Yao Ming applying for visit
Famed Chinese basketball player Yao Ming (姚明), a star performer with the Houston Rockets, has applied to visit Taiwan. Yao is pursuing three Taiwanese visas, two for competitions in Taiwan and one for "sports exchanges," Mainland Affairs Council spokeswoman Corinna Wei (魏淑娟) said yesterday. In principle, Yao should be allowed to visit Taiwan, even though Taiwanese authorities sometimes do turn away famous Chinese visitors, Wei said. Other Chinese athletes have visited as part of Taiwan's "long-standing" sports exchange programs, Wei said. The National Immigration Agency is still processing the 26-year-old, 2.26m-player's visa because his sponsor keeps changing the proposed itinerary, she said.
TSU sets up Taitung chapter
The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) inaugurated its Taitung chapter yesterday, making it the second-largest political party in the southeastern county. The TSU's Taitung chapter has 400 members, including a township administrator and two elected rural township representatives, the party said. TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) presided over the inauguration ceremony in which he presented a party flag to the chapter's first director, Chen Sheng-chung (陳勝宗). Outlining his long-term goals, Chen vowed to gain seats for the "pan-green camp," which is led by the Democratic Progressive Party, in the Taitung County Council. The TSU, founded in August 2001, views former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) as its spiritual leader.
More female justices mulled
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said he would nominate more than three female candidates to the Council of Grand Justices for confirmation by the legislature. Chen said he had originally planned to nominate three female candidates but changed his mind when he saw El Salvador has eight and Honduras has five. Chen made the remarks while addressing a state dinner held at his hotel for El Salvadoran President Antonio Saca and Vice President Vilma de Escobar, as well as the head of the Legislative Assembly, chief of the Supreme Court and other high-ranking officials. Chen said when he nominated three female grand justices four years ago, it was a record high number. He said he would like to nominate more after seeing women take up more than half of the 15-member El Salvadoran Grand Justices and one-third of the 15-member Honduran justice council.
Farmers promised subsidies
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said yesterday that the government would provide relief subsidies to farmers who suffered crop losses and equipment damage in recent storms. Chang made the remarks at the Yenchao Main Workshop -- the maintenance base of Taiwan High Seed Rail in Kaohsiung County. Subsidies for damaged equipment were added this year into the government's existing subsidy system, which covers crop losses and low-interest loans to farmers, Chang said, adding that the new policy would help farmers cover their costs of purchasing equipment and materials such as seed and fertilizer. He expressed his gratitude for farmers' efforts and their contribution to the economy and assured them that the government would help them overcome their financial difficulties.
Orchestra debuts in Europe
The Taiwan-based Evergreen Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to stage three concerts in Norway and Britain this week, making its first ever performances in Europe. The first concert was staged yesterday at an indoor concert hall in Oslo. The orchestra performed several Norwegian folk songs with Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebo. The second concert is scheduled for today at a plaza outside the concert hall and will be open to the public. The concert in Britain will be staged at the Westminster Central Hall in London and will feature Taiwanese folk songs, concert sources said. The orchestra is staging the performances at the invitation of the Norway-based marine insurer Assurance foreningen Gard and the Lloyd's List, a London-based newspaper reporting shipping movements, maritime news and other commercial information.