Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Real estate that apparently does not exist

Scanning the news Web site of the state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) over the weekend, I was prompted to leave a comment on a news item about revelations that my former employer, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had omitted to inform the court — for seven years — that its principal source against Mohammed Harkat, a non-Canadian who had been put on a security certificate over suspicions he was a member of al-Qaeda, had failed a polygraph test.

But this entry isn’t about Harkat or CSIS. It’s about the fact that in order to be able to leave a comment, I had to register on the CBC Web site. Growing up in Canada and the proud son of a man who worked for the state broadcaster for about 30 years, I had always looked up to the CBC, and more than once had mulled the possibility of working there one day. Like any other Web site that requires registration, users must provide some information about themselves, including name, city, password and country. The CBC Web site allows one to type the city, but when it comes to the country, one must choose from a list.

I scrolled down past Canada, China, aiming for T. Switzerland, Syria … Tajikistan — wait, no Taiwan. Republic of China, maybe? Qatar … Romania. No luck. The dreaded “Chinese Taipei”? No. I scrolled up to China, expecting two entries, one with “Taiwan Province” attached next to it. Not even. According to the CBC, Taiwan (regardless of its many designations) does not exist, period. There is China and that’s it.

What did yours truly do next? He wrote to the CBC, of course, making a complaint that any reader of this blog would be familiar with and providing the usual historical, political and geographical arguments to make my point. Two days later, I received a reply from the moderator (you all know what’s coming):

Mr. Cole,

In this note to us, you flagged that Taiwan is not listed as a country when registering in the CBC Member Centre. We have followed the lead of the Canadian International Affairs department, which supports a 1 China policy. This is why Taiwan is not separately listed in our drop-down.

How often I have seen this in recent years, an organization “following the lead” of another body on the Taiwan/China question. Wikigender, about which I wrote on March 13, was “following” the OECD’s lead. In this present instance, the CBC “follows” the lead of Foreign Affairs Canada, which, I am told, “supports a 1 China policy.” That’s what the problem is — to many followers, not enough people of strong mettle who will take a stand.

It is quite ironic, too, that a respected news organizations like CBC news would refer to Foreign Affairs’ supporting a “1 China policy” when in fact the legal documents laying the basis of Canada-China relations stipulate that Canada takes note of Beijing’s contention that there is one China and that Taiwan is part of China. Ottawa takes note of that view, which implies even less support for Beijing’s contention than does Washington’s acknowledges in the Shanghai Communiqué.

Former Canadian minister of foreign affairs Maxime Bernier said at a meeting of the Asian heads of mission in Ottawa on March 12, 2008: “For almost 40 years, Canada has maintained a One China policy … We recognize the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole legitimate government of China. This remains the core of our China policy. It guides our bilateral relationship with the PRC.” In other words, Canada recognizes the government of the PRC as the sole legitimate government in China, but nowhere does it say that Taiwan is part of China.

Maybe Taiwan would have a better chance if people stopped seeking refuge behind some authority so that they won’t have to make their own decisions. In a way, this sheep-like following is very much akin to authoritarian systems in which the top dictates and everybody else below takes that cue, perpetuating it down the chain. No one has to think, no one is guilty if the policy causes damage. We were just following orders, the great, oft-used deresponsibilizer that lies behind so much injustice and atrocity.

I’ve come full circle. I did end up writing about CSIS after all.

Readers wishing to express their discontent with the CBC can do so online at www.cbc.ca/contact.


Dixteel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dixteel said...

Sad...to see that in a match up between CBC Vs. Starbucks, Starbucks actually wins. I guess expensive coffee does make a difference lol.

I will try to write to CBC...but given the response they already gave you, I doubt it will make a difference.

Άλισον said...

an excellent & probably rare collection of historical cartography of Formosa, interesting indeed!

Brian Schack said...

I went to www.cbc.ca/contact to leave a comment as you suggested, but found no drop-down country list. Perhaps your comment has had an effect after all (or was I looking in the wrong place?).

I too have had the same struggle, this time with Oxford University Press. Their "deresponsibilizer" was ISO 3166. The International Standards Organization gets its list from the UN (an organization which is not exactly known for its unbiased treatment of Taiwan).

Interestingly, a visit to the OUP website today (www.oup.com) shows the list labelled "choose your country or region", with Taiwan listed as neat as you please. Perhaps there is hope.

MikeinTaipei said...

Brian: Thanks for the comments. Glad to see that OUP corrected the error. On the CBC Web site, if you click the box "don't live in Canada?" it'll unlock the drop-down country list, from which Taiwan is still absent.