DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai concludes her 12-day U.S. tour, which many analysts describe as a success; Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu’s stock in the KMT presidential primary appears to be rising while Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng might still hope to enter the race; China conducts military drills in the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and Philippines. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS
TSAI CONCLUDES US VISIT: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) returned to Taiwan on Tuesday after a 12-day visit to the U.S. Tsai appears to have convinced the U.S. that she would be able to manage cross-strait relations if elected, becoming the first Taiwanese presidential candidate to enter the State Department’s headquarters, where she met a team of officials including Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the White House for a meeting with National Security Council officials, according to local media reports. U.S. officials and Tsai “had a constructive exchange on a wide range of issues,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Responding to a reporter’s question on Friday, Harf stressed, however, that there have been no change in the U.S. stance on a strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan based on the “one China policy, the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act.”
Tsai said the exchanges of opinions with U.S. government officials, politicians and think tank experts were part of “a very valuable process.”
U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce last Thursday promised to Tsai that he would support Taiwan’s efforts to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and renewed his commitment to press the U.S. for a decision on Taiwan’s acquisition of diesel-electric submarines.
CHINA CHALLENGES TSAI’S CROSS-STRAIT STANCE: The Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under China’s State Council on Wednesday urged Tsai to articulate her definition of cross-strait ties, and said that Tsai had failed to “make herself clear on the core issue” during her 12-day U.S. trip. “Recognizing that the ‘mainland’ and Taiwan belong to the same China” is the core issue to China’s concern, the TAO said.
DPP spokesperson Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said that Tsai had made it clear that she would promote cross-strait relations under Taiwan’s current constitutional order, and that her remarks on “maintaining the status quo” in cross-strait relations referred to maintaining democracy and freedom in Taiwan, as well as the “status quo” of peaceful and stable cross-strait development.
KMT NOMINATION DRAMA CONTINUES: Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) is increasingly likely to become the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate after various polls showed strong voter support. It has been rumored, though, that pan-green respondents to the polls stated they supported Hung to create a false image of her actual support and therefore secure her nomination, knowing that her chances of prevailing against Tsai are low. Furthermore, the prolonged primary process could still produce surprises. Several KMT members held discussions on Tuesday on a more restricted proposal to set further roadblocks along Hung’s path to pave the way for a Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) bid.
Wang on Sunday hinted that he may have altered his stance on running in the elections by saying that he was “committed to doing his duty if drafted by the party” and called a halt to the machinations described above. Local media reported that Wang was forced to say he would not consider any presidential bid due to objections from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) resulting from a much-hyped feud between the two.
A Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (TISR) poll released on Thursday shows by 62.4 percent support for Hung among pan-blue respondents. However, some KMT politicians have called Hung a weak contender against the DPP’s Tsai. As the only participant in her party’s presidential primary, Hung will face two days of public polls by the KMT, starting on Friday, to determine her nomination. Two days before the opinion polls kicked off, Hung proposed to sign a “peace pact” with China if she is elected, and accused the DPP of promoting Taiwan independence “in the name of democracy” to “confront the 1.3 billion of people in China.”
HALF OF NATION FAVORS ALTERNATION IN POWER: A survey by the TISR released on Thursday showed that 58 percent of respondents regard another alternation of power as “indispensable,” although some argued that Tsai’s commitment to maintaining the “status quo” in cross-strait relations based on the current constitutional order of Taiwan sounded similar to the KMT’s China policy. According to the poll, if the presidential election were held today Tsai would beat Hung by 40.7 percent to 30.5 percent; 44 percent said they were convinced that a Tsai administration would not push for Taiwan independence.
Meanwhile, support for Ma saw a further decline from last month and now stands at 15.5 percent, the survey showed.
TSAI DOMINATES IN POLLS: A survey by the Chinese-language Liberty Times on Thursday showed that Tsai remains the favorite in any potential matchup against KMT candidates. Wang Jin-pyng did best among four potential KMT politicians, but still trailed Tsai by 13 percentage points (Tsai 38.42%, Wang 24.93%). The other matchups:
Tsai (41.02%), Eric Chu (25.77%)
Tsai (41.02%), Hung Hsiu-chu (24.19%)
Tsai (51.91%), Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) (13.77%)
► CROSS-STRAIT AFFAIRS
BUREAU ‘SNEAKS IN’ CHINESE SHIPS FOR PROJECT: A DPP legislator exposed an official approval by the Marine and Port Bureau for the operation of Chinese engineering ships, allegedly in collusion with Chinese authorities, on an offshore wind-farm project later this month. The legislators said this defied a decision by the legislature and undermined national security.
SCIENTIST RESIGNS OVER LEAK ALLEGATION: The National Space Organization has accepted the resignation of lead scientist Liu Cheng-yen (劉正彥) after Liu agreed to a position with the Beijing University of Technology, which had launched recruitment drive for foreign professors, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement on Thursday. Liu’s acceptance of the university’s offer led to fears that he could leak sensitive secrets from the organization to China.
WORKING WITH CHINA ON SOUTH CHINA SEA? DPP lawmaker Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) on Saturday questioned whether President Ma was “intentionally” forging ahead with China-leaning policies by commissioning government research projects on the South China Sea dispute managed by mostly pro-China academics in Taiwan. Chen cited a project concluded with policy proposals urging Taiwan and China to join forces to protect the territory of “one China” and the implementation of cross-strait military and political cooperation in the South China Sea.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
MA’S POWER DURING LAME-DUCK PERIOD: DPP lawmakers on Monday expressed concerns over the possibility that Ma may still want to use his power for the last-minute signing of “peace pact” with China during the four-month “caretaking period” between the presidential election in January next year and the new president’s inauguration on May 20. The legislators urged the enactment of a statute on the handover of the president and the vice president to secure specific regulations and ensure stability during the transitional period.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS TO BE DISCUSSED: Several high-profile bills for constitutional amendments, including proposals to lower the legal voting age and the threshold for parties to secure legislator-at-large seats, as well as those on reinstating the legislature’s right to vote on a premier and introducing the absentee voting mechanism, will be discussed individually at the plenary session, according to the resolution of the legislature’s Constitution Amendment Committee on Monday, the deadline for the committee reviewing of the bills. The DPP and civic groups had 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.
EXECUTIONS A POLITICAL RESPONSE? Six inmates were executed last Friday amid public anger over the recent slaying of an eight-year-old girl in her school, although three of the condemned had filed for “extraordinary appeals” that can be filed under certain circumstances to challenge judicial rulings. Rights activists and the UK-based Amnesty International described the executions as a hasty political response to escalating public anger over the deadly attack, an allegation that the Ministry of Justice denied on Saturday. The EU issued a statement calling for Taiwan’s moratorium on capital punishment hours after the executions.
NEW AIT DIRECTOR: New American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Kin Moy, the first Chinese-American to serve as the institute’s director and the second high-ranking U.S. diplomat of Chinese descent to serve in the Taiwan Strait area, arrived in Taipei on Monday. Moy served as deputy executive secretary in the office of then-U.S. secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton prior to his most recent diplomatic assignment at the U.S. Department of State in Washington.
DPP TO CONTINUE NEGOTIATIONS WITH THIRD FORCE: DPP Chairperson Tsai said on Monday that she would prioritize negotiations on possible collaboration with alternative political forces in preparation for next year’s legislative elections in a bid to secure sufficient seats for opposition forces to form a majority in the legislature.
STUDENTS PROTEST AGAINST HISTORY TEXTBOOK CHANGES: Students have launched protests against the Ministry of Education’s new guidelines for high-school curriculum, in which revisions replaced a pluralistic, global perspective on Taiwanese with a distinct pro-China. The protesters accuse the ministry of using an “opaque design process” and involving a group of professors who support Taiwan’s unification with China and urged the minister to respond to the dispute “in good faith” or else they would take to the streets against the curriculum implementation set for August.
The curriculum controversy escalated last year after the finalization of the revisions. The ministry had planned three panel discussions on campus over two days starting on Tuesday for the minister to discuss the changes with teachers and students. A number of students complained that the events were announced on extremely short notice, and that many of those concerned about the changes were unable to attend.
VETERAN ACTIVIST PASSES AWAY: American human rights and social activist Lynn Miles, well known for his significant contributions to Taiwan’s democracy during the White Terror period, died of cancer on Tuesday at a hospice in New Taipei City. Miles was indicted in February for participating in last year’s Sunflower Movement-linked rallies in Taipei against the government’s handling of a cross-strait service trade agreement.
GREEN PARTY UNVEILS CAMPAIGN AGENDA: The Green Party Taiwan has put forward policy proposals to improve the public livelihood, promote indigenous rights and ensure optimal land use for the public interests ahead of next year’s legislative elections. The party also declared its firm stance against Taiwan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
PLA MILITARY EXERCISE NEAR TAIWAN: Chinese warships and aircraft on Wednesday passed through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, a choking point in the South China sea where China’s sovereignty claims overlap with those of Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, on their way to routine planned exercises. The People’s Liberation Army Navy announced this week that the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait near Japan have been “proving grounds” for routine drills and exercises since 2012. China’s increasingly assertive moves to press sovereignty claims in the East and South China Sea have aroused concerns in Washington and elsewhere.
CORRUPTION CASE IN MILITARY CONTRACT: Public prosecutors have detained dozens of military officials and civilian defense contractors for questioning as part of a massive operation investigating military corruption in which contractors allegedly provided cheap, inferior components from China that were used to produce CM-32 “Clouded Leopard” armored vehicles. The operation involved raids that resulted in about 60 detentions, along with the seizure of documents and other evidence at 37 locations across the nation, including the Ministry of National Defense’s Procurement Office and the Ordnance Readiness Development Center in Nantou County.
US DECISIONS AFFECTS CROSS-STRAIT FUTURE: Decisions on U.S. Navy spending made by the U.S. Congress and the White House could affect the likelihood and outcome of a U.S.-China military conflict over Taiwan, while China has geared its naval modernization towards addressing the situation with Taiwan, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report by a specialist in naval affairs. The report predicted that the growing gap in military capability between Taiwan and China in Beijing’s favor would continue over the coming years. China is actively expanding its Navy and aims to operate 415 ships, including four aircraft carriers, by 2030, the U.S. Defense News reported Saturday, citing a former U.S. Navy officer.
SPYING PENALTIES INCREASED: The legislature passed amendments on Tuesday to the National Intelligence Services Act (國家情報工作法), imposing stiffer penalties for military personnel and convicted of espionage while working in national security or related intelligence services.
MERS PRECAUTIONS: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday expanded its travel alert for Seoul to the whole of South Korea as a precaution for the rising number of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) cases there. Separately, frontline medical personnel joined a seminar on Monday for instructions on what to look out for in potential MERS infections, as well as on proper quarantine procedures. The Sports Administration is also considering whether Taiwan should attend this year’s Summer Universiade next month in Gwangju, South Korea, due to concerns over the MERS outbreak. A Taiwanese man who displayed symptoms of MERS after returning from a trip to Seoul tested negative for the disease on Wednesday at a local hospital.
NEW EVIDENCE FOR CONTROVERSIAL CAPITAL CASE: Two former police officers came forward on Tuesday, offering to testify for a death penalty case in which death-row inmate Chiu Ho-shun (邱和順) was allegedly repeatedly tortured into confession. Chiu was put on death row in 1989 for robbery, kidnapping and murder despite several retrials.
TAIWANESE UNIVERSITIES DECLINE IN ASIAN RANKINGS: The rankings released by Times Higher Education magazine on Wednesday showed a further decline in the number of Taiwanese universities among Asia’s top 100, with only 11 making the list this year, down from 13 last year and 17 in 2013. This has caused concerns that Taiwanese institutions are losing ground.
WATER RATIONING LIFTED: Parts of the northern, central and southern regions signed in relief after recent seasonal rains alleviated the worst drought in decades. Further water rationing has therefore been called off.
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.
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