Week of Jan. 10-16, 2015

President Ma’s integrity in question over political donations; Taiwan protests against China’s unilateral announcement of new flight routes which could have an impact on the nation’s security and sovereignty; new bird flu outbreak. Welcome to this week’s issue of the Insider.



TAIWAN OBJECTS TO CHINA’S NEW AIR ROUTES: The Taiwanese government said it opposed China’s “unilateral announcement” of four new flight routes, arguing that those would have a serious impact on cross-strait flight safety, Taiwan’s security and sovereignty. Taipei has raised the issue with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Taiwan said it hoped to continue negotiations with China on the matter and called for the U.S. to intervene.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said on Tuesday that military air patrols would not be changed as a result of the Chinese plans to implement the new routes. The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said that the development was not expected to affect bilateral negotiations despite several opposition lawmakers calling for the suspension of cross-strait talks.

Legislators across party lines on Wednesday said China was testing Taiwan’s bottom line and that it would be difficult to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait keep if the government does not confront Beijing head on over the matter.

York Chen (陳文政), a former National Security Council advisor, was quoted as saying that the announcement was nothing new as China had made the same attempt in 2007 but subsequently cancelled the plan due to U.S. pressure. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) described the announcement as a unilateral attempt to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

MA’S INTEGRITY ON THE LINE: The controversy involving President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) acceptance of illegal political donations is snowballing, with fresh accusations by various political pundits. Radio news host Clara Chou (周玉蔻), who accused Ma of receiving off-the-books donations from Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團), released an audio recording between former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), Ma’s confidant, and the Wei family, founders of the group. Chou claimed this proved the close ties between Lo, Ma, and the Weis.

Chen Min-feng (陳敏鳳) wrote on my-formosa.com, an online news website, that Ma had accepted a political donation of NT$200 million — more than is allowed under electoral regulations — from about a dozen business tycoons during his presidential campaign in 2007.

Clara Chou added that Terry Gou (郭台銘), chairman of the Foxconn Group, had donated NT$300 million — also illegally — to Sean Lien (連勝文), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate in the Taipei mayoral election.

Former Tainan city councilor Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) has filed a complaint to the National Taxation Bureau, demanding the bureau look into possible tax evasion on Ma’s part.

FOREIGN MINISTER DENIES US REP. RUMOR: Foreign Minister David Lin denied that Washington has demanded that Taipei replace Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., in the aftermath of a flag-raising ceremony on New Year’s Day that caused tensions between Taiwan, the U.S. and China.

MA ADMINISTRATION TOUGH ON JAPAN: Noting the 120th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of the Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, Ma said on Wednesday that the occupation was “null and void” and did not change the fact that the islands are part of Taiwan’s territory. On Saturday, MOFA spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) urged Japan to “critically examine” its mistakes in using sexual slavery during World War II. Kao’s comments coincided with reports that references to the sordid history are to be deleted from certain Japanese high school textbooks.

CENTRAL AMERICAN ALLIES: Foreign Minister Lin told a legislative session on Thursday that the ministry had dissuaded eight of Taiwan’s 12 diplomatic allies in Central America from attending a ministerial forum held Jan. 8-9 in Beijing. The allies reassured Taiwan that the talks were only about economic and trade cooperation, the ministry said.

CHU SET TO ASSUME KMT CHAIRMANSHIP: New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) is set to officially assume the KMT chairmanship on Jan. 19 after the Jan. 17 election, in which he will be the only candidate. KMT headquarters have refuted a claim by a party member, who has filed a provisional injunction, that the election violates the KMT charter.

POPE SKIPS TAIWAN: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Vatican had turned down an invitation to Pope Francis to visit Taiwan as part of his Asia tour. While the Vatican has not provided details on the reasons for the rejection, MOFA said that the Vatican’s interest in improving ties with Beijing could have been a factor.

CONFIDENCE WEAK ON KMT’S PARTY ASSET HANDLING: A public opinion poll conducted by the DPP found that 70% of the respondents do not believe incoming KMT Chairman Eric Chu will return the party’s ill-gotten assets, while 61% believed the KMT assets created “unfair competition” between political parties.

TAINAN MAYOR NO-SHOW: Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) and 20 local government officials did not attend an extra session of the city’s council on Thursday, prompting accusations by KMT councilors of dereliction of duty. Lai had previously said he would not attend any council meetings until the court has resolved allegations of vote buying involving the election of Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教), a KMT member.

JASON HU TO JOIN MEDIA EMPIRE: Former Taichung mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) announced on his Facebook page on Wednesday that he will join the Want Want China Times Group starting on Feb. 1. According to the latest media report, the group has confirmed that Hu will serve as vice chairman under Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), a pro-Beijing figure who has made a fortune in China.

TAIWAN-IRELAND TAX AGREEMENT: President Ma announced on Tuesday that Taiwan and Ireland were negotiating a double-taxation agreement. The two sides started a working holiday program in 2013.

STRONG SUPPORT FOR COMBINED ELECTIONS: A public opinion poll showed that 68.4% of respondents support combining the legislative and presidential elections in early 2016, with 13% opposing, the Central Election Commission said, adding that the final decision will be announced next month. However, DPP lawmakers were skeptical, saying that the extended caretaking period would be a concern if the presidential election were held in January and the president-elect sworn in on May 20, 2016.

KAOHSIUNG COUNCILORS SENTENCED: A total of 23 people, including nine incumbent and 11 former councilors of Kaohsiung City and three of their aides, received jail terms of between two and 22 months for claiming reimbursement for salaries of their non-existent aides, a case dating back to 2009. Incumbent Kaohsiung Council speaker Kang Yu-cheng (康裕成) of the DPP received four months in prison. All penalties can be commuted to fines.



AIR FORCE OFFICIAL SENTENCED FOR SPYING: Chiang Fu-chung (蔣福仲), an interception controller in the Air Force, received a life sentence from the Taiwan High Court in a retrial on Wednesday. Chiang was accused of leaking air traffic control information to China and of spying for Beijing. Chiang may have leaked information on several air defense systems and interception parameters for the U.S.-made Patriot missiles.

CHINESE CYBER ATTACK: Facing daily and persistent attacks from China’s 180,000-member strong cyber warfare unit, Taiwan will establish a three-tier information security system and focus in particular on advanced persistent threats (APT), said Hisao Hsiu-chin (蕭秀琴), director of the National Information and Communication Security Office.

ANALYST PUSHES FOR US HELP ON SUBS: The U.S. government should help Taiwan acquire diesel-electric submarines as quickly as possible, according to a new foreign policy analysis by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank.

MORE BLACK HAWKS: Taiwan is set to receive delivery of 10 more UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. later this year. This will be the second batch of a total order of 60 Black Hawks, according to the military.



H5N8 BIRD FLU OUTBREAK: Health and agricultural authorities have been trying to contain an outbreak of H5N8 and H5N2 bird flu virus. The former was the first case in Taiwan while the latter has been described as the first mutated H5N2 virus in the world. Reuters reported on Monday that Taiwan has reported an outbreak of H5N8 bird flu virus to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak was first declared in central and southern Taiwan and has spread to northern parts of the country. A total of 64 farms in eight cities and counties are confirmed to have been affected by the outbreak. As of noon on Wednesday, about 36,000 birds at 23 establishments were exterminated after culling began on Sunday. More than 270 people are now on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) watch list. Meanwhile, government authorities denied there was a cover-up of the outbreak.

CHINA LARGEST DEBTOR: China remains Taiwan’s largest debtor, with Taiwanese banks’ exposure to China hitting a new high at the end of September 2014 amid warming business ties across the Taiwan Strait, the Central Bank said.

UNIVERSITY ENROLLMENT TO BE CUT: Taiwan plans to cut enrollment at universities and graduate institutes by approximately 35 percent over the next decade due to a shrinking population caused by a low birth rate.



POLITICAL PARTY ACT REVIEW: The Legislative Yuan began review of a draft political party act (政黨法) this week, though not a single clause will be passed before the end of the current legislative session. The opposition said this was an attempt by the KMT to distract the public from the controversy over its party assets and discussions on draft regulations pertaining to the disposition of assets improperly obtained by political parties (政黨不當取得財產處理條例). The KMT denies the accusation.

CHANGES TO WASTEWATER RULES: The legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on Wednesday approved a series of draft amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act (水汙染防治法) imposing stiffer penalties on firms that illegally discharge wastewater or sewage. If the draft amendments clear the legislative floor, firms that discharge wastewater, or arbitrarily dump or fail to properly handle sewage, will be subject to a maximum fine of NT$20 million (US$658,000), a significant increase from the NT$60,000 fine under current regulations.


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.

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