TAIPEI, June 1 -- Balloon sculpture memorializes standoff that millions of mainland Chinese have still never heard about.
An artist has erected an inflatable display in Taiwan’s capital to mark an iconic moment in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests three decades ago. The larger-than-life balloon installation, which stands in front of Taipei’s famous Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, portrays a peaceful encounter between a Chinese civilian and the military tanks that took part in the bloody suppression of the demonstrations in Beijing on June 4, 1989. The tank standoff, memorialised by several photographers including Jeff Widener of The Associated Press, has become a symbol of defiance around the world. Hundreds of people walked by the installation on Saturday morning. Many took selfies and photos of the artwork, which has been up for a few weeks. Public remembrances of the Tiananmen protests are strictly forbidden in mainland China, and Beijing’s army of censors has been working overtime to scrub any references to the event from the Web as the anniversary approaches. But regular commemorations have taken place in democratically governed Taiwan and Hong Kong.
This coming Tuesday marks 30 years since the protests, led by students who were joined by individuals from all walks of life, calling for political reform. China’s ruling Communist Party punishes citizens who dare to speak publicly about the event. While an untold number of people inside China are not even aware that the historic event ever took place, others have learned about it through smuggled DVDs and private conversations as well as using software to scale the Internet firewall. Mikel Zhang, a lawyer from Shanghai who visited the “Tank Man” installation on Saturday morning in Taipei, said that the students’ beliefs were different than those of the government. “But eventually … blood was shed,” he said. An inscription on the artwork says Taiwan stands with the people who have never ceased to resist the “gigantic autocracy”. Taiwan split from mainland China amid civil war in 1949, though Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory.
TAIPEI, May 17 -- Taiwan's parliament has legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark vote that made the self-ruled island the first in Asia to adopt such legislation.
The lawmakers comfortably passed a law on Friday, allowing same-sex couples to form "exclusive permanent unions" and a second clause that would let them apply for a "marriage registration" with government agencies. The vote is a major victory for the island's LGBT community who have campaigned for years to have similar of equal marriage rights as heterosexual couples and places the island at the vanguard of Asia's burgeoning gay rights movement. In recent months conservatives had mobilized to rid the law of any reference to marriage, instead putting forward rival bills that offered something closer to limited same-sex unions. But those bills struggled to receive enough votes. Hundreds of gay rights supporters on Friday gathered despite heavy rain near the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, as legislators were set to vote on a series of bills that could offer same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals. The vote came after Taiwan's top court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. Judges gave the government until May 24 this year to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically. But they gave no guidance on how to do that.
QINGDAO, April 23 -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a multinational parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s navy with a call for nations not to threaten to use force against each other.
Nearly 20 warships from about a dozen countries – including Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Japan – are taking part in the parade with 32 Chinese vessels led by China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in the Yellow Sea off eastern China’s Shandong province. Addressing foreign naval officers in the port city of Qingdao on Tuesday, Xi urged maritime forces around the world to work together to promote dialogue and maintain peace at sea. “Nations should use consultations to resolve matters, and should not easily resort to force or threats of force,” said Xi, who will inspect the vessels in the parade. “Nations should consult on an equal basis, improve crisis management mechanisms, step up regional security cooperation and push for proper settlement of maritime disputes.” The parade is taking place as China is locked in maritime disputes with many of its neighbours, particularly those in Southeast Asia with competing claims over the South China Sea. “The world is facing more challenges, and no country is able to deal with all the threats alone,” Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, said on Monday night.
“The Chinese navy is willing to work with its foreign counterparts to cope with maritime security problems and challenges.” Shen said 61 countries sent naval delegates to this year’s celebration, compared with 29 a decade ago for the PLA Navy’s 60th anniversary.
TAIPEI, April 18 -- A magnitude 6.1 earthquake rocked eastern Taiwan at 1.01pm on Thursday, sending panicked residents rushing onto the streets and shaking buildings 115km (71 milles) away in the island’s capital, Taipei.
The quake’s epicentre was just over 10km northwest of the city of Hualien, at a depth of 18.8km, the island’s Central Weather Bureau said, adding that a 4.1 quake was reported 17 minutes later. At least 17 people were injured. A Malaysian man and a Taiwanese woman were injured by falling rocks at Taroko National Park in Hualien county, with both being airlifted to a hospital in the city. Ten people in Taipei and five in New Taipei City also suffered injuries.
Train services on Taipei’s subway were suspended as were the airport subway to Taoyuan International Airport and most other metro and train systems in various parts of Taiwan, especially those around eastern and northern Taiwan, for safety inspections, the island’s cabinet said.
Taiwan Power Company said operations were normal at the island’s first and second nuclear power plants in northern Taiwan and asked the public to stay calm.
TAIPEI, April 1 -- Beijing’s decision on Sunday to break a tacit agreement by sending two PLA fighter jets across a largely observed line dividing the Taiwan Strait has been seen by Taiwanese analysts as intentional and a response to US naval “freedom of navigation” exercises in the strait.
It also demonstrated that Beijing had discounted Taiwan’s reaction over the intrusion and that China felt any provocative action by the US in the Taiwan Strait and US deployments in the Indo-Pacific region must be stopped, they said. “Judging from the fact that the PLA warplanes have also intruded into the air defence identification zones of both Japan and South Korea [in the past year], Sunday’s incursion was more [about] countering the US’ deployments in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Doong Sy-chi, director of international relations at Taiwan Thinktank, on Monday.
“It also means that the Chinese communists no longer care about the reaction of Taiwan as they used to do out of the concerns that it [incursions] would increase Taiwanese resentment against Beijing and boost the pro-independence camp’s chances in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election,” he said.
Taiwan scrambled interceptors on Sunday morning and broadcast warnings after two People’s Liberation Army J-11 fighter jets crossed the “median line” over the waters that separate the island from the mainland. Despite those warnings, the jets continued their incursion for about 10 minutes – unusual compared to earlier intrusions where PLA aircraft would quickly return to the mainland China side of the median, Taiwan’s military officials said. The Taiwanese foreign ministry, presidential office and Mainland Affairs Council issued statements condemning the move, calling it reckless and provocative, and which not only was an act of changing the cross-strait status quo, but also caused resentment among Taiwan and its allies abroad.
TAIPEI, February 11 -- With a head of grey hair and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, the casually dressed Chen Fu-men looks like a grandfather next door.
But in intelligence circles on the two rival sides of the Taiwan Strait, he is a well-known figure. Chen’s involvement in the killing of a Taiwanese-American author 35 years ago shocked the United States, which angrily demanded that the self-ruled island hand over Chen and two others to the American justice system. The assassination also became one of the triggers for democratisation on the self-ruled island, which had been under authoritarian rule by Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo since 1949.
The author, Henry Liu, 51, a Taiwanese journalist who moved to the United States in 1967 and later became an American citizen, had published an unflattering biography of Chiang Ching-kuo and was an outspoken critic of Taiwan’s ruling party. Powerful officials in Taipei also believed that he was spying for the mainland.
In 1984, vice-admiral Wang Hsi-ling, the head of the island’s Military Intelligence Bureau, ordered his deputy Hu Yi-min and his top aide Chen to kill Liu, according to Chen. Chen asked the leader of Taiwan’s notorious Bamboo Union gang, Chen Chi-li, to eliminate the journalist. In October, he and two other gangsters gunned down Liu in the garage of his northern California home.
The murder rocked the US, and its relations with Taiwan dropped to their lowest point after a furious State Department accused Taipei of sending killers to assassinate an American citizen. The FBI was involved in the search for suspects, and through a tapped phone traced a conversation between Wang and Chen Chi-li. Taiwanese authorities later arrested the gang leader and his aide.
Threatening to cut off arms sales to Taiwan, Washington demanded that Chiang Ching-kuo’s government extradite the suspects to face trial in the US. The Chiang government finally allowed the FBI to question the three intelligence officials in Taiwan.
TAIPEI, February 10 -- Taiwan’s largest airline China Airlines and its pilot union returned to the negotiating table on Saturday in a closed-door coordination meeting.
The meeting is over an ongoing strike that so far has forced the cancellation of 34 flights, including at least 12 to or from Hong Kong. The carrier cancelled four Saturday flights between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung and three between Taipei and Hong Kong, after scrapping five flights to and from Hong Kong the previous day. More than 12 flights have been delayed in the past two days, according to the airline.
The China Airlines branch of the Taoyuan Union of Pilots is protesting the airline’s failure to improve pilots’ working conditions and launched industrial action at 6am on Friday after talks broke down on Thursday, saying the strike would continue indefinitely until China Airlines agreed to meet its demands. Taiwan’s transport ministry stepped in, asking China Airlines and the union to hold a new round of talks on Saturday afternoon under the supervision of the Taoyuan Labour Affairs Department. Earlier on Saturday, transport minister Lin Chia-lung said airline management should have reviewed the reasons behind the breakdown in talks, in light of last year’s successful negotiations between EVA Air, another major Taiwan carrier, and its pilots. “Senior officials of China Airlines should have listened to the voices of their employees and put aside their emotion to properly handle the labour dispute,” Lin said, adding that the union should also take note of the rights of travellers and resume negotiations with the employer to jump-start reform of China Airlines’ aviation safety and systems. The union voted to strike in August and obtained approval from the labour authorities following disputes dating back to December 2017 between pilots and the two airlines over working conditions.
The EVA pilots agreed not to strike after a consensus was reached with airline, coordinated by the labour authorities, but no agreement was reached between China Airlines and its pilots, prompting Friday’s action.
BEIJING, February 5 -- China has sent a sobering Lunar New Year message to Taiwan, with a video showing military jets flying over the self-ruling island.
The images were used by Beijing in the film - titled My Fighting Eagles Fly Around Formosa – a name for Taiwan. It was published on social media by China’s air force, accompanied by a message saying it was to celebrate Tuesday’s Lunar New Year, reports the South China Morning Post. Taiwan split with the mainland in 1949, but China claims it as part of its territory and has threatened to invade if necessary to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
The propaganda film was released on Weibo – China’s equivalent of Twitter – and shows the official badge of the air force against images of Taiwan’s skyscrapers. Accompanying footage of H-6 bombers and J-20 stealth fighters, the film sends a message about reunification and brotherhood. The lyrics of the song played in the film call for “Brothers and sisters” from Taiwan to “return [and] reunite”. In a speech last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing had no intention of dropping its threat to use military force to bring the island under its control.
China’s military has also ramped up military exercises in the air and naval drills in the seas off Taiwan.
But the residents of the self-governing island, with its vibrant and well-established democracy, have resisted China’s demands despite rising political, economic and military threats from Beijing. And Taiwan responded on Monday to the provocative film by releasing a 90-second video – titled Freedom Is Not Free – on Facebook. It included images of the island’s military including ground based missile launchers and air and naval forces.
TOKYO, January 30 -- China opened a maritime rescue center on one of its man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, state-run media reported, as Beijing seeks to reinforce its claims in the strategic waterway.
China’s Ministry of Transport opened the rescue center on Fiery Cross Reef, which is also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines, “to better protect navigation and transport safety in the South China Sea,”. It quoted the ministry as saying the center “will offer better support to maritime rescue operations in the southern part of the South China Sea” near the Spratly chain.
Beijing has built up a series of military outposts in the South China Sea, which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims. As part of what some experts say is a concerted bid to cement de facto control of the South China Sea, three of Beijing’s man-made islets in the Spratlys — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs — all boast military-grade airfields. Recent reports have also said the islets, including Fiery Cross, have emplacements for missiles, extensive storage facilities and a range of installations that can track satellites, foreign military activity and communications. In a bid to offset concerns over the militarization of these islets, China has consistently said the facilities there are for defensive purposes and that the islands themselves are civilian and will provide navigational services to ships in the vicinity. But some observers have expressed concern that the moves could help boost Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over the islets. These moves have seen China build ecological conservation and restoration facilities and marine observation centers on Fiery Cross, Subi and Meiji Reefs. Xinhua has said that the facilities were “providing public services, including marine forecasts and disaster alarms, to the international society and passing vessels.”
In late July, China announced that it would permanently station a search-and-rescue ship at Subi Reef, the largest of China’s seven man-made outposts in the Spratlys and home to a lighthouse and extensive docking facilities. In October, another rescue ship was sent to the region to replace the vessel.
TAIPEH, January 17 -- Taiwan will not bow to Chinese pressure, a presidential spokesperson has said, as the self-ruled island held live-fire military drills aimed at showing its ability to defend itself from Beijing's threats.
The developments on Thursday came as China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, has been pressing companies around the world to change the way they refer to the island amid renewed threats to use force to gain control over it. "As for China's related out-of-control actions, we need to remind the international community to face this squarely and to unite efforts to reduce and contain these actions," Alex Huang, the spokesperson for President Tsai Ing-wen, told reporters in Taipei, according to Reuters news agency.
Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan at the end of the civil war in 1949 when the Communists took control of mainland China, but as the island has transformed into one of the region's most vibrant democracies it has become increasingly assertive of its own identity.
Beijing has stepped up pressure on Taiwan since independence-leaning Tsai won presidential elections in 2016. On January 2, Chinese President Xi Jinping said no one could change the fact that Taiwan was "part of China", adding that Beijing would not give up the use of military force as an option to ensure the island's "reunification" with the mainland. On Thursday, Taiwan held live-fire military drills, the first since Xi's comments some two weeks ago. Artillery and assault helicopters fired at targets off the west coast city of Taichung, while Mirage fighter jets took off amid rainy conditions from the air base at Hsinchu to the north.
The exercises also followed a new Pentagon report laying out US concerns about China's growing military might, underscoring Washington's worries about a possible attack against Taiwan.