Adam Menon of Learn Chinese Online, whom I finally met in person a couple of weeks ago, was kind enough to send me his report on the Referendum conference held earlier this month. Posted with permission (sorry it took me so long!)

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Hi Michael,

I attended the Referendum conference yesterday and really enjoyed every moment of it. It was my first time attending such a conference so most of my comments reflect that.

You can see some pictures I took here:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=19709&l=ffc7b&id=610751756

When I got to the hotel, there was a heavy police presence as you might expect. We had to go through a metal detector to get into the conference room. There were about 10 agents (recognized by their earpieces) spread out in various seats across the room. When the president came in he was flanked by his security entourage who also spread out around the room. Two sat right behind him. The others stood in a row down the side eyeing everyone around the room.

It was interesting that I later spoke to one of the speakers (a Swedish national) who mentioned that most of this “security” was just for show and that if someone really wanted to do harm to the President, he felt it wouldn’t be hard to do so.

I was really impressed by the translators. We all had access to earpieces that translated the English to Chinese on one channel and the Chinese to English on the other channel. The English translator had a very clear voice and used very good English even while translating on the fly. What a great skill to have!

The conference itself featured speakers from East Timor (talking about the importance of the referendum there to help them gain independence), Switzerland (who leads the world in national referenda), various professors from Taiwan and in the Academia Sinica. Later sessions featured Lin Chia Lung, Secretary General for the DPP along with some of his colleagues, M. Dane Waters (US), and Boris Voyer (Canada) both from the Initiative and Referendum Institute (IRI). Voyer later mentioned that he also works for the GIO.

The round table at the end was very interesting as the panel featured some interesting questions. One person asked why the GIO doesn’t do anything about the foreign media always adding the “China and Taiwan split in 1949 during a civil war) to their articles. Linda Arrigo asked Lin Chia Lung why the DPP didn’t accept Yu Shi Kun’s version of the Normal Country resolution.

There was a very nice book prepared of all the speakers and their positions including very nice backgrounds on the referenda used in Taiwan and the KMT’s role in trying to prevent them, with lots of nice charts and statistics to back the positions.