TAIWAN INSIDER Vol. 2 No. 10

Week of March 7-13, 2015
Photo: J. Michael Cole / TT
Photo: J. Michael Cole / TT
Staff
By

Comments by a DPP spokesperson about former president Chen Shui-bian’s alleged graft sparks a row within the green camp and leads to her resignation; KMT Chairman Eric Chu could meet Chinese President Xi Jinping; controversial Sino-centric changes to the school curriculum draw fire. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.

 

► POLITICS

CHU-XI MEETING: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed support for a possible meeting between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary-General and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) between May and June before the annual KMT-CCP forum in China. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said it welcomed a Chu visit “at his convenience” after Chu said that KMT exchanges with CCP would continue.

BEYOND THE ‘1992 CONSENSUS’? KMT Chairman Chu distanced himself from controversial comments by his father-in-law Kao Yu-jen (高育仁) urging Taiwan and China to engage in political negotiations so that cross-strait relations could go beyond the so-called “1992 Consensus.” Also responding to Kao’s initiative, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) reiterated that the time was not ripe for such talks.

WANG CONFIDENT OF KMT LEGISLATIVE MAJORITY: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said he had spoken with former U.S. deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage during the former official’s visit to Taiwan this week and said he had full confidence that the KMT would gain over half of the seats in next year’s legislative elections, according to several Chinese-language media.

DATE OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DISPUTED: The dates of the 2016 university terms could be changed to ensure a higher youth voter turnout in next year’s synchronized presidential and legislative elections. The date recommended by the Central Election Commission — Jan. 16 — clashes with final university exams.

CHEN GRAFT CLAIMS: Recent allegations by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) about former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) graft during his presidency sent shockwaves across the party, with Chen supporters blasting Hsu and calling for DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to step down. Hsu, who made the remarks during a speech in Dallas, Texas, has since resigned. The allegations prompted an investigation by the Special Investigation Division (SID) shortly after the KMT legislative caucus demanded a probe. Some commentators said Hsu had created an opportunity for the DPP to face up to corruption, which could be advantageous to Tsai and the party’s image, while others voiced grave concern over party strife.

REFERENDUM ACT REFORM: A petition by the activist group Taiwan March (島國前進) to abolish the referendum threshold of 50 percent has been submitted to the Central Election Commission, paving the way for the second phase. The petition garnered about 130,000 signatures following a seven-month campaign across the nation, well past the threshold of 90,000 for the first stage. It will need to collect 900,000 signatures within half a year for the next phase.

CURRICULUM CHANGES SPARK CONCERNS: Activists vowed to launch a mass demonstration against imminent changes to the high school curriculum introduced by the Ministry of Education, which they see as shaping Taiwanese history based on a Chinese perspective. Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) insists on implementing the new curriculum in August despite the fact that the ministry has lost a court case and plans to appeal a ruling by the Taipei High Administrative Court confirming the ministry’s nontransparent decision-making process. Legislators also tussled over motions on the controversial curriculum changes.

DPP, NEW CIVIC FORCE JOIN FORCES: In a bid to combine their forces against the pan-blue camp, the DPP and the recently created New Power Party (NPP) have taken the first step toward collaboration with exchanges of opinions on the candidates favored by both parties for next year’s legislative elections.

KMT PUSHES PAY RAISE PLANS: The KMT has continued to push for amendments to four laws that would permit pay raises. If implemented, companies could be rewarded with tax credits; if it is not, they could be fined. The proposal has been criticized as an election ploy that risks sapping state coffers and running afoul of norms of social fairness.

SUNFLOWER MOVEMENT ANNIVERSARY: Activists will hold a rally outside the legislature starting next Wednesday (March 18) and a series of events to highlight the goals sought by the Sunflower Movement, namely: the establishment of an oversight bill to monitor cross-strait agreements, constitutional reform, and an immediate halt to cross-strait negotiations on a trade-in-goods agreement. The events coincide with the first anniversary of the Sunflower occupation of the Legislative Yuan.

TSAI CALLS FOR ANTI-NUCLEAR SUPORT: DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen criticized President Ma for “failing to keep up” with neighboring nations in seeking alternatives to nuclear energy, and mobilized party members to join a nationwide protest on Saturday (March 14).

POLITICAL NOVICES: Hu Shih-ho (胡世和), uncle of late army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) whose death in 2013 triggered major protests by the Citizen 1985 movement demanding better protection of human rights in the military, announced his bid in next year’s legislative elections. His announcement comes briefly after the corporal’s sister, Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), declared her intention to stand as a candidate for the recently formed NPP.

MAC SAYS NO TO CHINA ON WWII EVENT INVITATION: The Mainland Affairs Council is opposed to the participation of active government officials in a series of memorial events to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II to be held by China later this year.

GRAND JUSTICE PICK SPARKS PROTEST: Human rights groups on March 12 blasted the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) over its nomination of Lin Hui-huang (林輝煌), one of the military prosecutors in the trials stemming from the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979, as one of its two candidates for grand justices.

US CONGRESSIONAL GROUP TO VISIT TAIWAN: U.S. Representative Ed Royce is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Taiwan. During the three-day visit beginning on March 13, the delegation will meet President Ma, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). The delegation will also hold talks with the KMT and DPP leaders on a possible Taiwan bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as future arm sales.

 

► MILITARY AND SECURITY

CHINESE ESPIONAGE: Amid continued Chinese spy activity in Taiwan, including the alleged disclosure of classified information to China by former Military Intelligence Bureau officers, President Ma emphasized the need to strengthen the nation’s anti-infiltration capabilities and to step up internal security management. The president made the remarks at a National Security Bureau meeting.

PLA CYBER-WARFARE UNIT IDENTIFIED: Senior intelligence officials have identified the specific Chinese military outfit and technical surveillance unit tasked with cyber warfare against Taiwan. The unit masquerades as research centers and telecommunication labs on the campus of Wuhan University (武漢大學). According to a 2014 testimony by Larry M. Wortzel before the House Armed Services Committee, Unit 61398 has also conducted collection against several agencies worldwide.

WORLD’S 5TH LARGEST ARMS IMPORTER: Taiwan ranks 5th in a 2014 ranking of the world’s top arms importers after Saudi Arabia, India, China, the United Arab Emirates.

MND TO DEVELOP UAV: The Ministry of Defense (MND) said it will prioritize and invest NT$11 billion (USD3.5 million) for in research and development for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and ramjet technological advancements.

SUB NEWS: Taiwan’s Two WW2-era “Guppy”-class submarines will undergo major renovations to enhance their capabilities. One of the two boats could be dismantled for the study of submarine-building techniques. In related news, U.S. firm General Dynamics Corp was absent in a recent symposium on Taiwan’s capacity to build indigenous submarines, prompting speculation that the U.S. is not supportive of Taiwan’s local submarine program, according to Storm Media.

ANNUAL MILITARY DRILL: The annual Han Kuang (漢光) military exercises for combat readiness against a PLA attack will be staged in May and September. The recently acquired AH-64E Apache “Guardian” attack helicopters and UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters will take part in the exercises.

BLACK HAWK FOR RESCUE MISSION: Following instructions by President Ma to dedicate 15 of the military’s 60 U.S.-made Black Hawks to the civilian emergency airborne service, 32 pilots will receive training in the U.S. in July. The incompatibility of the aircraft with the helicopter deck of the coastguard frigate used in rescue missions, however, remains unresolved.

ALL-VOLUNTEER MILITARY: The military will continue its efforts to complete its shift to an all-volunteer force by 2015 with a series of incentives to tackle lower-than-expected recruitment numbers.

 

► MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS

TAIPEI-SHANGHAI FORUM: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said the Taipei-Shanghai Forum will continue to take place under the principle of mutual respect. Ko said that both sides had touched base via e-mail to discuss this year’s forum, which is to be held in Shanghai. The Taipei mayor made the comments in response to his Chinese counterpart’s insistence on the “1992 Consensus.”

RESIDENTIAL JUSTICE: The Taipei City Government is set to release its first batch of budget government housing projects in April. Ko’s public housing policy has sparked outcry from residents of the targeted communities, who fear a deflation in the value of their property due to “the type of residents the projects would bring to the community.”

MRT JOINT DEVELOPMENT PROJECT APPRAISALS: The Department of Rapid Transit Systems massively underestimated the value of the land expropriated for the highly questionable MeHas City (美河市) joint development project, according to a preliminary report by the Taipei City Department of Government Ethics. An investigation into all MRT joint projects and potential malfeasance has been suggested.

LIMITS ON TAIPEI 101 DEMONSTRATORS: Following the arrest of provocative pro-unification Concentric Patriotism Association (愛國同心會) members at the Taipei 101 Plaza on account of verbally abusing police officers and illegal parking, Falun Gong practitioners have also been asked to leave the plaza. The city government said it would consider establishing a special “protest zone” at the site, raising concern about freedom of expression.

MINISTRY QUESTIONS DRAFT RULES ON PIPELINES: The Kaohsiung City Government recently passed a set of draft rules to regulate the petrochemical industry in the city, requiring all companies laying pipelines in the city to locate their headquarters there to ensure timely coordination in case of pipeline accidents. The Ministry of Economic Affairs expressed concerns over the conflict of the rules with the spirit of free economy and constitutionality.

 

► SOCIETY

TAIWAN NOT CUTTING INTEREST RATES: Taiwan has no plans to follow the U.S. and other nations in cutting interest rates as the country will “set its own monetary policy,” Central Bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) said on Thursday after South Korea and Thailand cut their interest rates by 25 basis points earlier this week to spur economic growth.

SUBWAY KILLER SENTENCED TO DEATH: 21-year-old former college student Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) has been sentenced to death for killing four people and injuring 22 others on a busy Taipei subway train in May 2014. The deadly rush-hour rampage shocked the nation and sparked harsh criticism against death penalty abolitionists. The ruling by the New Taipei District Court may be appealed.

MISSING FISHING BOAT: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Argentina has agreed to send a military vessel to help search for a Taiwanese fishing boat with a crew of 49 that has been missing in waters off southeastern Argentina since Feb. 26. The boat has two Taiwanese, 11 Chinese, 13 Filipino, 21 Indonesian and two Vietnamese on board.

TAIPEI 101 STAKE SALE ABORTED: Taiwanese-owned food conglomerate Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團) was unsure about the future of its stake in Taipei 101 after Malaysia’s IOI Properties Group Bhd Group aborted its proposed acquisition. The government has pressured Ting Hsin to unload its holdings in the iconic skyscraper of Taiwan as a result of its embroilment in a number of food scandals, but also frowned at the possibility of foreign interests having a large stake in the building.

DISCRIMINATORY REMARK ON IMMIGRANTS: Immigration groups have demanded an apology from Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je after he expressed his bewilderment at the large number of single men in Taiwan. “The nation has already imported 300,000 foreign brides,” Ko said, sparking strong criticism for what has been described as a “degrading characterization” of foreign spouses.

LABOR IMPORT: The Ministry of Labor is considering lifting a decade-long ban on labor import from Vietnam and introducing Myanmar nationals to fill the caretaker and agricultural worker deficit

DRY SPELL: Taiwan is expecting the worst drought in a decade, which is unlikely to ease until May.

 

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 editor@thinking-taiwan.com. Want to receive the Insider in your e-mail? Click here to subscribe!

 

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