The KMT confirms Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu’s presidential candidacy; Hung’s cross-strait policies labeled as Beijing-centric; DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai challenged by online rumors; China’s plan to waive entry permits for Taiwanese raises concern over Taiwan’s ‘dignity.’ Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS
HUNG CANDIDACY ‘CONFIRMED’: After garnering 46.203 percent support in a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) poll last week and passing the required 30 percent support threshold for the party’s primary polls, Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) Tuesday won the unanimous endorsement of the KMT Central Standing Committee to become the party’s presidential candidate for next year’s election, though final approval by the KMT congress next month is still required. Some KMT lawmakers, however, are still concerned that her nomination would “make the January presidential and legislative elections in central and southern Taiwan a disaster.” Hung visited Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Thursday to secure his support. While it appears that Hung has locked up the KMT’s nomination, some political observers still believe that Hung’s rivals in her party could try to turn things around in the party congress.
MIXED POLL RESULTS: A poll by TVBS showed that Hung would beat her rival, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), by 41 percent to 38 percent, if the presidential election were held now. However, a survey released by the Cross-Strait Policy Association found that Tsai could win by a landslide, leading by 50.2% to 29.3%. On leadership, Tsai rated 45.5 percent against Hung’s 31.5 percent; on the ability to safeguard Taiwan’s interests, Tsai (44.7 percent), Hung (31.6 percent); trustworthiness, Tsai (47.3 percent), Hung (32.6 percent); feasibility of her policies, Tsai (39.3 percent), Hung (34.3 percent); understanding of public opinion, Tsai (48.6 percent), Hung (28.9 percent); and global perspective, Tsai (58.9 percent), Hung (18.6 percent).
HUNG’S CONTROVERSIAL POLICIES: Though Hung has yet to unveil her full policy platform given the limited time she has had since winning the KMT primary, many of her remarks have drawn criticism, depicting her as a more pro-China and pro-unification politician than President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Commenting on the controversy over the Ministry of Education’s high-school curriculum adjustments on Thursday, Hung said the changes were “too minor” and “far from enough.” The eight-term legislator, who said she would sign a “peace treaty” with China if she were elected, said on Tuesday that there is no room for Taiwan independence as far as the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution is concerned. She made the remarks after being asked if she would opt for a more radical approach pushing for cross-strait unification. She also highlighted the “one China” principle in the ROC Constitution and advocated easing the restriction for Chinese spouses to obtain ROC citizenship, adding that Taiwan’s democracy should try to win the hearts of the 1.3 billion Chinese. On the same day, the KMT included the so-called “1992 consensus” into the draft amendments to its policy guidelines.
STRONG SUPPORT FOR TSAI’S ‘STATUS-QUO’: According to poll results released by the green-leaning Taiwan Brain Trust last Friday, more than 60 percent of respondents were satisfied with Tsai Ing-wen’s performance during her U.S. visit, while more than 70 percent believed the trip would contribute positively to her presidential bid. Meanwhile, 71.8 percent agreed with Tsai’s remarks about maintaining the cross-strait “status quo” during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.
ONLINE RUMORS TARGET TSAI: The DPP on Saturday shot down a seemingly “politically motivated” online rumor against Tsai Ing-wen’s family, which claimed in a video that her family owns a restaurant chain seeking business development in China. The DPP urged the public who receive the message to refer it to the party or to the police for investigation. Another rumor circulated in cybersphere describes Tsai’s father as working in Japanese-controlled Manchuria during World War II and manufacturing “military aircraft that attacked ROC troops.” The style of attack is reminiscent of those launched against Tsai in the previous presidential election and against independent candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) during the Taipei mayor election in November 2014.
AIT REAFFIRMS US STANCE: Newly appointed American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Kin Moy reiterated the U.S.’ stance Wednesday that it does not take a position on any of Taiwan’s candidates for next year’s elections and looks forward to working with whomever Taiwanese choose as their new leader. Moy added that the U.S. had “constructive” exchanges with Tsai Ing-wen during her recent visit to Washington, and that it “welcomes other candidates to visit should they wish to do so.”
► CROSS-STRAIT AFFAIRS
CHINA’S ENTRY PERMIT EXEMPTION FOR TAIWANESE: Beijing announced a new initiative on Thursday to waive entry permit application requirements for Taiwanese to ease access for cross-strait travel beginning July 1. China could replace the current passport-like booklet, called taibaozhen (台胞證), with an IC card similar to the one Hong Kong and Macao residents currently use. The unilateral move without prior consultations with Taiwan or notification has raises suspicions among opposition lawmakers that China intends to “downgrade” Taiwan’s status to that of Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, whose residents hold IC cards that are equivalent to China’s “home visit permits.” Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said China’s new plan was “positive for cross-strait interactions” but the Mainland Affairs Council reserved judgment on the plan before more information is available to assess if Taiwan is treated with “dignity” under the initiative.
CHINA’S ‘UNITED FRONT’ WORK: About 26% of Chinese visitors on professional exchange permits to Taiwan last year travelled across the Taiwan Strait to bolster Beijing’s “united front” tactics, owing to their connections to China’s political or government agencies, according to a DPP lawmaker, citing National Immigration Agency data.
► SOUTH CHINA SEA ISSUES
CHINA TO ‘COMPLETE’ S CHINA SEA PROJECT SOON: China is to build facilities on the artificial islands it has created with its controversial South China Sea land reclamation projects to perform several tasks — including military defense, although the land reclamation work will be completed within days, according to its foreign ministry on Tuesday. Responding to the latest developments, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said, “China’s stated plans do not contribute to a reduction in tensions, support the emergence of diplomatic and peaceful solutions, or bolster China’s disputed maritime claims.” There are also concerns over China’s plans for more construction work. A U.S. spy plane has flown close to the artificial islands that China has been building, prompting protests by Beijing. Both sides recently reached an agreement on a framework for dialogue, and will soon augment a shared code of conduct with guidelines for military airplane operation near each other, according to the China Daily.
Meanwhile, Japan warned China on Wednesday that its land reclamation in the disputed region does not make ownership “a done deal.” Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims with China over parts of the disputed South China Sea.
‘SECRET MISSION’ TO ITU ABA: Accompanied by coast guard and naval officials aboard the nation’s largest patrol ship, Coast Guard Administration Minister Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) departed on Thursday without fanfare or an official announcement for a visit to an outpost on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島), part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, where Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping territorial claims with China. Wang’s five-day “secret mission” was regarded as Taiwan’s assertion of its sovereignty and demonstration of its defense capabilities.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
ABORTED ATTEMPT FOR REFERENDUM ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS: Interparty negotiations over various constitutional reform proposals broke down again during the legislature’s last plenary meeting, sending the plan to put the proposed reforms for a referendum on the day of next year’s presidential and legislative elections to ensure sufficient voter turnout to a dead end. After the legislature passes a constitutional amendment, it needs to be gazetted for six months before being put to a national referendum. The failed negotiations nipped the plan to timely put any referendum proposal to a national referendum on Jan. 16, the day for next year’s elections, in the bud, signaling hurdles ahead for constitutional reform — a 50 percent turnout of eligible voters is required for a referendum to be declared legitimate — a threshold which critics say is almost insurmountable.
Advocacy groups and the DPP confronted the KMT, saying that the latter should be held accountable for the failed reforms allegedly resulted from its insistence on bundling amendments for simultaneous legislative passage, while the DPP proposed that amendments on which the parties have reached a consensus, such as lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 and lowering the threshold for parties to secure representation in the legislature, be passed separately in time for the administrative procedures required by the referendum.
GRAND JUSTICES NOMINATION CONFIRMED: The legislature on Friday confirmed the nomination of four Grand Justices candidates appointed by President Ma. Civic groups blasted that the review process was neither detailed nor lengthy enough for a review with scrutiny. Some DPP lawmakers who had threatened to abstain earlier also cast ballots in the vote on the nominations. The Constitutional Court is to be filled with 15 grand justices all handpicked by the same president following the legislature’s approval, which civic groups warned earlier as “leading to a risk of dictatorship.”
TAIPEI, MANILA FISHERY AGREEMENT: Following the deadly shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippines Coast Guard personnel and several other fisheries-related scrapes, the Philippines is reviewing a draft fisheries agreement with Taiwan to ease tensions in waters where the exclusive economic zones of both sides overlap, while its foreign ministry emphasized that the purpose of the pact is to set protocols on the arrest and detention of fishermen rather than for maritime boundary delimitations. Meanwhile, the Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture called on the media on Wednesday to avoid “playing up” disputes between coastguard vessels of Taiwan and the Philippines, as tension between both sides built up following fishery incidents.
MORE ACTION AGAINST DISPUTED TEXTBOOK CHANGES: Representatives of organizations in protest of the disputed amendments of high-school curriculum guidelines gathered at the Taipei District Court Tuesday to lodge a provisional injunction aimed at halting the Ministry of Education’s proposed adjustments to the guidelines. Students who view the revisions as inappropriate and part of a “brainwashing” strategy launched a protest in Taipei and Tainan against the ministry’s unexpected cancellation of three hearings to review the curriculum guidelines amid national discontent on campus. A KMT lawmaker accused the protesters of being manipulated by opposition forces. The curriculum controversy escalated last year upon the finalization of the revisions, of which the revision replaced a pluralistic, global perspective on Taiwanese with a distinct pro-China bias based on the allegedly “opaque design process” of the ministry involving a group of professors in support of Taiwan’s unification with China.
US VISA PROGRAM RENEWED: The U.S. has confirmed the renewal of Taiwan’s participation in its visa-waiver program. The notification came after the U.S. last year sent inspectors to examine whether Taiwan is in compliance with security and information-sharing requirements, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
FOREIGN WORKERS, SPOUSES TO ENJOY LEGAL AID: The legislature passed a revision to the Legal Aid Act (法律扶助法) extending legal assistance to foreign workers and economically disadvantaged foreign spouses. The amendments also grants easier access to assistance for individuals with mental or psychological impairment.
CARBON EMISSION CONTROL: The U.K. and the E.U. have lauded Taiwan’s passage of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act (溫室氣體減量及管理法) at the legislature on Monday, concluding a four-year review and preparing Taiwan for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December. Under the act, Taiwan will have to ensure a 50 percent cut in the 2005 carbon dioxide emission levels (251 million tonnes) by 2050.
CABINET-LEVEL COMMISSION FOR MARITIME POLICIES: The legislature on Monday passed the Maritime Commission Organic Act (海洋委員會組織法) paving the way for the creation of a Cabinet-level commission by year end charged with implementing maritime and related environmental protection policies.
SECURITIES REGULATIONS FOR FOOD SAFETY: Recognizing the impact of a string of food safety scandals, which caused heavy losses on the stock market, the legislature approved an amendment to the Securities and Exchange Act (證券交易法) on Monday to allow the suspension of trading of shares in companies involved in any issue that undermines public safety, such as food scandals and pollution.
CANCER STILL NO. 1 CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer has topped Taiwan’s 10 leading causes of death for the 33rd consecutive year, accounting for 28.3 percent of all deaths recorded last year. With cancer diagnoses rising steadily across the nation, Taiwan spent nearly NT$80 billion (US$2.56 billion) on cancer treatment last year, with the largest share going toward colorectal cancer therapy, according to the data released by the National Health Insurance Administration Tuesday.
WAGE RAISE FOR FOREIGN CAREGIVERS: Authorities who place workers from Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines have planned to jointly address the wage-increase issue for caregivers from these countries to Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor, demanding a raise of monthly wages from NT$15,840 to NT$17,500, as a national minimum monthly wage raise is to be implemented on July 1. Aware of the proposed plan, the ministry dismissed the possibility to meet the expectations immediately, saying that a concrete response may only be available by the end of the year.
HYDIS PROTEST: Hydis Technologies workers in Seoul and their supporters in Taiwan held simultaneous protests on Tuesday over the allegedly “brutal and inhumane” handling of nine South Korean workers in a heavy-handed manner by Taiwan’s interior ministry during their demonstrations in Taiwan from late last month to last Friday. The protests in support of South Korean workers’ rights were triggered by the dismissal of more than 300 South Korean workers by Hydis Technologies Co Ltd, which was acquired in 2008 by Taiwanese e-paper manufacturer E Ink Holdings Inc.
STATE-INVESTED AIDC RETURNS TO PARIS SHOW: Taiwan’s state-invested Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), which completed its privatization process last year, is back at the Paris Air Show — a biennial show that opened on Monday — for the first time in 10 years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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