

Head down the private access road (very steep) to the Yima River (譯馬溪) for some swimming in the cool waters. Be careful though because you are just upstream from the thunderous Xiaocaishen Watererfall (小財神瀑布) and the rocks are very slippery. There is a dangerous path to a lookout point above. Alas we have been unable to discover a route down to the bottom of the falls. I'm sure you could ask in Zhonghe Village. Incidentally, the outside access road connects Zhonghe Village to Fenqihu from 159A if you want to do a brutal climb up to Fenqihu and skip the longer way through Shizhuo.

Day 2

Ride up from Fenqihu on 169 through Taihe Village (太和村) toward the junction to Laiji Village (來吉村). There are places to stay in Laiji if Fenqihu is too rowdy for you. At the Youcheliao (油車寮) junction take 169A on the left. Wind through the beautiful high altitude tea farms. Just before a big down hill, hang out at the view point overlooking the great Caoling lanslide across the canyon in Yunlin County. The devastation here was caused by the 1999 Jiji earthquake. Check if the vendors are selling iced passion fruit or mulberry juice. This is all local produce and supposedly organic. Whatever. It's the best on a hot day.Landslide near Daxiagu closes the road to most traffic...

There is a long descent into Daxiagu (大峽谷) on the Shengmaoshu River (生毛樹溪). Some beautiful water down here. Cross the river and begin the long climb on switchbacks up into Bihu Village (碧湖村). As you can see here, we crossed a landslide that should be fixed by now.
...but not to Rank

Eventually you will make it to Taiping Village (太平) after a good six hours of riding from Fenqihu. This is the only reliable place for lunch after Fenqihu although snacks and water are available along the way. From Taiping, enjoy the breathtaking descent into Meishan Township on the plains. There are 36 hairpin turns on the way down.
Country store near Taiping

Meishan is a typical country town. On the main street there are a couple of grubby Vietnamese noodle stalls if you are desperate for something other than Taiwanese food. Ride south out of town on Highway 3 about 15 km through Zhuqi until you reach the junction with 169A. Turn right and head back into Chiayi.

Two competing Vietnamese noodle stands in Meishan

Day 2 is a full day of riding that assumes you leave Fenqihu early in the morning.

PREVIEW: China Doll

Who Paid?

According to a review of Laura Tyson Li's biography of Madame Chiang Kai-shek,

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek spent her final years in New York in a palatial Upper East Side apartment she regularly described as "modest." A bevy of loyal retainers insulated her from the outside world, ferrying her to shopping trips at Saks Fifth Avenue or shows at Radio City Music Hall. Madame's lavish lifestyle, Li suggests persuasively, was funded in large part by money gleaned from Nationalist-controlled government accounts and decades of business cronyism. In her twilight years she was a living anachronism, feminism and communism having undermined her particular style of faux-naif politics.
Taiwanese taxpayers footed the bill for Madame well after Nationalist rule ended.