Welcome to this week’s issue of the Insider. While the oil scandal continues to monopolize the news in Taiwan, competition ahead of the Nov. 29 nine-in-one elections has heated up, with several allegations of vote buying. Meanwhile, a suspected case of industrial espionage in central Taiwan made headlines, and the government has stepped up its efforts against Ebola.
KING DENIES WRONGDOING: National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), one of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) closest confidantes, denied on Wednesday to having privately met with Wu Xi (吳璽), Minister of the Chinese Embassy in the U.S., in Washington during the Christmas holiday last year to discuss a cross-strait peace treaty.
Meanwhile, questioned by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers about possible abuses of authority, King, who in recent months has paid a number of visits to various ministries (including the National Security Bureau) countered that the opposition should present evidence rather than “hearsay and assumptions” before describing him as an “underground president.”
ARGUMENT OVER DALAI LAMA: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) made a controversial comment while discussing a potential visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama at the legislature on Thursday, saying the visit could be regarded as the Tibetan religious leader’s returning to China because “Taiwan is also the land of China” and both sides belong to one China.
Wu also said that the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama could also be invited to visit Taiwan so he could meet with and be “recognized” by the Dalai Lama. Describing Wu’s comments as “outrageous,” DPP lawmaker Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said the present Panchen Lama was “controversially chosen” by the Chinese government, while the one selected by the Dalai Lama as the actual 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama is believed to have been imprisoned since 1995. The latter was six when he was abducted, and his current condition and whereabouts remain unknown.
Asked by Chen for her views on Wu’s claim, Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Minister Jaclyn Tsai (蔡玉玲) said the question should be referred to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).
VOTE-BUYING? The Chinese Production Party (CPP, 中國生產黨), a group composed of Chinese spouses married to Taiwanese with about 40,000 members, reportedly paid for people to attend a rally for Sean Lien (連勝文), the KMT’s Taipei mayoral candidate, on Oct. 12, which would constitute vote buying. The KMT has denied the allegations. (For similar accusations last week, see here.)
Meanwhile, a pair of DPP Taipei city councilor candidates filed a lawsuit against the KMT and Sean Lien’s campaign over alleged vote buying, saying the party had offered China-based Taiwanese businesspeople tickets with a 50 percent discount to fly back to Taiwan and vote on Nov. 29. DPP lawmakers also raised the issue of vote buying on Wednesday, saying the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland (全國台灣同胞投資企業聯誼會, 台企聯) had also offered discount tickets to Taiwanese businesspeople. DPP spokesperson Huang Di-ying (黃帝穎) called for prosecutors to investigate the matter.
CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION ON VOTING AGE: Led by senior KMT legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), a group of 52 lawmakers across party lines submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court on Tuesday requesting a constitutional interpretation on changing the voting age from 20 years of age at present down to 18.
MA COMMEMORATES 1949 BATTLE: President Ma commemorated on Wednesday the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Gunintou (古寧頭戰役) on Kinmen and called for continued peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait. Ma reiterated his “no unification, no independence and no use of force” policy.
DEFAMATION AGAINST MA: The Taiwan High Court ruled that the DPP and its former spokesperson Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) must pay a compensation of NT$1.8 million (US$59,000) for defamation against President Ma during the 2012 presidential campaign. The DPP and Liang accused Ma of meeting bookmaker Chen Ying-chu (陳盈助) over campaign donations.
RALLY FOR CHEN SHUI-BIAN: Protesters marched through Taipei on Sunday calling for the government to grant imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) medical parole on humanitarian grounds. They argued that Chen, whose health has deteriorated over the years, should receive treatment at home.
KMT TO APPEAL WANG CASE: The KMT has decided to appeal a Taiwan High Court ruling that struck down the party’s attempt to revoke Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) membership over allegations of improper influence. The move was made despite opposition by a large number of KMT politicians, who feared it could have a negative impact on party solidarity ahead of the nine-in-one elections. KMT spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) said the party chose to continue the suit to defend its system for evaluating and disciplining its members. He added that it did not specifically target Wang.
MAC DEFENDS MA COMMENTS ON HONG KONG: The Mainland Affairs Council on Thursday blasted China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) for what it called “lacking wisdom” in its response to President Ma’s expression of sympathy for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. TAO spokeswoman Fan Liqing (范麗青) said on Wednesday that Ma’s call for Chinese democracy was “irresponsible and frivolous.”
HEALTH MINISTER NAMED: Minister Without Portfolio Chiang Been-huang (蔣丙煌), who was in charge of technology and health welfare-related affairs within the Cabinet, was appointed as new Minister of Health and Welfare last week. Immediately after the announcement, opposition lawmakers said that Chiang had no medical background and little experience with food safety, and pointed to possible conflicts of interests with food manufacturers, including some of the firms involved in the snowballing gutter oil scandal (see below).
AIT COMPOUND FOR PUBLIC HOUSING: KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Sean Lien proposed using the current American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) compound in Taipei’s Xinyi District to build public housing after the AIT relocates to Neihu District. Lien’s campaign office has called the 2.5-hectare proposal “Taipei’s little Soho” (台北小蘇活).
FORMER AIT HEAD GETS NEW ROLE: Former AIT director William Stanton, who remained in Taiwan following his retirement as an American diplomat in 2012, was named interim senior vice president for global affairs at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU). Stanton, who was granted permanent residency, has taught at the Taipei American School and is currently director of the Asia Policy Center of NTHU.
TAIWAN RAISES EBOLA ALERT LEVEL: President Ma convened a National Security Council meeting on prevention and preparation for an Ebola outbreak on Tuesday, ordering the formulation of an action plan in case China were affected by the deadly virus. Ma urged the public not to panic, but instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other agencies to enhance border screening, increase drills, and cooperate with other countries.
The CDC has implemented a new measure requiring passengers from European and Middle Eastern countries to fill out a form detailing their travel history. The agency also said that the likelihood that a middle-aged Nigerian man who is currently in isolation in China would test positive for Ebola was relatively low. The man was in Taiwan for two days before traveling to China, where he showed signs of fever and was isolated.
LATEST ON OIL SCANDAL: Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團) executive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充), who has been detained over the latest oil scandal, was indicted on Tuesday on charges of fraud, forgery and violations of food-related regulations for his role in an oil adulteration scandal that erupted last year. If convicted, Wei, the former chairman of Cheng I Food Co (正義股份), Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co (頂新製油實業) and Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品工業), could face up to 15 years in jail.
The Executive Yuan’s Food Safety Office was launched on Wednesday. The office, a standing body with between 20 and 25 full-time staff members from various government agencies, has been tasked with dealing with food safety issues on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, the government was still trying to locate 43,000 tonnes of animal feed-grade oil produced by Vietnam-based company Dai Hanh Phuc Co that were shipped over the past three years. Yang Chen-yi (楊振益), manager of Dai Hanh Phuc, was detained for allegedly supplying Taiwanese companies — including Ting Hsin — with the oil, which was then used to make oil products for human consumption. Opposition parties and civic groups accused the government of slowly responding to the crisis since the matter was exposed two weeks ago.
INDUSTRIAL ESPIONAGE? Investigators in Nantou County uncovered a rather unusual case of Chinese industrial espionage in which four Chinese men hired as tea pickers in Jhushan Township (竹山) are alleged to have used smartphone cameras and a social message application to send information, including tea-processing techniques, back to China.
TAIWAN WILL NOT LEGALIZE MARIJUANA: Responding to lawmakers in the legislature, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said the government had no plans to legalize marijuana. Jiang added that experts supported the position.
ACTIVISTS ASK FOR NUCLEAR POWER PLANT DECOMMISSION: Anti-nuclear activists launched a signature drive to garner support from candidates in the nine-in-one elections to ensure that the nation’s three operational nuclear power plants are decommissioned according to plans laid out by Taipower Co.
Meanwhile, Taipower Co chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said that power supplies in northern Taiwan could be affected if generators at the Hsieh Ho (協和) Power Plant in Keelung, which generates power by burning oil, is decommissioned in 2017.
AT-3 CRASH KILLS PILOT: Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Chuang Pei-yuan (莊培源) died after his AT-3 training aircraft, a 37-year-old plane, collided with another AT-3 during a routine training mission and crashed in Greater Kaohsiung’s Zihguan District (梓官) on Tuesday. Chuang tried to eject from the plane at too low an altitude, according to the air force. All AT-3 aircraft has been grounded.
US REP HIGHLIGHTS SUBS AGAIN: Taiwan’s representative to the U.S. Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) told an interview with the English-language radio station ICRT on Tuesday that Taiwan needs to acquire new submarines to ensure its defense and because two of Taiwan’s four subs are 71 years old. Shen said he also welcomed more U.S. defense commitments.
APACHE DELIVERY: The fifth and final batch of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters procured from the U.S. arrived in Kaohsiung on Sunday. The helicopters were deployed at an air force base in Greater Tainan. Taiwan acquired 30 Apaches for a total of NT$59.31 billion (US$1.95 billion).
MND LOW-KEY ON SUB MISSILES TEST: The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has confirmed that the Navy tested two submarine-launched Harpoon missiles in waters off Pingtung County last week, with U.S. experts on-site.
TAIWAN REPORTEDLY BUILDING AEGIS FLEET: Citing Hong Kong-based magazine Yazhou Zhoukan (亞洲週刊), the English-language Want China Times reported that Taiwan intends to build a fleet of surface combatants equipped with systems similar to the U.S.’ Aegis Combat System — a system that Washington has refused to sell to Taiwan. According to the report, the fleet would include four 6,000-tonne warships and between 10 and 15 2,000-tonne guided missile frigates. Such reports have not been corroborated, though MND did confirm last month that it intended to launch a major effort over the coming years to produce warships domestically.
KO STILL LEADS IN TAIPEI: Independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was holding a 13-point lead (42 percent to 29 percent) against KMT candidate Sean Lien with about one month left before the Nov. 29 elections, a poll conducted by the Chinese-language United Daily News showed.
WU DOMINATES IN TAOYUAN: In another poll conducted by UDN, incumbent Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) of the KMT was enjoying a very comfortable 23-point lead (48 percent to 25 percent) over DPP candidate Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦), with 25 percent of respondents undecided. Wu beat Cheng four years ago with 52 percent of the votes.
LIN LEADS THREE-WAY RACE IN KEELUNG: According to a survey by the Chinese-language Liberty Times, DPP candidate Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) was one step closer to a win in the port city of Keelung. Lin was ahead in the three-way mayoral race with 38.25 percent, over KMT candidate Hsieh Li-kung’s (謝立功) 16.41 percent and independent candidate Huang Ching-tai’s (黃景泰) 10.74 percent. A former city council speaker, Huang was the KMT’s nominee before he was involved in a corruption scandal and replaced by Hsieh. Huang is currently detained.
COMPETITION HEATING UP IN CENTRAL TAIWAN: The ongoing oil scandal appears to have hurt the KMT’s chances in central Taiwan with the DPP making great strides in Changhua County and closing the gap in Nantou County, the DPP headquarters said.
Citing internal public opinion polls, the party said that Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), the party’s candidate in the election for Changhua commissioner, had taken the lead for the first time against KMT candidate Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏). The mid-October poll showed Wei was leading Lin 32.4 percent to 31.2 percent. Independent candidate Huang wen-ling (黃文玲), a former Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmaker, came in third with 7.2 percent.
Meanwhile, Nantou County candidate Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) has narrowed the gap from a double-digit deficit in September to seven percentage points behind Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) of the KMT, while Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) held a 17 percentage-point-lead against incumbent Jason Hu (胡志強) in Greater Taichung, the DPP said, adding that it was looking to sweep the three central Taiwan constituencies.
KMT EYES YUNLIN: The Liberty Times quoted an anonymous KMT official as saying that the party could pull off a surprising victory in Yunlin County, where DPP local politicians had problems working together. The Insider has learned that the DPP is also concerned about its campaign in Yunlin, where the party has governed for eight years.
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.