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2015 Jun News
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Citizens Show Increased Political Interest

Since Martial Law was lifted in Taiwan in 1987, policy has been watched with a continuously growing interest by the local population This can be most obviously deducted from the results of the general parliament and presidential elections. In 2000, for the first time in Chinese history, the ruling party was changed by conduct of a free, democratic election. During this now 28 years long process, many societal controversies and conflicts have come to the surface, but the road towards establishing an open and democratic society is always a stepwise process.

In 2006, the U.S.-American media enterprise Freedom House listed Taiwan as one of the most liberal conutries worldwide. The process of democratization may be accompanied by more or less disagreement of citizens and their government authorities. Recently, more and more people have participated in social movements. For example, from March 18 till April 10, 2014, about 400 students have blocked the Parliament from inside, with about 10,000 others demonstrating support outside. This was the beginning of the Sunflower-Movement. In total, an estimated 100,000 protesters had joined in the movement.

Many people say that the Sunflower-Movement represents the peak of social movements in Taiwan: as it is based on the experiences of former activities expressing social dispute, this movement was able to grow this strong. More and more young people engage in discussion, but thought and communication tools of the generations differ a lot. Transparency and free speech on the internet is one of the driving forces behind. But how can anonymous and irresponsible communication be handled? The Right of Freedom of Speech is still sometimes confronted with racist and sexual discriminative acts, spawning and heating up social conflict.

Also, students who had not been participating in social movements before are being attracted into reflecting on democratic issues on internet platforms and forums. They open their mind and their democratic awareness is strengthened by true, open discussion. Next, people will actively want to improve conditions. One outcome and important symbol of such a process might be the success of a non-party candidate at the Taipei City Mayor elections last year.

How can we further improve our discussions? If considering the Sunflower - Movement a mirror reflecting our demcracy's current situation, we may be able to find out blind spots. What have we learned? Let us discuss together about what problems may still be existing in the current political system.

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Integration Offers for Foreign Students

Statistics of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture show numbers of more than 90,000 foreign students in the year of 2014. As these students come with different cultural backgrounds, they often need some additional attention being paid to their cultural needs. The National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) currently hosts 1000 foreign students, among them Overseas and Chinese, Chinese Mainlanders, but also students from many other countries, including Muslims. Recently, NCTU announced a new service being especially offered to Muslim students: to fulfill their religious duties, an extra prayer room has been established.

Furthermore, the university has installed an own kitchen in the Master dorm, as Muslims do not eat pork. An, Hua-Cheng (安華正) of NCTU says: ‚As far as I know, NCTU is the first university in Taiwan offering a prayer room.“ Also, the toilets need to be different: They do not use toilet paper, but the toilets need to be flushed by water nozzles. Toilets in the library and in the information center of NCTU have therefore also been equipped with water nozzles.

At CCU, there are mainly language courses for foreign students. CCU welcomes more than 2,500 foreign students every year. Chen, De-Fa (陳德發), Head at the International Office, says: „Due to budget limitations, private universities usually have fewer resources and facilities than public universities. But we try to support foreign students, and these offers wil not be reduced.“ For example, all Juniors are invited to attend introduction lectures, so they may be able to quickly getting familiar with the new environment. Additionally, many events are being hosted to help those students better understand the local culture. In language course offers, they can learn Chinese and Taiwanese, even private coaching.

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Earthquakes' Devastating Nature

Two deadly earthquakes have hit Nepal on April 25 and May 12 this year, killing 8583 people, and injuring hundreds of thousands. The first quake of April 25 was of 8.1 Mw magnitude with its epicentre in the east of the district of Lamjung, and its hypocenter was at a depth of approximately 15 km. It also triggerred avalanches in the Mount Everest region, killing about 19 climbers, leaving many others missing. 10 aftershocks have followed, with the one happening on May 12 being the strongest, reaching a magnitude of 7.3 Mw. Countless families have lost beloved ones at these catastrophic events, and many sights in the poor country have been damaged and destroyed, among them UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Due to geological conditions, Nepal, like Taiwan, is prone to frequent earthquakes. While in Nepal the Indian Plate underthrusts the Eurasian Plate, Taiwan is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Here, the Filipino Plate crushes on the Eurasian Plate. While minor trembling of lower magnitudes can often be sensed in Taiwan, sometimes major earthquakes do occur. One of the most devastating ones had happened on September 21, 1999, in Jiji, Nantou county, Central Taiwan.

The earthquake occurred with a magnitude of 7.3 Mw at 2.00am, and its hypocentre was of only 8 km depth, what both contributed to its deadly impact, as it hit people in the middle of the night. 2000 people died that night, and 10,000 were severely injured. Caused damages to infrastructure were calculated with 3600 million NTD (112.5 million U.S. Dollar).

After this disastrous experience, the government installed four new departments, in order to support the affected region: in reconstruction, burying the dead, providing subsidies for new beginnings, and so on. Many people engaged in supporting the region, involving also non-government organizations and the international community. The government later founded a memorial park, including a museum, keeping the memory of this tragic event and teaching visitors about the nature of earthquakes. Measures to instruct the population in how to behave during natural disasters have also been intensified.

Major earthquakes have also happened earlier in Taiwan: the Meishan earthquake (1906) and Hsinchu-Taichung earthquake (1935). On April 19, 2015, a quake of 6,3 on the Richter scale occured. Earthquakes cannot be predicted, but safety measures can be further improved so that more people can be saved. In Taiwan, we continue to build up our experience, and hope that there won’t be any more tragic losses in the future caused by earthquakes.

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Worst Drought in Taiwan for 70 Years

In spring 2015, Taiwan was hit by the worst drought since 1955. Statistics of the National Weather Bureau showed record-breaking data after reservoir gages had continuously dropped, in some parts of Taiwan to less then 40 percent.

Precipitation was critically low during the first months of the year, leading to decisions of restricting water supply as early as February: The second part of the guidelines for reducing water consumption started on February 26, cutting water supply to consumers for 20 percent, and an additional 5 percent on private consumption of more than 1000 cubic decimeters. Industry was largely excluded, however, the regions of New-Taipei, Taoyuan und Miaoli were provided 7.5 percent less on industrial use of water. The Water Resources Agency at the Ministry of Economic Affairs demanded people‘s understanding of the serious situation, and that saving water had become of utmost importance. They hoped that the third level of restricting water supplies would not have to be enacted.

But the National Weather Bureau estimated that precipation levels would remain low until May, and that total precipitation of the first half of this year would drop below the average rate. A late start of the rainy season would even worsen conditions dramaticallly. Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. John Deng said that he was calculating people’s water consumption on a daily basis. He recommended people should shower instead of taking a bath, and just wipe the cars.

On March 19, the third level of restricting water supplies had to be enacted. The Center for Central Drought Emergency Operations announced that people living in Banqiao, Xinzhuang, Linkou und Taoyuan had to reduce water consumption according to the restriction guidelines, starting form April 1, and affecting millions of families. Water was cut for livelihood, medical treatments, industry, trade and military defense. The measures had to be put into practice even earlier than estimated. Everybody was urged to save water.

Prof. Tseng Hong-Yung, director for Earth Sciences at Chinese Culture University, declared that water could be kept and stored. Every drop counts – even the slightest amount should be saved to prevent shortage.

Luckily, the rainy season brought enough water in early June. Meanwhile, the reservoirs have been re-filled, so all restrictions have been waved.