Plane crash in Magong (Taiwan), dozens dead

This is bad. Most people in Taiwan were happy that typhoon Matmo gave them a day off today and spent the day at home, watching strong winds and rain through the windows. Now in the evening comes the shocking news that around 7 p.m. a passenger plane crashed in Magong (Makung), capital of Taiwan’s Penghu islands (Pescadores), while attempting an emergency landing.

It’s not clear yet which part the weather conditions played, but right now it’s hard to think of different reasons. According to Taiwanese news agency CNA, there were 54 passengers and 4 crew on board the Trans Asia ATR 72 turboprop plane when it crashed. Casualty numbers in the news are reaching from 45 to 51.

Update 22:23 p.m.: CNA gives the number as 47 dead, 11 injured.

I might have been sitting in the same plane

When I went to Penghu last September, I took this TransAsia plane.

Penghu Taiwan Plane

It might just be the one that crashed. So you can imagine how I feel about today’s news.

(Photo taken on the tarmac of Magong airport.)

Information on flight GE222

The plane that crashed was en route from Kaohsiung in south Taiwan to Magong, a flight which normally takes about 35 minutes. The distance of the flight is 83 miles, or 133 km. CNA has this information:

TransAsia flight GE 222
Aircraft type: ATR 72
From Kaohsiung (KHH) to Magong (MZG)
Original departure time: 4 p.m.
Actual departure time: 5:42 p.m.
Passenger: 54
Crew: 4

Source: Kaohsiung International Airport

You can find information on the crash at the Aviation Safety Network.

There’s something I find intriguing: If the plane took off at 5:42, and the flight was supposed to take 35 minutes, why did it only crash at 7 p.m., or even 7:15, according to that website? Why was the plane still in the air? If landing at Magong was not possible, why did it not turn back to Kaohsiung?

Since in Taiwan it’s the time of the summer holidays right now, I am afraid a number of the passengers could be vacationers, maybe families. Penghu, which features some spectacular beaches, is a popular domestic holiday destination for Taiwanese.

Bad news for Taiwan

I am worried that this tragedy will deal another blow to Taiwanese’ feeling of security after a killing spree on Taipei’s subway left four people dead in May.

While living in a politically precarious situation, Taiwanese are used to the idea that the world’s big catastrophes and tragedies are playing out elsewhere. People followed the news about the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in the Ukraine with the same feeling of shock as people everywhere in the world. Now their country has suddenly become the center of attention.

Natural disasters are an exception to the “happens elsewhere” rule – Taiwanese have a lot of experience with typhoons and earthquakes. There are reports that today’s typhoon caused heavy landslides in Taiwan’s mountaneous eastern region, so I am afraid we might wake up to even more bad news tomorrow.

Right now, everybody’s thoughts should be with the wounded and the families of the victims.

But some very uncomfortable questions will have to be asked:

  • Was the heavy weather responsible for the crash?
  • If yes, why was the plane allowed to take off?
  • Why did it not turn back when landing was not possible?

And one more thing: I hope Taiwanese media will show some decency when dealing with the survivors and the families of the dead. Please just leave them alone when they don’t want to talk to you.

Ingenious motorbike for wheelchair users

As you know, scooters are Taiwan’s most important and most popular means of transportation. Why should wheelchair users be excluded?

At the Chiayi High Speed Rail station, I recently came across this vehicle:

Scooter for Wheelchairs Taiwan

(click to enlarge)

Isn’t this great? They basically took a scooter, sawed it in half and (mehr…)

You haven’t seen a Taiwan calendar like this

Okay, I know it’s already March, but you probably still want to take a look at this very special 2014 photo calendar: Foreign students in Taiwan dressed up and had some really nice photos taken.

Foreign Students Taiwan Calendar

I recently met some of the people behind this project at an event at Ming Chuan University in Shilin.

Their calendar could be a nice present for your Taiwanese or non-Taiwanese friends!

It features 12 gorgeous glossy photos that (mehr…)

Let’s talk about Taiwan on YouTube

If you are interested in Taiwan and spent any time on YouTube recently, you probably noticed some very popular videos in which foreigners share their opinions about Taiwan, for example “Taiwanese Girls Are Not Easy” or “Taiwan’s Unreasonable Working Conditions”.

These videos are not only massively successful, they also offer perspectives on a lot of interesting questions. So who is the person behind this new voice in Taiwan’s social media sphere? I decided to find out and ask him why he is doing it.

Although this guy is the face of many of Stop Kiddin’ Studio’s most viewed videos, he is not the director.

American Taiwan Youtube Guy

Responsible for the videos is 30-year-old Johnny Chiang, a Taipei native who recently (mehr…)

Watch the videos & vote for the best Taipei 101 New Year’s Eve fireworks display

Every year, Taipei stages on of the world’s most spectacular fireworks displays at the landmark Taipei 101 skyscraper. This iconic tower has become a symbol for Taiwan.

Now it’s up to you to decide in which year Taipei put on the most spectacular fireworks show! In this video, you can compare the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Taipei 101 fireworks.

Vote now!

How Taiwan president Ma addressed the foreign press

The other day, the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club welcomed President Ma Ying-jeou to an international press conference. All members had the right to raise questions. After asking you, dear readers, I decided on one that I found especially important. Watch how Ma replied.

Cardboard President Ma

(No, this is not the real Ma on the photo. It’s a cardboard version at the Presidential Office. Although I would love to ask him if he likes my Doraemon shirt.)

Human rights in Taiwan: Suggestions that must not be forgotten

The question I decided to ask had been suggested in a comment by David Reid, an Australian blogger with a long interest in Taiwan.

It’s about the state of human rights in Taiwan and the government’s promise to voluntarily reach UN standards. Taiwan has ratified the United Nations’ human rights conventions, even though it cannot be a UN member. To show they are serious, the government in early 2013 invited an international group of reknown human rights scholars to review Taiwan’s first Human Rights Report and draw up suggestions on how to improve.

Human rights: Nowak, Wu, Ma

I met with the experts in Taipei. They told me that they were basically simulating an official UN Human Rights Council assessment, and that they had direct access to all kinds of civil rights groups during the process, taking their suggestions and complaints into account. They said they never had a comparable opportunity anywhere else, since usually the official UN assessments take place in Geneva and not on the ground. They praised the open and transparent way in which the Taiwanese government had structured the process.

Still, they did come up with a long list of suggestions (82 points) where Taiwan should revise its laws and regulations to better adhere to internationally accepted human rights standards, as laid out in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

You can download the complete Concluding Observations and Recommendations at the Ministry of Justice’s website. There, you’ll also find more background information.

Some time has passed since then, so I decided the time was right to find out what the government plans to do now, or if the list is going to end up in some office drawer. Also, I wanted to take the opportunity and remind my reporter colleagues of the subject.

So when, unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to ask Ma the very first question at the press conference, this was it:

Mr. President, earlier this year your government has invited a group of international human rights experts to come to Taiwan and review the human rights situation in Taiwan. They came up with a list of more than 80 suggestions on how to bring Taiwan’s laws more into line with international human rights standards. Very detailed. My question is: Which of those suggestions will you implement in the near future?

This is how the president replied (video):

As I somehow expected, Ma evaded mentioning any specific measures or areas with a need for improvement. He is media-savvy political professional, after all, and (like German chancellor Merkel), these guys really know how to duck questions they don’t want to answer.

Still, what I am taking away from his answer is:

  • Ma is familiar with the subject and was immediately able to come up with some relevant numbers and data
  • There will be an implementation report at some point in the future that I am looking forward to

Ask English, reply Chinese: The complete Q&A

After my first question, the Q&A went on. Ma, however, realized that despite his English ability, which is usually regarded as excellent, the original plan was to answer all questions in Chinese. So mine was the only question that got an English answer.

After he had originally been very fond of giving English interviews to the international press, Ma adopted this strategy after he felt being misquoted in an Associated Press interview in 2010.

Watch more videos of Ma Ying-jeou speaking English

So this is how the rest of the event played out. Most reporters focussed on Ma’s China policy and subjects like peace talks, political negotiations, military threats, and the trade and services agreement with China. However, there were also questions about gay marriage and Taiwan’s energy and nuclear policy.

You can jump directly to each question using the links in the video description.

Read more about the human rights reports

These are some texts I wrote about the human rights experts’ visit to Taiwan:

About me

I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this otherwise mostly German blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, and Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:

Nächste Seite »