Who owns these bodies?

Interesting mini article from the Taipei Times a few days back.

WWII graves located

Taiwan’s representative office in Papua New Guinea has located graves that it believes to be those of Republic of China (ROC) soldiers who died in World War II while they were enslaved by the Japanese army on the Pacific island, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. Lee Tsung-fen (李宗芬), deputy-head of the ministry’s Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said that local Chinese compatriots said the graves at Rabaul were first discovered by an Australian pilot. It is thought that more than 1,600 ROC soldiers were captured by the Japanese and sent to Papua New Guinea camp during the war. Many of the soldiers reportedly either died in the camp or on the way to it. Lee yesterday said the Ministry of National Defense would send officials to the island to ascertain the identities of those in the graves, adding that the ministry would decide whether to transport the remains back to Taiwan after consulting with the relatives of the men.

The ROC is of course the official name of the government which now runs Taiwan and its accompanying islands, but during WW2 it was one of the two governments competing for mainland China, along with the CCP, while Taiwan was a Japanese colony. Presumably these soldiers were in fact soldiers from the ROC of that time, i.e. NOT Taiwan, were were fighting against Japan and then captured as POWs. Of course, this brings up the question of who should claim these bodies. Is it today’s ROC, i.e. “Taiwan”, or the PRC, i.e. “China”? While similar questions have come up in the past regarding property disputes between the two governments, this case is complicated by the fact that much of the surviving ROC military moved to Taiwan, along with many of their relatives. Should these remains be brought to:

A: Their place of origin (China, NOT Taiwan)

B: The place held by the successor to the military and government that they fought for (Taiwan, NOT China)

C: The location of their closest living relative (could very well be either Taiwan OR China)

Burying the lede?

The NYT has a new article explaining in a decent length how currency-finagling led to a codependent financial relationship between China and the US over the last few years. Yes, that’s all very informative, but as is often the case they slip the best part in towards the end, where most readers will have already given up.

In a glassed-in room in a nondescript office building in Washington, the Treasury conducts nearly daily auctions of billions of dollars’ worth of government bonds. An old Army helmet sits on a shelf: as a lark, Treasury officials have been known to strap it on while they monitor incoming bids.

With a line like that, it’s criminal that the photograph for the article was Secretary Paulson and President Hu wearing boring suits.

Language continues to be as much of an issue in Taiwan

5:26pm, 7 December 2007. Image from blog.taiwan-guide.org
5:26pm, 7 December 2007. Image from blog.taiwan-guide.org

Rectification of names by the new administration of the Taiwanese (ROC) government continues. The blog David on Formosa managed to get several snapshots of the old slogan over the entrance to the square surrounding Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, which was a reference to CKS’s chosen name for himself (Zhongzheng), and then followed up a few months later with some photos showing that the Hall itself had in fact been returned to its original name (i.e. CKS Memorial Hall) after a brief period of renaming as Democracy Memorial Hall under the Chen Shui-bian administration. As a comprimise, the KMT Ma Ying-jiu administration accepted keeping the new name of the square, which today is still labeled 自由廣場 (Liberty Square), while returning the old name of the Hall itself.

During my recent 3 week trip to Taiwan, I kept meaning to stop by the Hall, but simply never had the time. I did notice, however, the new “Liberty Sqaure” signs while driving past it. I also happened to be in Taiwan around the time that Taiwan Post, former Chunghwa Post, was again being renamed to Chungwha Post. I actually passed by one post office which just said “______ Post”, with a big empty space where the first word of the name should be. Unfortunately, my camera was in my bag at the time.

At the same time, there has apparently been another controversy over whether to use the name Taiwan or China, this time in a particularly comical place-the nation’s bird watching association.

The renaming of BirdLife International’s Taiwan chapter from Wild Bird Federation Taiwan to the Chinese Wild Bird Federation has caused an uproar among some of Taiwan’s bird lovers, with the founding president of the Wild Bird Society of Penghu, Lin Chang-hsing (林長興), saying that he will call for members to resign from the Chinese Wild Bird Federation.

Apart from refusing to pay yearly membership fees to the Chinese Wild Bird Federation, Lin said he would invite fellow bird enthusiasts to set up a new federation for wild birds using the words “Taiwan” or “Taiwanese.”

There are also at least two more serious developments that have made the news recently though. First is a decision by a Geneva, Switzerland court declaring that Taiwan (ROC) “is an eligible plaintiff in the case on the grounds that it possesses all the elements of statehood and that its government holds and effectively exercises sovereignty over its territory.” While I believe that this does not necessarily have any effect on formal diplomatic recognition by the Swiss government, it certainly seems like it could open the way for it. And most significantly, the court simply recognizes that Taiwan/ROC is a state, without particularly caring what it is called, or about anything related to the “one China” issue. This seems to mean that the Swiss court has effectively opted for dual recognition of China/PRC and Taiwan/ROC as separate and independent states. As a further wrinkle, the actual case involved a lawsuit filed by Taiwan/ROC against the ISO (International Standards Organization) “emanding that the organization correct Taiwan’s designation from Taiwan Province, China to Republic of China (Taiwan) in the ISO 3166 country codes list.” While the current administration certainly has no desire to force the ISO to change the designated name to a simple “Taiwan”, there seems to be no reason why it would not be possible. If Taiwan/ROC prevails in their lawsuit against the ISO, it would open the door for a future DPP administration to request a name change from Republic of China (Taiwan) to simply Taiwan.

And finally, in a move which ideologically could be considered as pro-China, but in practical terms is a victory for simple common sense, the government has finally declared that Taiwan will standardize Mandarin Chinese romanization on Hanyu Pinyin in 2009. Unlike in the PRC, Taiwanese themselves simply do not use Pinyin, and it exists on signs solely for the benefit of foreigners. While the cacaphony of mutually incomprehensible romanizations throughout Taiwan do have a certain charm, the fact that the same name or word may be romanized upwards of a half-dozen ways throughout the island is doing no favors to the visiting (or even resident) foreigner. Ma implemented Hanu Pinyin as an official system during his term as mayor of Taipei, and so this move is far from a surprise. It might be a minor victory for the pro China side in Taiwan’s culture war, but as a practical matter this is simply a good idea.

Oh, and on a more tangentially related note, it appears that the US has dropped Taiwan from the proposed list of visa waiver countries. I guess they didn’t want to piss off one of their largest creditors during the economic meltdown.

Police statism around the world

After my post the other day, it is worth realizing that, despite worrying trends back home there are no shortage of countries that are far, far worse off. Here are some stories that jumped out at me just in the past few days.

American Filmmaker Arrested in Nigeria

Andrew Berends, a New York-based freelance filmmaker and journalist who was working on a film about the oil-producing Delta region, was arrested on Sunday and held overnight. “They didn’t let me sleep or eat or drink water for the first 36 hours,” he said Tuesday night.

Taiwan Society receives inquiry letter over rally

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday rebutted accusations from the Taiwan Society and others that it was breaching freedom of expression by issuing a letter of inquiry to the group that organized a major rally held last Saturday.

The rally drew tens of thousands of participants protesting the government’s cross-strait policies, and called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, save the economy and help to accelerate the adoption of “sunshine bills.”

Thai Government Cracks Down on Rebellious Websites

The ICT says that 344 of the websites it listed had content it deemed “contemptuous” of Thailand’s royal family, five were considered “obscene,” two featured religious content and one hosted a sex video game.

Thai courts issued orders to shut down about 400 of the websites on the ICT’s list, while the remaining 800 are expected to be blocked by ISPs. The ICT also asked police to help round up sites’ owners, noting that it wants to “bring all violators to trial.”

Chinese Muslims cower under secret police crackdown

Being seen talking to a foreigner is enough to earn a Uighur a minimum of five years in prison and the confiscation of his business. “Please leave here,” said one man in a tea house around the corner from the scene of the attack. “We did hear things, but we cannot talk or we will be taken away.”


Fearful of the growth of an independence movement, and of the motivating effects of religion, the Chinese government has imposed debilitating measures on the local mosques. One popular mosque was even padlocked shut yesterday.

No one under 18 is allowed to visit a mosque, and schools deliberately schedule their classes over the 1pm call to prayer. Nor are imams allowed to broadcast over a tannoy.

Uighur passports are now held by the police, who refuse to let many Uighurs travel abroad. Since May, any Uighur travelling inside of China has been stopped and sent home by the police. They are not welcome at any hotels or guesthouses, under stringent regulations designed to protect Beijing or the other Olympic cities from a possible separatist attack.

And so on. This is just a small sampling of countries besides the US where the government is stepping beyond any reasonable bounds to stifle political dissent. Of these four countries, three are significantly less free than the US today and serve, in various ways, as examples of what governments should not do (the case of Thailand is extra complicated, since with their eternal coups and factions it’s hard to even tell who should be considered the government at any given time.) The fourth country, Taiwan, is particularly complicated case. A military dictatorship and full on police state until fairly recently, Taiwan is a new democracy that was ranked an impressive #32 in last year’s Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. But the current administration is a return to the formerly dictatorial KMT, and there are serious worries over the possibility of recidivism. In the same ranking, the US was given a dismal 48- having slid precipitously from #17 in the 2002 Index.

Protesting in a police state

In July of 2005, when I was living in New Brunswick, NJ, finishing up my studies at Rutgers University, the apartment shared by my friend Ted and his then-wife Janice (they have since divorced for unrelated reasons) in neighboring town Highland Park was raided by a SWAT team of the FBI and New Jersey Joint Terrorism Taskforce, which took a wide variety of their property including any computers or related material, as well as their BBQ. Ted himself was never charged with a crime, and in fact was not even being investigated or targeted, but Janice had been targeted for her animal rights protest activities, which naturally included a lot of relatively harmless shouting at people who did not want to be shouted at, and in places where they did not want outsiders to enter. The actual charges against Janice were, in fact, the real offenses of trespassing and criminal mischief (i.e. spray painting graffiti on the fence of an executive of a company responsible for animal testing), but the police response to these minor offences was grotesquely out of proportion.

Continue reading Protesting in a police state

Welcome to the China Maul

Roy and I were walking in the Nippombashi area of Osaka when we stumbled across a suspicious-looking cigarette machine. The first thing we noticed was that it wasn’t wired for Taspo age-verification cards (as it legally should be). Then we noticed it was selling Chinese cigarettes (Chunghwas, to be exact).

Chinese cigarette vending machine

Upon further examination, we realized that the cigarette machine was not actually working, which explained why it wasn’t wired for Taspo. Or perhaps not being wired for Taspo explained why it wasn’t working.

Anyway, it turns out that we had not only stumbled across a Chinese cigarette machine–it was guarding the entrance to a seven-story Chinese superstore called the “Shanghai China Maul.”

"China Maul"

This was not the only Engrish on display: there were “flesh vegetables” on sale upstairs. Besides cigarettes and vegetables, the place also has:

  1. A massive karaoke room which was apparently running at night for public singing orgies (free for ladies, ¥1,000 for men)
  2. Right above the main lobby, there’s an immigration lawyer (gyosei shoshi) and Softbank sales agent working next to each other at very similar-looking open counters. I guess this is so you can get your Japanese visa and your mobile phone in one place…
  3. The top floor is a well-stocked Chinese bookstore with a special shelf for Hong Kong news magazines (i.e. Chinese media banned on the mainland), but curiously very little content from Taiwan other than music.
  4. One floor was covered with what I can only describe as “random crap,” among it suitcases, electric fans, wooden tables and an oddly-twisted female mannequin torso.

Inside the China Maul

And here you can see Roy wondering aloud why he didn’t bring his digital SLR from Kyoto:

Inside the China Maul

PLA’s performance in earthquake good sign for Taiwan?

With enough time having passed since the massive earthquake disaster in China to being to look at it analytically, a number of military experts are saying that the People’s Liberation Army response was, for the most part, enthusiastic but not very competent.

Mr. Blasko and other experts said that because the military did not have heavy-lift helicopters, vital equipment like excavators and cranes had to be brought in on roads obstructed by landslides, slowing the pace of the rescue operations.

Shen Dingli, a leading security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the military’s response did not reflect well on the military’s preparedness for a potential war with, say, Taiwan, the independently governed island that China claims as its sovereign territory. China’s air force deployed 6,500 paratroopers to Sichuan, but only 15 ended up dropping into the disaster zone, military officials said, because of bad weather and forbidding mountain terrain. Mr. Shen called the effort too little and too late.

“The air force should have been able to get troops into Wenchuan in two hours,” he said, referring to a county near the quake’s epicenter. “It took 44 hours. If it took them 10 hours, that’s understandable. But 44 hours is shameful.”


I’m certainly no military expert, but if the Chinese air force achieved a nearly 100% failure rate on air drops in domestic territory with no enemy fire, and took 20 times as long as they should have to actually get their people in, I would think that Taiwan’s chances of fending off an attack might be a lot better than had been assumed over the past few years. I am actually rather surprised to read about how poorly equipped the PLA is, considering how much ink has been spilled recently on China’s rapid military investment. Is all of the money going into Navy, missiles, and attack aircraft or something? While the 1000 or so missiles pointed at Taiwan might cause some damage to the island, I would also imagine that a “lack of heavy-lift helicopters and transport aircraft” would make an actual invasion more than a little impractical.

With the unrealstic promise by the KMT to reinvade China long abandoned, Taiwan can be perfectly secure without the ability to send ground forces into China, as long as they have the ability to fend off air and sea attacks-particulary if their medium/long range missiles that could allegedly blow the Three Gorges Dam are as effective as they claim. But China isn’t worried about attacks from Taiwan-their military planning is largely aimed at preparing for an invasion of the island-and if they can’t even bring a few thousand rescue workers into a domestic disaster area faster than 44 hours, they would have very little hope indeed of delivering the numbers of troops needed to occupy Taiwan before US aircraft carriers arrived.

Ma administration already beginning “rectification of names”?

Over a year ago I wrote two posts on pro-independence President Chen Shui Bian’s (陳水扁) campaign of “rectification of names (正名)”, in which various agencies, school texts, and other labels were renamed to suggest an affiliation with Taiwan rather than China.

Taiwan rectifies names in new history textbook: January 31, 2007

More on rectification of names in Taiwan: February 7, 2007

Where the now former president Chen is a member of the pro-localization Democratic Progressive Party (DPP-民進黨 ) and himself of the more radical localization/independence faction, the new president Ma Ying-jiu (馬英九) is a member of the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT-國民黨), and may make Chinese appeasement an aspect of his administration’s policy. This could easily include reversals of DPP iniatives such as the renaming of national corporations (post, oil, etc.) and the removal of former dictator Chaing Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) name from both the Taipei area airport which formerly bore his name, and to the grand Ming imperial tomb-inspired complex now currently knows as Democracy Memorial Hall (臺灣民主紀念館), but originally constructed as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (蔣介石紀念館) following his death. While one can understand why Taiwanese democrats (small ‘d’) might object to the former dictator being memorialized in the style of the Ming Emperor’s (although his body is not buried there), it is also easy to see why some members of the KMT-Chiang’s political party-objected to the alteration, and why there is bound to be at least some amount of lobbying for a new executive order to change it back, now that their party has retaken the presidency.

One of the most notable of these renamings was the change of the national postal system from Chunghwa Post- which means China Post (中華郵政) to Taiwan Post (臺灣郵政). While this change has not (yet?) been reversed, it is possible that Taiwan may be in for a round of doubly confusing name flip-flops and reversals. As the Taipei Times reported on the day of Ma’s inauguration (yesterday, May 21)

Forty-year-old Mr Chen waited for two hours before he could put his hands on the sets he had ordered. He said he had purchased the stamps not only because Ma was president, but also because the Chinese characters for “Republic of China” were once again on the stamps.

Last year, the stamps issued by Taiwan Post Co only bore the name Taiwan.

Is this merely an example of the Taiwan Post Co honoring the new chief executive by printing his portrait next to the official name of the country he now leads, or a foreshadowing of a larger restoration of China -oriented names by the new administration? How deeply has Chen’s rectification of names really penetrated in Taiwan? Do most people prefer the localized names to the ones matching the country’s official name of Republic of China? How much has the necessity for campaigning in competitive elections with an electorate made up mostly of ethnic Taiwanese really changed the formerly mainlander-dominated KMT? And where does technically-mainlander but Taiwan-raised pragmatic Ma fit into this? Unfortunately, I have not been in Taiwan for over two years now and I really do not have a very solid sense of how most people have been reacting to these issues recently. It may be safe to predict that Ma will not be renaming any more “China” such-and-such to “Taiwan” such-and-such, but whether he will let all of the recent changes stand is another question entirely.

Remembering the Railway of Death

About a week ago the New York Times had an article entitled “Seeking Recognition for a War’s Lost Laborers” on the lack of recognition for the Asian victims of Japanese forced labor in the construction of the famous “Railway of Death.” According to the article, the history of the 200,000-300,000 Asians who were employed, and often killed, in the construction of the railway, which was being constructed to link Bangkok and the Burmese (Myanmarese) capital of Rangoon (Yangon) to provide logistical support for Japan’s invasion of Southeast Asia, has been almost completely overshadowed by stories of the smaller number of Western POWs.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Asian laborers — no one knows the exact number — were press-ganged by the Japanese and their surrogates to work on the rail line: Tamils, Chinese and Malays from colonial Malaya; Burmans and other ethnic groups from what is now Myanmar; and Javanese from what is now Indonesia.

“It is almost forgotten history,” said Sasidaran Sellappah, a retired plantation manager in Malaysia whose father was among 120 Tamil workers from a rubber estate forced to work on the railway. Only 47 survived.


By contrast, the travails of the 61,806 British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners of war who worked on the railway, about 20 percent of whom died from starvation, disease and execution, have been recorded in at least a dozen memoirs, documented in the official histories of the governments involved and romanticized in the fictionalized “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the 1957 Hollywood classic inspired by a similarly named best-selling novel by Pierre Boulle.

One reason given for this inequality of historical memory are that virtually none of the Asian victims were from Thailand, giving the local government little incentive to commemorate them. Another is that, unlike the American and British POWs who wrote memoirs and gave countless interviews to journalists and historians, virtually none of the Asian laborers were literate, and they lacked ready access to mass media.

At this point, I would like to present some photos I took at a very peculiar museum that Adam, his (now) wife Shoko, and I visited when we were in Kanchanaburi, the location of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Jeath War Museum (JEATH is an acronym for Japan, English, American and THai) is a rather eccentric museum based on the collection of a wealthy Japanese history buff, who apparently purchased a building a number of years ago, stocked it haphazardly with local WW2 memorabilia of both great and small interest, and has not had arranged to have it cleaned since.

First, some photos from outside the museum itself.

This is a picture of the famous Bridge which I quite like.

Here are Adam and Shoko posing with the bridge behind them. I do not know the sleeping man, but I have to assume that he is a war criminal of some kind.

This is a silly little train which lets  tourists ride across the bridge and 1 or 2km into the jungle on the other side, and then ride backwards to the other side.

I blurrily snapped this memorial obelisk in the jungle across the river, from aforementioned silly train. It says something along the lines of “the remains of the Chinese army ascend into heaven.”

This plaque is location near the bridge. I did not, however, see one for the British POWs, although I certainly could have just missed it.

And now we reach the museum portion of our tour. I do not seem to have any photographs of the entrance area, but the first thing you see upon approaching the entrance to the museum proper are these statues of historical figures, with biography written on the wall behind them. I will transcribe the highly amusing text another time.

Here is Tojo.

Adam and Shoko again, with their good friends Josef Stalin and General Douglas MacArthur.

The lovable Albert Einstein gets a wall as well.

Inside the museum we are confronted with more dramatic statues, such as this tableau of POWs constructing the railway.

Here is one in a cage. Note the real straw.

Eerie closeup of another caged POW statue’s face.

Adam and his new friend, the WW2-era Japanese soldier driving an old car.

The driver.

Another old car. I do not recognize the make, but it is covered in dust that may weigh as much as the steel.

US Army signal core teletypewriter

Recreation of Japanese army tent

Read the text carefully. Do you know when the CD was invented?

A message from Japan to the Thai people. It’s a bit hard to read, so if anyone wants I can transcribe it.

A British anti-Japan political cartoon

Overall, the museum is a complete shambles. While it has a huge array of cool stuff, it is strewn about almost at random, covered in dust, and sometimes behind other stuff. Not to mention placed in crowded and un-lit cases with poor labeling. Despite the numerous flaws, it is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area, but I can’t say that it will do much to provide any sort of historical narrative, and certainly does not even try to meet the standard hoped for by the Times article I began this post with.

Visas I have known

This is the first visa in my passport, the student visa from when I studied abroad at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan in 2002. Note that although it is a multiple entry vis, in Japan one still must obtain a re-entry permit sticker at the local immigration bureau to be placed in one’s passport before leaving the country, or the visa becomes invalid. Naturally, this is an extra fee.

This is my first tourist visa for the People’s Republic of China. Note that unlike the Japanese visa, it actually uses Chinese characters the fill out some of the fields, most notably the “Issued at” field, which is marked “Osaka.” In fact, I applied for this visa at a very strange “travel agency” office around the corner from the Japan immigration bureau in Kyoto, which in addition to accepting applications for visas to China also serves the role of selling the payment stamps which one must use to pay fees at the Japan immigration bureau in lieu of actual cash when paying for such things as reentry permits or visa extensions.

The only differences from the first one is that A: this one is double entry, so I could reenter China after my bus trip to Kazakhstan from Urumqi, and that it was glued to my passport in an extremely crooked fashion.

This is actually two separate, but related documents. The yellow thing is my tourist visa for Kazakhstan, and the blue thing above it is the “Registration Certificate” that non residents are required to keep in their passports until they leave the country. Notice that the visa is glues, and the certificate is stapled so it can be removed. It is, however, too cool to remove. The Kazakh visa is notable for a couple of things. First of all, it is handwritten-the only 21st century visa I have ever seen which is. Secondly, the “Inviting Organization” of “Sunrise Travel.” One cannot just apply for a Kazakh tourist visa like with most countries-instead you must have a letter of “invitation.” Tourist agencies, such as Sunrise Travel, will provide these letters for a small fee-I believe it was on the order of US $20.

There is an item I wish I could place right next to mine, and there is a story to it. My traveling companion on this particular trip was “Saru”, formerly also a contributor to this site. For some reason instead of indicating a one month span as I did on my visa application, he listed the exact seven-day period we had been planning to be there. Unfortunately, he got the range slightly off, so that if we had actually left on the date indicated on his passport we would just barely miss the local celebration of Nauryz-the biggest public holiday of the year! Obviously, this would have been extremely undesirable, so on the day after we arrived in Almaty, our local friends with whom we were staying took us to the office of this Sunrise Travel who had “invited” us to the country and asked how to resolve it.

Saru asked, “what happen if I overstay my visa?”

In reply, the tall, somewhat manly Russian woman with coarse black hair and a gigantic mole on her nose laughed heartily saying, “you go to jail!”

In the end, for a moderate fee she managed to work something out for Saru, but it was a rather odd solution. Instead of an extension to his tourist visa, or even a new tourist visa, she got him a business visa, which kicked in the day after the tourist visa ended. A one-day business visa. It looks much like the tourist visa, except for being blue, but I imagine that a single day business visa for Kazakhstan must be very nearly unique in the history of travel.

This is my “Visitor Visa” for Taiwan (legal name, “Republic of China”). I went there to study Mandarin in Taipei immediately following my undergraduate graduation from Rutgers University on a Taiwan government Summer term scholarship for Mandarin study, originally planning only to stay for the three-month Summer term. You may notice that the Duration of Stay is only 60 days. This is because a Visitor Visa has a term of only 60 days, which may be extended twice, for a total stay of 180 days. Why was I on a Visitor Visa instead of a Student Visa? Due to a very peculiar visa system, Taiwan does not actually HAVE such a thing as a Student Visa-only Visitor and Resident. Although a full time university student from abroad would qualify for a Resident Visa, since ordinary Chinese language schools there only enroll on a quarterly basis, language students are issued Visitor Visas. But what if you want to stay and study for longer than 180 days? The answer is below.

This is my Resident Visa for The Republic of China (Taiwan). After studying in Taiwan on a Visitor Visa for four months, one is eligible to apply for a Resident Visa. Once you have a Resident Visa, you are then eligible to apply for the ARC (Alien Registration Card) and upon having that, to the national health system (which incidentally works very much like the one in Japan).

The entire system is absurdly cumbersome, with Visitor Visa extensions and ARC applications being handled by an office of the county or city police, but the Resident Visa application being handled by the immigration department, in an entirely different part of the city (at least in the case of Taipei). Visitor visa extensions for language study also require the submission of an attendance tracking form, which one obtains from the administrative office of the language school. If a student has more than a couple of absences, they may then be subject to questioning and browbeating by a member of the foreigner registration section of the Taiwan police.

All in all, it is extremely bureaucratic, containing a number of overly complex and supervisory elements which I suspect (but do not know) are based in the former police state period of Chiang Kai Shek’s regime.

After leaving Taiwan, I got a job working in the office of the College of Information Science and Engineering at Ritsumeikan University’s Biwako Kusatsu Campus, near Kyoto. Although the contract was technically only for one year, it was of a type commonly renewed twice, which I suppose explains why I was granted a 3-year visa.

This is the one I got yesterday.