Week of May 9-15, 2015

The KMT sees no further progress in the registration of its presidential primary; DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen discloses the goals and itinerary of her U.S. visit; the Pentagon expresses concerns about Taiwan’s national defense; Japan may take dispute with Taiwan over food imports to the WTO. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



WU A DARKHORSE IN KMT PRIMARY? The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Wednesday that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has deferred his plan to join the presidential race due to objections from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is said to have misgivings about Wang because of the much-hyped political feud between the two that ended with Wang retaining his party membership.

With Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) reiterating his intention to stay out of the race and Wang not winning favor from the party establishment, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who has the lowest support numbers among major contenders, suddenly emerges as a likely candidate as the KMT’s central committee may resort to directly “drafting” a party heavyweight as its presidential hopeful if no registered contenders succeeds in fulfilling the said requirements. Several local media outlets reported that Wu is ready to accept the “draft” if Chu and Wang do not run.

Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), and Huang Po-shou (黃柏壽), a 53-year-old man with limited political experience, are the only contenders who have signed up for the party’s primary before the registration for the party’s presidential primary closes this Saturday. They will need to first obtain the required 15,000 signatures and subsequently pass a 30 percent support threshold in a public opinion poll to win the party’s nomination.

TSAI US VISIT: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Sunday that one of the goals of her U.S. visit is to improve her party’s communication with U.S. government officials, lawmakers and think tank experts in Washington, with exchanges of opinions on issues related to Taiwan-U.S. relations and security in the Asia-Pacific region. She added on Tuesday that she would share her views on Taiwan’s economic development during the trip.

According to the itinerary released by the DPP, Tsai and her delegation are scheduled to leave for San Francisco on May 29, and will head to Washington to meet with U.S. officials on June 2. A speech by Tsai at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been scheduled for June 3 before she attends a reception on Capitol Hill. The Chinese-language Liberty Times reported that Tsai will meet with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. A 30-member press corps will accompany Tsai and her delegation on the trip.

TSAI APOLOGIZES FOR LABOR COMMENTS: Tsai apologized on Sunday for a statement she made last Friday that Taiwanese have too many holidays, which prompted widespread public outcry. Her remark was made in response to a business owner expressing concerns over the impact on small businesses by the proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) that would limit weekly work hours to 40, while restricting overtime hours.



TAIWAN, CHINA OFFICIALS TO MEET IN KINMEN: Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said on Thursday that he will meet with his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), head of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), by the end of this month. He said the venue of the meeting will be on outlying island of Kinmen and that the two sides are expected to discuss issues such as the cross-Taiwan Strait trade-in-goods pact and planned agreements on direct flights and aviation safety.

MA REAFFIRMS STANCE ON “CONSENSUS”: In a meeting on Monday with Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), President Ma reiterated his strict adherence to cross-strait policy on the basis of the “1992 consensus” to maintain the peaceful “status quo” between Taiwan and China.

Ma also called on Washington for increased assistance to Taiwan’s submarine program, on which little progress has been made in the past 11 years. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday, Ma said he had realized his vision to create a free, democratic and prosperous Taiwan, a peaceful cross-strait relationship, and a friendly international environment.

Separately, two-thirds of Taiwanese opposed KMT Chairman Eric Chu’s recent remarks that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one China” before he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) last Monday, according to a DPP survey released on Friday last week. The MAC subsequently disclosed the results of a similar the next day, showing that 54% of respondents favor the “consensus.”

OFFICIALS’ TRAVEL EXPENSES PAID BY CHINA: The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Wednesday that the board and lodging expenses of the six officials on the KMT delegation for this year’s Shanghai Cross-Strait Economic and Cultural Forums led by KMT Chairman Eric were paid by China’s TAO. Asked to comment on the report, Minister of Civil Service Chang Che-shen (張哲琛) said it was “not illegal” for officials taking days off work to join political party-hosted activities “to have expenses paid by the hosts, even though it is inappropriate.” Other travel expenses of the officials were borne by the KMT, prompting criticism of violating administrative neutrality last week. The National Policy Foundation, the KMT think tank, denies the claims that China covered the travel expenses for the six officials.

CHINESE E-COMMERCE BRANCH ASKED TO LEAVE TAIWAN: Taiwan’s Investment Commission under the Ministry of Economic Affairs on Thursday asked tw.taobao.com, the Taiwan branch of Alibaba Group’s subsidiary taobao.com, to withdraw from Taiwan within six months and to pay a fine of NT$240,000 after the company set up as a Hong Kong-based foreign firm was found to have been controlled by Chinese shareholders — a violation of Taiwanese law.



JAPANESE FOOD IMPORTS BAN: In response to Taiwan’s decision to tighten regulations on imported Japanese food from five nuclear-affected prefectures starting from Friday, Japan could consider taking the case to the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Yoshimasa Hayahsi, Japan’s minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries on Tuesday. On Thursday, President Ma told a visiting Japanese official that Taiwan would lift restrictions on food imports from Japan after a thorough investigation into false labeling of Japanese food is completed. Under Taiwan’s new regulations, importers of Japanese food products are to be required to present certificates of origin to prove that the imports are not from any of the five prefectures, namely Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba.

MA TO BE PROSECUTED? The Clean Government Committee of the Taipei City Government last Friday accused the city government administration during President Ma’s tenure as Taipei mayor for enabling illegal profiteering by Farglory Land Development Co (遠雄建設) in the construction of the Taipei Dome, and thus recommended that Ma be investigated by the Ministry of Justice. Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has not decided if his administration would take action due to concerns over potential “default judgment” of the committee in Ma’s absence.

Presidential spokesperson Charles Chen (陳以信) denied the allegations and suggested that Ko promptly put Ma under investigation to ensure the case is handled in a fair, just, and legal manner. Senior judiciary officials held dissenting opinions on the potential prosecution of Ma.

KERRY TO MEET CHINESE LEADERS: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet senior Chinese leaders this weekend in Beijing amid heightened concerns in Asia and Washington over China’s pursuit of maritime claims. Washington has expressed concerns over China’s recent land reclamation work on islands in the South China Sea that it contests with Asian neighbors, including Taiwan. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Pentagon on Sunday of using its annual report on China’s military strategy (including the land reclamation program) to “hype up” the military threat posed by the nation and undermining bilateral relations. The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, Reuters quoted a U.S. official as saying on Tuesday.

BELARUS UNDERCUTS TAIWAN: Belarus released a joint statement with China on Sunday to oppose to Taiwan’s participation in international and regional organizations in which statehood is required. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday expressed its regret over the statement, saying Minsk was “merely repeating its long-term efforts to please China” and “ignoring the international reality and made inappropriate remarks that affect our country’s rights.”

MOFA’S HANDLING OF BOAT DETENTION QUESTIONED: A DPP legislator lashed out against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Monday over its handling of the detention of a Taiwanese fishing boat by the Philippines last week based on the latter’s unilateral investigation. Taiwan was no invited to take part in the probe. The captain and crew were released on bail last Friday, and were finally set free on Thursday after paying a fine of US$50,000, officials said.

TAIWAN-US COLLABORATION ON RENEWABLE ENERGY: Taiwan shares its views on promoting renewable energy generation and improving energy efficiency to cope with climate change and meet growing demand for electricity on Tuesday in a regional conference jointly organized by The Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Energy and AIT. U.S. officials present at the event included Robert Wang, U.S. senior official for APEC, and AIT Director Christopher Marut, who said the event marked a step forward in U.S.-Taiwan cooperation in the region.

PUBLIC SCRUTINY OVER GRAND JUSTICE NOMINEES: Legal experts and human rights advocates urged public scrutiny of the ongoing nomination process for four members of the Council of Grand Justices nominated by President Ma in April, announcing on Monday an upcoming evaluation of the four candidates that would encompass several specific attributes, such as commitment to an independent judiciary.

RIGHTS PROTECTION IN CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS: Human rights advocates and academics urged Wednesday that the Constitution should expand its human rights protection. DPP legislator Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君), the main proponent of what is now the only constitutional reform proposal to address human rights issues, launched discussions of constitutional reforms directed to improve human rights protection at a conference held by the Taiwan Association of University Professors by outlining her proposal currently under review by the legislature’s Constitutional Reform Committee.

TEXTBOOKS CONTROVERSY CONTINUES: The National Academy for Educational Research on Saturday warned publishers against using textbooks that it has not approved, saying doing so would be “in defiance of regulations.” Opposition lawmakers blasted the institution’s blatant defense of new textbooks with modified curriculum guidelines in dispute for months due to revisions resulted from the allegedly “conservative ideology and opaque design” process of the education ministry’s committee, calling it “an oppression of freedom of expression.” The modifications in dispute include the removal of sections on human rights and the White Terror era, as well as greater emphasis on Chinese culture.



NO REFERRAL OF OVERSIGHT BILL FOR COMMITTEE REVIEW: The KMT and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) scuffled over a motion to refer the oversight bill to regulate cross-strait agreements to committee review, while the DPP withdrew its boycott over the past weeks. The floor meeting adjourned without a vote on the referral. The TSU, which was adamant that the KMT would not preside over the review of the bill, derailed the vote. DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) criticized the TSU’s actions as “beyond comprehension,” since “different versions of the bill have been proposed and everyone is calling for the review to be done as soon as possible.”

FUNDING SOURCE FOR LONG-TERM CARE DISPUTED: The KMT and the DPP failed to reach a consensus on the funding sources in Tuesday’s negotiation for the draft long-term care services bill pending its third reading by the legislature’s general assembly. The two parties insisted on funding the services respectively by raising the National Health Insurance premiums and by increasing sales, inheritance and gift taxes. Civic groups criticized the cabinet’s proposal, which is in line with the KMT position, as lacking a sufficient and stable source of funding. The groups instead echoed the DPP proposal.



US CONCERNS OVER TAIWAN’S DEFENSE CAPABILITY: A Pentagon report to the U.S. Congress issued in Washington last Friday addressed concerns over Taiwan’s military downsizing program, its transition to an all-volunteer military, as well as the decrease of military spending in contrast to China’s official defense budget to about 13 times that of Taiwan. The report indicated that China’s massive military modernization program is dominated by preparations for a conflict with Taiwan and the possibility of U.S. intervention. The Ministry of National Defense responded on Saturday that it would upgrade Taiwan’s combat capabilities and seek increased investment in national security. The full text of the report is available here.

TAIWAN-MADE SATELLITE: The National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) on Tuesday unveiled its Formosat-5 optical remote sensing satellite, the first Earth observation satellite entirely developed by Taiwan boasting a higher resolution than its predecessor, for future application to bolster national security and conduct environmental surveillance, as well as to aid the nation in rescue missions and science projects.



NATIONALITY ERROR IN CANNES: The Cannes Film Festival has corrected the nationality of renowned film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) from “China” to “Taiwan” and promised to display the Republic of China (ROC) flag at the event among those representing the countries the films competing in the festival are from, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.

DEBT, LIABILITIES IN ESCALATION: With the pension reform plan stalled, national liabilities have surged to force a debt burden of at least NT$1.07 million on each Taiwanese, according to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).

CABINET EIC PROPOSAL IN DISPUTE: The Ministry of the Interior aims to implement its proposed electronic identification card (EIC) initiative as soon as 2017, with the proposed integration of multiple purposes including a driver’s license, National Health Insurance card, MRT pass, to register to vote in elections and even for filing taxes, the Chinese-language United Daily reported on Monday, citing Interior Minister Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁). Chen’s deputy, however, played down the intended functions of the card subsequently amid concerns and criticism by academics and the public that the proposal may pose threat to personal data security and privacy, saying that the initiative will not be ready before 2019.


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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