KMT Chairman Eric Chu officially replaces Hung Hsiu-chiu as the part’s presidential candidate for 2016 and takes a temporary leave of absence from his post of New Taipei City mayor; Chu warns that the Republic of China will “perish” if the DPP wins both next year’s presidential and legislative elections; Chu to visit the U.S. in early November; the Special Investigation Division summons Chu to assess whether Hung’s replacement involved any tradeoffs; the DPP’s Tsai maintains a lead in the polls despite the KMT’s candidate replacement. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: KMT
HUNG IS OUT, CHU IS IN: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) officially took over Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chiu (洪秀柱) as the party’s 2016 presidential candidate during an extraordinary party congress last Saturday. BY doing so, Chu backtracked on his pledge to not run for president, attributing his prior “reluctance” to join the race to a promise he had made when running for re-election as New Taipei City mayor to serve his entire second term. The new presidential candidate said on Saturday that safeguarding the KMT’s reins on the government and majority in the legislature, as well as the future of the public and the Republic of China (ROC), were the ultimate driving forces of his presidential bid. While Chu repeatedly called for solidarity in his nomination speech, angry Hung supporters protested outside the congress venue. Before the nullification of her candidacy was put to a vote, Hung reiterated her support for the KMT despite its “disrespect” for “the due process of nomination.”
The full text of Chu’s speech is available here.
CHU STILL MAYOR: Following his nomination as KMT presidential candidate, Chu announced that he was taking a temporary leave of absence of three months as New Taipei City mayor to run his campaign for the presidency. In his decision to not give up his mayorship, Chu said that he was following the common practice abroad and in Taiwan. Directorate-General of Personnel Administration Minister Frank Huang (黃富源) said on Wednesday that Chu’s leave of absence conforms to all relevant regulations. Nevertheless, critics said Chu’s credibility was now in question because he had “broken his promise.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus at the New Taipei City Council on Wednesday decided to appeal to the Control Yuan to impeach Chu as a mayor for his “failure to focus on municipal affairs” and “disrespect for his constituents.” DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) last month estimated that Chu had made the promise to serve out his term 24 times between June last year and May this year.
SCARE TACTICS: Chu warned in his speech at the KMT congress on Saturday that a KMT defeat in next year’s legislative elections could lead to “autocracy” and “mobocracy,” adding that the DPP’s success in pushing for a constitutional amendment in the legislature could “dismember the ROC and destroy cross-strait peace.” Heavy criticism of the KMT’s reliance on “scare tactics” did not stop Chu from asserting on Sunday that “the ROC would perish if the DPP won both the presidential and legislative elections.”
Responding to Chu’s remarks, DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said “the KMT does not equal to the ROC, just as the DPP does not equal Taiwan,” adding that upholding Taiwan’s democracy would be more important than the survival of any political party. Tsai also said that the DPP had taken all possible variables into consideration and would follow its original strategy regardless of the KMT’s replacement of its presidential candidate.
INVESTIGATION INTO REPLACEMENT: Eric Chu and KMT Secretary-General Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) were called in for questioning by the Special Investigation Division on Tuesday to provide clarifications on whether the KMT’s replacement of Hung Hsiu-chu as its presidential hopeful involved any “tradeoffs.” The investigation was launched in response to lawsuits by two opposition lawmakers over Hung’s ouster by her own party. Chu alleged that the launch of the investigation was a pan-green camp scheme to undermine his campaign.
NEW PARTY OFFERS SEAT TO HUNG: The pro-unification New Party on Wednesday offered to put Hung Hsiu-chu at the top of its list of at-large candidates in the 2016 legislative elections, saying she could attract voters who firmly advocate for Taiwan’s unification with China. Hung’s remarks earlier this month that “eventual unification is the only way for Taiwan” was allegedly the “last straw” for the KMT. Hung’s office said on Thursday that Hung would not break with the KMT.
CHU ANNOUNCES US TRIP: KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu said on Wednesday that he was planning to visit the U.S. in early November, with a focus on cross-strait ties and U.S.-Taiwan trade relations. His trip will inevitably draw comparisons with DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s 12-day U.S. visit in May and June, particularly on the seniority of the U.S. officials who are met. The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that Chu might benefit from a higher-profile reception than Tsai. Chu announced his trip one day after he met with American Institute (AIT) in Taiwan Director Kin Moy, prompting speculation about his allegedly unusual ties with AIT based on the record of his conversations with former AIT director Stephen Young released by WikiLeaks in 2011.
Commenting on Chu’s travel plans, Tsai said diplomacy is something that all presidential candidates must work hard on, regardless of party affiliation, adding that she would be happy if Chu could make more progress based upon what the DPP had achieved with her U.S. visit.
FAMILY SUPPORT? KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu alleged in a radio interview on Tuesday that he had decided to join the race to help Taiwan “find its way out” despite the disapproval of all his family members — including a “cold war” with his wife. However, Kao Yu-jen (高育仁), the former speaker of the defunct Taiwan Provincial Assembly and Chu’s father-in-law, contradicted Chu, saying that each and every family member was supportive of Chu’s presidential bid.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: DPP
CHU TARGETS TSAI: KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu gave several interviews to the media in the past week, using those to challenge Tsai Ing-wen. In an interview on Monday, Chu claimed that he had been the victim of a “negative campaigns on all fronts” by the DPP since last week. Starting with his nomination speech on Saturday and followed by statements in several interviews, Chu repeatedly urged Tsai to clarify whether her idea of the “status quo” with China encompasses the “Taiwan independence clause” in the DPP platform — it does not, as Tsai has been explicit that the May 8, 1999, Resolution on Taiwan’s Future is the party’s guiding principle — and challenged her to a debate on cross-strait policies.
Tsai said on Wednesday that it would be better if Chu, as the new KMT presidential nominee, could spend some time familiarizing himself with relevant issues before engaging in any debate. The DPP reiterated earlier on Monday its stance that Tsai would join presidential debates only after the official registration of all presidential election all contenders scheduled for next month. The Central Election Commission announced on Tuesday that the first televised presentations or debates by the presidential candidates will take place on the evening of Dec. 25.
Separately, Chu said in a radio interview on Tuesday that the KMT had the obligation to offer the public an alternative to the DPP, so that Tsai would not be able to run her campaign “lying down” or effortlessly. Tsai responded on Wednesday that the KMT’s decision to switch its presidential candidate to save the party from an expected drubbing was proof of the achievements of her campaign team and its relentless efforts to meet the needs of the public down to the grassroots.
TSAI INAUGURATES CAMPAIGN HQ: Tsai Ing-wen inaugurated her national campaign headquarters in Taipei on Sunday, vowing to lead Taiwan into a new age of tolerance, reconciliation, stability and peace. Separately, Tsai pledged on Wednesday to promote policies that would benefit immigrants from Southeast Asia, as their next generation would be key to Taiwan’s future exchanges with Southeast Asia. Tsai made the remarks at the launch of a supporters’ club established by a group of Southeast Asian immigrants.
TSAI MAINTAINS LEAD: Despite the KMT’s eleventh-hour move to appoint a new candidate, DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen maintained her double-digit lead against her opponents.
Recent poll results:
|Tsai Ing-wen||Eric Chu||James Soong|
|Cross-Strait Policy Association
PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED DURING VOTE-COUNTING: The Central Election Commission announced on Tuesday that it would lift its ban on photography during vote counting. Lawmakers had argued that the ban violated the principles of openness and transparency.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
RULE CHANGE FOR PARTY UNITY: KMT Chairman Eric Chu said on Sunday he planned to revise KMT regulations stipulating that legislators-at-large from the party can only serve two terms. The move was regarded as a means to pave the way for Legislative Speaker Wang Jyn-ping’s (王金平) re-election as the party’s legislator-at-large to avoid a split with the KMT’s pro-localization faction, which is led by Wang. Chu said that President Ma Ing-jeou (馬英九), who has had a longstanding feud with Wang and allegedly blocked his presidential bid, had given his consent to the proposal. Ma on Monday refused to answer questions on whether he supported Wang’s re-election.
KMT WELCOMES BACK HEAVYWEIGHT FAMILY: The son of former Yunlin County commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) announced on Tuesday that he would step in for his sister and run for a legislative seat on the KMT ticket. His sister, KMT legislator Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), gave up her re-election bid two months ago, allegedly due to her apprehensions over the negative impact of the then-KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu on her campaign.
BEIJING’S TOP CROSS-STRAIT OFFICIAL TO VISIT TAIWAN: Chen Deming (陳德銘), president of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), will visit Taiwan early next month, but will not meet with any political figures during his stay, Chou Jih-shine (周繼祥), vice chairman of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation, said on Wednesday.
FUTURE OF DIPLOMATIC TIES UNCERTAIN: Taiwan’s relations with its diplomatic allies in the first half of this year have been stable, but how they will develop over the coming months might not be as predictable, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said on Wednesday. Lin was referring to speculation about possible interference by Beijing in the run-up to next year’s presidential and legislative elections.
NORMALIZED US-TAIWAN TIES: Gary Schmitt, a former staff director at the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and now an academic at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. should normalize relations with Taiwan “as much as possible.” Schmitt added that upholding the “one China” policy was a “charade.”
STUDENT ACTIVISTS INDICTED: The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office announced on Wednesday the indictment of five anti-curriculum change activists, including two teenagers, on charges of obstruction of justice and coercion for their actions when storming into the education ministry’s compound on July 23 to protest against the “China-centric” high-school curriculum guideline adjustments. The indicted activists said they would respect the justice system’s decision, but added that “history would give an answer to whether activists were guilty or not.”
OVER-RELIANCE ON CHINESE TOURISM MARKET: The growth of the Chinese tourism market was made possible thanks to changes in the political situation across the Taiwan Strait, but Taiwan’s over-reliance on revenue generated by Chinese tourists might have led a failure to attend to the interest and needs of visitors from elsewhere, lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties said on Wednesday, citing the decline in the number of visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
STEEP DECLINE IN MANUFACTURING SECTOR: The production value of Taiwan’s manufacturing sector is expected to contract 7.36 percent on an annual basis this year, marking the steepest decline since the global financial crisis in 2009. The Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center attributed the result to China’s economic weakness, which has dragged down demand.
WATERPARK INFERNO: Prosecutors last Friday indicted an event organizer over the deadly inferno at the Formosa Fun Coast waterpark in New Taipei City on June 27, which killed 12 and injured nearly 500. Not a single water park executive or individual responsible for fire safety and public security inspections at the city government will be charged, a decision that has led to disappointment among some of the victims’ families.
LEAD WATER PIPES: Half of the 50 water purification plants providing tap water to households in Taiwan contain lead and about 36,000 households in seven counties have been using tap water conveyed through lead pipes for decades, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported on Monday. After their initial refusal to disclose relevant data triggered a public outcry, the authorities responsible for water supplies nationwide agreed on Tuesday to inform the households affected by the water contamination
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:
“Hung Hsiu-chu is Out, Eric Chu is In,” by J. Michael Cole
“China’s Aircraft Carrier Program: Implications for Taiwan and the Region,” by Michal Thim
“You Can’t Just Throw Money at the Taiwan ‘Issue’,” by J. Michael Cole