Week of July 11-17, 2015

DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen increases her lead; Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu appears close to securing the KMT presidential nomination, but support hits record low; KMT expels five dissenters; President Ma visits Central America and makes transit stops in the U.S.; water park explosion claims sixth victim. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



KMT AXES FIVE; HUNG NOMINATION NEAR: The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) revoked the membership of five vocal critics on Wednesday, saying that their constant attacks on the party, especially on TV talk shows, had “hurt” party unity. The move occurred four days ahead of the party’s national congress, where Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) is expected to secure her nomination as the party’s presidential candidate. KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) stressed that the measure against the five was taken to ensure party unity to win the elections in January.

Hung’s nomination on Sunday is expected to be swiftly confirmed, with merely a few potential confrontations expected, according to media reports.

Expelled legislator Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟) is to be immediately ousted from the legislature because he represents the KMT as a legislator-at-large. Chi was at ease despite the party’s decision, but said he was concerned that Chu had left the KMT in a “pathetic state.”

Former KMT legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文), who had already withdrawn from the party to join the People First Party (PFP) last month, was expelled as well. Chang said he expected that 13 more KMT politicians would leave the party due to low party morale and the unclear direction of the KMT.

Also expelled were former Taipei City councilor Yang Shi-chiu (楊實秋), Taipei City councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) and party representative Lee Po-jung (李柏融), a longtime backer of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) also expressed his concern last Friday over Hung’s presidential candidacy due to her image as an advocate for Taiwan’s unification with China.

MA ON HUNG’S CROSS-STRAIT PROPOSAL: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has advised Hung to replace her controversial proposal of “one China, common interpretation” with his “one China, different interpretations” framework to avoid “confusion.” Ma had said earlier that Hung’s proposal was basically identical with his China policy.

A KMT lawmaker revealed that Hung was to make clear her controversial proposal in a press conference following her official nomination as the KMT’s presidential candidate on Sunday. Hung’s office, however, was reserved on the matter, saying she would only do so “if her schedule allows.”

WANG DECLINES INVITATION TO MANAGE CAMPAIGN: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng declined again on Wednesday an invitation to serve as Hung’s campaign office director after Hung pressed him to join the team in an interview the previous day. Hung insisted that Wang’s participation would end rumors about the allegedly strained relationships between the two. There has been talk of Wang and other senior figures in the KMT refusing to support Hung’s candidacy.

Wang asked Hung not to put him in a difficult position with the repeated “invitation.” “Putting me in a difficult position is tantamount to putting the legislature in a difficult position,” Wang said, adding that he would have to deal with the next legislative session starting in September and that it would not be possible to manage a campaign at the same time. Hung nevertheless said she would continue to ask for Wang’s help.

TSAI INCREASES LEAD: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) increased her lead over potential rival Hung Hsiu-chu from around 15 percentage points to more than 30 points. Tsai led with 54 percent against Hung’s 19.5 percent, the latest poll by the Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (台灣指標民調) showed on Tuesday. Hung’s numbers have dropped 8.3 percentage points in two weeks and hit a record-low of 19.5 percent.

Meanwhile, a Taiwan Public Opinion Studies Association (台灣民意學會) survey released on Monday gave Tsai a 43.1 percent and Hung 24.2 percent. The survey showed Tsai leading in a three-way presidential race as well. Should People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) enter the race, Tsai would lead with 41 percent, while Soong and Hung would receive 21 percent and 14 percent respectively, the survey showed. Additionally, 20 percent of those who voted for Ma Ying-jeou in 2012 would now opt for Soong, and 18 percent for Tsai.

HUNG ACCUSES DPP OF ‘MANIPULATING’ PROTEST: Hung accused the DPP of “politically manipulating” a spreading student protest against “China-centric” adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines by the education ministry, urging DPP Chairperson Tsai to stop doing so. Some student campaigners stormed into the K-12 Education Administration building on Monday, vowing to take further action by the end of the week if the guidelines are not withdrawn. The DPP said Hung’s remarks were meant to “politicize” the student movement, an indicator of the “limited attention she had paid to Taiwan.” While the party supports the students, it does not take part in the activism, the party said.



MA VISITS CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN ALLIES: In his final year in office, President Ma embarked on a trip on Saturday to visit allies in Central America and the Caribbean. The 11th overseas visit since Ma came to office in 2008 takes him to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Nicaragua for talks with heads of state, including Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Ma offered on Sunday to mediate, within the scope of Taiwan’s abilities, in a dispute between the Dominican Republic and Haiti over issues regarding Haitian immigrants. Ma said he would at least touch on the issue during bilateral talks with the leaders of both sides.

During his stay in Haiti on Wednesday, Ma told Haitian President Michel Joseph Martelly that Taiwan would fulfill its pledge to help the diplomatic partner’s development in its post-2010 earthquake reconstruction efforts.

MA REITERATES SUPPORT FOR ‘1992 CONSENSUS’: The so-called “1992 consensus,” or “one China, different interpretations,” is a model for the peaceful coexistence of Taiwan and China, Ma said in Boston on Saturday, stressing that the consensus has helped the two sides of the Taiwan Strait put aside their sovereignty disputes for mutual benefit. Taiwan will not encounter problems in cross-strait relations as long as the consensus is abided by, regardless of who wins next year’s presidential election, Ma said, adding that he could not predict the aftermath from any deviation from the consensus.

The KMT will allegedly incorporate the consensus into its party platform.

MONTEREY TALKS IN DC: High-level officials from Taiwan and the U.S. will hold two days of annual top-secret defense and security talks, known as the Monterey Talks, in Washington next week. Informed sources said the two sides would discuss subjects such as arms sales, threat perceptions and regional security concerns. Taiwan’s appeal for U.S. help with its indigenous diesel-electric submarine program is also expected to be on the agenda.

AIT ON US-TAIWAN RELATIONS: With a “transformed and redefined” way that the U.S. thinks about Taiwan, the U.S.’ main policy is to support the ability of Taiwanese to determine their own fate, free from intimidation and coercion, while viewing its relationship with Taiwan now as important and not “as some appendage or some small aspect of our relationship with Beijing,” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Ray Burghardt told a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Burghardt said the U.S. will work with Taiwan’s new leaders to strengthen the unofficial bilateral relations and to safeguard joint interests, regardless of who wins the presidential election, adding that the U.S. does not push for any negotiations across the Taiwan Strait.

Burghardt added that the scope and pace of cross-strait negotiation, as well as the basis of such negotiations, would have to be agreed upon by — and only by — people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Local media interpreted his remarks as U.S.’ “non-endorsement” of the “1992 Consensus.”

Separately, AIT Washington Office Managing Director Joe Donovan described about 100 little-known agreements as the “glue that binds America and Taiwan together,” identifying the areas in which the U.S. and Taiwan cooperate as space exploration, weather forecasting, fighting infectious diseases, combating global terrorism and global warming.

IMPACT OF DISTRUST ON CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS: China and Taiwan are still unable to establish “real mutual trust,” leading to friction and conflict when dealing with high-level issues in politics, security and international participation, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) told a Brookings Institution conference on cross-strait relations on Monday, adding that fundamental and intractable political differences on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have remained despite advances over the past seven years.

Hsia also reiterated that the “1992 consensus” of “one China, different interpretations” is the core for cross-strait policies, and called on all presidential candidates to clarify their cross-strait platforms.

‘TAIWAN ISSUE’ IN US-CHINA DIALOGUE: At one of the first open briefings to prepare the way for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) Washington visit in September, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia Susan Thornton described the Taiwan “issue” as one of the “core interests” of China, but one that the U.S. did not necessarily want to discuss in great depth during the closed-door seventh annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue last month. Thornton identified arms sales to Taiwan as the primary issue China raised with Washington, while she “wouldn’t say there was any specific discussion about the possibility of a DPP victory in the upcoming presidential elections of Taiwan.”

TAIWAN DONATION TO EISENHOWER MEMORIAL: Taiwan is donating US$1 million to help build a US$142million Washington memorial to former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower.



DPP ANTI HACKING EFFORTS: The DPP revealed Monday it has been employing coded messages to keep classified information from hackers, as the party has been subject to a series of severe cyber attacks, notably from China.

RESPONSE TO BEIJING’S SPIKE IN DETENTIONS: The KMT and DPP have joined human rights groups worldwide in condemning the reported arrests of human rights lawyers and dissidents across China. Lawyers and human rights activists in Taiwan further called on the government to speak up about Beijing’s human rights abuses.

TAIWAN-PHILIPPINES FISHERIES DEAL IN THE WORKS: Taipei and Manila are still seeking to sign an agreement to cooperate on law enforcement in fishery matters in their overlapping economic waters as soon as possible, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.

PROSECUTOR CHALLENGES JUSTICE MINISTER: A public prosecutor on Monday filed for a preliminary injunction with the High Administrative Court against the justice minister in a dispute over promotions and transfers of judicial personnel. Citing the prosecution of a young leader of last year’s Sunflower Movement, ostensibly to intimidate other activists, the prosecutor said that judicial reform was indispensable.

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN FUND SHORTAGE: The Executive Yuan on Wednesday announced the details of a bailout in response to Miaoli County Commissioner Hsu Yao-chang’s (徐耀昌) call for financial support from the central government on Friday, as the county government does not have enough money to pay the salaries of its employees and the pensions of retired civil servants. Hsu attributed the local government’s financial plight to the “extravagances” of the former county commissioner, Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻).

It is estimated that a total of seven local governments across Taiwan are facing a fund shortage crisis, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported on Wednesday.

NGOS KEEP EYE ON GOVERNMENT ENERGY PROJECT: Non-governmental organizations announced they have launched a joint monitoring initiative targeting a NT$3 billion (US$95.8 million) energy conservation project by the Cabinet. Launched in March, the project funds conservation efforts undertaken by local governments, which are often regarded as “mostly half-formed and lacking strategies to boost civic participation” by activist groups.

MINISTRY LIFTS BAN ON VIETNAMESE LABOR FORCE: A 10-year-long ban on Vietnamese caregivers, domestic helpers and fishermen in Taiwan was lifted on Wednesday, with the first batch of about 10,000 workers expected to arrive in approximately three months, the Ministry of Labor has said.

WATER PARK EXPLOSION CLAIMS NEW VICTIM: The June 27 explosion at the Formosa Fun Coast Water Park claimed a sixth victim on Wednesday after a 35-year-old was taken off the respirator at a Keelung hospital. According to the Bureau of National Health Insurance, 388 people are still hospitalized, with 200 patients in critical condition.


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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