Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Hate crimes hit home

Disturbed and Distressed

What other words can I use to describe what I'm feeling after the turn of events in the last 24 hours? Heavy hearted, incredulous, enraged, disillusioned, and the biggest of them all- indignant.

Last night I met up with some friends- new and old- at my friends C & S's lounge bar.

When most were calling it an evening, I found myself obliging some of the "out-of-towners," three to be exact-- Kaohsiung Boy- who is from Kaohsiung but now lives in the states, American in Kimen- my American friend who teaches English in Kimen, and Mystery Military Man- who lives in Taipei and does top secret military work in Taiwan. Hardcore Party Girl- a 20-something-year-old Taiwanese college girl wanted to dance the night away. So the five of us ended up going to a local dance club, located behind the Sogo and Mitusoki Department Stores in downtown Kaohsiung. I haven't been there in about six months because I'd heard about a number of incidents involving Caucasian foreigners being beat up or hit over the head with a beer bottle for simply talking to, or dancing with a local Taiwanese woman. I felt some hesitation and asked Hardcore Party Girl if she thought the place was ok and how it would be on a Thursday night. She said she went there regularly and that it would be a good time.

I had my misgivings, but brushed them aside thinking that perhaps what I'd heard was an isolated incident. Once we arrived, we settled into a booth/table and started drinking watered down whiskey and vodka shots, and the occasional orange juice/whiskey drink. It wasn't yet midnight; the dance floor was still completely deserted. As I'd predicted it started hopping just before 1 am. Kaohsiung Boy and I hit the dance floor a few times and chatted with my friend the American in Kimen and Mystery Military Man- who had both remained comfortably beated at our booth the entire night in deep conversation. About an hour later, Kaohsiung Boy and I decided that was time to get going. The American in Kimen wanted to hit the dance floor with me, so we started to "get down" on the dance floor and ended up dancing on one of the platforms. Admitedly, I know how to shake this booty and was just having some fun- the way a girl can when she's in the hands of someone she knows and trusts. Trust me, I can shake it and grind it- but not like that with complete strangers. After dancing with the American in Kimen, I resumed dancing with Kaohsiung Boy and finally we decided to make our exit. Kaohsiung Boy went to look for Hardcore Party Girl and say goodbye.

On the way out, I realized that there had been several rounds of drinks going around, so I looked around for the American in Kimen, wanting to give him some cash for my share of drinks. He was no where to be found, so I returned to our booth where I found Mystery Military Man. I asked if he'd seen the American and if I could give him something for all the rounds of drinks that had gone around. "No, no," he said. He told me not to worry about it that that it would all be taken care of.

Kaohsiung Boy, Hardcore Party Girl and I walked out of the club to Kaohsiung Boy's car. We said our goodbyes. Hardcore Party Girl went back into the club and Kaohsiung Boy drove me home.

Thursday was a long night of harmless, good fun... It's somewhat cathartic "getting it all out" on the dance floor and fortunately I don't have to teach on Fridays. I can take a "backseat" since I'm in the role of a student only having to go to my Mandarin Chinese class on Friday mornings.

Today (Friday) afternoon, at home after class, the phone rang and it was the American from Kimen. He began cautiously by asking me if I'd noticed anything strange or out of the ordinary last night at the club. "No," I said. "What are you talking about?"

Then he began to tell me that shortly after we'd danced, some men told him that he had to go i.e. leave the club. Some men took him outside and before he knew it there were three men beating him up with a baseball bat and baton. They hit him in the face, on his back, stomach, legs and knees. They told the American that a woman he'd danced with in the club was pressing charges of sexual harrassment; that she had gone crying to security claiming that he'd grabbed her breast. (*Not that, that could justify roughing someone up!) It was all mostly blur for him. At some point the police picked the American up and he made it to a police station where he reported the incident and made a statement with the help of a Taiwanese friend who translated for him. He also had to go to a hospital for treatment of his injuries. He was in pretty bad shape, his glasses were broken, face messed up, body bruised, head and body aching.

My friend the American from Kimen asked me if he had done anything at all inappropriate last night and if I had felt uncomfortable or upset with him. I was the only woman that he'd danced with all night and he couldn't imagine what he could have done to offend me or that I'd press charges against him.

I assured him that everything that had happened last night was in friendly, good fun and that I had no reason to press any charges against him. Apparently this whole ordeal had done a number on him, making him second guess what had happened and now he wondered what exacly had happened and why.

I met the American nearly a year ago and know him to be a very gentle, kind person. This couldn't have happened to a less deserving person.

I asked him what I could do if anything and he said he only wished that this wouldn't happen to anyone else and that others know the truth of what happened. We agreed that the club should also be closed down. (Whether or not that can be done is another story)

I offered to go to the police station to state for the record that he had not harassed me. Kaohsiung Boy had been with the American and I the whole time. Actually Kaohsiung Boy was standing nearby when I was dancing with the American. Kaohsiung Boy agreed to go the police station with me this evening.

When we got to the station this evening the police only had a report with the American's account of what happened. There was no record of the accusations of sexual harassment made against him. Kaohsiung Boy and I tried to explain the situation, that we were all friends who went to the club together, that I was the only woman that the American had danced with, and that there was no woman pressing charges against the American. No official statements were taken from me or Kaohsiung Boy because there was no record of any accusations filed against the American.

Someone I know with connections had arranged for a city councilor (*who is responsible for the district in which the club is located) to accompany us to the police station. The city councilor demanded to see other statements and/or documents that may have been written up or filed last night. Perhaps the police on patrol at the site had taken statements from the witnesses or perpetrators at the scene.

It was all rather disappointing. I mean, you could kill a person with a baseball bat! I shudder to think what could have happened if things went too far and people were even more out of control.

Well, at least we were able to establish that nothing incriminating about the American had been documented in the police report filed at the police station.

The more I thought about the whole situation and pondered throughout the day, the more I began to suspect and question the actions and character of all the people involved. I'd only met Hardcore Party Girl and Mystery Military Man for the first time Thursday night, so all of their actions through out the night and after the incident were now under scrutiny.

Before going to the police station, I had spoken to the American twice about the incident, getting the details of his account clear. And I thought about how trying it must be for witnesses, defendants and plaintiffs to be grilled repeatedly over certain details. I was impressed that my American friend was able to recall what he did after having gone through the ordeal he'd been through!

I haven't been able to reach him since coming back from the police station and I'm leaving for Korea on a short vacation tomorrow. This couldn't have happened at a worse time. I don't know what else there is I can do.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The State of Taiwanese Identity

`Taiwan identity' growing: study

From the Taipei Times
March 12, 2006

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: Using data from his own and other polls, an Academia Sinica researcher wrote that Taiwanese identity may be rising, but Taiwan nationalism isn't

By Rich Chang

Although more and more people have come to identify themselves as Taiwanese in recent years, this has not necessarily translated into an increase in "Taiwanese nationalism," according to an academic paper yesterday.

The paper on Taiwanese identity was presented by Academia Sinica research fellow Wu Nai-teh (???) at a forum held in Taipei yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of the "1996 Missile Crisis."

"Although Taiwanese have different views about identity, almost all Taiwanese agree that the country's future should be decided by the people of Taiwan," Wu concluded in his paper.

According to annual household interview polls conducted by National Chengchi University, Wu said that the results suggested that only 13.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as Taiwanese in 1991. That number had risen to 45.7 percent by late 2004.

In contrast, Wu said the "Chinese consciousness" of respondents has steadily decreased.

While in 1991 43.9 percent of interviewees identified themselves as Chinese, the number was down to 6.3 percent by 2004.

Telephone surveys conducted annually by the university from 1994 to 2005 indicate a similar percentage and a same tendency, Wu said.

Wu added, however, that the polls showed interviewees with double identities (those who identify themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese) have remained steady.

While 49.7 percentage of the household interviewees described themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese in 1992, the percentage was 45.4 in 2004.

Telephone surveys indicate that since 1994 to 2005, around 40 to 50 percent of interviewees think of themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese, Wu said.

In order to further explore the identity issue, Wu said he has conducted annual polls from 1992 to 2004 asking people questions such as "Do you agree that Taiwan should declare independence if it would not cause a war?" and "Do you agree that Taiwan should unite with China if there were no political, economic or social differences between the both sides?"

Wu said the polls found around one-fourth to one-third of respondents had maintained "double identities" over the years.

Wu found in his polls that the percentage of Taiwanese nationalists -- defined as those who consider Taiwan an independent political entity and would never want Taiwan to unite with China, even if both sides had no social differences -- grew very fast after the 1996 missile crisis.

The number rose from 10.3 percent in 1993, to 21.3 percent in 1996, but the percentage has stayed between 20 to 30 percent ever since, he said.

However, Chinese nationalists -- those who would like to see both sides of the Strait unite if they shared the same social conditions, declined from around 40 percent in 1992, to 15 percent in 2004.

Wu said he interviewed the same people in 1998 and 2000, and found that more than half of them had changed their views.

This means that many Taiwanese are still confused about identity, and are easily affected by political, social and economic circumstances, Wu said.


Identity shifts
* 45.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as "Taiwanese" in late 2004, compared with just 13.6 percent in 1991.

* 6.3 percent identified themselves as "Chinese" in 2004, compared with 43.9 percent in 1991.

* 45.4 percent described themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese in 2004, compared with 49.7 percent in 1992.

Source: National Chengchi University

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tainan Orchid Show

This afternoon I ran off to Tainan to see the annual Orchid flower show. There are so many breeds of orchids- it's amazing the diverse variety of shapes and sizes that they can come in. Here are some of the photos I snapped:

Opening Orchids

A Taiwanese water buffalo amongst orchids

Yes these are orchids too

More unusual orchids

The ever popular "slippers"

Dainty slippers stepping down

This little baby slipper will be sitting on my desk at home for the next little while.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2-28 is here to stay

February 28, 1947, known as 2-28 has been referred to as the 2-28 Incident, the February 28 Massacre and Taiwan's Holocaust. It is a date that refers to the Kuo Ming Tang's murderous rampage of tens of thousands of Taiwanese (up to 30, 000 according to some accounts). The date also marks the beginning of 40 years of martial law imposed by the Kuo Ming Tang in Taiwan.

Now it's just a national holiday to some, and sadly the complete significance still alludes many in Taiwan, but perhaps that'll change since February 28 has been recognized as a holiday. It's been a long hard struggle of recognition.

I've found vague reports on 2-28 and its road to becoming a national holiday.

Most sources have stated that in 1995 a 2-28 memorial monument was errected in the newly renamed 2-28 Peace Park in Taipei, which was formerly named the Taipei New Park and 2-28 was called a Peace Memorial Day.

According the Government Information Office of ROC (Taiwan):

"In 1997, Peace Memorial Day was elevated to the status of a national holiday after the Legislative Yuan amended the February 28 Incident Disposition and Compensation Act. [O]n February 25 and the president promulgated the revised legislation on the same day."

But February 28 has apparently had a pretty precarious existence as a national holiday. According to the Taiwan Communique (in 2001):

"Earlier this year [2001], the DPP government took a peculiar step backwards when it decided to change the status of the day from formal public holiday to memorial day. The discussion took place in the context of the implementation of a shorter workweek. Under pressure from business and industry the government was reviewing existing public holidays which could be "downgraded."

Fortunately, the decision to change the status of public holidays does require legislative action. However, the cabinet was late in notifying the Legislative Yuan, and the Kuomintang-dominated legislature was too busy trying to impeach the President in the Nuclear Four power plant case. So, this year 228 was still an official public holiday, but if the Taiwanese people don't speak up, next year it won't."

This year, for the first time, flags flied at half-mast at schools and government offices in observation of this holiday. Here's the Taipei Times report on February 28, 2006.