Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chinese or nothing ! The Fairy Pitta Protected Area letter response

On October 27th supporters in the UK e-mailed an English letter voicing their concerns over a proposed Fairy Pitta Protected Area to Dr. Chen Wu-Hsiung, Minister of the Council of Agriculture. A copy of the letter was also sent to the Forestry Bureau and Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, secretariat for the Taiwan National Coalition Against the Hushan Dam.

To date the office of the minister has not replied to the letter. The Forestry Bureau replied on November 7th. The reply was in Chinese. Our UK supporters can't read or write Chinese so they responded to the Forestry Bureau asking what the e-mail was about and also contacted us in Taiwan. To date the Forestry Bureau has not replied to the second e-mail.

Against the backdrop of the recent suppression of freedom of speech and democracy by the new Chinese National Party (KMT) Government the Chinese language response to an English letter is worth noting.

Government department websites are bilingual, Chinese and English. English is regarded as the foreign language of choice and is taught as the prescribed foreign language in Taiwanese schools. All students learn English from the third grade of elementary school through to the end of senior high school. Public officers must have a basic command of the English language as a job requirement.

For three years we have monitored international petitions and letters over the Hushan Dam Project sent to the government and the government has always responded in English. Overall, we have to say that the government has been pretty good about responding to English letters. That doesn't mean that we agree with what they say. The government seemed quite prepared to engage foreigners in English. For most of that time the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power.

The new KMT Government doesn't seem to share the same values. The new government has been very eager to please China and "re-sinogize" Taiwan. Names like the Taiwan Postal Service have been changed to the Chinese Postal Service. Even the allegedly "non-political NGO" the Wild Bird Federation of Taiwan [the BirdLife International partner for Taiwan] has jumped on the bandwagon and become the Chinese Wild Bird Federation. Peacefully protesting citizens have been arrested and beaten for waving the national flag.

As the new regime seems to be bending over backwards in an all out effort to erode Taiwan's democracy, sovereignty, and civil liberties in order to please China, it may seem that Mandarin Chinese is the only language the Taiwan Government wants to engage the world in.

Also see:
What's in store for environmentalists in Taiwan's new Police State ?

Concerns over reforesting projects in the Huben-Hushan area

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