Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 3 News List

City hits back at criticism against Taipei guide book

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou holds up a copy of the guide book, Insight City Guide: Taipei, yesterday as he is questioned by Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors. The controversy continued to brew yesterday as members of the pan-green camp accused the book of advancing the KMT's political agenda.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taipei City Government yesterday continued to defend itself and the authority of the publisher of the first international travel guidebook to focus exclusively on Taipei after criticism from pan-green city councilors.

The Insight City Guide: Taipei, an English-language travel guide which the city government has been actively promoting, sparked controversy recently as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors Lan Shih-tsung (藍世聰), Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) and Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) accused the city government of inserting "pan-blue viewpoints" in the content. The book was published in May by the German Langenscheidt Publishing Group.

'Election drama'

Besides describing the March 19, 2004 assassination attempt on the president and vice president as an "election drama," the book tells its readers in the "Who am I" column that "many of those whose ancestors arrived during imperial times now simply refer to themselves as `Taiwanese.' Mainlanders who arrived after World War II, however, feel uncomfortable with this."

"The author simply wrote down his observations. He wasn't making any political statement, but here I am being accused [of injecting political bias into the content]," Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday after presiding over a municipal meeting at Taipei City Hall.

The chapter on the city's history, religion and cuisine was written by Brent Hannon, who, according to the book, lived in Taipei for 10 years after working as a writer and editor in Hong Kong. He now lives in Shanghai.

Two versions

The book has two versions -- one for public sales and another designed for the city government to present as gifts to foreign guests.

Ma wrote a preface for the city government's version, with the government logo appearing on the book's cover.

Taipei Information Department director Lo Chih-cheng (羅智成) yesterday said that the mayor did not agree with some of the contents, such as including betel nut beauties as one of Taipei's features, but the city government respected the publisher and would not alter the content.

Lan denounced Ma for writing the preface without reviewing the content and demanded that the city government returned a total of 3,000 books that it purchased for about NT$780,000 (US$23,000), as well as add some explanations in the book.

"Even though it's written by foreigners, as Taipei mayor, you should clarify the matter," he said during a question-and-answer session at the Taipei City Council.

Hsu said that Ma should use taxpayers' money with caution.

"The money should be used on construction projects that are helpful to Taipei residents, rather than the promotion of biased viewpoints," she said.

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