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Culture Ministry sets talks on CSSTA impact on publishing
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-17 12:29 PM
Ten noted writers have sent a letter to Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai expressing their concern over the Cross-strait Service Treaty Agreement (CSSTA) and its potential impact on the publishing and printing industries as well as the basic right of freedom of speech in Taiwan. In response, Lung appeared before the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee Wednesday morning and was asked by DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei how the ministry would respond to the letter. Lung said the ministry will hold three forums in late April and May and she will personally oversee two of the forums herself. The forums are intended to serve as a platform to hear the views of intellectuals and artists and understand more about some of the possible implications of a trade pact on service industries .

Backed by a petition signed by 1423 members of 53 different artistic and cultural groups, the letter pointed out that the cultural sector of Taiwan’s society provides spiritual food for the whole community. It has always been a battleground for struggles over political control, the writers noted, and negotiators must keep in mind that it is a “cultural exception” that is to be distinguished and treated differently from other service industries. It is a special category, they argued, which cannot be generalized and lumped together with other categories of goods or services.

The letter noted that while the current version of CSSTA calls only for opening up the printing industry and sales channels, "this does not mean it will not be further expanded in the future." Including the printing industry will inevitably affect the publishing industry as well, said the writers. For instance, implementing the terms of the pact would mean that publishers in Taiwan would have to purchase ISBN numbers from China, where all ISBN numbers are the property of the state-run press. This would impose severe restrictions on what authors in Taiwan are able to publish and would lead to uneasiness and growing self-censorship on the part of writers on the island. Such a situation, they noted, would "instill a little bit of fear in the soul of every writer."

The representatives of the artistic community expressed their hopes that Minister Lung would look at this issue from an intellectual viewpoint and "fight for our rights, quell our doubts and ease our fears." They urged her to acknowledge that publishing and printing and related sales channels are all closely interlocking and inter-related entities and that they are innate parts of culture that the Ministry of Culture cannot ignore.

Lung said the ministry will invite representatives from industry and the arts in the forums to gauge their opinions on publishing including single pricing systems, publishing industry surveys, independent bookstores and other issues and conduct in-depth discussion and exchanges regarding the overall industry.

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