Postal service, oil refiner change names DROPPING CHINA: The two state-run firms officially took on their new monikers yesterday, while labor unions and opposition parties protested the development By Shelley Shan, Jackie Lin, Jimmy Chuang and Shih Hsiu-chuan
The nation's postal service and largest oil refinery yesterday officially dropped "China" from their names in high-profile ceremonies presided over by the president, drawing the ire of those opposed to the move.
The Taiwan Post Co and CPC Corp, Taiwan -- formerly Chunghwa Post Co and Chinese Petroleum Corp -- held ceremonies to officially unveil their new names.
At Taiwan Post's main office in Taipei, hundreds of riot police were stationed to prevent demonstrations from turning violent.
A member of the postal workers' union, left, yesterday strikes a man holding a sign in support of renaming the nation's post office to ``Taiwan Post'' outside the company's headquarters.
Although minor scuffles between different groups of demonstrators supporting or opposing the move occurred, no major violence took place and no injuries were reported.
Taiwan Post president Wu Min-yu said that watching employees call him "shameless" and tramp over signs printed with the Chinese characters for "Taiwan Post" was an emotional matter.
"I feel sad," he told the Taipei Times. "The change came too fast. You can't help feeling a sense of loss, especially when you have been working under the title [the Chunghwa Post] for more than forty years."
Wu was the only chief executive from the company who stood at the entrance to the Taiwan Post's headquarters and faced criticism from the representatives of the Chunghwa Postal Workers Union.
The protesters called on Taiwan Post chairman Lai Chin-chyi to step down.
Protestors were originally planning to throw eggs at the newly established signboard, but they were prevented from reaching it by barricades the police set up in front of the company.
They later carried their protests to the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC). The crowd dispersed after MOTC Vice Minister Ho Nuan-hsuen promised the renamed postal company would continue to have a monopoly and would not cut employee benefits.
Meanwhile, a ceremony was held to unveil signs bearing the new name, with President Chen Shui-bian, Premier Su Tseng-chang, Transportation and Communications Minister Tsai Duei and other government officials attending as guests of honor.
Chen said the name change was a fair and just policy, and was merely one small step taken to establish Taiwan as a "normal" country.
"Taiwan is our country, and it is the most beautiful and the most powerful name we have," he added.
KMT lawmakers reproached the government at a press conference yesterday.
"It's illegal to change the name of Chunghwa Post without amending related laws and regulations first. What's the urgency that you have to change the name at a time when the legislature is in recess?" KMT Legislator Kuo Su-chun said.
"We have been instructed to change the name," Taiwan Post general manager Wu Min-yu said, adding that the corporation would seek amendments to related laws and regulations when the legislature's next session begins.
Ho Chung-mo, vice chairman of the postal service's labor union, said the ceremony was an "embarrassment."
Cheng Kuang-ming, one of the board directors representing the labor union, said that the costs of the name change would far exceed the NT$67 million (US$2.1 million) that the company's chairman had suggested.
Cheng said that while he was not against the name change, he did not expect that the policy would be carried out in such an expedient manner.
"It took only two days to change the name," Cheng said. "I wonder how long it will take before they announce the company will privatize."
Meanwhile, behind walls of barbed wire and policemen, the atmosphere was tense outside CPC headquarters in Taipei yesterday afternoon.
The company was braced for protests from its labor union similar to those that hit the postal service, as the state-run oil refinery held its ceremony to inaugurate its new name, with the president presiding.
CPC passed the name-change proposal in a board meeting last Friday.
"CPC was established in Shanghai in 1946 and relocated to Taiwan in 1949. The name change demonstrates the government's respect for history and recognizes its status as a native company, like Taiwan Post Co and CSBC Corp, Taiwan," the president said.
Chen also explained that CPC could not be renamed "Taiwan Petroleum Corp" as some have suggested, because the title has been claimed and registered by a machine-oil seller.
"Changes of name cards, employee passes, uniforms and stationery will be made only when the old ones are used up or become too old," said Liao Tsang-long, CPC's deputy director of industrial relations.
CPC currently owns over 630 corporate-owned gas stations, and around 1,200 stations owned by franchisees.
The company has no timetable for changing all of their signs, Liao said.
The company estimated the cost of replacing signs in the gas stations and trademark in products and equipments would be NT$70 million (US$2.12 million).
Although, to the surprise of the gathered group of reporters, the labor union yesterday did not show up to protest at the ceremony, some union members still expressed discontent with the controversial name change.
"CPC said the campaign will not cost much, but it's still taxpayers' money. Politics just overrides everything else," said Chuang Chueh-an, chairman of the Taiwan Petroleum Workers' Union.
In the meantime, Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang said that the government would continue to work on the name-change issue for other state-run firms.
China Airlines is rumored to be the next priority target for a new name, but Cheng refused to confirm anything.
"I must say, we continue to work on the issue of changing the names of our government-owned companies, and we will continue to negotiate with these companies' employees' unions if they are not happy about it," he said.
"We will definitely make announcements when the time comes. But not now," Cheng said.
`209' adapting to off-road lifestyle CANINE CAPER: The head of the group that rescued the dog from the freeway said they have no regrets, though they are likely to be fined for the risky venture By Angelica Oung
For three days, the nation's eyes were riveted on an unremarkable black street dog. As the TV cameras looked on, the dog nimbly evaded capture while traffic whizzed by her at more than 100kph.
The dog, dubbed Er-ling-jiu, or "209," because of the kilometer marker she lived near, is said to have lived on the freeway divider on a stretch of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway near Changhua for around two years, when the cable network TVBS made her household news. She quickly became the most famous stray in the country as other media followed suit.
However, 209's existence was no secret to the highway department and local commuters. According to TVBS, the freeway bureau had received more than 50 calls about the dog, although the wily canine managed to evade numerous attempts at capture, including baited cages, chases along the shoulder of the road, and bizarrely, an attempt to lure 209 with a bitch in heat
But 209's life on the road finally ended when the Kaohsiung Concern Stray Animal Association (KCSAA) formed a team of volunteer dog catchers, who after an exhausting six-hour test of wills, brought her down with an anesthetic blow dart.
"When I heard about 209's story, I knew we had to help her," said Wang Chun-ching, the director of KCSAA. "It was no life for a dog, and she was a constant danger to herself and others."
Wang Chun-ching, director of the Kaohsiung Concern Stray Animal Association, holds ``209,'' the female dog her group rescued after it had lived along the Sun Yat-sen Freeway for almost two years, in this photo taken on Feb. 5.
According to Wang, the team thought long and hard before putting the plan into action, including a decision not to inform the highway bureau of their intentions.
"We knew that the rescue would take a long time," Wang said. "We decided to act alone."
Although 209 was safely nabbed, Chen Han-yang of the Changhwa Animal Disease Control Center could not condone the risk taken by the group.
Chen had only became aware of 209's plight shortly before the media storm broke and had been attempting to capture her with baited cages, to no avail.
"We considered blow darts too, but decided that it would be too risky to dart an animal on a highway," Chen said. "Blow darts can take minutes to work. In that time the startled animal could have run onto the highway and caused an accident."
"We took that into account," Wang said.
"We knew that 209 was a very clever dog who could never be caught with baited traps. She had lived on the highway for so long, she was too smart to run into traffic," she said.
Nevertheless, KCSAA's rescue effort could cost the group a fine of between NT$3,000 to NT$6,000.
"We're okay with that. We know we broke the rules," Wang said. "There was no other way."
Wang is scheduled to meet with freeway bureau officials today to discuss the issue.
"Yes, it was against the rules, but they did it out of love for the dog," Chen said. "Maybe that will be taken into consideration."
According to Wang, 209 is very healthy, although skittish around people, other dogs -- and traffic. Now the group has to find a home for her.
"We've had more than 100 calls from people asking to adopt 209. We've even had five or six who claimed to be 209's former owners," Wang said. "You really have to wonder about those people's motives. Do they really want to help her, or do they just want a celebrity dog?"
Wang said she will keep 209 for another month to give the her more time to adjust to a non-freeway life while a new home is chosen for the now famous canine.
But it is not just 209 who needs a new home.
"Our association has more than 300 strays in our shelters," Wang said. "They are equally deserving of good homes."
Name-change controversy: President Chen asks the nation to say `Taiwan' out loud By Jimmy Chuang
STAFF REPORTER Taiwan is everyone's country and their mother, President Chen Shui-bian said yesterday, and they should say its name out loud.
Chen made the remarks while speaking at the ceremony to launch the state-owned postal service company's new name.
"To change the names of state-owned companies from `China' to `Taiwan' is just the first step on the road to introducing Taiwan to foreigners without confusion. In the future, we will continue our attempts to join the UN and also participate in more international activities using the name `Taiwan,'" the president said.
Workers in Taipei yesterday remove the ''hwa'' from Chunghwa Post as they prepare to replace it with the characters for ''Taiwan.''
Regarding the US government's official comment that it did not support the changing names of state-owned companies and similar complaints from members of the public, Chen said that it was worthwhile anyway as it was the right thing to do.
"There are always going to be challenges and difficulties for those doing righteous things. But, as long as we insist on doing the right thing, we will eventually win the respect and support of the public," Chen said.
The president said that it was the Qing Dynasty that established the "Taiwan Post Bureau" on March 22, 1888. The government was simply restoring the name and restoring history.
"During the White Terror era, `Taiwan' was forbidden for use by government offices or private firms because of the rigid `China' ideology," Chen said. "But, today, Taiwan is already a democratic country. Taiwanese people should recognize ourselves and value our culture, as well as our name."
The president said that changing names from "China" to "Taiwan" was not denying anything.
"On the contrary, it is an attitude that faces facts," he said.
Chen said that the White Terror era had been over for nearly 20 years but many Taiwanese people have not yet freed their minds, hence their opposition to the idea of changing names from "China" to "Taiwan."
Seeking a new progressive identity By Lii Ding-tzann Former president Lee Teng-hui said that "Taiwan independence" has become a tool for political infighting, and that it has become a regressive, dangerous ideology. He urged the public not to waste time on what he called "this non-issue," and said that efforts instead should focus on the issues related to the people's livelihoods.
Although Lee's views have drawn fierce criticism from dark green supporters, these critics have failed to consider the content of his statements and instead flatly condemned him for betraying the independence cause. Some even said that he is changing his line to attract votes. This only proves Lee's criticism -- that the Taiwan independence issue has already become an ideological battle where one's political stance is the only thing that counts and the right or wrong of the discourse is of no concern. This is indeed the dangerous and regressive ideology that Lee is concerned about.
Lee's change of heart is actually traceable. His dislike of President Chen Shui-bian's administration has grown as Chen, his family members and aides have become involved in a series of corruption scandals. What makes Lee most sad, however, is not the corruption in itself, but rather the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its dark green supporters' attitude towards corruption.
Corruption is a universal evil and something that everyone should denounce and spurn with contempt. Deep green supporters, however, have chosen to defend it in the name of "safeguarding the localized regime."
Lee called on the public on Aug. 14 last year to stop using the term "pro-localization regime" in favor of saying "a pro-Taiwan awareness regime."
He believes any regime that upholds Taiwanese awareness and focuses on national interests can be called a pro-localization regime. He has clearly already recognized how some are using the term "pro-localization regime" as a political tool, and this is the phenomenon that worries him the most.
During the authoritarian era, Lee awakened Taiwanese consciousness, laying the foundation for Taiwan's democracy. This is his greatest contribution to Taiwan. Such self-awareness was necessary in an era dominated by Chinese ideology. Unfortunately, Taiwanese awareness was exaggerated during the democratization process, and dissenting ideas were suppressed which led to social tension and confrontation. Lee is not without responsibility for this, and rather than denying this, he should engage in self-reflection.
Still, it is rare for an 85-year-old man to so bravely stand up and change his past opinions and approach, despite the fact that he may lose public support for doing so. This is indeed admirable. The turning point of his change is of course Chen's corruption. Faced by corruption, the DPP and its deep green supporters show no signs of reflection and they suppress every call for reform, instead treating reformists as "bandits."
The way these DPP supporters hold to a political stance, and ignore right and wrong, finally caused Lee to realize that Taiwan awareness could lead to regression and danger, and this was key to his change of heart.
For Lee's statements to become effective, using a perspective outlined in "game theory," the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the pro-unification camp must respond to this call and at least temporarily put aside the "eventual unification" and "anti-independence" discourses. This is the only way to stop the competition and confrontation.
Moreover, the KMT should also revisit the issues relating to peoples' livelihoods and resuscitate important bills delayed by the legislature, such as the annual budget, the US arms procurement plan and the approval of new Control Yuan members. This would produce a follow-up effect which could consolidate public opinion and move Taiwan towards a "positive game."
Identity is the basis of one's existence and a source of emotion and energy, and there is nothing wrong with that. But in the democratic era, especially in a divided society, it is also the source of conflict and confrontation, and for this reason, such sentiment should be kept to oneself. During discourse and action in the public domain, people should respect the rules of the democratic game and show tolerance and respect for those with a differing identification. By doing so, we can develop trust within society and reach a gradual consensus, and society can open up and continue to advance.
However, identity itself is not dangerous. Only by opening the door to one's own identity is it possible to clarify the differences between one's own and other people's identity through interaction with others, thus discovering and defining one's own identity. This kind of identity is organic, dynamic and alive.
Hopefully, Lee's suggestions can provide society with a chance to start over. It is also to be hoped that the pan-blue and pan-green camps could show mutual respect on this basis and develop trust and consensus. This is the only solution to Taiwan's current predicament within the international community. It will also strengthen Taiwan, enabling it to better deal with a changing world. This is what is meant by a progressive identity.
Lii Ding-tzann is a professor at National Tsing Hua University's Graduate School of Sociology.