A night at the presidential office: Taiwan enlists YouTubers to help with PR

UNTV News   •   December 20, 2019   •   306

Polish Youtubers Natalia Sitarska (L) and Lukasz Smolinski (R) display their card pass at the entrance of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Taiwan, 19 December 2019 (issued 20 December 2019). The couple spent a night inside the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Taiwan, 19 December 2019. EFE-EPA/RITCHIE TONGO

TAIPEI, TAIWAN – Spending a night in Taiwan’s presidential office building has become a thrill among some of the world’s most popular ‘YouTubers’ over the second half of the year, when the island’s government came up with a campaign to increase its visibility in the real world through the help of the Internet.

Earlier this year, cross-ministerial meetings in Taipei saw tourism and foreign affairs representatives brainstorming on how to break through China’s long-term efforts to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty in the international community.

Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, welcomed the concept, which was inspired by an initiative launched by the Louvre Museum in Paris and Airbnb – an online marketplace that arranges private short-term lodging – to let people stay one evening in the museum’s pyramid.

In May, Tsai’s entourage released a video of her inviting people to spend a night in her office’s building, without any other details disclosed.

“The campaign’s preliminary started when we released the invitation video. Since Taiwan is the first to do such a thing, it becomes defined as a country throughout the cyber world,” said Lee Hou-ching, the deputy secretary-general of the General Association of Chinese Culture, the civilian organization in charge of the campaign’s production.

“The video received over 5.5 million views within a month since it was released. That is a number that was not equaled by the sum of all the videos’ views made by the president’s entourage. Requests to spend a night in the presidential office came from everywhere in the world, especially celebrities and YouTubers from Japan. Now this is going to be real, what are we going to do?” said Lee.

One of the most difficult aspects was the coordination between government agencies, especially with the office of the president – the palace is one of the most safely-guarded places in Taiwan due to its political importance dating back to the island’s colonial past and its value as a historical monument, according to Lee.

The selection method was made public mid-August. Applicants were asked two questions: “Why do you want to visit Taiwan?” and “How are you going to promote Taiwan?”

When the deadline arrived on Aug. 31, the GACC counted 167 applications from YouTubers and Internet celebrities from 33 different countries.

Among the shortlisted, the GACC chose 10 sets of some of the world’s most influential Internet personalities with significant traffic on their own channels.

The lucky 10 were made up of Kim Juhyeok, a Korean travel photographer and blogger; Ishii Mikiko, a Japanese author and travel blogger; Robert Revesz and Lea Kenesei, who work for Hungary’s biggest travel media, “Turizmus”; Aakash Malhotra and Aparajita Misra, who operate the online marketplace “WanderWithSky” in India, and Calvin Young and Sabrina Walker, a hearing-impaired couple from the United States and Germany who tell their travel stories on Facebook.

In addition, the final selection included Kanisorn Pringthonfoo and Varaporn Rasmeekajorndej, a Thai couple who publish their travel photos on several social platforms; Victor Habchy and Ali Lair, both photographers and photojournalists from France; Nuseir Yassin and Alyne Tamir from Israel and the US, respectively, who manage the “Nas Daily” channel with over 14 million subscribers; Lukas Dean Martin and Sabrina Frances Davidson from Canada, who publish Chopstick Travel, a brand that mainly focuses on food; and Natalia Sitarska and Lukasz Smolinski from Poland, who manage a well-known food blog and run a Taiwanese bubble tea chain store in the Eastern European country.

“Every set of selected YouTubers are all very excited when they set foot in the presidential office. They don’t stop mesmerizing about the architecture and the ambiance in the building. We often have to remind them to calm down and lower their voice,” said Evangeline Tang, GACC’s Media and Communication Supervisor.

Smolinski, the Polish food blogger, appreciated the “Japanese touch” of the room he stayed in with his wife Natalia Sitarska. “The first impression was the smell of the tatami, like in Japan.”

At the earliest, the YouTubers are allowed to check into their suite – a former duty-room for the OOP’s military personnel who needed a place to rest and stay– at 3 pm on a Wednesday.

They are then given a short tour of the suite by personal butlers provided by Caesar Park Hotel Taipei, and they are shown around the prestigious building until 6 pm when the tourism bureau takes them out for dinner at a Michelin restaurant in Taipei.

Back in their room (to which they have to return before 10 pm), they are met with a surprise: a mid-night snack and a welcome letter from president Tsai in person.

“I appreciated the midnight snack. They were some kind of sweet Taiwanese buns. I ate two. They were good,” said Sitarska.

The next morning, the butlers wake them up at 6 am sharp. The guests are invited to the daily national flag-raising ceremony – if they feel like witnessing it – at 6.15. For breakfast, they can choose between the traditional Chinese-style “youtiao” (deep-fried dough stick) with soymilk, beef noodle soup or continental breakfast.

“To our surprise, no one has ever chosen the Western continental in the nine YouTuber sets we attended. The most popular is the ‘youtiao.’ Still, two chose the beef noodle soup, which we normally have for lunch or dinner,” said Tang.

After a guided tour in the building to learn about Taiwan’s development from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, they meet with a reporter of Taiwan’s Central News Agency for an exclusive interview on their unique experience.

“When doing this campaign, the GACC’s staff members feel a lot of emotions, especially when receiving and entertaining those YouTubers. But the rational aspect of it is what we are looking for, which is to let Taiwan have a dialogue with the rest of the world,” said Tang.

No alcohol, lighters or knives are allowed inside the presidential office. EFE-EPA

China confirms 830 novel coronavirus cases, 25 deaths

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020

Medical staff transfers a patient at Hospital of Wuhan Red Cross Society in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, 23 January 2020 (issued 24 January 2020). The outbreak of coronavirus has so far claimed 25 lives and infected more than 800 others, according to media reports. Authorities have extended a travel ban to eight cities in Hubei province, Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuan in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has so far been detected in the USA, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan.

The death toll from China’s new coronavirus has risen to 25, and the number confirmed cases in the Asian country to 830, the National Health Commission reported Friday.

At midnight local time (16:00 GMT on Thursday), the agency said that during the 23rd day, eight new deaths and 259 new cases were confirmed, affecting 29 provinces and autonomous regions throughout the country.

For the first time, a death was recorded in the province of Hebei, in the northeast, surrounding Beijing. Until then all victims had been registered in the province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan, a city of about 11 million people and the epicenter of the outbreak.

At least 177 patients are in serious condition, while 34 have been discharged.

The health authorities carried out medical follow-ups with 9,507 people who had been in close contact with the infected, with 8,420 of those still under observation.

Wuhan has been on lockdown since Thursday to prevent further spread of the virus.

The authorities of other Hubei cities Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijiang and Lichuan are now also subject to travel bans, the Hong Kong South China Morning Post said Friday.

In Wuhan, the Didi shared taxi service will also stop operating at midday local time (04:00 GMT time) at the request of the city’s outbreak command authority.

Outside of China, the Beijing source said that two of the four cases diagnosed in Thailand have been cured. There are also two cases in Japan, and one case each in the United States and Singapore.

Vietnam late Thursday confirmed its first cases. In Ho Chi Minh City, two tourists traveling from Wuhan — a 66-year-old father and his 28-year-old — son were hospitalized and underwent a series of tests to confirm the infection.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement Thursday night that both men are recovering and in “good condition.”

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged the authorities to implement a series of security measures to prevent new cases, as well as increased controls at airports and border posts.

South Korea confirmed Friday a second case of infection in a 55-year-old South Korean who had been working in Wuhan and fell ill there, before he returned to Seoul on Wednesday where he was detected during screening at Gimpo airport, according to the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 35-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in Seoul from Wuhan was reported as the first case on Monday.

Taiwan also has a case, although Chinese authorities consider Taiwan a province of China and therefore include it in the national count.

The symptoms of the new coronavirus, called 2019-nCoV provisionally by the World Health Organization (WHO), are in many cases similar to those of a cold, but may be accompanied by fever and fatigue, dry cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath).

For its part, the WHO on Thursday decided against declaring an international emergency, although it asked China to increase surveillance in an epidemic that poses a “very high” risk nationally and internationally. EFE-EPA


China records 9 coronavirus deaths, 440 confirmed cases

UNTV News   •   January 22, 2020

A woman checks the mask on her child outside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, 21 January 2020. EFE/EPA/YUAN ZHENG

By Javier Triana

– The death toll from the new coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, has increased to nine with 440 confirmed cases, the country’s National Health Commission reported Wednesday.

At midnight local time on Tuesday (16.00 GMT), 13 provinces had confirmed the 440 cases of infection, and the nine deaths were all located in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, NHC vice-minister Li Bin said Wednesday at a press conference in Beijing.

This hikes the casualty figures by three deaths and 149 people infected since the last report published on Tuesday.

The city of Wuhan has a population of 11 million people and is the epicenter of the outbreak of the new type of coronavirus (2019-nCov). It causes what is known as “Wuhan pneumonia” which, authorities said on Monday, can be spread through human contact.

Li said there is a possibility that the virus — the transmission route of which is yet to be completely traced — could mutate and that the epidemic could spread, but that no “super transmitter” with the capacity to infect many people from a single case has been detected.

He expressed concern about the spread of infection that could occur throughout Chinese New Year, the holiday period that officially begins Friday and constitutes the largest human migration on the planet, with tens of millions of Chinese returning to their hometowns.

He said: “During Chinese New Year, the surge [in people moving around the country] increases the risk of the epidemic’s spread and the difficulty of prevention and control. We must not take it lightly,”

However, Li said that the response of health services to the disease has managed to keep “fatalities and cases at a minimal level.”

“We have confidence we will defeat this disease,” the official concluded.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s president Tsai-Ing Wen called on China to make fully transparent all its information on the virus to help other countries take proper measures to prevent its spread.

Taiwan has reported one confirmed case of the virus — a Taiwanese woman returning to the island from a business trip to Wuhan.

The patient reportedly felt ill for days before her trip home but wore a face mask on the return flight. She was quarantined on arrival and hospitalized.

Tsai said the woman was in a stable condition.

Taiwanese medical personnel are working with airline companies to detect potential cases of fever on board planes, a symptom of the SARS-like Wuhan virus along with difficulty breathing.

The World Health Organization has scheduled a Wednesday meeting to determine whether the current outbreak of coronavirus in China constitutes an international emergency.

Japan and South Korea have also reported one case each, while two others had already been confirmed in Thailand with another two announced Wednesday.

The United States announced its first case Tuesday, with the affected person hospitalized last week after experiencing symptoms of pneumonia and, according to US authorities, is in a stable condition after having recently traveled to Wuhan, the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The patient returned from China on Jan. 15, two days before US authorities ordered all travelers entering from Wuhan to be monitored for viral illness at the airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. EFE-EPA


Taiwan feels for HK, stands against China’s ‘one country, two systems’ policy

Marje Pelayo   •   November 26, 2019

Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu during a briefing with members of international media in Taipei, Taiwan (November 22, 2019) Photo: Chris Narag / UNTV Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan – The months-long protest in Hong Kong may have ended with a victory for pro-democracy group but still, an influx of Hong Kong nationals seeking residency in Taiwan caught the attention of Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

MAC Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng in an interview on Thursday (November 22) said most Hong Kong nationals moved to Taiwan to invest, to get married to Taiwan citizens or mostly to study based on statistics from the National Immigration Agency (NIA).

The minister did not give a direct answer when asked if the recent influx of Hong Kong nationals to Taiwan was caused by the anti-government protests that lasted nearly six months.

Similar to Hong Kong, Taiwan also experiences diplomatic pressure from China and what happened to Hong Kong is a matter of concern not just to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Joseph Wu.

“The situation is very sad for us to see and if you look at the current situation it doesn’t seem to [have] an immediate solution to it,” he said in a meeting with reporters in Taipei.

“On the other hand, the demand of people of Hong Kong for more freedom or more democracy is not being met. And on the other hand, the Chinese seems to be ready to apply more control over Hong Kong,” he added.

Since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, Taiwan has been vocal in its opposition against China’s call for unification under “one country, two systems” policy similar to Hong Kong.  

Since then, several countries switched their allegiance from Taiwan to China as the latter announced it would refuse any diplomatic ties with any country that would recognize the former’s self-rule.

Just recently, two of Taiwan’s former allies, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands shifted recognition to China.

Wu accused China of making “false” aid promises such as billions-dollar worth of infrastructure projects to some of Taiwan’s former allies.

“To lure Taiwan’s allies to build ties with them, China often makes promises with huge amounts of money,” Wu said

“But we realize those promises were not fulfilled,” he added.

At present, only 15 countries recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty, most of them are less developed ones.

They are:

  1. Belize (1989)
  2. Guatemala (1960)
  3. Eswatini1 (1968)
  4. Haiti (1956)
  5. Honduras (1965)
  6. Marshall Islands (1998)
  7. Nauru (1980–2002, 2005)
  8. Nicaragua (1990)
  9. Palau (1999)
  10. Paraguay (1957)
  11. Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983)
  12. Saint Lucia (1984–1997, 2007)
  13. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1981)
  14. Tuvalu (1979)
  15. Vatican City (1942)

Recently, Tuvalu expressed their support for Taiwan despite offers from China.

President Tsai is seeking reelection in January 2020. If she wins, she vows to continuously defend Taiwan’s democracy. MNP (with inputs from Amiel Pascual)


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