Week of March 14-20, 2015
Photo: J. Michael Cole / TT

Former president Chen’s son drops out of the DPP legislative primary; China has begun its M503 route tests; DPP Chairperson Tsai confirms she will visit the U.S. this year; the KMT is to make decision on its legislative candidates based on a new nomination mechanism; the Sunflower Movement marks its first anniversary. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



NO CONSENSUS ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM: A meeting between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Thursday ended without consensus on constitutional reform. Both parties agreed that reform should be completed by the end of June but remained far apart on key issues. The DPP proposed that all major political parties and civic groups co-host a national affairs conference on constitutional reform while the KMT argued that reform could be handled by the Constitutional Reform Committee in the Legislative Yuan, adding that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should be the convener if a national affairs conference was held.

FORMER MINISTER KMT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE? Political commentator Chen Min-feng (陳敏鳳) said on Wednesday that former minister of the interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) rather than KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) could be tapped by Ma to be the KMT’s presidential candidate in 2016. Lee denied the report.

TSAI TO VISIT U.S.: DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) revealed her planned visit to the U.S. later this year during a meeting with a U.S. congressional delegation led by Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs. The trip is most likely to be scheduled after the DPP’s presidential primary, party officials said.

TAIWAN’S TPP BID: Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, reiterated his support for Taiwan’s bid to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.

LY SAYS NO TO US BEEF: The legislature’s Economics Committee on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution demanding the Ministry of Economic Affairs ban imports of several beef parts from the U.S. and Canada. The resolution came after the ministry said it was planning to allow six types of U.S. cattle parts, including bone marrow, blood, meat attached to the skull, cheek meat, gullet muscles and fat, to enter Taiwan.

TAIWAN-CHINA HIGH LEVEL MEETING: Mainland Affairs Council Minister Hsia Li-yan (夏立言) could meet with Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) in Kinmen as soon as next month. An earlier meeting of top officials responsible for cross-strait affairs from both sides had been postponed due to a deadly air crash in which many of the victims were from China, as well as the M503 air route negotiations.

CHU-XI MEETING QUESTIONED: The DPP has accused the KMT of trying to evade legislative oversight of cross-strait affairs following media reports that KMT Chairman and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu is scheduled to meet with Chinese President and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in May or June, with the approval of Ma.

EX-VP TO ATTEND BOAO FORUM: Former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) will lead a 30-member delegation and meet with Xi at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) 2015 annual conference, from March 26-29 in Boao, Hainan.

CEC SETS DATE FOR 2016 ELECTIONS: The Central Election Commission (CEC) has announced that the presidential and legislative elections will be held concurrently on Jan. 16, prompting accusations that the timing, which clashes with college final exams, is an attempt to reduce the turnout among young voters (it is generally believed that young voters tend to favor the green camp). An alliance of 24 university student unions across Taiwan petitioned to protest against the CEC’s decision.

THIRD POLITICAL FORCE: One year after the Sunflower Movement’s occupation of the legislature, public support for a third force in next year’s legislative elections is rising, according to a survey by Taiwan Brain Trust. 46.4 percent of respondents said they might or would support candidates from a third force and 46 percent said they would cast their second vote for a third political party. 72.3 percent of respondents believe the DPP will defeat the KMT in next year’s presidential election. The poll showed that the DPP’s support rate, while higher than the KMT’s, has dropping, primarily due to infighting and jockeying for positions within the party.

SMALLER PARTY UNITY: The New Power Party’s (NPP) Freddy Lim (林昶佐) announced his withdrawal from the legislative race in Taipei’s Daan District to make way for Fan Yun (范雲) of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), so as to “prevent the party-state infrastructure from capitalizing on disunity among smaller parties.” Lim said he would instead enter the race in Zhongzheng/Wanhua districts.

KMT CANDIDATE SELECTION: The KMT has unveiled its new nomination mechanism for next year’s legislative elections. Candidates will be determined by adding the results of performance evaluations by a new committee and opinion polls to its party primary system. The first group of legislative candidates will likely be announced by April.

CHEN’S SON DROPS OUT OF LEGISLATIVE PRIMARY: Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) has decided to withdraw from the DPP’s legislative primary in Kaohsiung. Chen Jr. attributed his decision the need to ensure party unity and to avoid meddling by the media and the Special Investigation Division. His announcement came days after news reports about former DPP spokesperson Hsu Chia-ching’s (徐佳青) allegations that the former president had received large financial contributions from construction magnates, sparking Hsu’s resignation, anger among the former president’s supporters, and an investigation.

NEW PARTY ESTABLISHED: A new political party called Minkuotang (民國黨) — or the Republic Party (MKT) — was officially established on Wednesday. The founder and chairperson, Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), withdrew from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in late January, saying she wanted to create a “third force.”

SUNFLOWER ANNIVERSARY: Multiple rallies in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Sunflower Movement, which launched a three-week occupation of the legislature on March 18, 2014, were held across Taipei on Wednesday. The participants revisited demands made during last year’s landmark protests, including those pertaining to cross-strait relations and political reform. The same day, the Executive Yuan held a live-streamed program on a proposed cross-strait agreement oversight mechanism and called for solidarity with younger generations. Questions were allowed during the event. KMT Chairman Chu said his party would seek to develop policies to address youth issues.

DALAI LAMA VISIT: Asked whether Taiwan should issue a visa to the Dalai Lama following an invitation by Taiwanese religious and civic groups, Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) gave an ambiguous answer, saying that the “nation’s benefits as a whole” should be taken into account.” The prominent spiritual leader was denied entry in 2008, months after Ma was sworn in for his first term, for a visit the next year, but was ultimately allowed in at the DPP’s invitation to bring spiritual support to the victims of Typhoon Morakot, which devastated parts of southern Taiwan in August 2009.

U.S.-TAIWAN COLLABORATION ON EBOLA: The U.S. and Taiwan have launched a joint training center in Tainan for regional capacity building to fight the Ebola virus in the Asia-Pacific region.

CHINESE TOURISTS: Starting April 15, Taiwan will open its doors to the residents of 11 additional cities in China as part of its free independent traveler (FIT) program, meaning that those residents do not have to be part of a tour group to come to Taiwan.

FOREIGN MINISTER APOLOGIZES: Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) has apologized to I-Mei Foods Co general manager Kao Chih-ming (高志明) for a mishap during a recent banquet for foreign ambassadors and representatives, where Kao was seated alone at a table, prompting the businessman to complain about the ministry’s “lack of manners.”


► MILITARY AND SECURITY                                        

CHINA CONDUCTS M503 ROUTE TESTS: China started testing its proposed M503 flight route on March 15. The Ministry of National Defense and the Mainland Affairs Council said they were closely monitoring the situation and that they had consented to China holding the tests. The route is expected to be officially launched in April, sparking security concerns in Taiwan as it is just 7.8km from the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

EX-OFFICER HELD INCOMMUNICADO FOR SPYING: A retired Military Intelligence Bureau major was detained again and held incommunicado a week after his release on bail last week, amid an ongoing investigation into his alleged involvement in Chinese espionage against Taiwan.

EX-VICE ADMIRAL’S ESPIONAGE CASE: The Supreme Court upheld a Taiwan High Court ruling sentencing retired vice admiral Ko Cheng-sheng (柯政盛) to 14 months in jail for spying. The highest-ranking officer convicted of spying for China in a decade, Ko reportedly established contact with his counterparts in China while her was still active in the force. Ko continues to receive a NT$80,000 monthly pension, which has drawn heavy criticism.

MILITARY DOWNSIZING SLAMMED: Legislators from both main parties have voiced opposition to President Ma’s plans to trim military personnel down to about 170,000 over the next three years by shifting from a conscripted to a volunteer force.

NO SUBS FROM RUSSIA: The Ministry of National Defense rejected the idea of purchasing submarines from Russia put forward in a recent op-ed, reiterating that the Navy remains committed to a deal with the U.S. and that Taiwan would continue its indigenous submarine program pending a response from Washington.



RULES ON BUILDING FACADES: New rules regulating building facades will be proposed for the capital to prevent deaths and injuries from falling debris. The announcement follows an incident in which one woman was killed and another person was injured by a tile that fell from a four-story building in downtown Taipei. At least 200 buildings would be affected by the new measures.

ANTI-CORRUPTION IN TAIPEI: In a bid to curb bribery, all politically appointed officials in Taipei will be required to register online all their social interactions with non-family members.



EXPERT TO ASSIST WITH INVESTIGATION: Renowned U.S.-based forensic scientist Henry Lee (李昌鈺) will assist with the investigation into a high-profile prison hostage crisis that occurred in Kaohsiung last month.

NATIONAL POLICE BOSS RESIGNS: The resignation of National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) has been approved. Wang’s successor will take over on April 1. The Minister of the Interior denies that personal differences with Wang had caused his resignation.

ANTI-NUCLEAR PROTEST: Anti-nuclear marches were held in Taipei, Tainan and Kaohsiung on March 14, marking the fourth anniversary of the nuclear incident at Japan’s Fukushima. The 50,000 protesters called for an end to nuclear power in Taiwan.

AIR POLLUTION: From October last year through March this year, the central regions of Taichung, Changhua and Nantou counties had just 10 days when the PM2.5 index did not reach the level indicating health concerns to at-risk groups. Lawmakers have urged the Environmental Protection Administration to step up its pollution control efforts…even though much of the air pollution comes from China.

TZU CHI PROJECT PULLBACK: The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation announced its withdrawal from a proposed development plan to set up a logistics center and workshops for disaster relief in a geologically sensitive protected area in Taipei. The embattled organization said it would increase its financial transparency, which had been criticized subsequent to a recent debate over the appropriateness of developing the area.

DROUGHT CRISIS: Water could be supplied to different areas across Taiwan on a rotating basis starting in May to cope with the worst drought in a decade.

SAME-SEX COUPLE ADOPTION BID: A lesbian has appealed a decision by the Shilin District Court rejecting her landmark application to adopt children. The ruling stated the potential “negative impact” on the children from the excessive media attention that adoption would risk generating.


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. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.


Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:

“What Israel Can Teach Taiwan” by Peter Enav
“Lessons in Dissent: The Documentary” by Wong Shiau Ching
“Independent Candidates: How Independent Can They Afford to Be?” by J. Michael Cole

Comments are welcome, but will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive language, personal attacks or self-promotion will not be published. We encourage healthy discussion and, above all, tolerance of other's views.