Week of April 11-17, 2015

DPP Chairperson Tsai launches her bid for the presidency; Taiwan seeks to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as an ordinary member after it is turned down as a founding member; the Chu-Xi meeting will likely take place in a couple of weeks; the KMT reevaluates its asset value. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



TSAI SECURES PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was officially nominated by the DPP as the party’s presidential candidate on Wednesday. In her nomination speech, Tsai highlighted domestic affairs, including social justice and wealth distribution, and governance as the core issues of her election campaign, adding that the DPP would seek to maintain a cross-strait status quo as well as peace and stability. This will be Tsai’s second attempt to win the presidency, after she lost to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 2012 election, in which Tsai garnered 45.63 percent of the votes, while Ma received 51.6 percent. The full text of Tsai’s acceptance speech is available here.

Tsai on Thursday denied a report in the Chinese-language China Times that she would pick her running mate from a trio of Tainan Mayor Williams Lai (賴清德), former DPP secretary-general and Tsai’s running mate in 2012 Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), and former finance minister Lin Chuan (林全). Tsai said it was too early to discuss the matter.

TSAI ON CROSS-STRAIT POLICY: Responding to criticism from the KMT and the Presidential Office about her earlier remarks that the KMT has turned cross-strait relations into party-to-party relations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Tsai said the KMT’s approach has been “undemocratic” and that cross-strait relations should be handled on a “government-to-government basis.” KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) responded by saying it was in Taiwan’s best interest not to link DPP party ideology to cross-strait affairs, and that the KMT-CCP relations should not be “stigmatized.”

CHU TIGHT-LIPPED: KMT Chairman Chu, a likely presidential contender, reiterated on Wednesday his commitment to serve out his full mayoral term after a poll found him the most desirable presidential candidate among pan-blue supporters. According to the same survey by the Chinese-language United Daily pitting Tsai against Chu, Tsai led Chu by 8 percentage points.



TAIWAN’S AIIB BID: Taiwan will seek to become an ordinary member of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) after China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) confirmed on Monday that Taiwan’s bid to join as a founding member had been turned down, said Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), citing a consensus reached between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Taiwan would rather stay out of the China-proposed AIIB unless it is treated with dignity and equality, the Presidential Office said on Monday. New Taipei City Mayor and KMT Chairman Eric Chu said Taiwan should contribute NT$60 billion (US$1.92 billion) to the AIIB to increase its chances of being admitted.

The AIIB Multilateral Interim Secretariat affirmed that the rejection at this stage would not hinder Taiwan’s future bid to become an ordinary member, according to the Ministry of Finance. Taiwan’s participation would be “positively reviewed” under “an appropriate name” when the involved parties formulate the AIIB charter, Xinhua news agency reported.

KMT-CCP FORUM: The 10th annual forum between the KMT and the CCP is set to take place in Shanghai on May 3, KMT spokesperson Yang Wei-chung (楊偉中) said last Friday. KMT Chairman Eric Chu said on Sunday that he will head the KMT delegation to the forum, and did not rule out the possibility of meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) during the visit. Chinese-language media outlets reported that the Chu-Xi meeting could take place on May 2 or 4 and is expected to be an important part of Chu’s presidential campaign if he decides to join the race.

REFERENDUM REFORM: Pressure from civic groups has led to speculation that the government could lower the thresholds for referendums and recalls. The Executive Yuan has continued to endorse the turnout threshold of 50 percent of eligible voters, the voting age for referendums was lowered from 20 to 18 and is expected to be approved in the near future, while a Ministry of the Interior official said a downward adjustment to the threshold for proposing a referendum is expected. Over 1,000 people rallied at the legislature last Friday to demand democratic reform, including amendments to the referendum act.

NEW DIPLOMATIC ENVOYS NAMED: Taiwan has named new representatives to France, Thailand, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, amid a foreign affairs personnel reshuffle.

TAIWAN, US RELATIONS: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recently that the U.S. would continue to expand and improve its solid and multi-sided unofficial relations with Taiwan, which is a crucial partner for Washington in terms of security and economics.

Meanwhile, Taiwan and the U.S. are still discussing the timing for the next round of talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said on Tuesday. Economic Affairs Minister John Deng (鄧振中) said the postponement was because the U.S. has focused its trade negotiation efforts on issues such as finishing negotiations on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc. However, questions have been raised whether Taiwan’s resistance to a demand to expand imports of U.S. beef and pork might have factored into the delay.

KMT ASSETS: The KMT has put its total asset net value at NT$22.45 billion subsequent to its initial asset disposal, and said on Wednesday that it would return 10 plots of land and properties of which the ownership is controversial to various state institutions by the end of July, a gesture that DPP lawmakers criticized as paving way for its chairman Eric Chu’s presidential bid.

Chu promised in January that any of the KMT’s assets — which critics have described as “ill gotten” because they were allegedly seized by the party from the Japanese colonial government, private businesses and individuals when the KMT took control of Taiwan after World War II — found to be illegally acquired by the party will be returned to the nation.

Political commentator Hu Chung-hsin (胡忠信), however, said on Wednesday that the party’s asset value had in fact reached 135 billion, and that they would be used to support Chu’s presidential campaign in 2020 as the party chairman does not intend to join next year’s presidential elections. Chu dismissed Hu’s remarks.

CANADIAN DELEGATION: Canadian Senator Yonah Martin and his accompanying parliamentarian delegation began their visit to Taiwan last Thursday to learn more about political and economic developments in the country and cross-strait ties, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

MA TO CONSIDER COMMUTATION: President Ma will consider a nationwide commutation as a prison overcrowding solution, as well as for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of “the ROC’s [Republic of China] victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan.”

KING COMPLAINS ABOUT ‘DOUBLE STANDARDS’: Longtime Ma confidant and former National Security Council secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) on Monday said he had behaved ethically throughout his political career, while listing a number of infractions by other figures. During a private visit to Japan with his family last week, a number of reports claimed that King had been on a secret mission on behalf of Ma, while some others speculated that he was fleeing Taiwan. King denied all allegations.

On a separate note, he attributed China’s rejection of a proposed meeting between Ma and Xi last year to Ma’s insistence on holding the meeting at the APEC summit, an international forum.

DRAFT AUTONOMY ACT: Indigenous rights activists and DPP legislators lashed out at a government proposal for indigenous peoples’ autonomy on Monday, saying that draft had neither gone through adequate consultations with Aborigines nor included essential issues regarding community rights over the ancestral domain and natural resources.



MILITARY PARADE: Taiwan’s foremost military aviation units, consisting of fighter aircraft as well as attack helicopters and aerial reconnaissance aircraft, will be on display at an upcoming military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in northern Taiwan.

APACHE FLEET COMMISSIONING: The Army on Saturday denied a local media report that the commissioning of its U.S.-made AH-64E Apache attack helicopters has been postponed as a result of a recent scandal over security breaches at one of its bases causing public outcry, but declined to give a definite date for the commissioning ceremony.

CHINESE HACKERS TARGET KO: The computer on the desk of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) secretary was hacked recently and investigators have traced the attack to China, a Taipei city government official said on Tuesday.

MILITARY DISCIPLINE: The nation’s elite aviation units suffered another embarrassment when an officer was found to have taken his pilot’s helmet for an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter off base without authorization and taken it home for a showoff to his girlfriend. Separately, a retired major general was found guilty on Wednesday of groping and of sexual harassment in a case involving a non-commissioned officer with a prison sentence.



FATAL INCIDENT IN TAICHUNG: A deadly accident occurred at an elevated section of the Taichung MRT last Friday when a 209-tonne steel girder at the construction site fell from a height of about three stories onto a busy road, killing four people and injuring another four. A Taichung official said on Sunday that contractors had broken the rules at the time of the accident by hoisting the steel girder three days ahead of schedule.

Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) on Saturday denied media reports linking the accident to his request that the MRT be completed two years ahead of schedule, saying the accident was the result of human error.

TAIPEI DOME PROJECT FLAWED: The Taipei city government said on Thursday it had identified major safety hazards in the controversial Taipei Dome project and has demanded a major revision of the construction plans, including the possible scuttling of the half-completed centerpiece arena.



NUCLEAR 1 REACTOR: The No. 1 reactor at the country’s first nuclear power plant could have to go offline sooner than expected because of limited storage space for spent nuclear fuel, state-owned Taiwan Power Co said on Sunday.

CANCER DIAGNOSIS STATISTICS: A new cancer case was diagnosed every 5 minutes and 26 seconds in 2012, a new record that was 14 seconds faster than the previous year, according to the latest statistics by the Health Promotion Administration released on Tuesday.

COKE, COAL BAN: Six local governments in central and southern Taiwan have teamed up to combat the worsening PM2.5 air pollution in the region, pledging to ban the burning of petroleum coke and coal. Local governments blasted the Ministry of Economic Affairs over its warning that the ban would lead to electricity shortages, saying this exaggerated the situation and was little more than a scare tactic.

WATER RESOURCES: Taiwan is capable of retaining a mere 20% of annual precipitations each year while the rest runs off into the sea, a problem that the government needs to address to alleviate the worst drought conditions in decades, an official of the Water Resources Agency (WRA) said Wednesday. Water supplies to industrial users in Kaohsiung were cut by 10 percent from Wednesday, up from the 7.5 percent reduction already in place to fight the persisting water shortage.

FULLY CHINESE-FUNDED HOTEL: Started by a niece of former Chinese vice president Zeng Qinghong (曾慶紅), the U Hotel Taipei seems to be aiming at wealthy individual Chinese tourists and is the first hotel fully funded by Chinese capital in Taiwan.

PAKISTANI NOBEL LAUREATE TO VISIT TAIWAN: Pakistani campaigner for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousufzai is to visit Taiwan, possibly in August, said Huang Teh-fu (黃德福), president of Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, a government-funded foundation.


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.


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