Archive for ‘Taiwan’

11/06/2019

China sees over 6 mln entries, exits during Dragon Boat Festival holiday

BEIJING, June 10 (Xinhua) — China’s border check agencies saw about 6.13 million inbound and outbound trips made during the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday, up 6.3 percent year on year, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) said Monday.

During the holiday that ended Sunday, Chinese mainland residents made more than 3.2 million entries and exits, up 11.3 percent from the previous year, NIA data showed. Entries and exits made by residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan stood on a par with the same period last year at about 2.1 million.

Entries and exits made by foreign citizens increased by 5.3 percent to 812,000, according to the NIA.

Compared with major airports in places such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, some small and medium-sized airports reported an obvious rise in their trans-border passenger volumes during the holiday this year, said the NIA, citing that of an airport in the port city of Tianjin surging 28.6 percent.

Source: Xinhua

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05/06/2019

Glowing tributes to China’s rise ignore Chinese with no money or rights

  • The ‘success’ of China’s undemocratic model hides the continued exploitation of the poor, the destruction of faith communities and other victims who can’t speak out
Villagers of the Yi ethnic group move into new houses for relocated residents from poor areas, in Zhaojue county in southwest China’s Sichuan province. Under President Xi Jinping, China has set the goal of eliminating poverty by 2020, but the state of the rural poor in remote counties may make the task difficult. Photo: Xinhua
Villagers of the Yi ethnic group move into new houses for relocated residents from poor areas, in Zhaojue county in southwest China’s Sichuan province. Under President Xi Jinping, China has set the goal of eliminating poverty by 2020, but the state of the rural poor in remote counties may make the task difficult. Photo: Xinhua
I write to respond to Randy Lee’s letter, dated May 6, on the dilemma of democracy and prosperity in mainland China and Taiwan (“
What Taiwan’s economy tells us about the pitfalls of democracy

”). Linear thinking of this kind has misled a lot of people on the issue.

Mr Lee compared the economies of China and Taiwan, saying the island’s economy is in a downturn and attributed this to its democratic governance. However, every nation faces regular ups and downs in its economy and there is no reason to place the blame on the so-called chaos of democracy.
The strong economy of China at present comes at a price, and the price is most likely paid by the individual citizens deprived of freedom of speech, businesses cultivating a “copying” culture to make a profit, as well as the 
destruction of faith

  and humanity.

Xinjiang Uygurs: the human cost of China’s belt and road plan
Mr Lee acknowledges the widening 
wealth gap

in the People’s Republic of China, so let’s not forget whole impoverished counties in the mainland. It is reported that the richest 100 individuals in China have more wealth than the poorest two-fifths of the country’s population combined. What does that mean? That such an economy and authoritarian government do not guarantee a more equally prosperous nation, but keep widening the gap between the poor and the rich, and even exploiting the poorest parts of the country. The image of a prosperous nation, as described by Mr Lee, is only an illusion – hiding its failure in protecting the poor from being exploited and ignored.

Source: SCMP
30/05/2019

China’s top political advisor meets Taiwan delegation

CHINA-BEIJING-WANG YANG-YOK MU-MING-MEETING (CN)

Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, meets with a delegation from Taiwan led by New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming in Beijing, capital of China, May 29, 2019. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) — China’s top political advisor Wang Yang on Wednesday met with a delegation from Taiwan led by New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming.

Wang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, stressed the greater national interests of pursuing reunification, which he said is an undeniable duty for every Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Wang expressed the mainland’s willingness to engage in talks and consultation with political parties, organizations and individuals from Taiwan on the basis of upholding the 1992 Consensus and opposing “Taiwan independence.”

He also pledged efforts to implement the consensus reached during consultations, deepen cross-Strait exchanges and integrated development, promote more favorable policies benefiting Taiwan, and encourage young people from Taiwan to study, work and start businesses on the mainland.

Noting that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China, Yok expressed hope for the two sides to cooperate more, and better understand each other, forging a strong common identity and the sense of mission to pursue peaceful reunification, so as to realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation at an early date.

Source: Xinhua

29/05/2019

Short of war, US can’t help but lose to China’s rise in Asia, says think tank Lowy Institute

  • Lowy Institute’s 2019 Asia Power Index puts Washington behind both Beijing and Tokyo for diplomatic influence
  • Trump’s assault on trade has done little to stop Washington’s decline in regional influence, compared to Beijing, say experts
Chinese and US flags at an international school in Beijing. Photo: AFP
Chinese and US flags at an international school in Beijing. Photo: AFP
The 
United States

may be a dominant military force in Asia for now but short of going to war, it will be unable to stop its economic and diplomatic clout from declining relative to China’s power.

That’s the view of Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, which on Tuesday evening released its 2019 index on the distribution of power in Asia.

However, the institute also said China faced its own obstacles in the region, and that its ambitions would be constrained by a lack of trust from its neighbours.

The index scored China 75.9 out of 100, just behind the US, on 84.5. The gap was less than America’s 10 point lead last year, when the index was released for the first time.
“Current US foreign policy may be accelerating this trend,” said the institute, which contended that “under most scenarios, short of war, the United States is unlikely to halt the narrowing power differential between itself and China”.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. Click to enlarge.
The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. Click to enlarge.
Since July, US President

Donald Trump

has slapped tariffs on Chinese imports to reduce his country’s

trade deficit with China

. He most recently hiked a 10 per cent levy on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 per cent and has also threatened to impose tariffs on other trading partners such as the European Union and Japan.

Herve Lemahieu, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Asian Power and Diplomacy programme, said: “The Trump administration’s focus on trade wars and balancing trade flows one country at a time has done little to reverse the relative decline of the United States, and carries significant collateral risk for third countries, including key allies of the United States.”

The index rates a nation’s power – which it defines as the ability to direct or influence choices of both state and non-state actors – using eight criteria. These include a country’s defence networks, economic relationships, future resources and military capability.

It ranked Washington behind both Beijing and Tokyo in terms of diplomatic influence in Asia, due in part to “contradictions” between its recent economic agenda and its traditional role of offering consensus-based leadership.

The spoils of trade war: Asia’s winners and losers in US-China clash

Toshihiro Nakayama, a fellow at the Wilson Centre in Washington, said the US had become its own enemy in terms of influence.

“I don’t see the US being overwhelmed by China in terms of sheer power,” said Nakayama. “It’s whether America is willing to maintain its internationalist outlook.”

But John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the Trump administration’s willingness to challenge the status quo on issues like trade could ultimately boost US standing in Asia.

“The current administration is disruptive but has earned respect for taking on difficult challenges which are of high regional concern but were largely ignored by the Obama administration – 

North Korea’s

illegal weapons and China’s predatory economic policies to name two,” said Lee.

“One’s diplomatic standing is not just about being ‘liked’ or ‘uncontroversial’ but being seen as a constructive presence.”
CHINA’S RISE
China’s move up the index overall – from 74.5 last year to 75.9 this year – was partly due to it overtaking the US on the criteria of “economic resources”, which encompasses GDP size, international leverage and technology.
China’s economy grew by more than the size of Australia’s GDP in 2018, the report noted, arguing that its growing base of upper-middle class consumers would blunt the impact of US efforts to restrict Chinese tech firms in Western markets.
US President Donald Trump with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

“In midstream products such as smartphones and with regard to developing country markets, Chinese tech companies can still be competitive and profitable due to their economies of scale and price competitiveness,” said Jingdong Yuan, an associate professor at the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

“However, to become a true superpower in the tech sector and dominate the global market remains a steep climb for China, and the Trump administration is making it all the more difficult.”

The future competitiveness of Beijing’s military, currently a distant second to Washington’s, will depend on long-term political will, according to the report, which noted that China already spends over 50 per cent more on defence than the 10 

Asean

economies,

India

and

Japan

combined.

TRUST ISSUE
However, 
distrust of China

stands in the way of its primacy in Asia, according to the index, which noted Beijing’s unresolved territorial and historical disputes with 11 neighbouring countries and “growing degrees of opposition” to its signature

Belt and Road Initiative

.

Beijing is locked in disputes in the

South China Sea

with a raft of countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, and has been forced to renegotiate infrastructure projects in

Malaysia

and Myanmar due to concerns over feasibility and cost.

If Trump kills off Huawei, do Asia’s 5G dreams die?
Xin Qiang, a professor at the Centre for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Beijing still needed to persuade its neighbours it could be a “constructive, instead of a detrimental, force for the region”.
“There are still many challenges for [China to increase its] power and influence in the Asia-Pacific,” Xin said.
Wu Xinbo, also at Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, said Beijing was having mixed success in terms of winning regional friends and allies.
“For China, the key challenge is how to manage the maritime disputes with its neighbours,” said Wu. “I don’t think there is growing opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative from the region, actually more and more countries are jumping aboard. It is the US that is intensifying its opposition to the project as Washington worries it may promote China’s geopolitical influence.”
Yuan said the rivalry between the

US and China

would persist and shape the global order into the distant future.

“They can still and do wish to cooperate where both find it mutually beneficial, but I think the more important task for now and for some time to come, is to manage their disputes in ways that do not escalate to a dangerous level,” Yuan said. “These differences probably cannot be resolved given their divergent interests, perspectives, etc, but they can and should be managed, simply because their issues are not confined to the bilateral [relationship] but have enormous regional and global implications.”
Elsewhere in Asia, the report spotlighted Japan, ranked third in the index, as the leader of the liberal order in Asia, and fourth-placed India as an “underachiever relative to both its size and potential”.
China’s wrong, the US can kill off Huawei. But here’s why it won’t
Lee said the index supported a growing perception that Tokyo had emerged as a “political and strategic leader among democracies in Asia” under

Shinzo Abe

.

“This is important because Prime Minister Abe wants Japan to emerge as a constructive strategic player in the Indo-Pacific and high diplomatic standing is important to that end,” Lee said.

Russia

, South Korea, Australia,

Singapore

, Malaysia and Thailand rounded out the top-10 most powerful countries, in that order. Among the pack, Russia, Malaysia and Thailand stood out as nations that improved their standing from the previous year.

Taiwan

, ranked 14th, was the only place to record an overall decline in score, reflecting its waning diplomatic influence

after losing three of its few remaining diplomatic allies

during the past year.

Source: SCMP
28/05/2019

Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’

  • Coordination Council for North American Affairs becomes Taiwan Council for US Affairs, island’s foreign ministry says
  • Move signifies ‘firm and close relationship between Taiwan and the US’, President Tsai Ing-wen says
Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect ever-improving ties between the sides. Photo: EPA
Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect ever-improving ties between the sides. Photo: EPA
Taiwan has changed the name of its de facto embassy in the United States to better reflect relations between the sides, which are at their strongest in decades, Taipei said on Saturday.
Once the necessary formalities have been completed, the agency formerly known as the Coordination Council for North American Affairs will be called the Taiwan Council for US Affairs, the island’s foreign ministry said.
“The new name better reflects the [agency’s] role in coordinating US-Taiwan affairs. It also symbolises the close and amicable relations between Taiwan and the United States,” it said.
Observers said the name change was significant as it appeared to drop the pretence that the council was non-diplomatic or political in nature.
The name change was possible because of the consensus between Taiwan and the US. Photo: CNA
The name change was possible because of the consensus between Taiwan and the US. Photo: CNA

Although Washington severed formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing, the two sides retained unofficial relations that have grown ever-closer in recent years, including an increase in military exchanges and cooperation.

“The new name [was made possible] as a result of the consensus between Taiwan and the US,” the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post. “This is the first time the designations ‘Taiwan and the US’ have been used to refer to each other’s affairs office on an equal basis, signifying the firm and close relationship.”

Taiwan begins mass production of missile corvettes, minelayers

Taiwan had been forced to use the old title because of the “special historical background” related to the change in diplomatic allegiance 40 years ago, Tsai said.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, has demanded that Washington observe the one-China policy by not officially recognising Taiwan or allowing it to use either “Republic of China” – the island’s official name – or “Taiwan” in the title of its representative offices in the US.

Washington also enacted the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 to prescribes relations with the island and includes a commitment to supply it with arms to protect itself.

“After continuous efforts and coordination by the two sides, and in 2019, the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, our office handling relations with the US is finally able to change its name,” Tsai said.

The American Institute in Taiwan relocated to a larger, purpose-built compound last month. Photo: Bloomberg
The American Institute in Taiwan relocated to a larger, purpose-built compound last month. Photo: Bloomberg

Presidential spokesman Alex Huang said the name change was due mainly to an improvement in relations between Taiwan and the US as a result of a greater cooperation on the promotion of regional peace and the Indo-Pacific security agenda.

“In the past few years, the US government has given Taiwan strong and firm support in terms of national security and participation in international events, as well as support from Congress and think tanks,” he said, referring to bills signed by US President Donald Trump that allow for exchanges between high-level officials and military personnel, and the approval of new sales of arms and logistical support to the island.

US official urges Pacific island nations to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan

Also, last week, Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington for the first talks of their kind since 1979, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported on Saturday.

Last month, the American Institute in Taiwan – the United States’ unofficial embassy in Taipei – relocated to a significantly larger, purpose-built compound, in yet another sign of improving relations.

US support for Taiwan has increased under Trump’s leadership as he regards Beijing as a hostile competitor, not only on trade, but also in military and global influence terms.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have flared since Tsai became president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. The mainland subsequently halted all official exchanges with the island and embarked on a campaign to squeeze its diplomatic allies around the world.

Source: SCMP

28/05/2019

China embraced gay ‘marriage’ long before Taiwan’s law. The West perverted history

  • Asia has a rich but largely forgotten history of acceptance of queer relationships
  • It was not until the colonial era that sexual and gender diversity came to be seen as a sin
An LGBT pride parade in support of Taiwan’s same-sex marriage law. Photo: Reuters
An LGBT pride parade in support of Taiwan’s same-sex marriage law. Photo: Reuters
Anyone reading the headlines about

Taiwan’s

legalisation of same-sex marriage
would get the impression this was Asia’s first taste of marriage equality. They would be quite wrong.

While Taiwan may be the first jurisdiction in Asia to legalise the modern form of same-sex marriage, such unions have been recognised across the region in various guises for centuries.
It may be true that Asia does not have a great reputation among the 
LGBTQ

community, but it does have a rich history of acceptance of sexual and gender diversity – one that has largely been forgotten.

When Europeans first encountered Chinese society, they praised many aspects of it, from its efficient government to the sophisticated lifestyles of the upper-class. But they were shocked and repulsed about one aspect of Chinese society: the “abominable vice of sodomy”.
Opinion: Three lessons for Hong Kong from Taiwan’s LGBT journey
One Portuguese Dominican friar, Gaspar da Cruz, even wrote an apocalyptic tract which portrayed China as the new Sodom – beset by earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters due to their acceptance of that “filthy abomination, which is that they are so given to the accursed sin of unnatural vice”, that is, sodomy.
Southern China, in particular, was known for a widespread acceptance of homosexual relationships. Shen Defu, a Chinese writer during the Ming dynasty, wrote that it was common for men of all social classes in Fujian province to take male lovers. While men generally took on these lovers while maintaining respectable marriages to women, there were some men who took their lover-relationships to a quasi-marriage level. The older man would be considered qixiong (adoptive older brother) and the younger qidi(adoptive younger brother).
South Korean men take part in Taiwan’s annual LGBT pride parade in Taipei. Photo: AFP
South Korean men take part in Taiwan’s annual LGBT pride parade in Taipei. Photo: AFP

Bret Hinsch, a professor of history in Taiwan, describes the ceremony based on the narration of a Chinese playwright, Li Yu (1610-1680): “Two men sacrifice a carp, a rooster, and a duck. They then exchange their exact times of birth, smear each other’s mothers with the blood of their sacrifices, and then swear eternal loyalty to one another.

The ceremony concludes with feasting on the sacrificial victims …. The younger qidi would move into the qixiong’s household. There he would be treated as a son-in-law by his husband’s parents. Throughout the marriage, many of which lasted for 20 years, the qixiong would be completely responsible for his younger husband’s upkeep.

The marriage would typically dissolve after a number of years so that the younger man could find a bride to marry to procreate and further the family lineage. The elder man was expected to pay the bride a price for the younger man.

These forms of gay “marriage” were prevalent enough in Fujian that there was even a patron deity of homosexuality, the rabbit. Many Han people from Fujian migrated to Taiwan starting in the 17th century; they now make up 80 per cent of the population.

Explained: gay rights, LGBTQ and same-sex marriage in Asia
Most literary accounts of homosexual relationships in China involve men, and there is a lively debate among scholars as to whether women enjoyed the same freedom.
Nevertheless, the most documented of female “quasi-marriages” are the “Golden Orchid Associations” in Guangdong. (Around 15 per cent of Taiwan’s population is Hakka, which historians trace specifically to Han migrants from Guangdong and surrounding areas.) The Golden Orchid Society was a movement based in Guangdong that lasted from the late Qing dynasty until the early 1900s. It provided a “sisterhood” alternative to women who did not want to get married for various reasons.
To announce her intentions, one woman would offer another gifts of peanut candy, dates and other goods. If the recipient accepted the gift, it was a signal she had accepted the proposal. They would swear an oath to one another, where sometimes one woman was designated “husband” and the other “wife”.
A couple kiss as they celebrate Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage. Photo: Reuters
A couple kiss as they celebrate Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage. Photo: Reuters

Hinsch describes the ceremony in this way: “After an exchange of ritual gifts, the foundation of the Chinese marriage ceremony, a feast attended by female companions served to witness the marriage. These married lesbian couples could even adopt female children, who in turn could inherit family property from the couple’s parents.”

While these “marriages” are not equivalent to the same-sex marriages of today, they nevertheless are historical precedents for what is now happening in Taiwan.

And China is far from being the only country in Asia with a queer history – Southeast Asia’s LGBTQ history is even richer.

Why some members of Singapore’s LGBT community prefer life in the shadows

In the early modern period, marriages between two people of the same assigned sex but who identified as different genders, were fairly normal in many parts of Southeast Asia. We know this primarily from the records Europeans kept when they landed on Asian shores.

For instance, here is a letter by a Portuguese missionary, Antonio de Paiva, to his Catholic bishop in 1544 about his observations of the Bugis people in what is now 

Indonesia

: “Your lordship will know that the priests of these kings are generally called bissus. They grow no hair on their beards, dress in a womanly fashion, and grow their hair long and braided; they imitate [women’s] speech because they adopt all of the female gestures and inclinations. They marry and are received, according to the custom of the land, with other common men, and they live indoors, uniting carnally in their secret places with the men whom they have for husbands …”

After this scandalised description, the author concludes with amazement that the Christian god, who had destroyed “three cities of Sodom for the same sin”, had not yet destroyed such “wanton people” who were “encircled by evil”.
Drag queens at a gay nightclub in Beijing. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: EPA
Drag queens at a gay nightclub in Beijing. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: EPA

Dating as far back as the 13th century, bissu have traditionally served as council to kings and guarded sacred manuscripts. They are considered a fifth gender within the Bugis’ gender-system: oroané (male men), makkunrai (female women), calabai (male women), calalai (female men), and bissu, who were neither male nor female (or both).

Brunei’s LGBT residents face up to new death by stoning law against gay sex
Today, their ranks have thinned – in one area, the population has dwindled to just six people – but the tradition remains, and they still perform important blessings. Contemporary bissu are typically male-bodied individuals who adopt feminine and masculine elements in their appearance. Although in the past bissu were married men, today they are required to be celibate.
In pre-Islamic Bugis culture, bissu were accorded priestly honours and tasked with mediating between the gods and people precisely because of, not in spite of, their gender. According to professor Halilintar Lathier, an Indonesian anthropologist, Bugis culture “perceived the upper world as male and this world as female, and therefore only a meta-gender would be able to become an intermediary”.
This pattern of a “gender-expansive” priest able to marry others of the same sex recurs throughout Southeast Asia.
A transgender beauty contest in Pattaya, Thailand. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: Handout
A transgender beauty contest in Pattaya, Thailand. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: Handout
To the west of South Sulawesi is Borneo, a large island that contains all of Brunei and parts of Indonesia and

Malaysia

. Borneo is home to many indigenous communities, including the Iban. The Iban historically respected manang bali, who were typically male-bodied shamans who adopted feminine dress and demeanour, and who took men as their husbands. Manang bali were mediators and held roles of great ritual importance; they were typically wealthy village chiefs known for their healing arts.

West of Borneo is the Malay Peninsula, where there are records from the Malay Annals and Misa Melayu dating as far back as the 15th century about priests, called sida-sida, who served in the palaces of the Malay sultans. They were responsible for safeguarding women in the palace as well as the food and clothing of royalty, and overseeing ritual protocol. The sida-sida undertook “androgynous behaviour” such as wearing women’s clothing and doing women’s tasks. A Malay anthropologist in the 1950s, Shamsul A.B., recalls seeing male-bodied sida-sida in the royal palace in his childhood, who were believed by the population to either be celibate and asexual, or attracted to men. Michael Peletz, an anthropologist and author of Gender Pluralism in Southeast Asia, notes that based on the evidence, it is “highly likely” that sida-sida involved both male- and female-bodied people who were involved in transgender practices, and who engaged in sexual relationships with people of the same and opposite sex.
How a gay student’s suicide is helping Japan’s LGBT community speak up
Northeast of Malaysia is the

Philippines

, where pre-colonial communities were religiously led by babylan: women healers and shamans who were responsible for mediating between the gods and people. Male-bodied people (asog, bayog), sometimes considered a third sex, could also hold these roles so long as they comported themselves like women. A 16th century Spanish Catholic manuscript records asog in the following manner:

“Ordinarily they dress as women, act like prudes and are so effeminate that one who does not know them would believe they are women … they marry other males and sleep with them as man and wife and have carnal knowledge.”
Dancers perform at the ShanghaiPRIDE opening party. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: AFP
Dancers perform at the Shanghai PRIDE opening party. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: AFP

The Spanish priests saw these asog as “devil-possessed”, particularly because they habitually practised “sodomy” among one another. Due to the Chinese reputation for homosexuality and various Sinophobic attitudes, some even attributed the prevalence of sodomy to the Chinese, whom they said had “infected the natives” and introduced the curse to the “Indians”, although there is no evidence of this.

COLONIAL CURVEBALL

Although these examples relate to the religious arena, anthropologists believe the respect accorded to these ritual specialists were an indicator of a wider societal acceptance of gender and sexual diversity in Southeast Asia – an acceptance that began to be eroded through the introduction of world religions (particularly Christianity), modernity, and colonialism. For example, in Malaysia, Brunei, 

Singapore

, Myanmar and throughout the commonwealth, the British enforced a penal code that legislated against sodomy. More than half of the countries that currently legally prohibit sodomy do so based on laws created by the British.

On gay sex, India has assumed an ancient position. Read the kama sutra
Similarly, after the Chinese were defeated by Western and Japanese imperialists, many Chinese progressives in the early 20th century sought to modernise China, which meant adopting “modern” Western ideas of dress, relationships, science and sexuality.
Concubinage was outlawed, prostitution was frowned upon, and women’s feet were unbound. It also meant importing European scientific understandings of homosexuality as an inverted or perverted pathology. These “scientific ideas” were debunked in the 1960s in the West, but lived on in China, frozen in time, and have only recently begun to thaw with the rise of LGBTQ activists in Asia.
A recent headline on the news from Taiwan read: “First in Asia: marriage equality comes to Taiwan”, as if the recent bill was an unprecedented “first” for Asia and that marriage equality – which, presumably, the headline writer associates with the West – has finally reached Asian shores.
But when we zoom out historically, it is evident that what happened in Taiwan is not so much a novel “breakthrough” for Asia. It is more a reconnection to its queer Chinese and Asian heritage, as well as a rejection of outdated Western ideas that it once adopted.
There is still much more work to be done to advance LGBT rights in Taiwan and the rest of Asia, but perhaps looking backwards in time can help us move forward.
Source: SCMP
28/05/2019

Taiwan lands warplanes on highway as part of military exercise

  • President Tsai Ing-wen says Taipei should ‘maintain a high degree of vigilance’
  • Exercise simulates response to attack from mainland on military bases
President Tsai Ing-wen and senior Taiwanese military staff during an exercise in southern county Changhua, not far from one of the island’s main airbases at Taichung. Photo: Facebook
President Tsai Ing-wen and senior Taiwanese military staff during an exercise in southern county Changhua, not far from one of the island’s main airbases at Taichung. Photo: Facebook
Taiwanese warplanes landed on a highway on Tuesday as part of annual exercises designed to test the island’s military capabilities and resolve to repel an attack from the mainland across the Taiwan Strait.
President Tsai Ing-wen watched the exercise in the southern county of Changhua, not far from one of Taiwan’s main airbases at Taichung.
“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Tsai said. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability.
“We should maintain a high degree of vigilance,” she said.
Taiwanese warplanes are parked on a highway during an exercise to simulate a response to a mainland attack on its airfields in Changhua. Photo: AP
Taiwanese warplanes are parked on a highway during an exercise to simulate a response to a mainland attack on its airfields in Changhua. Photo: AP

Aircraft involved in the exercise included US-made F-16 Fighting Falcons, French Mirage 2000s, Taiwan-made IDF fighter jets and US-built Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.

Ground crews practised refuelling and ammunition replenishment before the aircraft returned to the air. About 1,600 service personnel were mobilised in Tuesday’s exercise.

The event marked the exercise debut of the first F-16 upgraded to the V variant, featuring advanced radar and combat capabilities. Taiwan is spending about US$4.21 billion to upgrade 144 F-16As and Bs to the F-16V version.

Rare meeting between Taiwanese, US security officials angers Beijing
Taiwan buys military hardware mainly from the US and has asked to purchase new F-16V fighters and M1 Abrams tanks.

American arms sales to Taiwan have long been a thorn in the side of US relations with China, routinely drawing protests from Beijing that Washington had reneged on commitments.

Beijing has also been angered by warming relations between Taipei and Washington since Tsai came to power in 2016.

On Monday, Beijing reacted frostily to photos showing a rare meeting between uniformed Taiwanese officers and their US counterparts this month.

A Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet takes off from a highway during an emergency take-off and landing drill in Changhua, Taiwan. Photo: EPA
A Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet takes off from a highway during an emergency take-off and landing drill in Changhua, Taiwan. Photo: EPA

Last week, Beijing lodged a protest with Washington after two US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan expected to be outgunned in terms of troop numbers and firepower in any war with mainland China but it claimed to have had developed sophisticated asymmetric warfare tactics to make any invasion costly for Beijing.

“There are only a few military airbases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” air force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao.

Taiwan changes name of de facto embassy in United States to ‘reflect stronger ties’

Taiwan’s Central News Agency said highway take-off and landing drills last took place in 2014. A military source told CNA that Tuesday’s drill was not much different from those conducted by the military during the Han Kuang exercises, but it was still challenging.

Among the challenges were that the drill could not be rehearsed and it required clear communications between the military, police and the National Freeway Bureau, said the source.

Source: SCMP

26/05/2019

China’s robot censors crank up as Tiananmen anniversary nears

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day here, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labour and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilise” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralised under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorised, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

Source: Reuters

25/05/2019

Taiwan begins mass production of home-grown missile corvettes, minelayers

  • Self-ruled island cannot match Beijing’s spending, but innovation can help it succeed in a one-sided military conflict, observers say
  • First of Tuo Jiang-class stealth warships expected to be ready by 2021
Taiwan began mass production of its Tuo Jiang-class missile corvettes on Friday. Photo: Handout
Taiwan began mass production of its Tuo Jiang-class missile corvettes on Friday.

Taiwan has begun mass production of its home-grown Tuo Jiang-class missile corvettes and high-speed minelayers as it seeks to shore up its naval forces amid rising hostility from Beijing.

Dubbed the “aircraft carrier killer”, the small but powerful corvette, which has a displacement of 680 tonnes and a top speed of 45 knots, is a state-of-the-art stealth warship built by Lung Teh Shipbuilding.

A total of three corvettes will be built under the NT$31.6 billion (US$1 billion) Hsun Hai project, the self-ruled island’s navy said.

The warship is equipped with one of the world’s most technologically advanced computer systems and built partly with high-entropy metal alloys for extra strength and durability, it said. Its stealth technology and low radar cross section makes the ship virtually invisible at sea and even more obscure when operating close to the coastline.
Armed with eight subsonic Hsiung Feng II and eight supersonic Hisung Feng III anti-ship missile launchers, the corvettes are intended to take over many of the missions currently undertaken by larger, less manoeuvrable and more expensive frigates and destroyers, the navy said.
In the event of an actual armed conflict with Beijing, the warships would also boost Taiwan’s ability to counter a much larger and better equipped rival, a concept known as asymmetric warfare.
Taiwan simulates repelling invasion as Beijing threat persists

In a ceremony on Friday at Lung Teh’s shipyard in Suao, Yilan county, to mark the start of mass production, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the move was made possible after the navy succeeded in overcoming a number of design and technological issues regarding the warship, an earlier version of which she boarded soon after becoming the island’s leader in 2016.

Together with the construction of the high-speed minelayers, also by Lung Teh, and a home-grown submarine at a separate shipyard in Kaohsiung, Tsai said Taiwan was entering a “new era” of naval strength that would give it the ability to thwart any attempts by the People’s Liberation Army to invade its territory.

“This proves we are able to build our own warships and launch a new era of the naval force,” she said.

Construction of the Tuo Jiang-class corvettes was under way, with the first expected to be ready for delivery to the navy in 2021 and the last by 2025, Tsai said.

The first batch of four minelayers would also be ready by 2021, she said.

Taiwan has sought to counter the rising threat from mainland China by developing more of its own military hardware in recent years. Beijing’s military budget for 2019 is 1.2 trillion yuan, or about 16 times as much as Taiwan’s.

Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, and suspended all official exchanges with it after Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president and refused to accept the one-China principle.

Experts doubt China’s ability to launch assault on Taiwan

Over the past three years Tsai has prioritised Taiwan’s military expansion, ordering the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology – the island’s top weapon research and development agency – to speed up production of weapons like the surface-to-air Skybow-III and supersonic anti-ship Hsiung Feng-III missiles.

Taiwan is also expected next year to begin mass production of its CM-34 Clouded Leopard eight-wheeled armoured vehicles and has set a target to manufacture 284 of them by 2023.

Four prototypes of the vehicles, which passed pre-production tests in October, are expected to take part in the island’s annual Han Kuang war games next week.

Chieh Chung, a national security research fellow at the National Policy Foundation in Taipei, said that because of the huge discrepancies in their military budgets Taiwan could not engage in an arms race with the mainland so had to be more innovative.

“Taiwan has to develop an asymmetric defence strategy,” he said. “Take the Tou Jiang corvettes, for example. Because of their high speed, stealth function, small size and powerful weaponry, they can be deployed anywhere near Taiwan’s coast and called into action very quickly to fend off enemy vessels,” he said.

“The same applies to the high-speed minelayers, which can drop mines very quickly and make it very hard for enemy ships to attack the coast,” he said.

Source: SCMP

23/05/2019

U.S. Navy again sails through Taiwan Strait, angering China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military said it sent two Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, its latest transit through the sensitive waterway, angering China at a time of tense relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a bitter trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

The voyage will be viewed by self-ruled Taiwan as a sign of support from the Trump administration amid growing friction between Taipei and Beijing, which views the island as a breakaway province.

The transit was carried out by the destroyer Preble and the Navy oil tanker Walter S. Diehl, a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters.

“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said in a statement.

Doss said all interactions were safe and professional.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.
“The Taiwan issue is the most sensitive in China-U.S. relations,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the two U.S. ships had sailed north through the Taiwan Strait and that they had monitored the mission.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said there was no cause for alarm.
“Nothing abnormal happened during it, please everyone rest assured,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
U.S. warships have sailed through the Taiwan Strait at least once a month since the start of this year. The United States restarted such missions on a regular basis last July.
The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its main source of arms.
The Pentagon says Washington has sold Taipei more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
China has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island, which it considers part of “one China” and sacred Chinese territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if needed.
Beijing said a recent Taiwan Strait passage by a French warship, first reported by Reuters, was illegal.
China has repeatedly sent military aircraft and ships to circle Taiwan on exercises in the past few years and worked to isolate it internationally, whittling down its few remaining diplomatic allies.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency released a report earlier this year describing Taiwan as the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization, which it said had made major advances in recent years.
On Sunday, the Preble sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal claimed by China in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
The state-run China Daily said in an editorial on Wednesday that China had shown “utmost restraint”.
“With tensions between the two countries already rife, there is no guarantee that the presence of U.S. warships on China’s doorstep will not spark direct confrontation between the two militaries,” it said.
Source: Reuters
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