Taiwan seeks visa reciprocity from Manila

Taiwan will continue talks with the Philippines on granting visa-free status to Taiwanese nationals, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said yesterday, a day after the government announced plans to give Filipinos visa-free privileges.

Speaking on the sidelines of a legislative hearing, Lee said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hoped that Taiwan and the Philippines would develop a reciprocal arrangement on the visa issue.

The lack of reciprocity from the Philippines after Taiwan announced its policy sparked concerns of an unequal relationship between Taipei and Manila.

The Cabinet on Thursday said that Premier William Lai (賴清德) had approved a plan on a trial basis to allow Filipino citizens to enter Taiwan for 14 days without a visa, as part of government efforts to promote its New Southbound Policy.

Although the government has not said when the new program will begin and Lee would not comment on the issue, sources said it could start next month at the earliest.

Asked whether Taiwan was confident it could secure reciprocal treatment from the Philippines, Lee said it would depend on how future talks proceed.

In response to Taiwan’s announcement, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei on Thursday said that the Philippines is looking to provide a reciprocal loosening of travel regulations for Taiwanese visitors.

To promote its New Southbound Policy, the government first relaxed visa rules last year for ASEAN member states and India.

Taiwan also included the Philippines in its electronic visa program on Oct. 7 last year.

In related news, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫) yesterday said that Taipei and Manila are expected to renew a bilateral investment agreement signed 20 years ago by the end of the year.

Yang, who was attending a trade fair in the Philippines, said he received positive feedback from Philippine authorities on the possible renewal of the agreement at a bilateral industry conference on Thursday.

There was also progress made on a bilateral free-trade agreement, Yang said.

The New Southbound Policy, launched in May last year, is aimed at enhancing the nation’s relations with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

The government hopes that the policy will forge closer ties with these countries in a bid to reduce Taiwan’s economic dependence on China.



Abe considering snap election as early as October

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering calling a snap election for as early as next month to take advantage of his improved approval ratings and disarray in the main opposition party, government and ruling party sources said on Sunday.

Abe’s ratings have recovered to 50 percent in some polls, helped by public jitters over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and chaos in the opposition Democratic Party, which has been struggling with single-digit support and defections.

Abe told executives of his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, the Komeito party, that he might dissolve parliament’s lower house for a snap poll after the legislature convenes for an extra session from Sept 28, the sources said.

Top LDP and Komeito officials will meet on Monday to discuss preparations, they added.

“Until now, it appeared the election would be next autumn, but … we must always be ready for battle,” domestic media quoted Komeito party chief Natsuo Yamaguchi as telling reporters on Saturday during a visit to Russia.

One option is to hold a snap election on Oct 22, when three by-elections are scheduled, the sources said. Other possibilities are later in October or after an expected visit by U.S. President Donald Trump in early November.

Abe will probably make a decision after returning from a Sept 18-22 trip to the United States, the sources said.

Abe’s ratings had sunk below 30 percent in some surveys in July, battered by suspected cronyism scandals and a perception that he had grown arrogant after more than four years in office.

His popularity rebounded somewhat after a cabinet reshuffle in early August and has since been helped by worries over a volatile North Korea, which on Friday fired a ballistic missile over Japan, its second such move in less than a month.

“If we have a snap election now, we need to explain it to the public, including how we will cope with the threat from North Korea,” Koichi Hagiuda, a senior LDP executive, told NHK.

Given that there is no need for a general election until late 2018, a snap poll could prompt criticism of Abe for creating a political vacuum at a time of rising tensions over regional security.

However, an early vote would not only take advantage of Democratic Party disarray but could also dilute a challenge from an embryonic party that allies of popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, an ex-LDP lawmaker, are trying to form.

Abe’s coalition would be likely to lose its two-thirds”super majority” in the lower house but keep a simple majority, political sources have said.

Loss of the two-thirds grip could dim prospects of Abe achieving his goal of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution to clarify the military’s role, though members of a new conservative party linked to Koike might back the change.

Any constitutional amendment requires approval by two thirds of both chambers and a majority in a public referendum.

That risk could make Abe hesitate.

“I am sceptical about the consensus that Abe will call a snap election because doing so poses a risk, albeit small, to his agenda of constitutional revision,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan.



Govt to unveil low-cost flat plan soon: sources

Sources say the government will next week announce a pilot scheme to let charities run more than 300 low-cost flats to be rented out to needy families.

The idea was first floated in July by the Transport and Housing Secretary, Frank Chan, who said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could operate government-approved subdivided flats.

But the sources told RTHK that instead of dividing the flats into small units, residents taking part in the scheme will live in the same flat and share the living room and bathroom.

It’s understood that the government hopes that more property owners will rent out their flats to be used in this way.



We Need to Talk About Black Students Being Accused of Rape Under Title IX


Emily Yoffe’s threepart series on campus sexual assault in The Atlantic is so good that you should read all of it, but if you only read one paragraph, make it this one:

Colgate University was recently investigated by the Office for Civil Rights for potential race discrimination, a Title VI violation, in its sexual assault adjudication process. The university was cleared, in April, on the grounds that the numbers did not allow OCR to conclude that race was a statistically significant factor in Colgate’s adjudications—in any given year the number of men of any race referred for formal hearings was in the single digits. (The investigation does not appear to have examined any individual cases or otherwise reach beyond this statistical analysis.) But the report did bring those statistics to light, a rarity: In the 2013–14 academic year, 4.2 percent of Colgate’s students were black. According to the university’s records, in that year black male students were accused of 50 percent of the sexual violations reported to the university, and they made up 40 percent of the students formally adjudicated.

The emphasis is mine.

As best we can tell, Colgate isn’t an outlier. Yoffe notes that male students of color are “vastly overrepresented in the cases I’ve tracked.” Harvard University Law Professors Janet Halley and Jeannie Suk, who pay attention to Title IX cases and have written about the lack of due process for accused students, share this impression. I do as well.

Left-leaning victim advocacy groups must at least be aware that college investigations are racially problematic. But they seldom acknowledge this. In fact, the people behind the major activist film about rape on campuses, The Hunting Ground, claimed the purpose of their movie was to undermine the “dominant white male power” that pervades the sexual assault crisis. But this is nonsense: as Yoffe notes, in at least three of the four sexual misconduct disputes featured in The Hunting Groundthe accused was a student of color.

In a piece for The Nation, Elizabeth Adetiba wonders whether “historical tropes of black men as threats to white women might have played a role in the troubled process.” (Bizarrely, she also accused Yoffe of not considering the racial element of Title IX cases, which is flat-out wrong. I presume she did not read the third-part in the series; in any case, I tweeted at The Nation requesting a correction.)

We know these tropes: in less progressive times, black men were thought to be more sexually aggressive and unable to control themselves. These are false, malicious, racist assumptions, and history is full of examples of black men being wrongfully railroaded by white accusers who had some incentive to lie. Emmett Till, a black teenager, was murdered in 1955 after a white woman claimed—falsely—that he made advances toward her. Famous works of literature like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Passage to India involve people of color being wrongfully accused of rape by white women.

Is this what’s happening on campus? We don’t know. Maybe the numbers are imbalanced because administrators are failing to act on a number of cases involving accused white students—which would suggest the Title IX system is racially biased—or sexual encounters involving non-white men are being reported to campus authorities, but would not have been reported had the male student been white. The alleged victim need not be a racist, because the Title IX process does not require the alleged victim to be the one filing the complaint. Consider the case of Grant Neal, a black athlete accused of sexually abusing a white woman, even though both of them agreed their sex was consensual.

The point is this: people on the left generally believe—correctly—the efficacy of the criminal justice system is affected by racial bias. Many of the most progressive leftists also think campuses are especially racist places, given all the students chalking #Trump2016 (a more dubious assertion in my view.) Why then do they think it’s such a stretch to suggest that Title IX, a powerful mechanism for settling scores, could be weaponized against vulnerable populations: black and immigrant students?



KMRT light rail to start charging

The Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (KMRT) system’s light rail line is to begin charging fares in November, the KMRT Bureau said yesterday.

Travel on the light rail line, the first of its kind in Taiwan, has been free since it opened in October 2015, but with the extension of the line this year a sharp increase in the number of passengers, a fare schedule will be established, bureau Director Wu Yi-long (吳義隆) said.

The line, which opened with four stops, was extended in June to the popular Pier-2 Art Center in Kaohsiung Port and has 14 stations.

Trams run from Lizihnei Station (C1) to Dayi Pier-2 Station (C12), with the section to Hamasen Station (C14) to open on Sept. 30.

Although fares are to be introduced in November, they will be half-price for the first two months, he said.

The 8.7km waterfront rail is part of the Kaohsiung Circular Line that was designed to complete the city’s metro service network.

There are about 13,000 passengers per day on work days and nearly 20,000 on weekends and holidays, Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp said.

In related news, the city is to open an electric car rental station on Oct. 1 as part the its electric car-sharing system, the city’s Transportation Bureau said.

The station is to be at the No. 2 exit of the KMRT’s Sizihwan Station (西子灣), the bureau said, adding that five electric cars will be available for free during the month.

The city government in May signed a contract with the electric car rental company Unicar, it said.

Over the next two years, 50 electric car rental stations are to open, offering a total of 84 vehicles at a tentative rate of NT$150 per 30 minutes, it said.

The first 10 stations are to be set up by May next year near the high-speed rail system’s Zuoying Station (左營), railway stations, MRT stations, department stores and hospitals in the city.