Former vice president Lien Chan echoes Beijing’s interpretation of the communists’ wartime role during a meeting with Chinese President Xi before attending a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II; KMT presidential candidate Hung abruptly announces the suspension of campaign, but denies she’s throwing in the towel; President Ma’s confidant King Pu-tsung is “quietly” installed as Presidential Office senior adviser; DPP presidential candidate Tsai enjoys a commanding lead in the polls while PFP candidate Soong ranks last for the first time. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► LIEN CHAN IN BEIJING
LIEN GOES TO CHINA AMID CONTROVERSY: Former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) embarked on a controversial visit to China on Sunday to attend a series of commemorative events in Beijing marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Saturday that Lien’s presence at the parade on Sept. 3 would be inappropriate.” Former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), the Mainland Affairs Council and the Ministry of National Defense had all attempted to dissuade Lien from going.
During a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Tuesday prior to the lavish parade, Lien unreservedly embraced China’s interpretation of the Second Sino-Japanese War that emphasizes the “unity” between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the communists’ wartime contributions, views that challenge the Republic of China’s (ROC) official narrative. Lien made no mention of the ROC during the meeting.
The KMT said on Thursday that it was “puzzled by and regretted” Lien’s attendance at the large-scale military parade. Meanwhile the People First Party (PFP) said its secretary-general, Chin Ching-sheng (秦金生), who was in Beijing for the commemorations, did not attend the parade — a claim that was challenged by another attendee.
Although Ma expressed regret at Lien’s behavior, the KMT has overall “gone soft” on the former party chairman’s decisions and their consequence, which contrasted with its recent attacks on former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) over an interview with a Japanese magazine in which the 93-year-old said he and his late brother fought for Japan as Japanese soldiers. Other critics of Lien’s visit depicted it as “self-deprecating” and “disgraceful” and of downgrading cross-strait relations to something between the CCP and KMT. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) described Lien’s remarks as “hurting the feelings of a certain group of people” in Taiwan.
Lien returned to Taiwan on Thursday night and did not speak to the media.
OTHERS IN BEIJING: Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波), convener of the education ministry’s revision committee on school curriculum guidelines whose China-centric adjustments triggered protests earlier this year, joined former vice president Lien and his entourage during Lien’s meeting with Chinese President Xi in Beijing. The pro-unification Wang had claimed earlier that the presence of representatives from Taiwan at the military parade would help scare off Taiwan’s pro-independence sentiment.
In related news, the Taiwan Solidarity Union warned on Wednesday of the presence of three unnamed retired high-ranking military officers from Taiwan at the military parade and urged the Ministry of National Defense to clarify the matter.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
HUNG PULLING OUT? Amid rumors that some KMT members have been plotting to replace the presidential candidate, Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) on Wednesday abruptly made a late-night announcement on her Facebook page that she would suspend her presidential campaign for two to three days for “introspection and contemplation” and to seek inspiration to rescue her party from its current dismal election prospects. The announcement prompted speculation that Hung either intended to quit the election or wanted to gauge the level of KMT support for her.
Rumors also circulated that Hung had been “ordered” to call it quits by King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), who was recently installed as a Presidential Office senior adviser. According to the chatter, the former National Security Council secretary-general had intervened due to Hung’s “failure” to “sync with Ma’s constant challenging of DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen on her cross-strait policies.”
Hung’s campaign office denied that the puzzling move was to adumbrate her withdrawal from the race and guaranteed that Hung would resume her campaign next Monday. As neither the Presidential Office nor KMT headquarter were notified about Hung’s temporary break, some KMT politicians demanded immediate and further clarifications from Hung.
YES, KING IS BACK: King Pu-tsung, a close aide to President Ma, has been “quietly” installed as a Presidential Office senior adviser, the Chinese-language Next Magazine reported Wednesday. According to the report, the move was without precedent because the Presidential Office made no announcement, ostensibly so that he could work as a behind-the-scenes campaign chief. The report added that King has called on Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Hung to hear their views on the elections. King has dismissed the story as “groundless.” Wang denies having a meeting with King and refused to answer questions on whether campaign discussions had taken place.
SPECULATION ON CHU-WANG TICKET: A report by Storm Media Group, an online news website, published on Monday speculated that the KMT was trying to convince party chairman Eric Chu to pair up with Wang Jin-pyng in the presidential race as a replacement for Hung, who has fared poorly in the polls. According to the article, KMT Secretary-General Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) had approached a KMT heavyweight close to Wang in Miaoli last Tuesday with an alternative proposal whereby Wang would retain his legislator-at-large seat to help secure his speakership in the legislature.
Chu downplayed the rumors on Monday and said that Lee’s trip visit to Miaoli was to “coordinate matters regarding the Jan. 16 legislative elections.” Wang did not answer questions about a possible Chu bid and denied making any request for the party’s help to maintain his legislative speakership.
PAN-BLUE ALLIANCE: Asked about a possible pairing up within the pan-blue camp, People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) said he did not rule out the possibility of doing so with Hung, but emphasized that any cooperation would have to avoid another round of “party a thrashing.” Soong added that “the door is always open” for those who wish to discuss cooperation,” regardless of their party affiliation.
On a TV show aired Monday, political commentator Yao Li-ming (姚立明) suggested that Soong could decide to run as an independent presidential candidate rather than on the PFP ticket in order to distance himself from the party faction led by PFP secretary-general Chin Chin-sheng, whose visit to China this week with a plan to attend Beijing’s military parade could trigger negative public reactions.
Soong announced on Sept. 4 that he too was taking a short break from campaigning.
TELEVISED PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: In an apparent attempt to salvage her doom-and-gloom election campaign, Hung Hsiu-chu challenged her DPP rival Tsai Ing-wen on Sunday to a live TV debate. Tsai declined the invitation, saying that a debate would be more appropriate after all the candidates have registered.
Analysts said that Tsai, who has maintained a comfortable lead in all polls, might not feel the need to participate in the debate at this point and added that she might be concerned about her opponents “ganging up” on her. In a press release, DPP headquarters explained that traditionally, televised presidential debates were held about one to two months prior to Election Day.
Sanlih Television (SET-TV) was reportedly making preparations for the televised debate, as Soong and Hung are said to have given their consent.
TSAI LEADS IN THE POLLS: Tsai Ing-wen continued to hold a commanding lead in the latest opinion polls on next year’s presidential election. In a survey by TVBS, Soong fell to third place for the first time since he declared his presidential bid.
Recent poll results:
|Taiwan Indicators Survey Research
|Tsai 37.3 %||Soong 19.1%||Hung 12.7 %。|
|Tsai 40%||Soong 16%||Hung 23%|
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
‘BALLOT FLASHING’ IN CITY COUNCIL ELECTION: Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) on Wednesday defended the Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal against a landmark acquittal of 10 then-New Taipei City councilors who “flashed ballots” to show observers their votes in a supposed secret ballot for the city council’s 2010 speaker.
Based on the view that “ballot flashing” at the occasion did not constitute “divulging secrets” since a councilor’s vote is an individual matter and does not concern “secrets of the government,” the ruling is expected to have substantial consequences — such as increasing vote-buying — in similar elections, which over the years have been heavily tainted by money and criminal elements.
APOLOGY FOR ‘COMFORT WOMEN’: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday renewed Taiwan’s demand for a formal apology by Japan and compensation for the Taiwanese women — euphemistically known as “comfort women” — who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The ministry also criticized former president Lee over his comment in an article recently published in a Japanese magazine.
TAINAN MAYOR ENDS BOYCOTT: Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) has ended his nearly eight-month boycott of council meetings sparked by alleged vote-buying by Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the KMT. While Lai said his boycott had contributed to the reform he was seeking, several KMT politicians countered that his decision to attend the city council meetings had been “forced by the dengue fever outbreak” in the city, where the number of confirmed cases has escalated to more than 3,000 in the past four months.
FOREIGN LABOR PAY RAISE: Taiwan has reached an agreement with Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand to raise the wages of domestic helpers and caregivers from these countries. The increase－the first in 18 years－is a mere NT$1,160 (US$ 35.7) from NT15,840 per month. The new wages will come into force next month.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
SCENARIOS FOR CHINESE ATTACK: A declaration of de jure independence or heading unequivocally toward independence, the acquisition of nuclear weapons, internal political turmoil, the delaying of dialogue on cross-strait negotiations toward “peaceful” unification, foreign forces interfering in Taiwan’s internal affairs, or the deployment of foreign troops in Taiwan are all scenarios that could trigger a military response by China, said a report released by the Ministry of National Defense on Tuesday. The report added that Beijing was likely to declare a South China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) to consolidate its claim on the islets, reefs and features in the region.
TAIWAN TO TEST PAC-3 IN US: The MND will proceed with plan to test-fire its Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles at a U.S. base in New Mexico in July next year, according to reports. The plan calls for the ministry to send Air Defense Missile Command units to the U.S. for extensive training on the PAC-3 system.
ESPIONAGE NETWORK: Chinese intelligence officer Zhen Xiaojiang (鎮小江), who recruited Taiwanese military personnel as part of a spy ring, was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday. Zhen operated what has been described as the largest Chinese spy ring in Taiwan in years. More lenient sentences were handed down to five other Taiwanese officers involved in the case.
DEATH SENTENCE OVERTURNED: The Taiwan High Court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of Hsu Tzu-chiang (徐自強), who was on death row for two decades, citing major flaws and inconsistencies in the evidence and testimonies presented during the ninth appeal of the 1995 kidnapping and murder case.
POVERTY: The 20 percent of families with the lowest income in Taiwan have been making less than they spend －with “negative savings”－for an eighth straight year, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics says. Their household disposable income is lower than the average annual savings of high-income families, the DGBAS said, attributing the phenomenon to the severity of the aging population crisis and the impoverishment of the working class.
AIRPORT LINK: The launch of the airport link from Taipei is to be postponed, for the fifth time, until March next year due to testing delays, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said last Friday. The safety of the Airport Rail system has been in question following damage to its track pads and the derailment of a construction vehicle. The project was to be completed by the end of 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.
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