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3129 Edition
February 13~19, 2012

Editorial: When superpowers deny human rights

Translated by Lydia Ma

The Jasmine Revolution or Arab Spring that began last year has inspired citizens in oppressive regimes to rise up and demand reform and the resignation of their autocratic leaders. In response to these demands, we’ve seen autocratic regimes unwilling to relinquish power use deceit, appeasement, and even violence to drown out their citizens’ voices calling for reform.

One example of a regime that responded to protests with violence is the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Using its economic and military superiority, the Assad government ordered the military to shoot non-violent protesters and arrest and torture anyone found to be critical of the regime.

President Assad has so far turned a deaf ear to all advice from the Arab League and has disregarded all pressure from the international community because he knows that he has two powerful allies in the UN Security Council backing him: China and Russia. Indeed, Russia and China recently used their veto powers to overrule a set of sanctions painstakingly crafted by the Arab League in consultation with various scholars and experts.

Many European and American diplomats have pointed out bluntly that using the veto power available to permanent nations in the Security Council to support an autocratic regime is shameful. However, the Chinese government countered this claim by saying that sanctions won’t solve current problems in the Middle East. In its defense, the Russian government warned that overthrowing Assad’s regime might create a militant Islamic government and a bigger problem.

Though Beijing and Moscow’s explanations make sense, their use of an iron fist when governing their own people, coupled by their track record of disregarding human rights and their longstanding support of Assad’s regime prompts us to wonder if the real motive behind their vetoes is simply their disregard and negation of the value of human rights.

Psalm 82 says, “God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” The Security Council is akin to an assembly of the most powerful countries in the world and the leaders of these countries are akin to gods who hold the fates and lives of countless humans, as well as the creation and destruction of countries, in their hands.

The veto power given to permanent members of the Security Council is a mechanism given for the purpose of balancing the power of these countries and is, therefore, not a bad thing. However, if such a balancing mechanism is instead used to let the wicked get away with murder or help the wicked oppress the poor, do we expect God to stand by idly and do nothing?

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan’s polity is typified by the rule of assemblies where a lot of ministries and strategies are decided after extensive consultations. From local church sessions to general assemblies, many people are entrusted to manage and decide important issues and ministries.

The PCT has a long-standing tradition and concern for human rights in Taiwan and Taiwan’s national sovereignty and we have used our polity to make that even clearer through extensive consultations before deciding evangelistic strategies. However, our assemblies are still human inventions that depend on fallible human beings to act according to their God-given convictions and views about God’s kingdom. Once our representatives are no longer guided by their consciences, all that is left is a balance of power mechanism. Therefore, it is imperative that PCT decision-makers examine their hearts and their motives often.

As we reprimand the rulers of this world for using their veto powers to trample on human rights, let us do so with fear and trembling, lest we repeat their mistake in our lives with the powers and responsibilities entrusted upon us by others. Through Asaph’s words in Psalm 82, God reminds us by saying, ”I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.” (verse 6-7). As God’s children who are set apart from other mortals, let us defend the oppressed and be messengers of righteousness.

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3129 Edition
February 13~19, 2012
Headline News

Academics sound the siren on press impartiality and boycott China Times

Reported by Chiou Kuo-rong

Written by Lydia Ma


Tsai Eng-meng, chairman of the media conglomerate Want Want Group and the Chinese-language China Times, recently made some remarks during an interview with Washington Post correspondent Andrew Higgins that ignited a firestorm of criticism in Taiwan.

Commenting on the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and the footage of a lone protester standing in front of a PLA tank, Tsai said, “the fact that the man wasn’t killed showed that reports of a massacre weren’t true.” Tsai also said that “China is very democratic in lots of places,” and “reporters are free to criticize but need to think carefully about the consequences before they write." 

Tsai’s comments provoked controversy and more than 60 academics and members of civic groups soon launched a petition to boycott the China Times. Though Tsai later alleged that Higgins had quoted his comments out of context and added that he was willing to discuss this issue publicly, he ducked various open letter invitations sent to him by civic groups and human rights groups to clarify this issue in public.

Based on Tsai’s avoidance, these academics believe that Tsai is blaming the Washington Post merely to shirk responsibility for his own remarks. They also pointed out that Tsai obviously lied about his willingness to clarify the matter publicly. For this reason, these academics called a press conference on February 7, 2012 to announce that “when China Post is no longer loyal, we choose to reject it” and publicly declared a boycott of the newspaper.

In their public statement, these academics said that ever since the China Times had been purchased by Tsai, there have been many instances where news or remarks critical of China were blatantly omitted. Such self-censorship within the China Times has already aroused suspicion among intellectuals in Taiwan and the latest incident is yet another proof of Beijing’s endeavor to control the Taiwanese media and Taiwanese public opinion through Taiwanese investors who have reaped great profits and have great stakes in the Chinese market.

Taipei Society President Huang Kuo-chang said that the fourth estate in Taiwan risks losing its purpose as a protector of democracy and freedom when entrepreneurs who have reaped profits in China begin to censor news reports to influence public discourse and dim civic awareness. For this reason, he believed that calling a press conference to raise the alarm was necessary.

“Taiwan is like a frog being boiled in warm water,” said National Chengchi University professor Ku Chung-hwa, who likened this incident to the media version of the plasticizer food scandal. He added that the future of Taiwanese democracy is in real danger when reporters are punished for writing articles that run contrary to the likings of newspaper moguls, or when the latter begin to manipulate facts simply to influence public opinion.

With this in mind, Ku cautioned Taiwanese to read newspaper reports with a grain of salt and to search for the truth themselves. He also urged consumers to exert some pressure on biased media outlets and protect themselves from being “intoxicated” by the media.

In related news, when Washington Post correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Higgins was interviewed about the article he had written on Tsai and asked whether he had twisted Tsai’s words, Higgins replied that the Washington Post stood by the story. In other words, the article did not take Tsai’s comments out of context. 


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3129 Edition
February 13~19, 2012
General Assembly News

Mother languages celebration highlights Taiwanese history and the connection between faith and culture

Reported by Chiou Kuo-rong

Written by Lydia Ma

To mark International Mother Language Day, which is celebrated on February 21 of every year, the Li Kang-Khiok Taigi Cultural and Educational Foundation held a mother-language event ahead of time at the Affiliated High School of National Taiwan Normal University. Held on February 12, 2012, the theme of the event was “Mother Language is the Best” and the chief purpose of the event was to promote the sustainability of all different mother languages in Taiwan.

Another reason for holding this event ahead of time was to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the foundation and the 20th anniversary of the magazine Taiwanese Writing Forum. This magazine, first published overseas 20 years ago, is both important and exemplary because it is the oldest Taiwanese language magazine in the world.

In 1997, Li Kang-Khiok Foundation took over the marketing and distribution of Taiwan Writing Forum and also began to publish another magazine called Taiwanese Bong-Po, which is now mainly circulated in Taiwan. But beginning this month, the two magazines will be merged and given a new name – Taiwanese Writing Forum Bong News – and the new version will be distributed both overseas and throughout Taiwan.

The former General Editor of Taiwanese Writing Forum and current member of Presbyterian Church in Canada, Yeh Kuo-chi, was invited to address the crowd during the event. Recounting the early days of the magazine, Yeh said though the publication of the magazine began in June 1991, an overseas Taiwanese language movement had already begun in New York as early as 1975. Since members of this movement included members of the Taiwanese independence movement, the two movements formed an alliance very quickly and began to collaborate with various local Taiwanese churches that welcomed the idea of using their buildings as venues for Taiwanese classes and other Taiwanese activities.

This year’s event featured many Taiwanese language and art presentations and many organizations that support Taiwanese culture sent delegates to attend the event. According to Taiwan Association of University Professors President Chang Yan-hsien, the Taiwanese language movement took off and became popular in the 1990s as many activities promoting Taiwanese culture and language became more frequent.

Chang added that when former President Chen Shui-bian wanted to promote Taiwanese programs during his presidency, the KMT-controlled legislature would not allocate enough funds for such programs. Now that President Ma has been reelected, the budget allocated to promote Taiwanese language across Taiwan has been slashed significantly. “If Ma Ying-jeou doesn’t want to promote Taiwanese, then, we will do it together,” said Chang. “I believe that we will succeed one day.”

Former PCT General Secretary and current CEO of Taiwan United Nations Alliance, Rev. William J.K. Lo, pointed out that language is a precious gift to humanity from God the Creator and it enabled people to communicate their emotions and thoughts. “Different peoples and ethnic groups have their own unique languages, and parents teach their children their own language. The mother language thus becomes a precious cultural asset that future generations must protect and pass on,” he said.

Lo further explained that it is for this reason that Christians think it is important to share the gospel using people’s mother languages. Using the PCT as example, he said it currently has more than 1,230 congregations. In these churches, sermons, readings from the Bible, singing, praying and preaching are done every Sunday in more than a dozen different languages, including Taiwanese, Hakka, Amis, Bunun, Atayal, Paiwan, Rukai, Truku, Tao, Tsou, Sediq, Puyuma, Saisiyat, Mandarin, Japanese and English. In addition, the Bible Society of Taiwan currently publishes Bibles in 10 different local languages and bible societies around the world have now published Bibles in 2,508 languages.

“I’m Hakka. Does God understand the Hakka language? Of course he does. If God didn’t understand my prayers uttered in Hakka, I wouldn’t have become a Christian,” said Lo during his speech. He urged his listeners to think about the relationship between faith and culture and how both are interconnected. He added that mother languages are akin to the soul of a culture and actually enriches a culture.


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