The KMT seems set to replace presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu with chairman Eric Chu despite strong opposition from Hung supporters; Hung vows to stay in the race and insists that “eventual unification” with China is the right direction for Taiwan; the turmoil could widen the internal divisions at the KMT; DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen embarks on a four-day visit to Japan. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: KMT
KMT MOVES TO REPLACE HUNG: Rumors that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would replace Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) became reality on Wednesday when the KMT Central Standing Committee passed a motion to hold an extempore party congress in an attempt to allow KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) to join the presidential race instead of Hung. The unprecedented move caused a stir in political circles and could exacerbate internal fighting at the KMT. Chu criticized Hung’s cross-strait policies as having deviated from those of both the party and “mainstream public opinion.” Disgruntled members and local election candidates claimed that Hung’s low support rates have jeopardized the KMT’s overall campaign and called for Hung’s immediate exit.
Rumors that Hung would be replaced have been circulating for months, but the watershed moment appeared to have come in a radio interview aired last Saturday after Hung asserted that the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution “calls for ultimate unification with China,” bringing the controversy over her cross-strait platform to a new level. Hung’s proposed China policy of “one China, common interpretations (一中同表)” had sparked a backlash within the KMT and ostensibly resulted in her dismal electoral prospects. The date of the party congress is to be determined at the soonest time possible. It will reportedly be scheduled for Oct. 17 or Oct. 24.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is widely believed to have facilitated Hung’s nomination to start with, said on Thursday that he “supports the party’s decision” without specifying whether he agreed to Hung’s replacement, but praised Hung for “coming forward when no one else in the party would do so.”
HUNG RESPONDS: Reacting to the KMT’s efforts to drop her, Hung expressed “deep regret” over the party’s “unjust” motion with a warning that it would “plunge the KMT deeper into chaos” and “subject the party to total collapse.” Hung also rejected Chairman Chu’s criticism that her deviation from the party’s cross-strait policy had caused the plunge in her poll numbers, accusing the party of continuing to shirk its responsibilities and failing to reflect upon its mistakes following its disastrous defeat in last year’s nine-in-one elections.
In an impromptu press conference on Tuesday, Hung reiterated her determination to run for president, insisting that she would never agree to any quid-pro-quo deals or succumb to “unreasonable forces” while denying reports that she had recorded all her meetings with Chu and KMT Secretary-General Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) to negotiate on her presidential bid. Hung said she would consider taking legal action if her nomination is revoked by the KMT, but would do so by taking the party’s future into consideration. The Chinese-language United Daily News reported on Thursday that despite implying that Chu’s alleged efforts to seize the candidacy “lacked integrity,” Hung would bow out of the race if the upcoming party congress asked her to do so, as she does not wish to hit a sour note with her party.
CHU PRESIDENTIAL BID: Amid media reports that the KMT leadership had made at least three fruitless attempts to talk Hung Hsiu-chu into withdrawing from the race, Eric Chu’s pledge on Tuesday that he would be willing to “take up the responsibility” should Hung agree to drop out was regarded as an open commitment to running in 2016. Chu refused to comment on whether he would resign from his post as New Taipei City Mayor if he ran in January.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily reported Wednesday that Chu was unlikely to announce his running mate during the upcoming party congress because Hung was his “priority choice” for deputy — a demonstration of party solidarity. Hung’s replacement have prompted concerns over a widening split within the party. Some KMT politicians have said they preferred Chu pairing up with KMT Vice Chairperson Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠), who is originally from Chiayi City, to attract votes in southern Taiwan.
U-TURN DRAWS MIXED REACTIONS: Angry supporters of Hung Hsiu-chu protested outside the KMT headquarters in Taipei on Wednesday against the party’s move to axe her presidential candidacy. Several protesters, including members of a pro-unification party, demanded KMT Chairman Eric Chu step down.
Several senior KMT members, including Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), as well as some KMT lawmakers, have expressed their support for Chu taking over. The KMT reportedly toned down its survey querying KMT party representatives nationwide about Hung’s replacement due to the unexpected backlash among Hung supporters at the grassroots level.
Several retired generals have also reportedly expressed their discontent with the anticipated move against Hung, although retired military personnel and veterans’ organizations are usually staunch KMT supporters.
People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) said on Tuesday that previous presidential candidate nominations by the KMT would be proven to have been a “scam” if Hung were replaced. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said it was premature to comment on a possible change of candidate as no move has been made. A public opinion poll found that nearly six out of 10 voters disagree with the KMT’s plan to oust Hung, with nearly 70 percent saying that Chu would not win the election even if he manages to squeeze Hung out.
Meanwhile, a Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator filed a complaint on Thursday with prosecutors that Chu has violated election laws by seeking to remove Hung.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: DPP
TSAI VISIT TO JAPAN: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen embarked on a four-day “Taiwan-Japan friendship tour” on Tuesday to meet friends and Taiwanese expatriate communities to exchange ideas with members of Japan’s two main political parties and other politicians. During a meeting with 25 pro-Taiwan Japanese parliamentarians on Tuesday, Tsai urged Japan and other major countries in the Asia-Pacific to collaborate for regional peace, stability and prosperity. Tsai also called on Japan to support Taiwan’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s younger brother, parliamentarian Nobuo Kishi, received Tsai during a visit to Yamaguchi Prefecture on Wednesday.
DPP COMMITS TO DEFENSE INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT: DPP Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told U.S. defense industry officials at the 14th annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Virginia on Monday that a DPP administration would commit to expanding Taiwan’s indigenous defense industry, adding that Tsai Ing-wen had presided over a series of discussions to prepare the future of Taiwan’s defense industry. The scope of Taiwan’s indigenous submarine program, which reflects the direction of its defense policy toward increased domestic involvement and development, would be determined by the next presidents in Taiwan and the U.S., Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council president, told the conference.
TSAI MAINTAINS LEAD: Two opinion polls released on Thursday showed that Tsai Ing-wen would enjoy a strong lead against her opponents, even if Eric Chu were to replace Hung Hsiu-chu as the KMT candidate.
Recent poll results:
|Cross-Strait Policy Association
BEIJING TO CUT TOURISTS AHEAD OF ELECTIONS: Travel agencies confirmed on Tuesday Beijing’s decision to reduce the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan by 95 percent between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 to maximize seat availability on cross-strait flights so that Taiwanese businesspeople based in China can return to vote in the elections, a move that Beijing expects will benefit the pan-blue camp. Although Beijing had taken similar measures prior to previous presidential elections in Taiwan, this time around the reduction in the number of tourists was higher this year, the Taipei Association of Travel Agents said.
EXPELLED KMT LAWMAKER ANNOUNCES BID: Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟), a former KMT legislator-at-large who was expelled by the KMT in July for his open criticism of the party, has announced that he will run for next year’s legislative elections as an independent candidate against KMT lawmaker Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恆) in Taichung.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
TAIWAN TPP BID: The U.S. on Tuesday reiterated its welcoming stance on Taiwan’s bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, just as Taiwan’s Cabinet pledged its determination to secure the endorsement of TPP member states for its participation in the second round of negotiations and access to the free trade bloc.
JAPAN MATTERS IN CROSS-STRAIT DYNAMICS: Japan’s passage of two new security bills last month is expected to change the existing strategic situation in the Taiwan Strait, as Tokyo could become a player in cross-strait issues by balancing military power in the Strait and in the region, experts said.
GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES FOR KMT EVENTS: The TSU caucus on Tuesday accused subsidiaries of the KMT’s “Public Service Club” of receiving government subsidies totaling at least NT$20 million (US$607,000) to organize events for the party over the past three years. The claim followed accusation that the KMT’s “women’s clubs” across the nation had received nearly NT$100 million in government subsidies for social welfare groups over the same period.
NHI PREMIUMS CUT AN ELECTION PLOY? The Ministry of Health and Welfare will assess the feasibility of a reduction in National Health Insurance (NHI) premiums by the end of next month despite its prediction that the NHI’s finances might become unbalanced again by 2017. DPP mayor of Chiayi City and former health minister Tu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) said the bid was a “KMT election ploy” to please voters.
TAIWAN TO OPEN REP OFFICE IN SURABAYA: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Thursday that it would launch a representative office in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, by the end of the year to enhance bilateral exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.
ALLIES SUPPORT TAIWAN AT UN: Seven of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies on Friday voiced support for its participation in UN-related agencies, such as the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization, as well as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, during the ongoing General Debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.
LUKEWARM POLITICAL, SOCIAL PARTICIPATION: Most voters are lukewarm, or even cold, when it comes to political and social participation despite the constant bickering between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, according to a survey published by the National Development Council on Friday.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
TAIWAN 13TH IN GLOBAL MILITARY RANKING: Taiwan has the 13th most powerful military in the world, according to a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, which assessed military personnel and hardware, but not nuclear weapons of which 90 percent are possessed by Russia and the U.S.
PENTAGON STRESSES COMMITMENT TO TAIWAN’S DEFENSE: The U.S. would like to see a “strong and confident” Taiwan that contributes to regional efforts to maintain peace and security, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Abraham Denmark said during his speech at the 14th annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Virginia. Denmark twice referred to U.S. commitments to Taiwan’s defense. At the same occasion, Deputy Minister of National Defense Liu Chen-wu (劉震武) urged the U.S. to provide Taiwan with more weapons, including diesel-electric submarines and advanced fighter aircraft, along with more technical support for both hardware and software to strengthen its defense for cross-strait peace and regional stability. Meanwhile, rumors circulated at the conference that a US$2 billion “no surprise” arms package for Taiwan, which includes four used Perry-class frigates, minesweepers and munitions, could be announced by the White House between Dec. 11 and Jan. 16.
NSB CHIEF WANTS DEATH FOR SPIES: National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Yang Kuo-chian (楊國強) on Monday recommended the death penalty for individuals convicted of espionage because “such crimes are detestable.”
MILITARY PROCUREMENT SCANDAL: More than 30 individuals were indicted on Thursday on charges of graft and forgery involving the military’s procurement of components for the locally developed CM32 “Clouded Leopard” armored infantry combat vehicles.
EXPORT FIGURES GRIM: Taiwan’s exports tumbled for the eighth consecutive month in September, dropping 14.6 percent to US$22.54 billion. The figures marked the lowest monthly exports since October 2010 and a fourth consecutive monthly double-digit decline, owing to sluggish demand in the global market, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, following the approval of DRAM chipmaker Nanya Technology Corp (南亞科技) board president Charles Kau’s (高啟全) retirement, analysts expressed concerns that Kao’s reported move to a Chinese firm would intensify competition from China.
ARC-CHECKING APP PROMPTS PROTEST: Human rights activists and foreign worker representatives on Tuesday protested outside the National Immigration Agency against the agency’s new smartphone app that allegedly allows anyone with a smartphone” to verify the validity of foreigners’ Alien Resident Cards. Protesters said the measure treated all foreigners — especially blue-collar foreign employees — as suspects to be monitored. The app was also regarded as “redundant” because the legality of workers was already verified prior to their employment.
STREAMLINED VISA PROCESS FOR ASIAN COUNTRIES: Taiwan is to revise its visa application regulations to draw more “nouveau riche” visitors from five Asian countries, namely India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. The new rules are likely to take effect next month, pending approval by the Executive Yuan, the Tourism Bureau said on Monday.
DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK: The total number of reported dengue fever cases across Taiwan since May exceeded 20,000 as of Sunday, with the death toll at a record-high of 89.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang, and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at email@example.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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