Saturday, April 24, 2010

Taiwan's Naturist Passport

A Taiwanese performance artist has launched a "naturist passport" in the hope of rallying enough support for a demonstration calling for nude beaches on the island.
The story was frontpage news Saturday in the China Times, one of Taiwan's four main Chinese-language daily newspapers, and also made it on to the 24-hour television news stations.
In a frontpage picture, female performance artist Juan Jen-chu posed with a huge copy of what looked like your average Taiwanese identity card, with the national flag in one corner, but with a picture that obviously showed she wasn't wearing much clothes during the photo shoot. The passport bore the number 001, while a 70-year-old man who returned from Canada has the 002 passport.
Three articles inside the paper expanded on Juan's ideas and on the subject of naturism in Taiwan, a densely populated island of 23 million people with nevertheless still some beautiful remote sceneries and small islands. Juan gained national fame when she posed nude at a public arts festival in the southern city of Kaohsiung as part of a performance. Naturists in Taiwan are being treated like gays, she says, people respect their rights but prefer not to have one in the family. She would like to recruit "hundreds" of people to apply for the passport and hold a march for the legalization of nude beaches. Under present Taiwanese law, all public nudity is being treated as obscene and can result in legal action. Another naturist activist has declared the last Sunday of each August as "Taiwan Naturist Day," but so far without large publicity.
Most of present naturist activities take place inside small hotels and bed & breakfast places in the mountainous central county of Nantou, in sparsely populated Taitung on the southeast coast, and in the Penghu archipelago half way between Taiwan's main island and China. The country counts about three web sites dedicated to naturism, with four or five independent naturist groups with a total of 200 to 300 people, according to the China Times.
Like on all other fronts, Taiwan also makes contacts with China on the naturism front. One of the top supporters of naturism in the communist country, Fang Gang, reportedly visited Taiwan to learn from its modest experience with naturism. Fang wants an island in southern Guangdong Province, the Zhuhai Temple Bay Island near Macau, to set up a naturist beach.
As to Taiwan, Penghu once considered the possibility of a naturist beach. The islands - mostly famous for being mentioned in the movie "Spy Games" with Brad Pitt and Robert Redford - have taken a more conservative turn, the China Times reports. On the contrary, Taitung County has some supporters. The current county government chief secretary, Chen Chin-hu, says the region is extremely well suited to host relaxing and environmentally friendly activities. As long as the law is respected, he sees no problem with setting up special naturist areas in either the mountains or on the coast. County council member Huang Chiu-tsai once mentioned a special naturist area as a way to promote tourism to the region.
Two private naturist groups reportedly visit Taitung four or five times a year, a hotel owner told the paper. Such activities can be healthy, natural and legal, he concludes in the China Times report.

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