KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu and its former presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu are mired in allegations that the KMT attempted to pay off Hung in exchange for her dropping out; DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen is once again cleared of any wrongdoing in a case brought up during the presidential campaign four years ago, but the KMT continues to attack Tsai on all fronts; Tsai widens her lead over her rivals; the American Institute in Taiwan reaffirms Washington’s neutrality in the 2016 elections. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
DEFAMATION AGAINST TSAI: The Taipei District Court on Tuesday ruled that former Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Christina Liu (劉憶如) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should pay Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) NT$2 million (US$61,189) for defamation, over her accusations that Tsai had breached revolving-door laws by investing in biotechnology company TaiMed Biologics Inc (中裕新藥). The controversy was brought up by the KMT during the last two months of the presidential campaign in 2011. Tsai later filed a lawsuit which was closed in August 2012 due to the lack of evidence of irregularities.
Tsai said on Tuesday that the KMT had mobilized “various resources in the government” for its case against her to fulfill its election campaign purposes, adding that the ruling party should apologize for causing damage to prominent scientists and Taiwan’s biomedical industry who were affected by the lawsuit. The KMT, however, refused to apologize and said Tsai at least committed a “moral sin” due to conflict of interest, arguing that Tsai was not found culpable because of loopholes in the revolving-door laws. Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) insisted that it was Tsai who should make her case to the public, not the KMT.
QUID PRO QUO FOR CANDIDACY CHANGE? Prosecutors suspect that KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), who replaced Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) as the KMT presidential candidate two weeks ago, instructed KMT headquarters to give Hung NT$30 million (US$918,000) in return for dropping out of the race, the Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Wednesday. According to the article, the offer to Hung was made through former transportation minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時), an adviser to Hung’s campaign team. The controversy could widen the rift between the Chu camp and the Hung camp as both sides offered inconsistent testimony regarding the purpose of the money.
TSAI UNDER FIRE: Ostensibly aiming at Tsai Ing-wen, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told an interview on Saturday with online news outlet ETtoday that “those from the DPP who have resisted the ‘1992 consensus’ must have been swayed by their ideology, which makes them feel pins and needles on their scalps whenever they lay eyes on the term ‘one China.’” Questioning Tsai’s cross-strait platform focusing on “maintaining the status quo,” Ma accused her of failing to declare how she would do so. Ma also urged Tsai to “make clear what she discussed with the officials she met” during her recent trips to the U.S. and Japan to dispel suspicions of “backroom deals.”
Separately, Eric Chu took aim at Tsai on Tuesday during a meeting with representatives of several environmental groups, accusing her proposal for a “nuclear-free homeland” by 2025 as “unrealistic” and “a bunch of eye-catching slogans” that would result in power shortages and electricity price hikes.
TSAI RESPONDS: Responding to intensifying snipes at her by President Ma and presidential candidate Chu, Tsai said on Tuesday that “Ma should really sit down and think about the factors that contributed to his administration’s failure,” adding that she did not understand why he would resort to verbal attacks for the campaign. Turning to Chu, Tsai criticized him for “failing to propose concrete policies” since the election campaign began. “The KMT’s craving for power and position in politics has outweighed its desire to craft policies and propose solutions,” she said, adding that Chu’s recent remarks reflected his party’s old campaign approaches at a time when the KMT should seek to be more constructive and live up to public expectations.
Former New Party legislator Chao Shao-kang (趙少康) meanwhile urged Chu to distance himself from Ma to help his campaign. Chu said there was no question of disassociating himself from the president, adding that he would reflect on where the current administration’s performance has been lackluster and continue with its achievements.
WAR OF WORDS ON ‘ROC HISTORY’: KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu said on Sunday that the 1945 “retrocession of Taiwan from Imperial Japan to the Republic of China (ROC)” was a historical fact that both the ruling and opposition parties should recognize. Referring to DPP presidential candidate Tsai’s view on the subject, Chu said he was concerned about the DPP’s stance on the “historical fact that Taiwan was restored by the ROC.” Weighing in, President Ma said that commemorating the “1945 recovery of Taiwan by the ROC” was the “unshirkable” responsibility of “each and every ROC president.”
In a response on her official Facebook page on Tuesday, Tsai wrote that “only by promoting tolerance for diverse experiences and feelings about the past can the nation find its solution for its pursuit of solidarity.”
A forum hosted by hosted by the Taiwan Association of University Professors criticized the KMT administration for promoting the historical narrative of “Taiwan’s liberation” with its “China-centric and pro-unification” agenda.
TSAI ON TAIWAN’S MEDICAL BIOTECH STRENGTH: Taiwan should seek to become a regional hub for medical biotechnological research, using its advantages of possessing a genetic database of certain Asian ethnic groups and an understanding of their lifestyle habits and environments, Tsai said on Tuesday. Medical biotechnology offers significant prospects for Taiwanese industry, she said.
TSAI DISMISSES ‘AUTOCRACY’ CONCERNS: Tsai vowed on Sunday that there would be no “one-party autocracy” if her party won both next year’s president and legislative elections. Tsai was responding to Eric Chu’s repeated warnings to the public against the DPP “dominating” the executive and legislative branches of the government. A survey published the Chinese-language China Times on Saturday showed that 47 percent of respondents believe there should be a form of “checks and balances” against the DPP in the legislature.
AIT ON CHU US TRIP: American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Kin Moy said on Tuesday that the U.S. would continue to engage with all major Taiwanese political parties and treat their candidates equally. Asked whether Chu would be offered the same reception accorded to DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen on her 12-day U.S. visit concluded in June, the representative said it was too early to talk specifics about Chu’s schedule.
CHU’S ROLE IN MND SETTLEMENT QUESTIONED: The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) said on Monday that Eric Chu may have maneuvered an out-of-court settlement between the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and his father-in-law, who won a MND contract with his company, Vtron, in 2013 by tendering a bid that was 35 percent below the minimum but failed to deliver. The defense ministry’s decision not to sue Vtron cost the government NT$30 million, the TSU alleged. Chu dismissed the allegations as slander, while the ministry insisted that it would not give special consideration to any company regardless of their background.
TSAI WIDENS LEAD: The gap in support for Tsai Ing-wen and Eric Chu increased to over 30 percentage points in two polls, while People First Party (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜) remaining a distant third.
Recent poll results:
|Taiwan Indicators Survey Research
► SOUTH CHINA SEA
RESPONSE TO US’ SOUTH CHINA SEA PATROL: The U.S. Navy sent a warship on Tuesday to within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a move Beijing denounced as a “threat to its sovereignty.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday called for a peaceful resolution to the territorial disputes in the region, with respect for the principles of relevant international laws. The Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday said it had learned about the U.S. mission before it took place, adding that the Navy’s scheduled patrols in the disputed waters would not be affected.
LIGHTHOUSE, PIER ON ITU ABU TO OPEN: A lighthouse and a newly built seaport pier on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the Spratlys will commence operations before the end of this year, the Maritime and Port Bureau said on Sunday. The features are widely seen as an attempt by Taipei to bolster it ownership claims over the island.
CHU ON PEACE INITIATIVES: In a radio interview on Tuesday, Chu said Taiwan should propose measures similar to Ma’s South China Sea Peace Initiative for the territorial disputes in the region, adding that all nations with overlapping claims could consider jointly exploring and developing resources, such as natural gas and oil, rather than resort to military means or violence. Chu said that if he were elected, he would visit Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island) to reaffirm ROC sovereignty over the island and its surrounding waters. Chu added that developing the island for ecotourism would be an option for Taiwan.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
KMT LIFTS LEGISLATIVE TERM LIMITS FOR WANG: The KMT’s Central Standing Committee revised its regulations stipulating term limit on Wednesday for legislators-at-large and overseas legislators, which would pave the way for Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) re-election as a legislator-at-large in next year’s elections. The move is seen as an attempt to avoid a split with the KMT’s pro-localization faction, which is led by Wang. Separately, asked whether he would pair up with Wang for the presidential election, Chu said that “most KMT lawmakers had expressed their hope that Wang would continue his leadership role in the legislature.” Chu said he would respect that desire.
NCC CLASHES WITH CABINET: National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairman Howard Shyr (石世豪) on Thursday accused the Executive Yuan of interfering in the commission’s independent operations by voiding the conditions attached to a recent NCC ruling on a WiMAX service provider’s application for systems upgrades. Shyr accused the cabinet’s appeal committee of siding with Global Mobile (全球一動), the service operator, adding that the company had attempted to influence the committee by meeting with its members.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
MND RELEASES WHITE PAPER: China has been upgrading its major weapons systems and building up the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to ensure it has the military capabilities to launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan by 2020 despite the warming ties in the Taiwan Strait, the Ministry of National Defense said in its 2015 National Defense Report released on Tuesday. (Editor’s note: Previous years’ reports also stated that China would have the ability to launch a full-scale attack by 2020; however, sources who were involved in drafting the report have informed us that the date was “for reference only” and that it was not arrived at by scientific means.)
APACHES GROUNDED: The Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Tuesday that nine of its 29 AH-64E Apache helicopters in service have been grounded due to serious oxidation on metal components in the tail rotor gearbox. Twelve other Apaches were reportedly also grounded due to parts shortages, leaving only eight of the fleet operational. U.S. manufacturer Boeing has dispatched a special task force to identify and resolve the problem, the ministry said.
NUCLEAR STORAGE: The New Taipei City Government said on Monday that it would put a hold on an application by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to build a dry-storage facility to store spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. The chloride-rich soil of the planned storage site in New Taipei City is likely create corrosion cracking to the storage casks within just 1.2 years, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported on Monday, citing an environmentalist. As the environmental conservation plans for the facility had been approved by the Council of Agriculture in August, the facility could commence operations within two years if the cabinet approves the plan.
LARGEST REGIONAL LGBT CONFERENCE: The largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conference in Asia opened in Taipei on Wednesday, with 300 participants from 30 countries and territories in the region. The EU has provided 40,000 euros (US$44,131) in funding, with assistance in visa application for the participants from countries where Taiwan does not have its diplomatic representation, according to the organizer. The conference coincides with the annual LGBT Pride Parade in Taipei on Saturday.
SONGSHAN AIRPORT RELOCATION: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said he intends to organize a seminar next month to discuss the possible relocation of Taipei International Airport (Songshan), preferably with the presence of all presidential candidates for next year’s elections. Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), however, said the airport’s demolition should be premised upon the full upgrade of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to boost its passenger handling capacity, which will not be completed until 2030.
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.
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