Saturday, August 2, 2014

I have some questions for Sean "神豬" Lien

From here

Sean Lien may as well have propped up a few of these in the corners of his 
"chat with foreigners", for all the talking the women present did. 
This is what he was going for, anyway.

This ridiculous campaign stunt video of Taipei City mayoral candidate Sean "God Pig" Lien talking to "foreigners in Taipei" about foreign resident concerns has made the rounds an ample number of times, and I don't have much of a need to comment on the video beyond what's been said.

But, since when have I ever written something because I needed to?

First, I admit I could not watch the whole video - that weird Weather Channel background music was so jarring and distracting that I gave up halfway through and read summaries of it online to see what I missed (not much, it seems).

Second, why did he have a room full of, oh, about 10-15 foreigners, when only a very few asked questions?

Third, note the inherent sexism in how the only questions taken and shown in the video were questions from men. The women looked more like background props - they could have been cardboard cutouts for all it mattered in this video. And let's not even get into the "token black" racism or the complete lack of Southeast Asian domestic or factory workers present (because other people already have).

Fourth, how is it that the only questions that made it into the video are either KMT Big Business propaganda bullshit points, or superficial "fluff" matters that it's easy to talk fluff about? I won't even bother complaining that the campaign stunt (I can't really call it a "talk with foreigners" in any sincere sense) was scripted, and seemed to be filled mostly with good-looking white men (and a few good-looking women) who may not even be residents of Taipei.

So, all of that aside, I have two things to say.

First, HEY FOREIGNERS. If you are really residents of Taipei - and I sincerely doubt that you are, although you could surprise me - what the fuck are you doing providing a whitewashed backdrop to Prince Sean the Lame here? Really? Did they pay you? How much was in the hong bao? Was it worth it, selling your dignity for whatever bit of cash they threw your way and a free lunch (although knowing the KMT you probably had to pay for the lunch if you're poor - only to have your lunch expropriated by a wealthy lunch magnate with gang and political connections - and got it for free if you're rich).

I mean, I suppose there's a chance that you actually support Sean Lien and...

...oh nevermind. That's too ridiculous to contemplate.

So, really? You're willing to be dancing foreign monkeys for this guy? You're willing to make us all look bad by being a prop for some sad little princeling's political dreams? You're willing to push forward tired stereotypes about foreigners in Taiwan, and make us all look bad (and stupid - because your questions were stupid - YES THEY WERE - although I can forgive that, as they were obviously handed to you by the Lien campaign)? You're okay with being reduced to this? Why don't you go dance around in a ridiculous stock video in the background of some American song from the '80s played illegally in a KTV? That would be slightly less humiliating than what you've done here.

Seriously, have some goddamn self-respect.

And second, I have some questions of my own for Seanie boy. I know I'd never get invited to one of these lunches, nor would I go if invited, because I'm not interested in being some KMT teat-sucker's campaign prop. And if I were, my real questions would be edited out.

So, I'll go ahead and write them here.

I'll try to stay away from the snarky ones.

Dear Sean Lien,

What is wrong with you? Sorry, I said I'd try not to be snarky. Let's start again. Ahem. Okay.

Urban renewal is not necessarily a bad policy for a city with degrading or unattractive architecture (although I would disagree that it is entirely unattractive). So how is it that the KMT leadership in Taipei has screwed it up so much by making it a gold rush for developers, rather than an actual boon to the city? Why isn't it a boon to the city, benefiting not citizens but rather companies like Farglory? How will you make urban renewal work for the people and not vested corporate interests? How closely tied is your family, and how closely tied is the KMT, to these development companies?

How is it that with all of this urban renewal, actual systemic problems in Taipei's infrastructure have not been addressed, such as the sewage system that regularly causes noxious odors to waft up from sewer grates and makes it impossible to flush toilet paper (which leads to some very disgusting trash bins next to public toilets)?

Or uneven, difficult-to-walk sidewalks that are an ankle-breaking hazard for the able-bodied among us and totally unnavigable for the disabled?

When are you going to wean yourself off your father's teat and Sorry.

What's up with the continued difficulties that residents of Taipei who hail from other cities have in registering to vote in Taipei? I know that technically they can do so, but if they rent, landlords often make it difficult or outright refuse (they fear being charged higher taxes for having a tenant that they had previously not reported) and the government has done nothing about this.

Mayor Hau, despite also still suckling his own father's milk, did one good thing in Taipei by making it possible for any impoverished person to get a free lunch box at any convenience store, so long as they had a special card (the stores get reimbursed by the government). However, one must apply for the card in order to be eligible, and it seems clear that this policy has not been widely publicized or made easily available to Taipei's poor and homeless. What do you intend to do about that?

We all love UBikes, but what's up with the half-assed "bike lanes" that no sane person would actually bike in? We all bike on the sidewalks because we have to.  How will you fix that and create real bike lanes, and enforce their safety from encroachment by cars, buses and parked vehicles, and educate the public about proper bike lane use and safety?

More frequent trains on the Xiangshan line please. After 8 years in Taipei it is no longer in my blood to regularly wait 7 minutes for a train. And can we improve train etiquette (line-cutting, entering a train and then stopping, entering a train before passengers have had a chance to exit, not leaving space for people walking in the other direction) while we're at it? A small issue but one close to my heart.

Domestic violence crisis center workers are horribly underpaid and caring, competent people often leave the job due to the high stress and low compensation. As a result, domestic abuse survivors have diminished access to competent social workers. I know at least one such worker who quit and decided to learn to cut hair instead, as she'd make more money that way. How will you increase resources to help with this and other women's issues so we can offer a full range of necessary services and adequately compensate these workers in Taipei City?

Four major issues impacting Taipei real estate are:

- Rising prices overall
- Taipei County residents buying tiny properties in Taipei (which are often cut out of units meant to be larger and sold for this purpose, which make un-ideal living quarters and diminish the housing available, as well as its quality, to people who actually intend to live in Taipei) in order to be able to register their children to study at a good school in Taipei
- The influx of agents in the rental market who charge high rates to renters they place and even more to foreigners that they take for rubes (a local may be charge half a month's rent or less, a foreigner is often told they must pay a full month), for providing very little in the way of services and making it impossible to contact landlords directly about rentals
- A speculative market in which most buyers don't intend to live in their units (see above) do you plan to fix this mess?

So, how do you intend to get anything done for the people when politicians, gangsters and businessmen are either good friends, or the same people?

Why should the people believe that the KMT is working for them when they have demonstrated time and time again that they mostly have big business interests, and Chinese interests, at heart? Why should we have faith in a word you say?

What do you plan to do about wage stagnation in the face of rising living costs in Taipei, which is arguably more severe than elsewhere in Taiwan due to the effects of the real estate market?

What do you plan to do about routine overwork, companies cheating on overtime pay, companies pushing women not to take their full allotment of maternity leave and general worker abuse in Taipei?

Why can't foreigners unionize? As a mayor, not a national official you may not be able to do much, but...why not?

A lot of worker abuse against foreigners affects us in two ways:

1.) Domestic helper abuse - there is little a badly-treated or abused foreign domestic worker can do to remedy her situation under current law. What do you plan to do about that?

2.) Contract worker abuse - most Western foreigners are English teachers, and we are routinely subject to illegal policies at work. For instance:

- did you know that we are legally entitled to lao bao (labor insurance)? Many schools openly refuse to provide it.
- did you know that we are legally entitled to paid leave, including on national holidays? Just TRY to get that as an English teacher on an hourly salary!
- did you know we are entitled to paid sick leave? Really! Including maternity leave! How many of us get that?
- did you know that many English teachers are made to work public holidays and even typhoon days?
- did you know that many employers still charge deposits that they keep if you want to quit before your contract is up (no compensation for you if they are the ones terminating the contract, though) or illegally withhold salary if you wish to terminate a contract (again, you get no such consideration if the termination is from them)?
- did you know that many employers use ARC/visa status as a method of control, blackmailing teachers (often insisting on unpaid work) who know they can't afford to have to deal with a canceled visa?
- did you know that many teacher complaints never make it to a Council of Labor Affairs hearing because most bosses have "someone on the inside"?

...what do you plan to do about all of that?

Do you have any idea how many buildings in Taiwan are not earthquake or typhoon safe? Forget that they are ugly, what do you plan to do about that?

Did you know that foreigners in Taipei who want the simplest things, like:
- a local credit card
- a Chunghwa Telecom cell phone contract
- a mortgage

...are often denied, although they are legally entitled to all three? Just because they are foreigners? What do you intend to do about that? While this is a nationwide problem, certainly something can be done to remedy the situation in Taipei city specifically.

I strongly oppose the recent curriculum changes to school textbooks that seek to "Sinicize" Taiwanese history (for example, by calling the Japanese period the Japanese Occupation, implying that they were not a legitimate colonial power). How do you intend to keep such changes from affecting textbooks in Taipei?

Many schools in Taipei operate throughout the summer, but the public schools often either lack air conditioning or won't turn it on unless the students all pay. This is a dangerous situation that can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. What do you plan to do about it?

(I have more questions and issues regarding public schools, but they are better addressed at a national level.)

How would electric taxis and buses really help? Why aren't we pushing for electric scooter subsidies to reduce pollution?

What can we do to improve traffic safety, especially concerning pedestrians and scooter accidents?

Many local residents have been complaining that the large number of Chinese tour groups have ruined many previously pleasant attractions in Taipei, such as the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101. I would like to note that this isn't about being anti Chinese people but rather the behavior and overly large number of tour groups. For example, the museum is basically controlled by tour groups now: they come in and out and see the most famous artifacts, but there are so many that those not in a tour group often have to wait 15, 20, even 30 minutes to see one item. What do you plan to do about this?

Wage discrimination is a major issue in Taiwan, with women often earning notably less or having less desirable contracts than men for the same work. Surely this is something that can also be tackled at the city level. What do you plan to do about it?

Women are sorely underrepresented in the Taipei City Government, and women's interests are often not represented at all (let's not even get into LGBT or minority interests). How do you plan to remedy this?

How is it that technically-illegal-but-desirable urban issues are often the subject of sting operations (such as illegal night market vendors - which people actually want), whereas illegal and undesirable issues - such as loudspeaker trucks, unsafe plumbing and wiring, often with wires hanging dangerously from staples on the side of buildings and blatant tax evasion - are not?

Why did the KMT powers-that-be allow Shi-da to be ruined? What cronies do you folks have that made it possible to destroy a vibrant neighborhood that way? How can you assure other vibrant neighborhoods that it is okay to do business there and they won't suddenly be forced to shut down, even if they've been promoted by the city government in the past?

What's up with making it difficult for religious festivals to do their thing, but routinely allowing political campaigns to wreak havoc across the city in the most annoying ways?

What are your plans for Taipei's historic architecture, including Dihua Street? How do you plan to develop it in such a way that it is not another Ningxia-Chongqing-Nanjing traffic circle disaster, and not another kitschy old street? I like kitschy old streets, but I want Dihua Street to be something better.


Jenna Cody
(not your biggest fan)


If you all have any questions you'd like to ask Prince Sean, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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