Tue, Jan 05, 2010 - Page 8 News List


Taiwan can improve in 2010

As it is time for New Year’s resolutions, I want to propose two ideas that could help Taiwan become a more responsible society and gain more respect in the international community. These suggestions can easily be put into effect by the government and have the added advantage that there is no need for China’s approval.

Specifically, Taiwan should stop wasting resources and abolish the death penalty.

Like many foreigners living in Taiwan, I am impressed by the degree to which Taiwanese have gotten used to separating their garbage, rivaling even German standards. At the same time, however, tonnes and tonnes of precious natural resources are wasted every day in the form of plastic bags, plastic cups and throwaway chopsticks.

There simply is no reason for every piece of fruit or bread to be put into separate plastic bags. It is also appalling to see coffee shops handing out plastic cups to customers who drink inside the restaurant. Not only do bags and cups often end up being discarded on the street or in parks (aided by the inexplicable fact that public waste bins are few and far between), this also fosters a throwaway mentality that effectively prevents a sense of responsibility for the environment.

The government could easily change this by making customers pay a compulsory fee of, say, NT$2 for every plastic bag handed out to them, and not just for those stores currently required to charge fees. Also, customers should tell shopkeepers to act more responsibly. Such improvements on the environmental front would also lead to positive press coverage internationally.

Knowing the Western media from the inside, I can further assure Taiwanese that there is no single decision that would generate such an international wave of goodwill for Taiwan as the abolition of the death penalty.

It has been widely argued, including in the Taipei Times, that executions do not prevent crime. More than three years ago, Taiwan’s government wisely decided to put a moratorium on capital punishment. Now the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should use its control of both the government and the legislature to finally get rid of it altogether. By this simple act, Taiwan would make it unmistakably clear to the world that, unlike China, it is a country in which human rights are respected and the government does not need to threaten to kill its own citizens. Media worldwide will gladly report this story.

More often than not, New Year’s resolutions are quickly forgotten. However, Taiwanese should not allow these two to fade away. They will not make Chinese missiles go away, they will not guarantee a seat in any international organization or bring back lost jobs, but they would make Taiwan an even better country.

Klaus Bardenhagen


Thumbs down for ‘Taiwan Up’

I’d just like to say that the slogan “Taiwan Up,” in massive illuminated letters on Taipei 101 on New Year’s Eve, was total rubbish, and “up” there for all the world to see.

Which bright spark came up with that? And which (city government) dimwits didn’t point out that it doesn’t actually make much sense in English? Maybe “Up Taiwan” was really what they meant (as in “Up yours”), otherwise why not go to the trouble to come up with a slogan that makes sense in English?

To be serious, while not an exact translation of the Chinese, “Viva Taiwan” would have been better (universally understood and also expressing the hope that things go well/get better), or even just “Go Taiwan!”

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