Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Tensions damaging Taiwan, conference participants claim

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's current political impasse is harming the economy and tarnishing Taiwan's image in the eyes of the international community, panelists attending a conference said yesterday.

David Barker, a Canadian photographer who said he joined conference panelists in order to offer a "foreigner's perspective," added that the nation's sensationalist media was worsening already tense social and political divisions.

Barker cited excessive news coverage of the protests launched by former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) to force President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to resign.

"Turn on the TV, and this is all you see," Barker said.

Because Shih has called on his supporters to wear red clothing, Barker said that he often thinks twice about the color of his attire before going out, and is careful not to dress in red or green.

Barker made the comments at a conference hosted by the 1111 Job Bank -- a Taipei-based agency that matches employers with prospective employees -- on the impact of current political tensions on the nation's working environment.

Yang Tsung-tsai (楊聰財), an assistant professor of psychology at Fu-jen Catholic University, said that he noticed that more and more people were seeking treatment for depression at the the Taipei hospital where he works.

Yang attributed this to deepening political tensions.

"These kinds of depression cases can be separated into three categories: Anti-Chen patients who are upset that their movement hasn't been successful yet; pro-Chen patients who are upset that the anti-Chen movement hasn't fizzled out yet; and those without a clear political affiliation who are upset by all the disorder and chaos resulting from the political tug-of-war," Yang said.

But not everybody is worse off because of the situation. One panelist, a local university student surnamed Tsai, is making a killing by selling both pro-Chen and anti-Chen merchandise after school.

"I made well over NT$100,000 [US$3,045] on the night of the seige by selling anti-Chen merchandise to the crowds," Tsai told reporters while holding up her shirts, hats, scarves and bags.

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