Welcome to this week’s issue of the Taiwan Insider. While all eyes are on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the focus within Taiwan this past week was on what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said and did not say about Hong Kong, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) comments on “one country, two systems” and yet another misinterpreted comment by President Ma during an interview with foreign media.
HONG KONG PROTESTS: As the occupation continued, President Ma urged Beijing to “listen to the voices of Hong Kong people” and respond to their appeals for universal suffrage “in a peaceful manner, along with a cautious attitude.” Unsurprisingly, opposition parties and civic groups described his remarks as “soft and weak.”
Talking to reporters, Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁) said the protest was “Hong Kong’s business,” prompting accusations that Chen was “cold blooded.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) meanwhile urged Beijing to honor its promise of democratic elections for the people of Hong Kong, while legislators from the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) called on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to suspend talks with China.
DPP Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said on Tuesday that what is happening in Hong Kong could indirectly affect cross-strait engagement and that the DPP could have to re-evaluate its China policy if the situation in Hong Kong escalated.
In a rare instance of cooperation, lawmakers across party lines reached a resolution in the legislature, however, calling on Beijing and the Hong Kong government to respect the voice of Hong Kong people.
Taiwanese society showed strong support for the Hong Kong activists, with an estimated 5,000 people gathering at the Liberty Square in Taipei on Wednesday night to express their solidarity. “Today’s Hong Kong could be tomorrow’s Taiwan” was one of the slogans during the event.
Representatives of several civic groups and students also staged a protest in front of Hong Kong’s representative office in Taipei on Sunday night, leading to minor clashes with police in the morning.
Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), a student leader in the Sunflower Movement in March, argued in Foreign Policy magazine that the “Hong Kongization phenomenon” is already taking place in Taiwan.
ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS: Xi Jinping’s reiteration of the “one country, two systems” formula for Taiwan during a meeting with pro-unification groups from Taiwan last week was bombshell, as the idea has very little support in Taiwan. More importantly, Xi’s comment was a slap in the face for Ma, who has long argued that the “1992 consensus” and “one China with different interpretations” were the basis for cross-strait dialogue.
The opposition uttered the usual criticism, but President Ma has been rather silent on the issue. Storm Media noted that Ma has since stopped mentioning the 1992 consensus at public settings. This has left pundits speculating on whether the Ma administration has already sensed a possible change in Beijing’s direction, and that Ma could unveil a more sophisticated response in his National Day address on Oct. 10.
National Chengchi University professor Cheng Tuan-yao (鄭端耀) observed that Xi’s reiteration of Beijing’s position would not change even if the DPP returned to power in 2016. Tung Li-wen (董立文), a consultant for the New Frontier Foundation, the DPP think tank, opined that Xi could be abandoning the moderate approach Beijing has practiced in the past two years and focusing anew on “one country, two systems,” which Xi himself prefers. Tung added that the remark could be in retaliation for a recent push by several U.S. academics for a Ma-Xi meeting during the APEC leaders’ summit in Beijing later this year.
MA HIT BY BOOK: An 18-year-old university freshman threw a book at President Ma and hit him in the stomach on Sept. 26. Quite symbolically, the book was “Formosa Betrayed,” written by former American diplomatic officer George Kerr and published in 1965. The young man had bought a copy of the book just minutes before he decided to throw the book at Ma. The student, a supporter of Taiwan independence, alleged that Ma had sold out Taiwan. Several security officials were reprimanded for “security lapses” after the incident.
AL JAZEERA APOLOGIZES TO MA: This week saw yet another controversy over an interview between the president and foreign media. This time, The Qatar-based TV news channel has apologized to Ma for a mistranslation during an interview.
In the interview, Ma said in Mandarin that “Taiwan is the only place in the Chinese community where we are able to practice democracy.” However, the subtitle ran the translation as “the only place in China.”
The previous week, Deutsche Welle had apologized over an error in its report on Ma’s comments on unification.
CHINESE-MADE PHONE A RISK: National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairman Howard Shyr (石世豪) confirmed that two of Xiaomi Corp’s smartphones remained an information security risk even after the company upgraded its operating system.
KING PU-TSUNG ILL? The National Security Council (NSC) did not respond to a report in the Chinese-language Liberty Times claiming that NSC Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) recently underwent coronary artery stenting. The state-run Central News Agency quoted friends of King, Ma’s closest confidant, saying that King had recently taken part in a triathlon in Yilan County and was in good health. King attended a reception of foreign dignitaries on Thursday and appeared to be healthy.
The group, whose founders said they would not officially establish a political party before the 9-in-1 elections in November, is backed by former DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄) and a number of academics and NGO activists. It listed amending the Constitution, the Referendum Act and the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act as its primary objectives.
SECOND VICTORY FOR WANG: In a second trial, the Taiwan High Court on Sept. 26 ruled in favor of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) in his legal battle against the KMT over his party membership. Though the ruling can be appealed, this was a second strike against Ma, who has sought to remove Wang since September 2013, efforts that triggered a political crisis.
DPP TASKS: DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen listed four tasks for the party in her remarks on Sunday, the 28th anniversary of the DPP’s founding. Those tasks are: a grand strategy to revive Taiwan’s economy, Constitutional reform, the institutionalization of the cross-strait agreement oversight, and intergenerational justice for the next generation.
TSAI-BURGHARDT MEETING: Tsai met with American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt on Sept. 26 and exchanged views on Taiwan-U.S. relations, cross-strait relations and the upcoming elections. The chairperson stressed that the DPP would encourage engagement with China and hoped to see more clarity from both sides.
CHEN SHUI-BIAN MEDICAL PAROLE: A public opinion poll showed that 64 percent of respondents supported granting former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), imprisoned on corruption charges since 2009, medical treatment at home as Chen’s health has been deteriorating.
MIGRANT WORKER LAW: The legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on Wednesday passed an amendment to the Employment Service Act stipulating that migrant workers would no longer be required to leave Taiwan for at least one day every three years. The amendment will save foreign workers various travel expenses and brokerage fees.
ONE MORE FEPZ: The Changhua Coastal Industrial Park has been listed as the nation’s ninth free economic pilot zone (FEPZ) after its application was approved by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The FEPZ project, which aims to deregulate and bring in more foreign investment — especially from China — is one of the Ma administration’s flagship projects to revitalize the slow economy. However, opposition lawmakers have painted the project as a “backdoor” for unmonitored Chinese investment, personnel, and products.
TAIWAN TO SUBMIT SUB PLAN TO U.S.: Taiwan will submit its plans for an indigenous submarine to the U.S. during the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Taiwan’s delegation will be led by Deputy Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) and will include representatives from Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), Taiwan’s state-owned aerospace company, according to Yen.
Meanwhile, the DPP on Friday released its blue paper on the promotion of Taiwan’s defense industry. It listed the indigenous submarine program as the party’s No. 1 priority in a strategy to build up the domestic military industry. The DPP’s two-phase plan would aim to expand Taiwan’s aging submarine fleet by building at least six 1,500-tonne subs by 2042. Budgets for the program would be approximately NT$350-400 billion (US$11.5 billion to US$13.15 billion).
The DPP also pledged to raise the defense budget to 3 percent of GDP if it returned to power in 2016.
MISSILE TEST ON TRACK: Deputy Minister of National Defense Kao Tien-chung (高天忠) told lawmakers on Wednesday that test firing of the Hai Chien (“Sea Sword”) II, a navalized version of the domestically produced Tien Chien (“Sky Sword”) II air-to-air radar-guided missile, was on track. Kao said the missile was fired from Knox-class destroyers and that testing on Lafayette-class frigates was moving forward.
CHINA 2020: The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a report prepared for the legislature on Tuesday that China had set a goal of having the ability to launch a large-scale military operation against Taiwan by 2020. Similar conclusions were reached in the National Defense Report 2013, though at the time sources indicated that the year 2020 served to provide general guidance and did not represent a definite timeframe.
SPY SENTENCED: The Kaohsiung High Court on Tuesday sentenced retired Navy vice admiral Ko Cheng-sheng (柯政盛) to 14 months over spying for China. Ko, 71, was found guilty of developing a spy network for Beijing. He was the Navy’s deputy commander-in-chief before retiring in June 2003.
AIT FAVORS LIEN? American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesperson Mark Zimmer denied a report by the Journalist magazine claiming that an internal review by the institute showed that KMT candidates Sean Lien (連勝文) and Jason Hu (胡志強) would win in the Taipei and Greater Taichung mayoral elections in November. The magazine cited the “internal review” saying that AIT believed that if the underperforming KMT succeeded in convincing its hesitant supporters, it would win both special municipalities. Zimmer said that no such review existed.
BAD NEWS FOR THE DPP: With two months away from the mayoral elections of special municipalities, cities and counties, the KMT appears to have turned things around in Chiayi City while the DPP has suffered from a relatively weak campaign in New Taipei City, the largest constituency in the country.
According to a poll conducted by the Apple Daily, KMT candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫), who is seeking re-election, is leading DPP candidate Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) 45.7 percent to 22.9 percent. As many as 31.4 percent of respondents remained undecided.
Citing internal polls, DPP spokesperson Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said on Wednesday that Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), the DPP candidate in Chiayi City who had led KMT candidate Chen Yi-chen (陳以真) by 2.3 percent in the previous poll, was now trailing by 3.6 percent.
However, Hsu said DPP candidates enjoyed “comfortable and consistent” advantages in Greater Taichung, Keelung County, and Pingtung County.
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.