Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pop-aganda Battle Notes

Chinese pop singers coming to Taiwan can now give press conferences as long as the content is "reasonable," announced the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday. Until this decision, Taiwan's pop music policies were actually less liberal than China's. Now they're probably about the same.

In February, mainlander entertainer Zhang Guoli (張國立) was refused permission to come to Taiwan to promote a children's program that had was allowed to air on Taiwanese TV, according to ETtoday (Chinese). And a plan to bring Super Girl Lee Yuchun (李宇春) to film a program was also nixed because the submitted plan didn't match the activities.

Now the bureaucracy here is slightly confusing. This recent news all derives from statements made by Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chair Johnnason Liu (劉德勳), but the permission-giving body is the Government Information Office.

A pending case (Chinese) involves an application by Mainland film director Yin Li to make a movie called Yun Shui Yao (雲水謠) (literally: "Cloud Water Ballad"), which interprets the 228 incident. MAC Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has said the film's script "distorts history" and comes from the perspective of "Taiwanese tongbao yearning for the motherland." Sounds like it's gonna get the

More Filipino Activists Murdered

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) reports: " In the last three weeks alone, we have had FOUR church workers and members slain by assassins, and TWO frustrated murders...." The latest story is this:
At around 6.00 in the evening of May 27, 2006, NOEL NOLI CAPULONG was on his way home after visiting a "botica ng bayan" project of Bayan Muna. He never reached home. Motorcycle riding men pumped four bullets in his body in Barangay Parian, Calamba City, Laguna.
Capulong was characterized as a leftist leader by INQ7.net, which also wrote he is "the 258th activists to be murdered since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power in 2001."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Liner Notes: Chinese-Reggae + the Rolling Stones

A couple of interesting music-related posts on Danwei this past week. The first was an obituary of reggae singer Desmond Dekker, the interesting part being that Dekker's well-known hit, "Poor Me Israelite" (alt: "The Israelites") was recorded by a Chinese-Jamaican named Leslie Kong. So were the first songs by Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, according to a backlogged story.

There's also a report that Keith Richards was nearly flattened by a sack falling from above the stage during the Stones recent Shanghai concert. (And no, he wasn't playing "Gimme Shelter.")

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chinese Dissident mp3 Downloads

Pangu, a band from Jiangxi Province, continues to release and re-release music through free downloads from exile in Sweden. The latest, "The People Are All Sick" (全民皆病) is available here and features songs written between 1995 and 2000, the time when the band became known. You'll need WinRar software to decompress it.

There's still a lot of debate as to how "good" Pangu are or were, and listening don't expect to hear any sort of consitency between tracks and more than one musical idea per song. This album is mostly good because it's rough and full of anger like you will almost never fucking hear coming through any garage-quality demo, which is about what this is. It's mostly bad because it's shit. If you ask kids in China about Pangu, you'll hear either bitter resentment or that this band was hugely influential, both testaments to a certain landmark status they achieved in China's rock scene in the late 1990s. If they can avoind being completely supressed by China's Mind Police, and they might, they will have a few lasting songs but will be mostly remembered for what they dared to say.

Here's how they - I presume this is the band's lead singer, guitar player and general mouthpiece Ao Bo - introduce the album:
Pangu’s “The People Are All Sick” was one of three albums recorded in Guilin in May 2001. The three albums are "Lethal Music", "The People Are All Sick," and "Truth" (as in, “Pangu is the only standard for measuring the truth.”) The three albums were all recorded in three days and 42 songs were recorded in total. After deleting a few songs that weren’t up to scratch, the rest were all put onto these three albums.

In the essay “Pangu-ism” I’ve already basically described the feelings after recording these three albums. Here is an extract:

“…what’s comforting to me is that this time we were finally able to record a lot of songs about people. There’s “How Will One Mad Woman Be Enough” (一個瘋女人怎么夠); “Dragon Snake of Da-ze” (大澤龍蛇) was written for Chen Sheng (陳勝) and Wu Guang (吳廣)[ 1]; “Damn Wages” (死工資) was written for those laborers who haven’t received any wages for a long time; “The People Are All Sick” (全名皆病) was written for the people of this huge society; “Now That The Tragedy Has Been Born, Let’s Not Let It End” (悲劇既然誕生,就不要讓它結束) was written for Yu Luoke, Lee Jiulian, Zhang Zhixin, and Zhong Haiyuan [2]; “A Shameful Sound” (可恥的聲音) commemorates the more than 300 souls who died in a fire in the city of Karamay [Xinjiang]; and “Beasts” (畜生) is for those people who are less than animals.”

Yan Haiguang (殷海光)[3] said: “From ancient times till now, it is the people who bear, and what they bear are the rulers.” ---I can’t bear rulers, and I can’t bear the people either. I can’t bear the rulers’ rule and can’t bear that the people don’t resist.

What I want to say to the people of China is this: If you do not initiate resistance, then when others are successful in helping you resist or resisting for you, you will only become their slaves. I really cannot bear it. People. You have to resist. No one can help you or do it for you. If you try to strike some bargain so you dont' have to resist, then you will be slaves forever.

[1] During the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), Chen Sheng and Wu Guang led an uprising in Da-ze County, Henan Province to establish the China’s first ever peasant government.
[2] Yu Luoke (遇洛克), Lee Jiulian (李九蓮), Zhang Zhixin (李九蓮) and Zhong Haiyuan (鐘海源) were all executed by the Chinese Communist Party for dissent during the Cultural Revolution.
[3] Yin Hai-guang, 1919-1969, is a mainland-born scholar considered the originator of the ideal of Taiwanese independence. (He was also a former editor of Central Daily News - see the last post.)

KMT Closes Down Newspaper of 79 Years

Taiwanese media continues to slide away from the island's classic blue-green political divide. KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou has put the axe to a party mouthpiece of 79 years, the Central Daily News (中央日報), which will stop publication on June 1 (English story here or one of many Chinese writeups here).

Apart from a few aging Nationalist Army soldiers and other blue diehards, I doubt anyone will really care - which just goes to show how political bias doesn't move news anymore, though the media remains heavily politically invested. Of course everyone has known this for two or thee years, since Next Magazine and the Apple Daily appeared and blew the rest of the print media out of the water by chasing scandals at the cost of anyone and everyone, regardless of affiliation. Thankfully it finally put in the background a newspaper ecology where you had the China-friendly blues︰
China News and United Daily News; versus the independence-leaning green︰Liberty Times

This also extends to Taiwan's English press, with China Post blue and Taiwan News and Taipei Times green. Here the situation is even more unfortunate and less likely to change. For rich laobans, the political cred of owning even a small-run English paper easily sets off the losses, and those can be kept in check anyway through belt tightening. Expats hate this because competition never becomes a real issue, which keeps resources spread thin and leaves Taiwan with the three papers that are less than good.

The Central Daily News was establish on February 1, 1928 according to most reports, but for some reason Medianews Online writes it was established in September 1951.

Of minor interest, Ma Ying-jeou shows himself as progressive to some degree by pulling the plug; meanwhile his predecessor as KMT chairman Lien Chan, China-fucker extraordinaire, has said he'd prefer to keep the Central Daily News alive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Filipino Labor Rights Journalist Assassinated

Of the innumerable tragedies in the Philippines, the biggest one may be that there is no sign of better things to come. Today let's remember Dong Batul, a journalist who was killed by gunmen earlier this week on May 22. He was concerned with mistreated workers, including some in Taiwan, and the plight of the poor. Excerpts of various emails, news releases and reports (all via the APMM) tell the story:
...another Filipino radio announcer was shot dead by motorcycle riding assassins in Palawan.

His name is Fernando “Dong” Batul. Among his exposes was the situation of Filipino seafarers from Palawan who passed through a Local Government Unit placement agency in that province and who were deployed to Taiwan. These persons are now housed in Hope Center and joined our later protest activities in MECO and have become members of Migrante.

From an article on INQ7, a news web collaboration by major print and broadcast media in the Philippines.

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY-- Months ago, he bought a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Stop Killing Journalists” from a colleague, not knowing that he would later be counted among the long list of slain media persons.

Fernando “Dong” Batul, 36, a commentator of local radio station dyPR and a former vice mayor of this city, was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle at 6:35 a.m. yesterday on Valencia Street here.

He was driving his multi-cab on his way to work, which was 50 meters from the site of the ambush, Palawan police chief Senior Superintendent Elpidio de Asis said.

Batul suffered 12 bullet wounds -- four in the face, four in the chest, three in the back and one in the side, said Senior Inspector Jane Cordero. Police recovered four slugs from a .45-cal. pistol.

He was the 79th journalist killed in the Philippines since the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Last week after a journalist was beaten by a local official and a photographer was murdered, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists renewed its concern about the safety of media people in the Philippines.

It said that the situation had gone “from bad to worse.”

Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) has said in Paris that the Philippines is the most dangerous place for journalists after war-torn Iraq.

Batul, who earned the moniker “Bastonero ng Bayan,” was on his way to host his program “Bastonero” at the dyPR station owned by Palawan Broadcasting Corp. when he was attacked.

A witness reported that the gunmen, on a blue Honda XRM motorcycle, were wearing dark helmets, De Asis said.

Batul had been receiving death threats. A month ago, two grenades were thrown at his house but did not explode. The attacker left a note saying “it kills to be too talkative.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gangster Text Messages

....uh, wrong number?

Over the past couple weeks a friend has been getting some strange text messages from a few different unknown senders. These SMSs are all in Chinese. A couple have asked if the receiver is the girlfriend of some gangster-sounding dude. Then there are these:

Message 1:

Ur guys dont want A-shan to touch the Boss' business. Coz we want to find out some things so we act like we don't know. A couple days ago on the walkie-talkie Fatty Rui said I was a rat. In front of the Boss and u guys he */text missing/*

Message 2:

Fatty: what i want to tell you is that i didn't spend all the money. I paid it and I'm not gonna say it coz you know what for. So don't keep asking about money and telling me to hurry up. I haven't caught much lately. Tomorrow I'm gonna */text missing/*

Saturday, May 13, 2006

No Joy Luck Club Crap Here

"When a poet becomes an axe murderer, reading his oeuvre gets tricky. On October 8, 1993, after battling mental illness for years, thirty-seven-year-old Chinese poet Gu Cheng killed his wife, Xie Ye, with that primeval weapon, then took his own life." - review of Sea of Dreams by Gu Cheng in The Believer

The Believer, a Brooklyln-based hipster mag linked to the McSweeney's "literary" movement, has reviewed a couple of Chinese authors that don't much tie in to the images of Chinese out there in the global vernacular.

Super-wierd techno avant-gardism doesn't come up too much, so this one also looks intriguing...

Mad Science In Imperial City (image removed)

...for anyone into agrammatical poetry and math equations.

The book "utilizes scientific diagrams, mathematical equations, lists, and even a menu from an imagined Poetry Auction.... Broadly, it relates the experience of someone who left China after the Tiananmen Square massacre to settle in the U.S., carrying the fourth edition of the American Heritage dictionary “wherever I go.” The book uses this emigration to investigate what constitutes the individual and where narration resides." - as reviewed in The Believer

There's the traditional side: "it argues that only through engaging with tradition can we understand our experience of the world as it changes around us." (again, The Believer) And the techno-modern: "Culture shapes itself to grids; or, perhaps, gridding and cultural production are the same thing." - a dust-jacket quote on the publisher's web site

The main question, though, is whether it's at all legible?

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Quick Index: Taiwan's Migrating Women

A few stats from today's Taipei Times:

Number of foreign spouses who have enrolled in mandarin classes in the last 8 months: 20,260
Number who enrolled in 2005: 16,000
Approximate percentage of non-Chinese foreign spouses now enrolled in classes: 23

Number of Chinese sex workers detained in Taiwan in 2003: 799
Number detained in 2004: 331
In 2005: 96
Cumulative number of those positive for HIV/AIDS: 3
Number of Taiwanese sex workers detained in 2005: 625
Number of those positive for HIV/AIDS: 7
Number of Taipei City Councillors who believe that these statistics show that Mainland prostitutes are leading to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Taiwan: 1 (Chen Yong-teh 陳永德)

Sources are here and here.

New Red Guards of the Chinese Internet

Mobilizing the youth for nationalist ideology is always scary, and according to this New York Times News Service article, student volunteers are now onboard the Internet cleansing campaign.

Probably related, in March I learned of one Beijing web master who'd received a phone call from the Public Security Bureau to make sure he understood that he needed to take down a link and discussion forum related to the exiled band, Pangu. This despite the fact that the mind control already seemed to be working: the ratio of Pangu haters to supporters posting on the forum was around 4:1, according to the web master. But pulling out the weeds, now how does that CCP slogan go?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

FIlipina Victoria Andres Held Incommunicado

The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants just issued a statement about inhumane punishment of an undocumented worker, Victoria Andres. Excerpts:

She was caught in front of Fu Jen Catholic University a month ago for being an undocumented migrant worker. The police have not yet released her because up to now her previous employer has not yet surrendered to the police her passport.

Other than that, the police also do not allow her visitors (even if there are visiting hours) including her boyfriend except for a pastoral Church worker. They also refuse even food given to her as gifts by her friends, saying that she has her own rations...

...it is illegal for any person to hold the passport or any other identity papers of another person. This illegal practice is still rampant in Taiwan.

note: for a few hours this post's headline incorrectly read that Ms. Andres was being held in solitary confinement, which was incorrect and not claimed by the APMM. Holidarity regrets the error.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Return of Massage Boy!!!

And now for a human interest story...
including an alternative ranking system for Taiwan's daily English newspapers

The island's annual trade show for art galleries, Art Taipei, is surprisingly good this year and laudably international. Decent representation of Mainland artists + some Korea + some HK + 1 or 2 Sydney galleries and lots of great stuff from young Taiwanese artists.... okay, who cares. It's just fucking art.

But in media booth section, suddenly in front of me in a Von Dutch baseball cap over a bandana'd head was -- holy fuck I'm so glad to see you in a weird kind of way I'm not totally sure about and can't really describe -- Massage Boy!!!! The freelance male masseur/ prostitute now turned part-time transvestite and low-grade pimp!!!! Dumbstruck, I broke off a conversation, gave him an unsure hug, and couldn't manage more than a stunned: "[His real name], oh my God it's you!"

I hadn't seen Massage Boy in years, maybe six or seven, certainly five at least, and when thoughts of him and his disfigured yet cherubic smile did come to mind, I'd usually turn my eyes down to the sidewalk and with a small shrug of guilt - for neglecting a friend, or something like that - and imagine he was in an HIV/AIDS hospice somewhere, or dead. I mean, what other fate are you supposed to imagine for a guy who solicits sex with international hotel guests for money? Especially once he'd stopped hanging out in nightclubs.

It turns out he'd disappeared into a clutch of Tibetan Lamas, one of the several Tibetan Buddhism Centers in Taipei. "I was hanging around there from 8 in the morning till 5 or 6 at night. All day. Sometimes, every day. Yeah, I was chanting sutras, you know, meditating, lots of things."

Then a moment of hestitation, and a contemplative look gave way to a giggle: "Oh my God, what was I thinking! What a waste of time!"

Sweet relief! Same old Massage Boy. He hadn't changed a bit!

Now, now, now...Massage Boy represents something special for me. Not only an old friend, he was also my first big scoop, my first inside story, and the subject of my first freelance job for any Taiwan newspaper. It doesn't really matter which one, but those of you around Taiwan in the mid- to late-1990s may remember a weekend story, "The Stunning Confessions of Massage Boy" or whatever the hell that article was headlined. For research, I remember a night in Blackarm's apartment swilling booze and calling up all the massage ads in the back of all Taipei's English newspapers. Then I shared our findings with Massage Boy, who would call up the competition anyway just to see what they were up to, as they would him, sometimes with curses or threats. I copyedited his classified ads. And then once my story was printed, in gruesome detail, most of Massage Boy's friends figured out the article was about him, he was mildly pissed, and I learned my first minor lesson of journalistic ethics vis a vis anonymity.

But this is an update, not a nostalgia piec. So let me, however many years later, continue to milk my inside source for info on Taipei’s hotel prostitution scene. Cut to the Q&A, where I start off delicately:

Q: So what are you doing for money these days?

MB: Yeah, I’m still doing massage, like that. But now, I’m also a transvestite.


MB: (He pulls out a photo of himself in drag, and it looks like a bad morning in Thailand...) I wasn’t getting enough business just doing massage and I was trying to figure out what to do. And I had one friend was a transvestite, and she showed me how to do it. So now I have another ad for that. It’s good, I get more business because some people want that. But sometimes with customers from the Middle East or India, their English not so good, you know, and when they try to touch my pussy, they’re like, ‘Oh my God!’ But I write it very clearly in the ad, you know, so I ask them ‘You don’t know what a transvestite is?’

Being a transvestite, you know, sometimes I think it’s changed my, you know, psychology. You start to act different to other people.

He fishes around in his bag for a folded green piece of paper on which he’s written his new classified ads. There are three, two for male massage services and one for transvestite massage. One of the male massage ads is crossed out, and he asks me which one is better while I borrow his pen and clean up the English.

Q: This one’s better. (I indicate the ad he’s X-ed out.)

MB: I just faxed it, but (giggles) they haven’t called me back yet.

Q: Which newspaper do you advertise in?

MB: Taiwan News. I used to use Taipei Times, but now they’re too expensive, and the response was not good. They used to give it to me for NT$4,500 a month, but now they want $9,000, and how can I pay that? Especially if I only get maybe a couple of calls in the month? I can’t even make back the NT$9,000. The Taipei Times, I don’t think they really get that in hotels very much. Plus I owe them a lot of money.

Q: Does Taiwan News get better response?

MB: About the same actually, but they’re cheaper.

Q: What about the China Post?

MB: Yeah, they’re definitely the best. But now they cost a lot! But the response is really – yeah. China Post is the best for sure.

Q: So how would you put them in order?

MB: China Post, then Taiwan News, then Taipei Times.

Q: How many cases do you get a month?

MB: Four or five, or six. Some for the male masseur, some for transvestite, like that….But now I also have some girls to send too!

Q: What? Girls?

MB: Yeah! Actually, they called me. They were doing this before for someone else, but they didn’t like the other agency. So one time I put an ad and they called me. Now I get some calls and I’ll send them.

Q: How much money do you get for that?

MB: You know, I did the same thing before, work for some agency, so I know how it works. It costs NT$4,000 and they get half. So that’s what I ask for, and they know everything, they’ve done it before, so it’s easy.

Q: How many girls?

MB: Two or three.

Q: Are they cute?

MB: (Waves his hand in front of his face in the ‘no-no-no-no-no’ motion and laughs) What, are you kidding me?

Q: Are they young? How old are they?

MB: No. Like 32, 30, 35. They’re office girls. But when people call, of course we say, ‘Yeah, 26, very cute!’ Like that. But they’re very plain, you know.

Q: They’re office girls?

MB: Yeah. They work in an office in the daytime. They just do this – I don’t know, for whatever. But they don’t do sex. Only, you know, hand job.

Q: NT$4,000, that’s a pretty expensive handjob.

MB: You’re telling me.

Q: What about you? After I hadn’t seen you around for a while I’d sometimes worry whether you had AIDS or something. Do you worry about that?

MB: Of course, but the thing is, you know, I don’t do anal sex. I don’t get fucked, at least for that.


Chinese Workers' Web Shut Down

Indymedia Hong Kong reports (Chinese):


"When the struggle for freedom and democracy over the closing of Freezing Point was simmering on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the Zongguo Gongren [Chinese Workers] web site was also shut down but just considered a "minor episode." We believe that Chinese Communist Party authorities closure of the Zongguo Gongren site on grounds of insufficient capital is actually a more serious matter."

The article goes on to say: that Zhongguo Gongren was set up last year on May 1 by a group concerned with the welfare of farmers and laborers. The site in no way called for democracy and had no political aspirations. In the beginning posters were mostly scholars and other intelligencia concerned with labor, but eventually laborers began posting, describing various work situations and difficulties in China. In short, it was fast becoming an important forum for Labor.

At the moment, I see that the Zhongguo Gongren web site, www.zggr.org does not come up (a message says the server is not configured), but there appears to be a mirror: A top post there, from yesterday, is an appeal to restore the site - presumably in China.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Now Who's Hu Wooing, And Who's Wooing Hu?

For anybody that read page A17 of today's China Times (中國時報), the lead story (Chinese) was about the planned meeting next week in Beijing between Hu Jintao and one of Taiwan's largest tycoons, Chang Rong-fa (張榮發). So while the front page of everything is caught up with this idiotic bickering on where Chen Shui-bian can refuel his plane - I'll wager the implications are maybe a touch less than the CCP inviting Lien Chan, then treating him to a Mao-like fantasy world of adoring school kids who welcomed "grandpa" "home" - there are other cross-strait relations stories happening on the back pages that are probably more weighty.

Preparing for 3 days in Beijing and at least 5 in China next week, Chang is off to see "old friends" - including Hu, the Transportation Minister, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office, the head of the whatever bureau governs airlines, etc. - about setting up a RMB 500 million operations center in Shanghai that will service both one of the world's largest shipping companies (his Evergreen Marine) and his airline (EVA Air). Now Chang is naturally in favor of direct links, which will benefit him enormously, and it does not at all enter into the equation that he's in many ways an emblem of old-school, Japanese-loving Taiwanese tradition. Several paragraphs towards the front of the article were about how Hu Jintao has recently passed on warm greetings to Chang at every possible turn (twice in the last year, anyway). Indeed, some Taiwan-China relations are very friendly, and what's interesting here is this one doesn't fit either of the two major stereotypes of the putative debate broiling in Taiwan - between the 'Mainland-born latter day loyalists' and the 'homegrown Taiwanese identity camp.' Maybe I'm just saying this because I just read Moneyball - which has absolutely nothing to do with Taiwan, China, or even politics - but would somebody please plot some more variables!

Just in case you were curious...

Been doing this without a profile for too long. So I just added one, terse tho it is.

Also bothered to look at the Settings and open up Comments to those w/o Blogger accounts. My bad.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One Country, Two Rock Scenes

Among rockers, there's plenty of interest in cross-strait touring, but it seldom happens, especially crossing the strait from from west to east. Big Taiwanese rock festivals Formoz and Hohaiyan have invited Chinese bands in recent years - major ones in fact, specifically Tang Dynasty, Thin Man and even Cui Jian - but Taiwanese promoters say that permission was never granted by Chinese authorities and things always fell through. (There is of course the Pangu exception, but...) So I recently emailed a foreign national (i.e. non-Chinese) musician living in Beijing about the possibility of his band coming to Taiwan, and here's what he had to say:

[a certain Chinese band member] has a beijing hukou [= "residency", approximately]. which means he can go to hong kong very easily. we go there about twice a month
for business reasons.

once you are in hong kong, all you need is an invite
from the taiwan side, and he can get an entry permit
from the taiwan rep office in hk. then we stroll into
the CKS airport. easy.

but you do need a passport to get into taiwan. and
many chinese bands dont have passports. its unlikely
if they walk into the passport office in beijing and
tell them they want to go to taiwan they will get
anywhere. but if you have a band that has been
overseas before AND has a beijing or shanghai or
guangdong hukou they can use this route. Thailand is
another option as well for those not allowed to travel
to hong kong. but again, you need a passport. which is
actually not that hard to get, but many bands are not
good at negotiating this kind of bureaucracy, so if
someone doesnt do it for them, they think its

i know a number of people who have used this route for
various reasons. granted if you are a hugely famous
band like tang dynasty or whatever, it would cause
more of a fuss in the mainland and probably be a bit
more difficult. but for a small unknown band like us
it would be no problem. just a matter of finding the
right venue, etc.

All told, it seems like flying under the radar is still the way to go, and permission from Taiwan to enter is still easier than permission from Beijing to leave. Oh, great. But at least it's possible for this particular band...