Monday, September 29, 2014

Umbrellas and Tear Gas in Hong Kong

These are just a small portion of the striking tweets with images* about the protests in Hong from Sunday through mid-Monday.

Instead of providing any commentary, I will simply share Zoher Abdoolcarim "5 Takeaways from Weekend of Protests" (HT James Fallows):

1. The protests cut across Hong Kong society
2. This is as much about inequality as democracy
3. The difference between Hong Kong and mainland China is not just political
4. Beijing is clearly mismanaging the fringes of China’s empire
5. Hong Kong faces a tough fight ahead

Each of the points speak to much, and more detail about each of them can be found in the article on Time. Abdoolcarim concludes with:
Hong Kong—which, with its 7 million people, is just a tiny corner of China—can expect no quarter from Beijing over its fight for democracy.

*Images may not appear if you are viewing this post through a reader. See the post here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Colorful Sight in Taipei

Yesterday while I walked around outside in a drizzle, I turned around and noticed something which surprised me.

rainbow arching over buildings in Taipei

The rainbow didn't strike me as remarkable except in one way—it had been a while since I had last seen a rainbow. In a post displaying the artificial rainbow I saw in Hengyang, I mentioned I couldn't remember having ever seen a genuine rainbow in China and wondered if pollution or tall buildings were significant factors. I now see that 15 years ago two scientists presented hypotheses for how pollution may have caused a decrease of rainbow sightings in Seoul, South Korea, but they don't claim to have an answer.

Whatever the case, I appreciated the rainbow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gazing in Taiwan

Two views from the center of Gaze—an installation work by Taiwanese artist Hwang Buh-Ching portraying a "loving gaze and silent emotion" between Hwang and his wife:

Hwang Buh-Ching's Gaze in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei

Hwang Buh-Ching's Gaze in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Good Strong Mix

One of today's discoveries:

A bottle of Halen Tripel 9% alcohol beer and a bar of Lindt 99% cocoa chocolate

Swiss chocolate with too much cocoa pairs excellently with Belgian beer with too much alcohol.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Taiwanese Politician and Barack Obama Want Change

In the Tucheng District of New Taipei City I recently saw a small part of Taiwan's democracy in action. At one location people busily worked for an election campaign.

people working for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) city council campaign

Lin Jinjie (林金結), a member of Taiwan's Kuomintang party, is running for the position of councilor in the New Taipei City Council.

As I walked around Tucheng, I saw some of Lin's campaign signs. Most seemed run-of-the-mill.

sign for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) election campaign

sign for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) election campaign

One sign campaign sign stood out though.

Lin Jinjie (林金結) campaign "We Want Change" sign with Barack Obama

Yes, that is Lin with U.S. President Barack Obama. And the sign makes it clear both of them are full of hope for change.

During earlier primary elections some questioned Lin's use of Barack Obama's image and suggested it improperly implied Obama supported Lin or may raise copyright issues (see articles in Chinese here and here). Others commented on the prominent use of English on the sign. Despite the criticism, at least the above sign remains and an image of the sign posted on what appears to be Lin's Facebook page remains as well. Whatever its merits, that a Taiwanese political campaign believes it could be helpful to reference Obama says something about Taiwan and speaks to America's potential soft power as well.

On a related note, I have seen Barack Obama's image used for commercial purposes in mainland China. But due to differences in political systems and cultures, I doubt I will be seeing any similar Obama-themed political-campaign signs there anytime soon.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Animated Taiwanese Perspective on Scottish Independence

Taiwan-based Next Media Animation (NMA) regularly provides entertaining takes on a variety of newsworthy events around the world. Given the debate within Taiwan over the future of its own political status, it is not surprising that NMA expressed one of the many global perspectives on today's Scottish independence referendum. In addition to its usual creativity, NMA's takes a side on the issue. Responding to an offer of more power for Scotland if it remains part of the United Kingdom, NMA recommends skepticism and a vote for independence:
But we here in Taiwan understand that no amount of false promises are enough to sate a people's desire for "FREEDOMMMMMMM". So people and unicorns of Scotland on Thursday vote "YES".
NMA's advice may more reflect its views regarding Taiwan than any deeply held beliefs about Scotland's specific situation, which differs in many key respects. I am not at all convinced that "freedom" per se will have taken a blow if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. There are sacrifices to be made when living in a political structure of any size, and there are reasonable arguments that people in Scotland will enjoy more overall freedom as a part of the United Kingdom. Whatever the best choice may be for Scotland, the people are now able to freely express themselves and vote on an important part of their future. And whatever the result, the status quo will have been changed, and the Scottish people will maintain many significant freedoms.

So for probably the only video on the Scottish independence referendum with backstabbing, casino tokens, people carrying skyscrapers, and, of course, a freedom-loving unicorn, watch NMA's latest creation:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zhongyang Road in Tucheng

Yesterday on Zhongyang Road in Tucheng District, New Taipei City, Taiwan:

motorbikes and cars on Zhongyang Road in Tucheng District, New Taipei City

Even if you find the above scene mundane, you may be surprised by who makes an appearance on one of the political campaign signs in this area. More on that and other nearby indications of democracy are on the way.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Taiwanese Dog Dozing

Earlier I shared photos of dogs riding a wheelbarrow, sitting in a park, taking a walk, and swimming in a river in Hengyang. In Taipei I have seen many more dogs. So to continue the theme, here is a dog I saw sleeping yesterday evening:

dog sleeping on top of two stools with its leash connected to a parked motorbike

Despite where its leash was anchored, I doubted it would later have an experience like another dog I saw in Hengyang: one running in front of a motorbike.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Two Sunsets in Taiwan

The sun setting in Taipei:

view from Xiangshan of sun setting behind Taipei 101

And the sun setting at Tamsui in New Taipei:

sunset over Tamsui River in Tamsui

These two scenes are my way of saying I am in Taiwan at the moment. More soon . . .

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Variation on a Xiangqi Theme in Hengyang

A couple of months ago, I posted two more photos of people playing xiangqi (Chinese chess) in China. There was a third photo I considered posting, but I refrained because of the photo's similarity to another.

It captured a most joyous moment, though, so I shall refrain no longer:

boy smiling and holding a small plastic stool over his head near men playing xiangqi (Chinese chess)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Compensated Ethnic Assimilation in China

In The New York Times, Edward Wong reports one way China is trying to make the country more "harmonious":
In a policy that appears aimed at soothing violent ethnic tensions in the west of China, officials in the region of Xinjiang are offering cash and other financial incentives to encourage marriages between minorities and Han, the country’s dominant ethnic group.
Why do they think this could this help?
[T]he county director, Yasen Nasi’er, said: “Interethnic marriages are a manifestation of the increased interethnic exchange in a Han-based culture. It is an important step in the harmonious integration and development of all ethnicities.”

He called such marriages “positive energy” and a means by which Xinjiang can realize the “Chinese Dream,” an amorphous term popularized by President Xi Jinping.
Although the policy in Xinjiang is just a trial for now, the idea behind it is nothing new:
Communist officials have long promoted popular tales of mixed marriages to paper over ethnic conflicts.

Many Han talk of how the Manchus from the northeastern forests, who conquered China to establish the Qing dynasty, eventually adopted Han customs and intermarried, citing this as an example of how Han Chinese civilization inevitably absorbs and assimilates other ethnicities.
As a thought experiment to tease apart some issues and add a different perspective, I tried to imagine the response if a minority in the US, a country with its own history of ethnic and racial tensions, was told by the government that one way to achieve the American dream was to marry a White American and that they would be compensated for doing so. Or what would China think if Han Chinese in the US were specifically targeted in this way?

Other thought experiments, even more unlikely to occur in the real world, are also floating through my mind. Most of all, though, I would like to hear the real unfiltered views of some Chinese citizens—in particular, the Uighurs in Cherchen Country who are the targets of the trial policy.

Details of the policy and mention of other related policies can be found in Wong's piece here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Let's Talk" and "Avatars of Nonviolence" in Hong Kong

While in Hong Kong earlier this year during January, I saw the following signs posted publicly in several locations by Hong Kong's government:

signs in Hong Kong saying "Let's talk and achieve universal suffrage" and "Please participate and express your views"

One sign said the closing date to "express your views" about "methods for selecting the chief executive in 2017" was May 3rd. After yesterday's announcement that Beijing will "filter" the possible candidates for the position of Hong Kong's top leader, some Hong Kong citizens still want to "talk and achieve universal suffrage", but they are "facing tough choices":
In the near future, the protests will achieve nothing, said Brian Fong Chi-hang, a political science scholar at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and a supporter of the democracy movement.

“The most important challenge is that even if they succeed in mobilizing a large-scale Occupy Central movement in a peaceful and orderly manner, they will finally get nothing,” he said. “We cannot change anything.”

But leaders of the movement expect to wage a protracted struggle nonetheless.

“This is a long, long cause,” said Chan Kin-man, an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and co-founder of the movement, known in full as Occupy Central With Love and Peace. “Civil disobedience is the starting point. Look at what happened in Martin Luther King’s case.”
The mention of Martin Luther King Jr. is a sign of how some will "look to avatars of nonviolence":
[T]housands of people gathered in intermittent rain to protest a decision by China’s legislature to put firm restrictions on a plan to expand the franchise to allow all adults in the territory to vote for their leader, the chief executive.

The demonstrators, many of whom wore headbands emblazoned with the Chinese characters for “civil disobedience,” said they drew inspiration from thinkers and practitioners of nonviolent protest, including Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Dr. King.
And this reminds me of something else I saw this past January: shirts for sale at Hong Kong's Lunar New Year Fair pro-democracy booths.

"Civil Disobedience" shirt

shirt with Nelson Mandela's quote "It always seems impossible until it's done"

It wouldn't surprise me if the shirts are available again at next year's fairs.