2007-02-28

228 Anniversary

Taiwan enters a moment of solemnity today with the sixtieth anniversary of the 228 Incident. This violent event in 1947 marked the onset of nearly four decades of White Terror. Thousands of people on the island disappeared through imprisonment or execution.

It has only been since 1992 that the 228 Incident could be discussed here at all. Until that year this episode in Taiwan's history was treated as the 1989 Tienanmen Square Massacre is treated in China: officially, the event never happened. Families could not mourn or even speak of members who vanished. Yet few families in Taiwan were untouched by loss. None were untouched by fear.

Today the names of the victims can be said out loud. A 228 Peace Park stands near the Presidential Palace and a 228 Memorial Museum stands on its grounds. Each year families gather to acknowledge the loss of loved ones. In a solemn ritual, representatives of these families receive, in person from Taiwan's president, a certificate from the government that absolves all members of the family from any implication of wrongdoing.

These sites provide more information about this event in Taiwan's history.

Eyewitness accounts
George H Kerr
Formosa Betrayed (1965/1992)
The account of an American who served as vice consul at the U.S. consulate.

Allan James Shackleton
Formosa Calling: An Eyewitness Account of the February 28th , 1947 Incident (released 1998)
The account of a New Zealander who served as Industrial Rehabilitation Officer for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
Contemporary Reports
Tillman Durdin. 'Formosa Killings are put at 10,000.'
New York Times, 1947 March 29.

Peggy Durdin. 'Terror in Taiwan.' The Nation. 1947 May 24.
The 228 Massacre as documented in the US media
Internet sources
Wikipedia: 228 Incident

Jerry Griffin
Yale 1962: 'Real Life Real Time History' (2004)
Missionaries' accounts of protecting dissidents during the White Terror

Wikipedia Commons:
228 Incident of Taiwan, 1947
Historical images, art, images of victims and witnesses.

Green Island Adventures: 'A Modern History of Green Island'

Flickr photo set: Oasis Prison, Green Island

Loa Iok-sin: 'New documentary... the 228 Incident and the White Terror era through the eyes of the victims'
Taipei Times 2007.02.09
Official sources
Taiwan: Government Information Office, ROC

Taipei 228 Memorial Museum
Anniversary News
BBC 2007.02.27: 'Anniversary of deadly Taiwan riot'

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2007-02-26

Hatto Hoax confirmed by Husband

James Inverne of Gramophone (Feb 26) relates a new development in the Joyce Hatto story I shared earlier this week.

In an amazing turn of events, Gramophone has learned of a letter sent from William Barrington-Coupe to the head of BIS records in which he makes a full confession of his wrongdoing in the Joyce Hatto affair. Gramophone subsequently contacted Barrington-Coupe, who confirmed that he stands by the letter’s contents.

It was Gramophone that first revealed how several of the recordings released by Barrington-Coupe under his late wife’s name were identical to other recordings by a range of pianists on different labels. A media storm ensued, with most of the world’s major media outlets reporting the scandal. Amidst it all, Barrington-Coupe denied all allegations of wrongdoing and insisted that he was present at all major sessions, and that the discs were all his wife’s work.

The truth, we now know from his own pen, is different. Robert von Bahr’s BIS records had one of the first identified cases of duplication – the “Hatto” recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies exactly matched the soundwaves on Laszlo Simon’s BIS recording. And it was to von Bahr whom Barrington-Coupe wrote his letter of confession. [...] In the letter, Barrington-Coupe explains that he did indeed pass off other people’s recordings as his wife’s, but that he did it to give her the illusion of a great end to an unfairly (as he terms it) overlooked career.
Barrington-Coupe's story raises more questions than it answers, but he appears to be as resistant to making admissions now as he was before the hoax was exposed.
He received a prison sentence in 1966 for failure to pay purchase tax. Whether this throws doubt on his confession now, made only after our revelations and in the light of the fact that he continued to release “Hatto” recordings after his wife’s death, is open to debate.

What music lovers will want, and what he must surely now provide (together, where possible, with witnesses who can verify), is a full and accurate list of which Joyce Hatto recordings actually feature Joyce Hatto, and which other artists were involved where appropriate. Only then will we know how good she actually was, and only then can at least some of her reputation be salvaged. When asked to do this, Barrington-Coupe replied that he didn’t want to go down that road, adding, “I’m tired, I’m not very well. I’ve closed the operation down, I’ve had the stock completely destroyed, and I’m not producing any more. Now I just want a little bit of peace.”

The complete report appears at Gramophone. Inverne promises updates as they become available.

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2007-02-22

The Fly: the opera

Charlotte Smith of Gramophone reports the scheduled premiere next year of a new opera: The Fly. The libretto, based on a 1957 short story by George Langelaan, tells the story of Seth Brundle, a scientist who accidentally fuses his body with that of a housefly. The opera's composer, Howard Shore, sees the character's noble ambition and tragic deterioration as the stuff of 'a classic opera story.'

The new opera already claims an auspicious pedigree. Shore is renowned for his film scores, including the 1986 film version of The Fly as well as Silence of the Lambs, Big, and The Lord of the Rings. The opera marks yet another collaboration between Shore and director David Cronenberg. Cronenberg directed the 1986 film and will direct the premiere production of the opera. Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang provides the libretto. Hwang understands well the conventions of opera, as his 1988 masterpiece M. Butterfly attests. Cronenberg directed the 1993 film version of M. Butterfly; the music was composed by Howard Shore.

The Fly will premiere in Paris on 2008 July 1 and then be performed by the Los Angeles Opera as part of the company's 2008-09 season.

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2007-02-21

Joyce Hatto - Too Good to be True?

Classical music has its own bona fide scandal.

This one comes in the form of the late Joyce Hatto, a pianist hailed by The Guardian last summer (2006.7.10) as 'one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced.'

Now Hatto's recordings for the label Concert Artist are said to bear far too much resemblance to recordings made for other labels by other concert artists. Pristine Audio, the studio investigating the matter for Gramophone magazine, is not mincing words. It calls Rachmaninov, Lizst, Brahms, Chopin and Godowski recordings attributed to Hatto 'an audacious recording hoax' and summarizes its work to date:

We have yet to investigate a Hatto recording that has not proved to be a hoax.



Here are the allegations from Pristine Audio.

Here's the story as reported and updated by James Inverne in Gramophone.

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2007-02-18

Fireworks Music

Some fireworks to kick off the new lunar year:
Henry Fillmore (1881-1956)
Rolling Thunder
Taipei Symphony Winds / Alton Thompson
[1:58]
Many thanks to Mr Louis Yu for mastering the audio. More recordings may be heard at my web site.

Here's wishing you peace, prosperity and joy in the Year of the Pig.

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2007-02-14

Betrothals

Lonely Planet, publishers of the popular travel books, chose to run one of my images on their weblog this week. The photo, Betrothals, was taken in Tainan on Christmas Eve 2005. It shows tokens left by engaged couples at the Temple of the Matchmaker God.

Each brass plate is inscribed with two names and the date of the wedding. The couples hang them in the god's line of vision with the request that he remember to them on their wedding day.

Happy Valentine's Day.

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2007-02-13

Thy People, My People

It is not generally appreciated around the world that Taiwan is a magnet for immigrants. Thousands of newcomers are drawn to the island's shores every year. Many of these new Taiwanese arrive as the result of marriage. Zoe Cheng describes the situation in the latest Taiwan Review:

Currently there are about 133,000 spouses of resident Taiwanese from Southeast Asia, along with another 233,000 from the People's Republic of China. More than 90 percent of these cases involve a Taiwanese man marrying a woman from abroad. Currently, in one in four newly registered marriages in Taiwan, one of the partners is either Southeast Asian or a PRC national, while one in seven newborns is the product of a mixed marriage. The result is that Taiwan is turning from ethnic homogeneity to diversity, and its insular society is suddenly having to cope with an influx of large numbers of outsiders. How these newcomers are integrated into mainstream Taiwanese society and the changes their presence will inevitably bring about are some of the most important cultural questions Taiwan faces. [....]

For the women, the principal reason for marrying a Taiwanese is to be able to emigrate to a substantially wealthier country. It is not just that they are attracted by the higher standard of living available in Taiwan, but also that they hope to be able to send more money home to their families than they could expect to earn if they stayed and worked in their own countries. Immigrants from the Philippines and Thailand have been entering Taiwan for marriage since the 1970s but it was not until the 1990s, when Taiwanese businesses rapidly expanded into Southeast Asia, that this started happening in really large numbers. Figures from last year show that 56 percent of Southeast Asian spouses were from Vietnam and another 19 percent from Indonesia, the remainder being from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines. [....]

The number of overseas spouses from China is, in fact, twice that of those from Southeast Asia. If less attention seems to be paid to how they integrate into Taiwanese society, it is perhaps because the primary problem of language does not exist in their case.

Chinese spouses, however, have their own problems. They come from a place deemed hostile to Taiwan. The complications of Taiwan and China's ambiguous formal relationship means that Chinese spouses fall under a set of Taiwanese laws different from those applying to spouses from other countries. [....] Whereas "foreign" spouses can work immediately on receipt of Alien Resident status, which is conferred in as long as it takes to process the paperwork after arrival in Taiwan, Chinese spouses cannot work freely until they have permanent residence, i.e. six years after arrival. Before this they must obtain a permit to work legally. There is more. For a Chinese spouse to work as a government employee requires another 10 years' residency in Taiwan after naturalization.

Ms Cheng goes on to explore the challenges and rewards of immigration, together with the ways new arrivals in turn challenge and enrich Taiwan society.

The complete article appears online at Taiwan Review.

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2007-02-09

Travel in Thailand

I've returned to Taiwan from my first trip to Thailand. (Yes, they are different countries.) I went with musicians from National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU Shida) who were making a concert tour of Bangkok and surrounding cities. Joining us on the trip were officials from the school's administration and a number of professors from the school's Center for Chinese Language and Culture.

The experience served as a delightful introduction to a fascinating culture. Friendly people, enchanting history, glorious food, smiling climate.

I accompanied university officials and language scholars on one visit to a university campus. Our Thai hosts welcomed us with native dishes and fruit, served as a traditional Thai ensemble performed. After lunch we went outdoors to feed the animals. The campus trees in this case were populated by monkeys, not squirrels.

I will be processing the photos from this visit for a while. Watch for them at my gallery.

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2007-02-03

Rise of the 'Harmonious Society'

Reporters Without Borders (RSF, Reporters sans frontières), in its Annual Report, observes that 'a disturbingly record number of journalists and media workers were killed or thrown in prison around the world in 2006.' Not helping matters: the complacency of supposedly more enlightened societies.

But beyond these figures is the alarming lack of interest (and sometimes even failure) by democratic countries in defending the values they are supposed to incarnate.

Almost everyone believes in human rights these days but amid the silences and behaviour on all sides, we wonder who now has the necessary moral authority to make a principled stand in favour of these freedoms.

The openness many expected technology to provide often works the other way. Police states are learning to exploit the new technology to filter information and trace the origin of forbidden statements.

Dictatorships also seem to be tightening their grip on the Internet and at least 60 people are in prison for posting criticism of the government online. China, the leading offender, is being copied by Vietnam, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Iran and more and more bloggers and cyber-dissidents are in jail.

Reporters without Borders: 2007 Comprehensive Report


Asia

RSF reports no substantial progress in press freedom last year under this region's harshest regimes: China, Vietnam, Burma and North Korea. The situation in all these countries remains listed as 'Very Serious.'

In China the organization observes a sustained pattern of increased oppression that began as soon as the 2008 Olympic Games were awarded to Beijing:

The repression of dissident movements and ethnic or religious minorities has never stopped in China since the announcement in July 2001 that Beijing was to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Despite some belated objections by the International Olympic Committee, the Chinese authorities harass those who might be tempted to try to “spoil the party.” This is why Reporters Without Borders continues to call for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics.

In the meantime RSF reports that the bleak legacy of Mao's Cultural Revolution continues to be felt in the form of stern government control of what citizens see and hear.

In print media:

The Propaganda Department continues to attack each article deemed to be contrary to the new ideology of a “harmonious society” proclaimed by Hu Jintao. Media editors receive regularly a list of banned subjects. These might be demonstrations by peasants, the unemployed or Tibetans. Nothing escapes the censors, who cultivate a climate of fear within editorial offices. Censorship cases can be measured in their tens of thousands each year. [...] In the run-up to a series of anniversaries, including the 30th since the death of Mao Zedong and the 40th since the Cultural Revolution, the General Administration of Press and Publication issued a warning in July: “News publication has an important role in ideological education and our country’s security depends on strict control of news production.”

Broadcast media:

Radio remains very popular in the cities as well as the countryside. Hundreds of millions of Chinese own radios on which they can pick up international stations whose output is in sharp contrast to Chinese radio. Millions listen to the BBC and Radio Free Asia programmes in Chinese, but their broadcasts are jammed. Some of the equipment used to create this “great wall of sound” was purchased from French company Thalès. In 2006, Reporters Without Borders tested the jamming of Voice of Tibet and Radio Free Asia in Tibet. The authorities overlay programmes on short and medium wave with thudding sounds or educational programmes in Chinese.

The Television sector - particularly cable stations - is rapidly expanding. The country has more than 700 national and local stations and nearly 2,000 cable stations broadcasting 56,000 hours of programmes. But it is the state broadcaster, CCTV, with a presence in all areas, which dominates the market. Regional TV is very dynamic but under surveillance from Beijing and local government. In March, the presenter of a financial programme in Shanghai was taken off the air for being too outspoken. Phoenix TV of Hong Kong is accessible by satellite, possession of which is a privilege open only to foreigners and large numbers of officials. Tourist hotels show BBC and CNN, but censors still unplug them whenever a sensitive subject is broadcast. This happened during 2006 when an Amnesty International researcher was interviewed by CNN on the question of human rights in China.

International journalism:

Criticised for failing to keep promises made during the awarding of the 2008 Olympic Games, the Beijing government has announced changes to rules about foreign journalists. In 2006, there were at least 25 incidents of arrests, threats or assaults against members of the foreign press. A German reporter was arrested in July while he was doing a report on the controversial building of a dam in Yunnan province in southern China. In September, several foreign media crews were expelled from Fujian province, southern China where a devastating cyclone had just battered several cities. Elsewhere, many media websites, including that of the BBC World Service, are blocked in China.

Hong Kong continues to enjoy real press freedom but political and financial pressures from Beijing are constantly increasing. Those running the pirate station Citizen Radio were taken to court for broadcasting without a licence. A five-year prison sentence against Hong Kong-resident journalist Ching Cheong, has worsened apprehension felt by reporters covering China from the autonomous region.

An the Internet:

China unquestionably continues to be the world’s most advanced country in Internet filtering. The authorities carefully monitor technological progress to ensure that no new window of free expression opens up, After initially targeting websites and chat forums, they nowadays concentrate on blogs and video exchange sites. China now has nearly 17 million bloggers. This is an enormous number, but very few of them dare to tackle sensitive issues, still less criticise government policy. Firstly, because China’s blog tools include filters that block “subversive” word strings. Secondly, because the companies operating these services, both Chinese and foreign, are pressured by the authorities to control content. They employ armies of moderators to clean up the content produced by the bloggers. Finally, in a country in which 52 people are currently in prison for expressing themselves too freely online, self-censorship is obviously in full force.

Just five years ago, many people thought Chinese society and politics would be revolutionised by the Internet, a supposedly uncontrollable medium. Now, with China enjoying increasing geopolitical influence, people are wondering the opposite, whether perhaps China’s Internet model, based on censorship and surveillance, may one day be imposed on the rest of the world.

Reporters without Borders: 2007 China Report

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