Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush visits Taiwan; lawmakers freeze funds for visits by North American academics; top culprit in the edible oil scandal indicted, but the political ramifications for the KMT could hurt; and lots more…
FOREIGN AFFAIRS FUND FROZEN: Concerned about potential foreign influence in the 2016 presidential election, lawmakers on Monday froze NT$20 million (US$658,000) in the budget requested for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs over allegations of electioneering. The frozen budget, part of an annual increase of NT$58.4 million, was meant to support visits to Taiwan by foreign academics. Citing the example of former AIT director Douglas Paal in 2012, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers expressed concerns that such academics may try to influence elections in Taiwan. As expected, Minister of Foreign affairs David Lin (林永樂) denied the allegations.
BUSH: UPCOMING US STATEMENT EXPECTED: Richard Bush said in Taipei on Tuesday that “based on past practices,” the U.S. was likely to make a statement ahead of Taiwan’s local elections next month. However, he said that Washington would not support any specific political party. A Central News Agency report on Sept. 12 cited Bush telling a conference on “Relations across the Taiwan Strait” at the Brookings Institution in Washington that he was confident the U.S. would express its views some time or in some way on how U.S. interests “will be affected by Taiwan’s elections.”
Meanwhile, Bush told an international conference on Taiwan’s policy environment that it was unlikely that Taiwan and China would engage in political talks at this moment as Taiwanese are not ready and both sides hold different views on the existence of the Republic of China (ROC). Responding to Taiwanese lawmakers’ freezing of the MOFA budget request (see above), Bush said he never intended to tell Taiwanese voters what to do.
MOFA REJECTS COMMENT BY CZECH LEADER: Foreign Minister David Lin shot back at comments by Czech President Milos Zeman about the cross-strait relationship, saying that Zeman had an “inaccurate” understanding of the situation. A report from Beijing published by the Czech News Agency said Zeman had reassured Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) that Prague recognized the territorial integrity of China — which purportedly included Taiwan and Tibet — and would not interfere in the nation’s internal affairs. According to the report, Zeman said he believed that Taiwan would soon be “peacefully united” with “continental China.”
CIVIL SERVANTS BARRED FROM STUDYING IN CHINA: The Ma Ying-jeou administration has announced that all civil servants are barred from studying in China over national security concerns. The directive took effect on Thursday. According to the Mainland Affairs Council, 108 civil servants are currently studying in China.
EXPERT SAYS TAIWAN, CHINA TRY TO MAINTAIN STEADY POSITION: Alan Romberg of the Stimson Center said China and Taiwan are trying to avoid major adjustments in cross-strait policies. The former state department official said Beijing was reassessing its tactics in the aftermath of the Sunflower Movement while the DPP would not re-assess its China policy until after the 9-in-1 elections next month.
ABORIGINALS CALL FOR TOWN NAME CHANGES: One day prior to Restoration Day (Oct. 25), Aboriginal activists requested that towns in Aboriginal regions that were given “politically charged” names by the KMT — such as Guangfu Township (光復) — which means “restoration” — be returned to their original Aboriginal names.
==EDIBLE OIL SCANDAL
On Thursday, the Changhua District Prosecutors’ Office indicted Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團) executive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) on 60 counts of fraud and 79 counts of serious fraud and is seeking the maximum 30-year prison term as the weeks-long tainted oil scandal continues.
Uni-President Enterprise Corp (統一企業), the nation’s largest food manufacturer, was also engulfed in the scandal, with 19 of its beef-based products using tainted oil ordered off the shelves. Similar orders were issued to various food companies that used substandard oil imported from Vietnam after the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) confirmed the oil was all intended for animal feed.
However, DPP lawmakers kept pounding the MHW about its “sorry effort” to track where the bulk of the imported 3.3 million tonnes oil had been sold.
Meanwhile, efforts were made to drive the Wei family business out of Taiwan. On Tuesday Wei Ying-chiao (魏應交), chairman of the conglomerate, resigned from his posts as Taipei Financial Center Corp (TFCC) vice chairman and president. But the Ministry of Finance wanted more and urged Ting Hsin to sell its shares in TFCC. The Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee reached a resolution to overturn a previous approval allowing Ting Hsin to acquire cable television service provider China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路).
The economic losses from the oil scandal reached astonishing levels after 11 countries imposed import bans on certain Taiwanese-made food, according to Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍), who put the figure at NT$2.2 billion (US$72.4 million).
On the political front, media outlets and political pundits slammed President Ma and Vice President Wu Dun-yih (吳敦義) over their “close relationship” with Ting Hsin and their role as “protectors” after receiving donations from the group. Ma has threatened to file lawsuits.
Meanwhile, prosecutors said they had discovered that confidential government documents had been secretly leaked to Ting Hsin Group, which may have ensured that the company could remain one step ahead of the government in dealing with the crisis. The MHW denied such documents were leaked. On Friday KMT lawmaker Alex Fai (費鴻泰) said the documents may have been leaked by a local government department in Pingtung County.
VOTE-BUYING PROBE: The Taipei Prosecutors’ Office said it had launched an investigation into alleged vote-buying by the Chinese Production Party (CPP), which stands accused of paying people in a campaign rally for KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Sean Lien (連勝文). For background on the allegations, see VOTE-BUYING IN 2008? and VOTE-BUYING?
DETENTION OF KEELUNG CANDIDATE EXTENDED: The Keelung Prosecutors’ Office extended a pretrial detention of independent Keelung mayoral candidate Huang Ching-tai (黃景泰) by two more months on Thursday. Huang, a former city council speaker and KMT nominee in the election, was indicted and detained over corruption charges. He is one of three candidates in the Nov. 29 election.
UDN POLLS: The Chinese-language United Daily News released the results of a series of public opinion polls held in various constituencies nationwide:
- Greater Taichung: Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), DPP, 45%; Jason Hu (胡志強), KMT, 29%; undecided 24%
A further breakdown of the results in the must-win constituency for both the KMT and the DPP found that Lin was heavily favored among male voters (51%: 24%) and enjoyed a slight advantage among female voters (40% to 34%). Meanwhile, Lin led both in the old Taichung City region (52% to 26%) and Taichung County region (42% to 30%). [Note: Taichung City and Taichung County merged into Greater Taichung in 2010.]
- Greater Kaohsiung: Chen Chu (陳菊), DPP, 61%; Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), KMT, 16%; undecided 20%
Interesting finding: 23% of pan-blue supporters favored Chen Chu and; overall, 80% of respondents supported re-election for Chen.
- Greater Tainan: William Lai (賴清德), DPP, 65%; Huang Hsiu-shuang (黃秀霜), KMT, 16%; undecided 20%
- Chiayi City: Chen Yi-chen (陳以真), KMT, 39%; Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), DPP, 30%, undecided 29%
- Hsinchu County: Chiu Ching-chun (邱鏡淳), KMT, 44%, Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金), independent, 20%; undecided 32%
GRIM ELECTION PICTURE FOR KMT? The KMT had a strong grip in seven of the 22 constituencies in the mayoral and commissioner elections, while the DPP held a comfortable advantage in five. Xfuture.org, an electronic exchange at the Center for Prediction Markets at National Chengchi University that uses a methodology similar to that used in futures markets, estimated there was a 60.82 percent probability that the ruling party would lose both Taipei and Greater Taichung.
- The KMT leads in New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, Hsinchu City, Miaoli County, Taitung County, Kinmen County and Lianchiang County (Matsu).
- The DPP leads in Yilan County, Chiayi County, Greater Tainan, Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County.
- Independents (Fu Kun-chi, 傅崑萁) leads in Hualien County.
KO DENIES ORGAN-BUYING ALLEGATIONS: Ko Wen-je on Tuesday denied allegations made in a book published in the U.S. in August that he had purchased human organs, including those taken from Falun Gong members. Citing an interview with Ko in August 2007, Ethan Gutmann wrote in his book The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem, that Ko, as director of National Taiwan University Hospital’s Department of Traumatology, had bought organs from China. Ko’s campaign office issued a statement demanding Gutmann correct his report.
TAIWAN DENIES RECRUITING CHINESE STUDENT SPIES: Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the National Security Bureau (NSB) vehemently denied allegations by the Chinese state-run newspaper Huanqiu Daily that they had recruited Chinese students in Taiwan as spies.
The Huanqiu Daily, a unit of the People’s Daily, reported on Monday (followed by a report in the English-language Global Times here) that Beijing had exposed more than 40 espionage cases in which Taiwanese intelligence had used Chinese students in Taiwanese universities as agents. In a rare move, the report listed the names, photographs, ID card numbers and birth dates of three alleged NSB recruiters.
Despite of the NSB’s denials, StormMedia, a Taiwanese online news website, reported that the Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) had asked lieutenant colonel Tai Wei-kuang (台維光), one of the three accused recruiters, to retire from the bureau.
Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) on Wednesday declined to comment on the report and refused to confirm whether the three named individuals worked for the MIB.
EXPERTS WARN ON SUB PLAN: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) senior fellow Evan Montgomery and Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argued that Taiwan’s indigenous submarine production plan may not be a good idea because of costs. Montgomery added that midget submarines and unmanned undersea vehicles would be better options.
COURT RULES AGAINST IRANIAN MINISTRY IN 33-YEAR CASE: The Supreme Court on Oct. 24 ruled against a request by the Iranian Ministry of Defense that Taiwan’s Chang Hwa Bank return US$15 million, saying the statute of limitations had expired. Iran’s central bank had remitted US$15 million to the bank for a brokered military procurement deal, only to be informed that the money had already been claimed by someone else. Iran did not file the lawsuit until 1997.
MND DENIES WEAPONS REDUCTION: The MND on Wednesday denied that production of the indigenously developed “Wan Chien” (萬劍) air-to-ground cluster bomb-type missile and other weapon development plans had been reduced due to government pressure amid warming cross-strait ties. The missile is to be carried by the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF).
GAY PRIDE PARADE: An estimated 70,000 people attended one of the largest annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parades in Asia in downtown Taipei on Saturday, promoting the New York Times to laud the nation for its openness and progress.
PROTEST ON HIGHWAY: Approximately 400 former highway toll collectors occupied National Freeway No. 1 on Saturday to protest against the government and Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co., which they claim are responsible for their unemployment.
SUNFLOWER LEADERS VISITING EUROPE: Dennis Wei (魏揚) and Wu Cheng (吳崢), two students who were part of the Sunflower Movement’s core leadership during the occupation of the Legislative Yuan in March and April, have been invited to London and Brussels to participate in seminars and meetings to discuss Taiwan’s democratic challenges.
COASTAL DEVELOPMENT EIA REVOKED: The Kaohsiung High Administrative Court on Tuesday handed down a ruling in a lawsuit between 14 residents and the Taitung County Government, overruling the government’s approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the construction of the Miramar Resort Hotel at Shanyuan Bay (杉原灣).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.