KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu faces more headaches as more party members consider jumping ship; Rumors circulate that KMT Chairman Eric Chu could replace Hung on the KMT ticket; President Ma Ying-jeou and the pan-blue camp attack former president Lee Teng-hui for his comments about the Japanese colonial period; PFP Chairman James Soong’s apology for his role in the martial law era encounters skepticism; Former vice president Lien Chan to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in China and to attend the military parade on Sept. 3 in Beijing. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
EMBATTLED HUNG: The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Tuesday dismissed reports alleging that Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu’s (洪秀柱) presidential candidacy would be taken over by KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) as “groundless rumors.” Hung’s low popularity and controversial “pro China” stance have generated fears of a coattail effect favoring People First Party (PFP) presidential hopeful James Soong (宋楚瑜), who entered the race earlier this month. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), also a KMT member, downplayed the matter of when he would show firm support for Hung, saying that his assistance would be like “throwing a tiny stone into a pond with the limited effect of a small ripple.”
Meanwhile, Soong continued his visits to KMT power brokers in central and southern Taiwan, which are regarded as Hung’s weak constituencies. Greeted by heavyweights from the ruling party in Miaoli on Tuesday, Soong complacently expressed his strong confidence in gravitating local votes.
Also in Miaoli, the presence of pan-blue-leaning borough wardens at DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) campaign events last Friday raised eyebrows. Chu on Wednesday downplayed the attendance of party members at campaign events, saying he interpreted this as personal interactions rather than acts of unfaithfulness to the party. Asked if the KMT was planning large-scale campaign events to build momentum for Hung amid rumors that he would replace Hung, Chu said that this would be unnecessary as grassroots-level trips should be a priority.
SOONG’S APOLOGY: Responding to doubts over his role and actions during the martial law era, PFP presidential candidate James Soong expressed regret for “the harm and wounds” during a press conference for his second campaign video. Some praised his apology as “courageous,” while others regarded it as a “PR stunt” that was evasive, lacking sincerity, and “far from accomplishing transitional justice.”
CAMPAIGN SECURITY: With gun-related incidents deemed the biggest concern for the National Security Bureau during presidential campaigns, the NSB has ordered several gunfire detection kits from the U.S. to step up its security preparations for the 2016 presidential candidates and important figures. The bureau said it hoped to have the new equipment ready for display by mid-November following training for the presidential candidate protection teams.
NEW PARTY SUPPORT FOR KMT: The pro-unification New Party on Monday offered its support to the KMT in January’s legislative elections “to prevent the DPP from gaining a legislative majority.” The party failed to win any seats in the 2008 and 2012 legislative elections.
TSAI ON JUDICIAL REFORM: DPP presidential candidate Tsai said she would convene a judicial reform convention if elected to discuss changes along the lines of a “people’s judicial system.” Tsai said this was a matter that required presidential leadership, adding that her party has proposed nine concrete reform platforms on the subject.
TSAI ENJOYS STEADY LEAD: Tsai Ing-wen continued to hold a commanding lead with 44.1 percent support in the latest poll released on Thursday by the by the Cross-Strait Policy Association, while the support of her rivals, the PFP’s James Soong and the KMT’s Hung Hsiu-chu, was 17.7 percent and 15 percent respectively. According to a survey conducted by the Chinese-language Liberty Times, support for Tsai was 45.17 percent, while Soong ranked second at 15.99 percent and Hung 12.73 percent.
► PAN-BLUE CAMP BESIEGES LEE TENG-HUI
ATTACKING LEE: The pan-blue camp spent the entire week attacking former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) over his interview with a Japanese magazine in which the 93-year-old said he and his brother (who died in the Philippines) fought for Japan as Japanese soldiers. As the attacks on Lee intensified, President Ma accused the former president of “selling out Taiwan” and called him “a disgrace.”
The pan-blue camp appeared to be using the controversy as a campaign tool. The KMT legislative caucus demanded Tsai Ing-wen express her views on Lee’s remarks and to explain her position on the Japanese colonial past. During his opening speech at the Taiwan-U.S.-Japan Trilateral Security Dialogue in Taipei on Tuesday, President Ma also questioned Tsai’s proposal to maintain the cross-strait “status quo” if elected, and vaunted his “viable diplomacy” policy under the “1992 consensus.”
Additionally, Ma published an op-ed article in the Washington Times in which he vehemently denounced former president Lee’s remarks that the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) belong to Japan, where they are known as the Senkaku Islands, saying that “former or future presidents should not be cavalier about, or forsake, our national sovereignty.”
TSAI CALLS FOR SOCIAL HARMONY: DPP Chairperson Tsai on Sunday urged the Presidential Office and KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu to refrain from “manipulating differences between different groups of people for political gain.” Tsai was referring to the repercussions from former president Lee’s remarks that Taiwan did not take part in the “War of Resistance Against Japan,” and that most of the Taiwanese who joined the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II believed they were fighting for their motherland, which at the time was Japan. The previous day, the Presidential Office had blasted Tsai’s call for tolerance and understanding of Lee’s viewpoint as “hypocritical.” Hung subsequently said that “Taiwan would be sold to Japan” if she failed to win next year’s presidential election. Lee said the KMT’s attacks on him over the matter — which include a threat to scrap all courtesy afforded to as a former president — were simply politicking.
► CROSS STRAIT RELATIONS
LIEN CHAN TO ATTEND PRC MILITARY PARADE: Former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) during his trip to Beijing amid China’s World War II commemorative activities, which will include a military parade on Sept. 3. The DPP has criticized Lien’s attendance in the event as “extremely inappropriate” and a sign that the KMT is unable to control its members.
Former Premier and Chief of the General Staff of Taiwan’s military Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), whose son Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌) is now a KMT vice chairman, denied on Thursday that he had received an invitation to attend the Victory Day parade and that he intended to participate. President Ma was reportedly furious about the possibility that the retired four-star general, who fought communist forces during the Chinese civil war as well as the Japanese during China’s War of Resistance, might attend the parade at Tiananmen Square.
SHEN: CHINA NO. 1 THREAT TO TAIWAN: China remains the No. 1 threat to Taiwan despite being the nation’s biggest opportunity, Taiwan’s Representative to the U.S. Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said on Thursday in a speech at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. The outspoken Shen added that he hoped Beijing would not “seek to hurt Taiwan” during Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to Washington.
CROSS-STRAIT TALKS: The latest round of high-level meetings between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) began on Monday with framework agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and aviation safety as the main items on the agenda. A proposal to allow Chinese air passengers to transit through Taiwan, which has been stalled due to Beijing’s request for “optimized” flight routes across the Taiwan Strait, will also be discussed, the SEF said.
EX-SEF OFFICIAL APPLAUDS KO FOR SHANGHAI PERFORMANCE: Former SEF secretary-general C.V. Chen (陳長文) lauded Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) performance during his visit to Shanghai last week, describing his stance on cross-strait relations as “lubricating developments in cross-strait relations.” Some people have warned that Ko’s mention that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” could be exploited by Beijing in its promotion of Taiwan’s unification with China.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
KMT PARTY ASSETS: KMT Chairman Eric Chu said on Wednesday that the party had concluded processing its controversial asset listed by the cabinet and Control Yuan. The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), however, accused the KMT of failing to handle at least seven items of dubious ownership in its “inappropriate party assets.” The KMT continues to use these state properties, which have a cumulative value of NT$700 million (US$216 million), as its offices, the TSU said.
DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK POLITICIZED: Dengue fever has claimed two more lives in Tainan, increasing the death toll from the tropical disease to four this year. The KMT accused Tainan City mayor William Lai (賴清德) of the DPP on Wednesday of “being preoccupied with Tsai’s election campaign” rather than with disease control. As of Tuesday, of the 2,360 dengue fever cases confirmed nationwide this summer, 1,974 were in Tainan.
NEW ID CARD SCHEME: Despite protests by civic groups who have expressed concerns over personal data protection and the possibility that the database could serve as the basis for a government surveillance systems, the Ministry of the Interior said it is planning to integrate national identification cards with embedded chips and Citizen Digital Certificates and to equip the combined smart card with an e-purse function.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
ALL-VOLUNTEER MILITARY PLAN POSTPONED: President Ma’s policy to phase out conscription and implement an all-volunteer military hit a wall after the Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed on Wednesday that it would postpone implementation until the end of next year due to its failure to meet recruitment targets. After the announcement, the embattled Presidential Office said the media and the public had all misunderstood Ma’s intention to “partially maintain the mandatory service while going ahead with the recruitment plan,” and denied any plan to shift to an “all-voluntary” military. KMT lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) warned of a shortfall of 20,000 soldiers by the end of next year as a result of the policy embracing an all-voluntary military.
SUBMARINE PROCUREMENT: The MND on Monday said it still intends to acquire submarines from the U.S. despite its plans to develop indigenous ones, adding that submarines are on the priority list of weapons needed by Taiwan. President Ma said on Sunday that Taiwan needs diesel-electric submarines rather than nuclear-powered ones and has decided to build the type of craft it requires.
NON-PROSECUTION PROMPTS UPROAR: A decision by prosecutors last Friday not to press charges over the unauthorized tour by civilians of a restricted military base in Taoyuan, during which a TV personality boarded an AH-64E Apache helicopter, has triggered public anger. Given by military personnel, the tour sparked anger over privileges granted to celebrities and the families and those with ties to military personnel. The Apache scandal involved the alleged exposure of classified weapons technology (sources, however, tell us that the inside of the helicopter is not classified as long as the control panel is turned off), raising concerns over the issue of military discipline and security awareness.
Lashing out against the “trivialization” of the case “against public expectations,” legislators said they suspected that “unseen political forces” could be behind the decision to drop the charges. The Ministry of National Defense was forced to allow similar visits in response to an online protest by over 27,000 netizens who sarcastically signed up for group tours to see the attack helicopters at the same base.
► ECONOMY AND BUSINESS
INVESTMENT, BUSINESS OUTLOOK: The TAIEX on Tuesday experienced its strongest rally since December 2011 after the government authorized the use of the National Financial Stabilization Fund (國安基金) for the first time in four years to protect the Taiwan Stock Exchange from the fallouts of roiling global markets. Local shares were hit more severely than those of other nations, signaling a weaker investor confidence in Taiwan, the National Stabilization Fund Committee secretary-general said. In another measure to stabilize the market, the Financial Supervisory Commission on Monday imposed a ban on short selling of borrowed stocks at prices lower than the previous day. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research on Tuesday pointed to an increasingly gloomy business outlook for local firms in a variety of sectors last month as Taiwan’s GDP growth struggles to stay above the 1-percent mark for this year.
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.
Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:
“Taiwan, China and the U.S. Presidential Election,” by Peter Enav
“VOTE 2016: Why Beijing Should Worry About 小Soong’s ‘Rebirth,’” by J. Michael Cole
“VOTE 2016: How Much Should Candidates Say About Defense?” by Michal Thim
“China Ramps Up Ideological Campaign Against Taiwan in the U.S.,” by J. Michael Cole
“Taiwanese Leaders Should Skip the Victory Day Parade in Beijing,” by J. Michael Cole