Former president Chen’s medical parole was postponed while President Ma, caught in a legal battle over allegedly accepting off-the-book donations, proposed ‘reconciliation’ in the New Year. A hippo died, and scandals surrounding the previous week’s council speaker elections shocked the nation ahead of New Year’s Eve. The Thinking Taiwan Foundation wishes everyone a happy new year.
MA CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in his New Year’s Day address on Thursday that he was willing to reconcile and work with the opposition and to shoulder the responsibility for public grievances. Critics said Ma only offered “empty words.” The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nevertheless said it welcomed Ma’s support of a national affairs conference. See full text of Ma’s address here.
CHEN SHUI-BIAN’S PAROLE POSTPONED: Imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) anticipated medical parole did not materialize on New Year’s eve as the Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday that it would wait until Monday to decide. It blamed traffic problems for the delay in delivery of documents necessary to secure the former president’s release. The postponement resulted in protests in front of Taichung Prison, where Chen is incarcerated, and outside the Presidential Office. The DPP expressed concerns over the delay. Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) was hospitalized early Tuesday due to physical weakness after 81 hours of hunger strike to secure parole for Chen. Lu’s office said on Thursday that Lu has decided to end her hunger strike but would return to Taichung Prison on Monday.
MA SUES PUNDIT OVER DONATIONS CLAIM: President Ma filed criminal and civil lawsuits against political pundit Clara Chou (周玉蔻) through a lawyer on Tuesday, alleging that Chou slandered him by claiming that the president had received an off-the-books political donation from Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團). The Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office launched investigations into the matter, summoning a number of witnesses, including Chou, former deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) and deputy secretary-general of the People First Party Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) for questioning. The KMT stripped Chou of her party membership on Wednesday, citing the fact that Chou’s remarks had “tarnished the party’s image and reputation.”
WU SAYS ALL KMT ASSETS CLEAN: Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who is currently serving as acting KMT chairman, said that not a single asset currently owned by the party had been obtained improperly, dismissing longstanding allegations of improper ownership. New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) — the only candidate in the party’s chairmanship election later this month — said upon declaring his candidacy that the party “must return any ill-gotten assets to the nation.”
LATEST ON SPEAKER ELECTION SCANDALS: Amid the snowballing scandal over alleged vote buying in the Dec. 25 elections, DPP councilors rebelled against party instructions and positions, causing disarray in the DPP and a nationwide probe into rampant vote-buying allegations.
After a six-hour meeting, the DPP on Wednesday expelled five Tainan City councilors for voting against the party in the city’s council speaker election, which saw DPP candidate Lai Mei-hui (賴美惠) lose to Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the KMT despite the DPP having 29 councilors in the 57-seat council. Amid allegation that the surprising election outcome involved factional infighting at the DPP, DPP lawmaker Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) tearfully denied accusation that she had conspired to spark a revolt. All five expelled Tainan were members of the “One Side, One Country Alliance” (OSOC, 一邊一國連線), a sub-group of the party and of which Chen is a member.
The Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday also filed corruption charges to invalidate Lee’s victory in the Nov. 29 election, while prosecutors also began investigating allegations of vote buying involving some DPP city councilors.
DPP TO NOMINATE WU IN MIAOLI BY-ELECTION: The DPP said on Wednesday it would nominate legislator-at-large Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) for the Feb. 7 legislative by-election in Miaoli County. The announcement came after student leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) dropped out of the race following revelation of sexual harassment. The party had previously planned to endorse Chen’s campaign by not nominating its own candidate in the election.
The matchups in the five legislative by-elections are now set:
- Miaoli County: Wu Yi-chen, DPP vs. Hsu Chih-jung (徐志榮), former Gongguan Township chief, KMT
- Greater Taichung: Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書), incumbent city councilor, DPP vs. Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇), deputy secretary-general of the Executive Yuan, KMT
- Changhua County: Chen Su-yueh (陳素月), county councilor, DPP vs. Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源), former county commissioner, KMT
- Nantou County: Tang Huo-sheng (湯火聖), former lawmaker, DPP vs. Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華), incumbent Nantou City Mayor, KMT
- Pingtung County: Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄), former Taipei City councilor, DPP vs. Liao Wan-ju (廖婉汝), former lawmaker, KMT
MA BLAMES CHINA FOR FTA OBSTRUCTION: President Ma said on Saturday that many countries intended to sign free trade agreements (FTA) with Taiwan, but that they were intimidated by China.
TAIWAN-PHILIPPINES FISHING AGREEMENT: Taiwan and the Philippines are expected to soon sign an agreement covering law enforcement cooperation in fishing matters in their overlapping economic waters, a Taiwanese official said yesterday, adding that the pact was now under “final review.”
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
DEFENSE MINISTER TO BE REPLACED? Storm Media, an online news website, reported that Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) has twice tendered a resignation to President Ma and is to be replaced by Chief of General Staff Admiral Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) later this month. Army Commander Yen Teh-fa (顏德發) could take Kao’s position while deputy defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) is expected to take over as Army Commander. Air Force Commander Liu Chen-wu (劉震武) could be appointed deputy defense minister and his position could be filled by deputy chief of general staff Liao Jung-hsin (廖榮鑫).
‘TUO JIANG’ JOINS NAVAL EXERCISE: The recently commissioned Tuo Jiang-class corvette on Thursday joined other warships in combat exercises in Taiwan’s southern territorial waters.
CHINESE SMARTPHONES PASS NCC SECURITY TEST: The National Communications Commission said on Tuesday that none of the 12 mobile phones it selected for information security screening, including those made by China’s Xiaomi Corp, violated the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法). It was feared that Xiaomi devices could send user information back to the company’s servers in Beijing.
HIPPO DIES: A-ho, the male hippopotamus that sustained serious injuries when it fell from a moving truck as he was being transported to a zoo on Dec. 26, was found dead on Monday morning in Taichung. The story, which received global attention and was reported by numerous international media outlets, sparked heated debates over Taiwan’s animal protection efforts as well as government supervision of private zoos. The Taichung Prosecutors’ Office has launched an investigation into the matter.
TAIWANESE KILLED IN SHANGHAI STAMPEDE: The government said one Taiwanese was killed and two were injured in a stampede during New Year’s celebrations in the city’s historic waterfront area on Wednesday night, in which 36 people are reported to have died. The three Taiwanese work for the same accounting firm and were visiting China, the Straits Exchange Foundation said.
LAWSUITS OVER SUNFLOWER EVICTION DISMISSED: The Taiwan High Court rejected lawsuits filed by protesters against several senior officials, including President Ma, former premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞), for “attempted murder” during a violent riot police crackdown against protesters at the Executive Yuan on March 24 last year. A coalition of activists groups criticized the decision.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at email@example.com.