China · Taiwan

Random Taiwan, HK links

The BBC has an article about mainland students in Taiwan and as with the NY Times one in July, it focused on how the mainland students are being (positively) influenced by studying here. It’s a little better than the NY Times piece, which was filled with several flaws and questionable inferences, but there are still issues. For instance, the students quoted here (none of whom would give their names) are presented as having completely positive opinions about studying in Taiwan, without hardly making any criticisms or critical observations about Taiwan. Meanwhile, the one critical statement (on Taiwan’s media, attributed to “many”) is followed by a sentence about pro-China businesses taking control (not that there isn’t any truth in this, but there are many things wrong with Taiwan’s media besides pro-China business interests). There are interesting details such as the dissident forums in Taiwan and that mainland Chinese students are warned about participating in these. Still, there’s a very hypothetical stance attached to this story of how mainland students (described as the cream of the crop, never mind that there are many more mainland students studying in Hong Kong and countries like the US, UK, and Japan who are also equally cream of the crop) coming here would be so happily influenced they might very well spread these to China. This is something straight out of the idealistic dreams of Ma Ying-jeou and his government, and it’s disappointing that articles like this from major news outlets would focus on flimsy aspects. Well, at least the reservations by the students about this possibility (given China’s size and complexity) are quite sound.

Last weekend (Sept 15-16), there were ugly scenes in Hong Kong as HKers protested against mainland “couriers” in Sheung Shui. These couriers buy large amounts of goods in HK to take back to the mainland to resell, with Sheung Shui apparently being a favored area because of its location one train stop south of the border. The reason for the protest is that the mainlanders buy so much that supposedly local shops run out of goods and also hike up prices. All I can say is I don’t feel it’s right for HKers to be acting in such ways, especially when it comes close to being hateful and vile. The videos in the first link show them confronting mainlanders and even flying the British colonial flag, which an older guy (maybe a mainlander and kudos to him) grabs and knocks away. The heavy presence of mainlanders do present some problems such as littering and the blocking up of passageways by people dragging trolleys laden with boxes. The authorities should try to control the activity and make sure there’s nothing illegal or illicit taking place. But hopefully they don’t resort to heavyhanded measures like banning the buyers completely. After all, the mainlanders, whether the couriers or the traders who resell these goods, are just trying to make a living too. In the end, it doesn’t warrant the ugly vitriolic behavior of the HKers at the protest, who lower themselves considerably.

Meanwhile, journalist laowiseass wrote another very accurate criticism about local behavior in his usual blunt manner. Many Taiwan people are indeed very courteous, whether it be service staff, strangers, or acquaintances. That doesn’t mean that callous behavior doesn’t exist or that it isn’t common. It does indeed, but it’s often subtle, as laowiseass says. Drivers, for instance, often don’t look out for pedestrians when making turns at intersections and onto side streets. Then you’ve got the actual crazy road behavior by drivers and motorscooter riders. Callous or rude behavior exists everywhere, but what makes it a problem in Taiwan is how oblivious locals can be, or at least deliberately ignorant and low-key about it. I would say this is a major fault of Taiwanese, that they can be really lacking in being self-critical (whilst full of criticisms about other people like mainland Chinese or Koreans). This is another ironic topic that should be covered another day.

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