Week of May 16-22, 2015

Ex-DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh announces his presidential bid; DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen leads all possible KMT rivals in the polls; KMT presidential primary registration closes without party chairman Eric Chu, Vice President Wu Den-yih and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng participating; Taiwan at RIMPAC? Hsiung Feng III in Paris…Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



EX-DPP CHAIRMAN ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL BID: Shih Ming-teh (施明德), a former DPP chairman and leader of an anti-corruption campaign against former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), announced his bid for the 2016 presidential election on Thursday, vowing to collect sufficient signatures and endorsements to be eligible as an independent candidate. Shih said he would assume the role of “Robin Hood” with his pursuit of justice for Taiwanese and turn the country’s political system into a parliamentary system if he were elected. He also accused both the blue and green camps of “perpetuating close ties with corporations,” citing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) recent remarks on “Taiwanese workers have too many holidays” as an example.

TSAI AHEAD OF ALL POSSIBLE KMT RIVALS: DPP Chairperson Tsai would defeat all potential Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) contenders in the presidential election next year, according to a poll released by the Taiwan Thinktank on Tuesday. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would be her strongest rival, trailing Tsai by a slim 3 percentage points.

KMT REGISTRATION ENDS: The period for KMT aspirants to pick up registration forms for the party’s presidential primary closed on Saturday without the participation of heavyweights, including Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. Political analysts, however, were skeptical about the possibility of a final-minute “trick” in which one of the three heavyweights would be directly picked to run in 2016.

Former health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) and Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) have collected sufficient signatures from party members endorsing their presidential bid, and registered for the party primary on Monday and Sunday respectively. Yaung rejected claims that he had registered for the primary at the behest of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former National Security Council secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰). Huang Po-shou (黃柏壽), a novice in politics who also intended to register, withdrew last Thursday.

Signatures for endorsement are subject to verifications, the results of which will be made available on May 25. A support rate of at least 30% in a poll against Tsai Ing-wen is one of the criteria. If only one contender exceeds the threshold of 15,000 signatures from party members and passes the 30% threshold, the hopeful can win the party’s nomination.

WANG STAYS AWAY FROM PRIMARY: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng officially announced on Friday that he would not enter the KMT presidential primary. Wang apologized to his supporters and called for party unity, saying that “an individual’s honor or humiliation is a trivial matter.” Wang confirmed on Monday that KMT Chairman Chu had “cordially” spoken over the phone regarding the issue of “party unity”, but declined to respond if Chu had invited Wang to join the party primary. President Ma, 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, said he respected Wang’s decision and denied the widely circulated speculation that he had prevented Wang from joining the primary. KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) on Wednesday called for revisions of the party charter to allow Wang to remain in the legislature as a legislator-at-large and leader in parliament. The KMT party charter states that a legislator-at-large can only be re-elected once; Wang is currently serving his second term as a KMT legislator-at-large.

CHU ON RESPONSIBILITIES AS CHAIRMAN: KMT Chairman Chu reaffirmed last Saturday that he would not join the primary, pledging that he would resign as party chairman if the KMT loses the presidential election, also dismissing speculation that he decided to stay out of the race because the party is considered to have little chances of winning. Chu made the comments in a press conference after the deadline for KMT primary applications, a day after President Ma spoke critically of Chu’s “responsibility” to join the primary as party chairman in the absence of any qualified KMT contender for the nation’s top job.



HIGH DISAPPROVAL FOR MA: President Ma’s disapproval rates checked in at nearly 70 percent or higher in various surveys on the eve of the final year of his term, with his approval rates staying low at under 20 percent. Ma said on Monday that approval rates should not be taken as something to dwell on, though they deserve “some attention.” Ma said he would continue to do what he needs to do until his term ends next year. He summarized the improvements in U.S.-Taiwan and cross-strait relations as some of his achievements. In a speech marking his seven years in office, Ma said he had no regrets over any decisions he had made to push for reform during his presidency. Ma’s national policy advisers on Tuesday lauded his performance, with one adviser blaming former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) for lifting the ban on the establishment of new newspapers, which “resulted in biased reporting that failed to do Ma justice.” Yes, those remarks were made in 2015, dear reader!

FOOD DISPUTE WITH JAPAN: President Ma on Monday said that joint efforts by Taiwan and Japan to trace the origin of false labels found on some food items imported from Japan could be a solution to the dispute over Taiwan’s tightened controls on Japanese food products from five prefectures in Japan that were affected by nuclear radiation. The measures, which came into force last Friday, were imposed after some products from the five restricted areas were found in March to have made their way into Taiwan using false labels. Japan’s State Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Keiko Nagaoka recently reiterated Japan’s expectations that the measures would be cancelled following bilateral talks with Taiwan’s health minister, who is attending the sixty-eighth World Health Assembly in Geneva.

CHINESE LAW REGARDS TAIWAN A SECURITY ISSUE: Academics attending a symposium on Wednesday warned that the inclusion of Taiwan in China’s pending National Security Law implies significant concerns in China over Taiwan as a major national security issue that cannot be compromised on.

MA DISMISSES GRAFT ALLEGATIONS: Responding to allegations by the Taipei City Government that he had facilitated illegal profiteering by Farglory Land Development Co (遠雄建設) in the construction of the Taipei Dome during his term as Taipei mayor, President Ma said the charges were based on a “strained interpretation” of the facts. The Clean Government Committee of the Taipei City Government has recommended that Ma be investigated by the Ministry of Justice.

RESTRICTIONS ON CHINESE STUDENTS: Restrictions set forth in 2011 on Chinese students studying in Taiwan will be gradually lifted, the Straits Exchange Foundation said last Saturday.

MINISTER ATTENDS APEC MEETING: Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (鄧振中) departed for the Philippines on Thursday to attend the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade from May 22-24. Deng said he would discuss Taiwan’s recent decision to tighten controls on Japanese food products with Japanese officials.

ST. LUCIA TO OPEN EMBASSY IN TAIPEI: St. Lucia is finalizing the details for the establishment of its first embassy in Taiwan scheduled for mid-June, a Taiwanese foreign affairs official said on Thursday.

KING OF SWAZILAND ON 15TH VISIT TO TAIWAN: King Mswati III of Swaziland, one of Taiwan’s three diplomatic allies in Africa, was welcomed by a military ceremony upon his arrival on Tuesday. This is his 15th visit to Taiwan.

FOURTH-GENERATION CHIANG FAMILY IN ELECTION: Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), the son of former KMT vice chairman John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) and the great grandson of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), was nominated on Wednesday as a KMT candidate for next year’s legislative election after he won by more than 10 percentage points over incumbent KMT legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) in the party’s legislative primary.



TAIWAN’s RIMPAC HOPES: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the U.S. military budget for next year last Friday with an amendment stipulating that if the U.S. Department of Defense invites China to participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a similar invitation must also be extended to Taiwan. The Ministry of National Defense welcomed the development, reiterating that Taiwan intends to play a more active role in regional security and shoulder more responsibility for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and is keen to be an observer at international organizations focused on security and cooperation while taking part in joint exercises.

TAIWAN ATTENDS AMPHIBIOUS SYMPOSIUM: Taiwan joined 21 countries in an amphibious leaders symposium hosted by the U.S. Pacific Command earlier this week for dialogue on key aspects of maritime and amphibious operations, capability development, and interoperability, according to a statement from the U.S. Pacific Command released on May 20. The participants also observed an amphibious landing by the U.S. 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Ministry of National Defense declined to confirm Taiwan’s participation.

US TO HELP WITH MILITARY EXERCISE PLANNING: The U.S. will send military advisers to assist Taiwan with its planning and assessment of the upcoming annual Han Kuang military exercises on the basis of a five-year contract negotiated through Taiwan’s defense attaché in Washington, according to a senior Ministry of National Defense official.

TAIWAN KEEN ON SOUTH CHINA SEA TALKS: Taiwan looks forward to participating in dialogue and mechanisms related to South China Sea issues and working with other countries in the area to settle disputes through peaceful means, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Tuesday in response to media reports in which a scholar from the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, said Taiwan’s participation in negotiations aimed at resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea would be beneficial for the parties concerned.

CHINA’S NUCLEAR FORCE UPGRADE: China has re-engineered many of its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple warheads, a step that U.S. officials and policy analysts say appears to be designed to send a strong signal to the U.S. as it prepares to deploy more robust missile defenses in the Pacific, the New York Times reported last Saturday. The Ministry of Defense said it would continue to closely monitor China’s nuclear force development concerning impact to Taiwan’s national security.

TAIWAN’S INTERPOL BID: A draft bill requiring the U.S. president to develop a strategy to help Taiwan obtain observer status in the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) cleared the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. The U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs will review the draft bill on Thursday.

ESPIONAGE FOR CHINA: Draft amendments to the National Intelligence Services Act subjecting officers who are found guilty of spying to harsher punishment received preliminary legislative approval on Wednesday. A total of 33 cases of alleged espionage for China have been brought to light over the past five years, the National Security Bureau told the legislature.

INDIGENOUS ANTI-SHIP MISSILES AT PARIS SHOW: The locally developed Hsiung Feng III “Brave Wind” surface-to-surface anti-ship missile will be on display abroad for the first time at the International Paris Air Show next month. The international community is interested in the HF-3, which has been described as an “aircraft-carrier killer,” the Taiwan Aerospace Industry Association said on Monday.



KMT BLOCKS VOTING AGE REFORM: The review of draft proposals calling for lowering the voting age to 18 at the legislature’s Constitutional Amendment Committee was blocked on Wednesday due to debate over the procedure for reviewing amendment proposals. DPP Chairperson Tsai and social groups accused the KMT of attempting to hijack the draft voting age amendment by tying it to the more controversial draft proposals of absentee voting, which is likely to complicate the review process and hinder the voting age reform.

FUNDING FOR LONG-TERM CARE QUESTIONED: The legislature passed a draft bill on long-term care services last Friday, clearing the way for the KMT’s proposals over its funding from public coffers, health surcharges on tobacco, donations, interest from the fund and other sources. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said the legislation would benefit more than 2 million people, including those who are in need for care services as well as their family. Civic groups and the DPP criticized the lack a sufficient and stable source of funding as detrimental to the sustainability of the services.

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS: During discussions in legislative committee about a draft greenhouse gas reduction act (溫室氣體減量法) on Monday, the Environmental Protection Administration said Taiwan should to set a voluntary carbon standards and greenhouse gas reduction goal to prevent international sanctions over its excessive per capita carbon dioxide emissions. However, it suggested the goals not be incorporated into legislation in case any unattained goals undermine Taiwan’s future international negotiations.



NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE SITES IN CHINA? The Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Monday that the opinions of local communities would be taken into consideration on the final selection for a high-level radioactive waste storage site, of which the decision is to be finalized by 2038, possibly via referendum. Commenting on reports that a meeting between senior officials from both sides of the Taiwan Strait on Kinmen this weekend could touch on the subject of sending low-level radioactive waste to China’s Gansu Province for storage, the ministry said this was only “an idea.” The Taiwan Affairs Office denies the whole thing.

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST IMMIGRANTS: Human rights advocates protested on Monday against the Ministry of Education’s highly disputed high-school curriculum guidelines for the adoption of discriminatory language to refer to foreign spouses and other immigrants. Phrases such as “foreign brides,” “Filipino maids” and “Indonesian maids” perpetuate negative stereotypes, they said. The guidelines have been in dispute for months due to revisions resulting from the allegedly “conservative ideology and opaque design” process of the Ministry of Education committee.


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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