The KMT launches its presidential nomination process; DPP presidential candidate Tsai begins her nationwide “listening tour”; the Cabinet finds a motion to lower various referendum thresholds passed by the legislature’s Internal Affairs Committee “unacceptable”; President Ma appoints four constitutional court justices one year before the end of his second and last term; KMT Vice Chairman Hau visits China as a “warm-up” for the expected Chu-Xi meeting. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
KMT PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY: Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) signed up for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential primary, becoming the first person to do so after the nomination process began. Hung outlined her cross-strait relations platform, which includes the goal of signing a peace pact with China. Other hopefuls from the party, including Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), remain tight-lipped about their intentions.
New Taipei City Mayor and KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) made clear that he has no plans to enter the race, saying he would explain why he is not running for president after May 16, the deadline for signing up. Some KMT supporters, however, believe that Chu may change his mind if “persuaded” by more supporters.
Former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), an outspoken college professor, announced on Wednesday that he will enter the race. Huang Po-shou (黃柏壽), a 53-year-old man with limited political experience, also signed up on Monday.
TSAI’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) made Kaohsiung the first stop of her national campaign tour following her nomination as the party’s presidential candidate, saying the city would become an important door to the international community if she were elected, and the DPP’s goal is to establish a partnership between the central and local governments for the advancement of Taiwan’s development.
Separately, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) last Friday urged Tsai to clarify her recent statement that maintaining the “status quo” is the basis of the party’s cross-strait policy.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
AIT DIRECTOR ON ‘ONE CHINA’: American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Christopher Marut on Thursday took questions from students after a speech at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu about the U.S.’ “one China” policy, Washington’s position on the Sunflower movement and the upcoming presidential election.
DEFINING THE 1992 CONSENSUS: In response of a comment made by Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Deputy Director Li Yafei (李亞飛) during a forum in Taipei that the 1992 Consensus signifies that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait agree to orally interpret in its own way on the adherence that both sides belong to the same China,” Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said on Thursday that Taiwan does not recognize Beijing’s interpretation of “one China” and insists that the “one China,” in Taiwan’s view, represents the Republic of China (ROC).
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUSTICES NAMED: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Thursday appointed four candidates to serve as justices of the Constitutional Court pending legislative approval, a year before the end of his presidential term, to replace four of the 15 incumbent justices whose term will expire on Sept. 30. Shilin District Court president Lin Jyun-yi (林俊益), one of the district court judges who handed down the ruling that Ma was not guilty for embezzling the special expenses fund when he was Taipei City mayor, was nominated amid controversy and criticism.
WANG’S KMT MEMBERSHIP CONFIRMED: Legislative Speaker Wang on Thursday formally regained his KMT membership after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the party. The court made the decision after the KMT failed to submit a required document on the appointment of legal representatives.
KMT DELEGATION TO CHINA: KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) embarked a trip to China on Thursday for a seminar celebrating the historical meeting of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and former Chinese president and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary-general Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), just days before the KMT-CCP forum scheduled for May 3 and a meeting between KMT Chairman Eric Chu and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on May 4. Hau and his KMT delegation will meet TAO Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), with the visit dubbed a “warm-up” for the Chu-Xi meeting.
TAIWAN’S AIIB BID: Taiwan may become a new member of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as an economy despite being rejected as a founding member, said Zhu Guangyao (朱光耀), China’s vice finance minister after giving a speech at the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council last Thursday.
ROC EXISTENCE: In response to reports that Nanjing University had launched “The Special History of the Republic of China,” a book which say the ROC was established in 1912 and ended in 1949, the MAC said on Tuesday that Beijing should squarely face the reality of the existence of the ROC and the fact that Taiwan and “mainland China” are under separate rule.
HAPPIER TAIWAN UNDER MA? Opposition lawmakers lambasted a recent directive by the Cabinet instructing government agencies to communicate from May to July to the public that “Taiwan has become happier over the past seven years” under Ma’s administration, criticizing it as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
TAIWAN, US ENVIRONMENTAL COLLABORATION: The achievements of the International Environmental Partnership program, launched during a visit to Taiwan last April by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the highest-level U.S. Cabinet official to visit Taiwan in about 14 years, are being showcased in an exhibition starting on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the program that advances Taiwan-U.S. cooperation on environmental issues.
KMT ASSET CONTROVERSY: A DPP lawmaker on Tuesday renewed the demand for the disclosure of information about the KMT’s controversial party assets, which was removed from the government’s websites after the KMT regained power in 2008. The Ministry of Finance had failed to follow through on Premier Mao Chi-kuo’s (毛治國) promise last month to make the information available.
PRO-INDEPENDENCE PARTY LAUNCHED: A new political party jointly launched by civic group leaders, students and Sunflower movement activists last Friday was named by its organizer as the Free Taiwan Party (自由台灣黨), which will advocate for Taiwanese independence. Helping the pan-green camp defeat the KMT in next year’s election is one of the new party’s goals.
NEW BLOOD IN KMT RACE: Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), the son of former KMT vice chairman John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) and a fourth-generation descendant of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), is to advance to the next round of the party’s primary for next year’s legislative elections.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
ALL-VOLUNTEER MILITARY SERVICE: A recent opinion poll conducted by Academia Sinica indicates that most Taiwanese public support a return to compulsory military service, but Ministry of National Defense (MND) officials said on Monday that the transformation to an all-volunteer military cannot be reversed.
The DPP would reassess the feasibility of the shift if it wins the presidential election next year, according to York Chen (陳文政), the convener of the national defense policy group at the DPP think tank. However, DPP chairperson Tsai clarified that her party would review the issue to find a solution within 10 months after coming to power, adding that was unlikely she would seek to reinstate conscription. Tsai on Thursday accused the KMT of deliberately twisting her remarks about military recruitment reform to score political points.
RAPID CHINESE PROGRESS IN DISPUTED TERRITORY: China has made swift progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern in the U.S. and across Asia, according to satellite images last Thursday. China was also working to extend another airstrip to that length in the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), over which Taiwan also claims sovereignty.
P-3C ON SURVEILLANCE MISSIONS: The MND confirmed for the first time Monday that the military will dispatch its U.S.-made P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft on surveillance missions to the country’s territory in the South China Sea.
RIMPAC MILITARY DRILL: Taiwan has been persistent in its efforts to inform the U.S. of its desire to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC), the largest naval exercise in the Pacific Ocean and is hosted by the U.S., despite China’s constant objections, MND said on Monday.
US, TAIWAN INTERPOL BILL: A new bill urging U.S. President Barack Obama to submit an official request on Taiwan’s behalf to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) for Taiwan’s observer status was introduced into U.S. Congress last Thursday.
RAILGUN DEVELOPMENT: Advances in the development of electromagnetic rail guns (ERG) could have a major impact on Taiwan’s defense capacity, a U.S. military analyst says.
REFERENDUM REFORMS: The legislature’s Internal Administration Committee passed a motion Wednesday to lower the threshold of first-phase petitions for referendums to require signatures to just 0.01 percent — or about 1,800 people — from 0.5 percent of the electorate subsequent to KMT lawmakers’ withdrawal from the meeting. The current threshold of a 50 percent turnout of eligible voters for a referendum to be declared legitimate as well as the referendum review commission was also abolished. Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) found all the amendments “unacceptable” on Wednesday evening, warning that the changes could become “disastrous.”
40-HOUR WORKWEEK: The Executive Yuan on Thursday approved a proposal that would cut the workweek to 40 hours, raise the cap on overtime work to 54 hours per month and extend the application of the two days off per week policy across the board. The proposal, which still has to be approved by the Legislative Yuan, is expected to benefit 3.4 million workers, the Ministry of Labor said.
MILITARY PUNISHMENT LAWS: The legislature on Tuesday passed amendments to the Punishment Act of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍懲罰法) proposed after the death of an army corporal, whose death from abuse sparked protests by tens of thousands of people in 2013. The practice of confinement to “detention barracks” will no longer be allowed in the military.
TEXTBOOK CONTROVERSY: 21 civic groups urged local governments to boycott textbooks based on the new guidelines for high-school social studies curriculum guidelines, of which the changes resulted from the allegedly “conservative ideology and opaque design process” of a Ministry of Education committee sparked controversy. One of the changes made for the guideline is the removal of sections on human rights and the White Terror era and inclusion of sections on the “family clan” and Chinese culture.
The ministry is appealing a court decision ordering the release of the names of the committee members, meeting transcripts and voting records for the adjustments. The Taipei City government plans to continue to use an unadjusted curriculum until the Ministry of Education resolves the controversy.
CONFIDENCE IN JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE: The public believes that the judicial system is politically influenced, with more than 50 percent of respondents saying President Ma was likely to interfere in court cases, according to a survey by Academia Sinica.
GROUP WINS DECADE-LONG LAWSUIT: A court last Friday ordered the now-defunct electronics company Radio Corp of America (RCA) and its owners to pay NT$564.45 million (US$18.11 million) in damages to 445 former workers and their families. During the period between 1992 when RCA shut down its plants in Taiwan and 2004 when 519 of the self-help association of its workers filed the civil lawsuit, more than 1,300 of RCA’s former employees exposed to 31 kinds of organic solvent have been diagnosed with various types of cancer, with 221 of them dying, said the verdict. The EPA has designated the 7.2 hectare plant as a site of “permanent contamination.”
PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR MIGRANT WORKERS: A draft plan allowing eligible migrant workers in Taiwan to apply for permanent residence is being crafted in a bid to increase Taiwan’s workforce, according to the Ministry of Labor on Wednesday. Separately, the ministry echoed a proposal by lawmakers to increase the total number of years foreign nationals can work in Taiwan on the condition that the extension will not affect local residents’ employment.
FOOD SAFETY: Authorities are to conduct an extensive inspection of beverage chains later this month, as a pesticide residue scare involving a popular tea store chain using tea leaves with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) unfolds, said the Food and Drug Administration Wednesday.
► MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS
TAIPEI DOME PROJECT: The Farglory Group (遠雄集團) on Tuesday called ongoing criticism over the safety of its Taipei Dome project for the 2017 Taipei Universiade based on the findings of the latest inspection by the Taipei City government “an unacceptable joke.” Its chairman denies allegations of secret deals with President Ma while Ma was Taipei mayor to alter contract terms in the company’s favor. Ending the controversy could be tricky, however, as the Dome could collapse if construction were immediately halted, which could affect the safety and operations of a Taipei metro branch line, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said on Tuesday.
MAYOR’S BOYCOTT OF CITY COUNCIL: Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) has continued his boycott of city council meetings on grounds of vote-buying allegations against Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教). Lee of the KMT on Wednesday said that council meetings would be suspended indefinitely unless the Executive Yuan and the Control Yuan pursue their administrative responsibilities to penalize and impeach officials involved in allegedly forcing city councilors to join Lai’s boycott.
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. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:
“China’s New S-400 SAM: Implications for Taiwan” by Michal Thim
“Still Public Housing in Singapore? Lessons for Taiwan” by Loh Kah Seng
“Turning the Tide with Facts and Science” by A.R.