Week of Nov. 14-20, 2015

All three 2016 presidential candidates have announced their running mates; The KMT insists that Washington favors Chu’s presidential; the U.S. says it gave exactly the same reception to Chu and Tsai during their Washington visits; Tsai maintains a sizable lead over her opponents. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



RUNNING MATES ANNOUNCED: The presidential campaign saw a change of momentum as three major presidential candidates — the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Eric Chu (朱立倫) and People First Party’s (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜) — named their running mates this week.


Tsai Ing-wen announced that former Academia Sinica vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), an epidemiology expert who played a leading role at the Department of Health during the SARS outbreak in 2003, would join her campaign as her running mate.

On the day of the announcement, KMT lawmakers quickly revived plagiarism allegations against Chen involving a paper he co-authored in 2007. Former KMT legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) insisted on Wednesday that the alleged plagiarism was “recognized by the court,” citing former China Times editor-in-chief Hsia Chen (夏珍), who was sued by Chen in 2007 over an editorial discussing the issue.

Tsai defended Chen, stressing that she was fully aware of the matter, which arose from a citation error that the principal author made in the manuscript, discovered by the journal’s evaluating committee, and eventually amended by the author prior to the paper’s publication. Tsai cited the accusation as yet another bad practice of the KMT, which “has always resorted to playing up partisanship, reports of scandals and blackmail at the end of an election cycle.”


On Wednesday, Chu confirmed that former Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) minister and lawyer Jennifer Wang (王如玄) would be his running mate. The move was regarded as an attempt to woo votes from workers and women. Wang is known for being a staunch advocate of gender equality in the workplace and a voice against domestic violence. Her nomination received mixed reactions, however, due to the controversies during her time at the CLA from May 2008 to September 2012.

Wang hired 80 lawyers and budgeted more than NT$20.5 million (US$629,287) to file lawsuits against more than 1,000 laid-off workers in 2012, which she referred to as a tactic to bring the case into the court to seek revocation of a prior ruling demanding the workers to pay back loans provided by the council in lieu of layoff and retirement payments owed by their employers. The move enraged many human rights activists and labor groups. She was also criticized for encouraging companies to offer low-paying jobs to recent college graduates as a solution to unemployment problems.


James Soong announced Wednesday revealed that Republican Party (Minguotang) chairperson Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), a lawmaker who joined the KMT in 2009 and withdrew from the party in January to be his vice president candidate, for his pledge to form a coalition government. Hsu participated in her first election in 2005 when she ran for a post as Hsinchu County councilor.

The PFP-RP cooperation is unique as Soong stressed that both parties will nominate their own legislator-at-large candidates, but it will not be a merge of two parties. Hsu, however, is expected to withdraw her legislative bid in Hsinchu County, where the PFP and the RP will work out a mutually acceptable candidate.

KMT SAYS US FAVORS CHU: The KMT caucus claimed on Monday that remarks by former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush, who is now the director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, on the sidelines of a closed-door seminar between KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu and dozens of U.S. academics in Washington last Friday had implied a US preference and support for Chu’s presidential bid.

However, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel said last Friday that Chu and Tsai had been given exactly the same reception in Washington as the U.S. “does not play favorites.”

According to Bush’s remarks, the U.S. valued cross-strait developments during the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration since 2008 and hoped that such efforts would continue, KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said in a press conference.

CHU TO PROMOTE MEETING WITH XI: Eric Chu on Tuesday said he would push for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) if elected, in line with the expected continuation of the KMT’s peaceful cross-strait policy. Chu said a Chu-Xi meeting would not only be a follow-up of the Ma-Xi meeting in Singapore on Nov. 7, but also likely to bring further developments of peace and create win-win situation across the Taiwan Strait.

TSAI COUNTERS MA’S CRITICISM: Tsai Ing-wen fended off Ma’s accusations that the DPP’s legislative caucus’ rejection of Ma’s report to the legislature on the Ma-Xi meeting had “dodged its responsibility to keep the executive branch checked” and that Tsai once supported the so-called “1992 consensus.” Tsai said the Ma-Xi meeting was “completely opaque” before it happened, adding that it is perhaps time for all concerned parties to discuss on the establishment of a procedure for such meetings. As to Ma’s remarks on the “1992 consensus,” Tsai criticized Ma for “having not only failed to clarify his own stance [during the Ma-Xi meeting], but also twisted the stance of others by taking some words out of context.”

Tsai also condemned Chu, who during his U.S. trip blasted Tsai’s evasion of “feasible measures” for her proposal to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. Tsai said it was “regretful” that Chu had chosen to launch attacks on the opposition party instead of seizing the diplomatic opportunity to address the common values and interests of all Taiwanese people.

CHU ACCUSED OF FAVORITISM: Campaigners accused Eric Chu of “unnecessarily expanding” the Taoyuan Aerotropolis development project when he was vice premier to include a piece of wasteland owned by a corporation of his father-in-law Kao Yu-jen (高育仁) and profit from high compensation for land expropriation. A campaigner received a letter from Kao’s attorney earlier this month, in which Kao denied owning any land that was included in the project and threatened to take legal actions should the allegation persist. Kao said the accusation was a “smear tactic.”

SUPPORT FOR TSAI HITS RECORD HIGH: Tsai Ing-wen maintained a sizable advantage over her opponents in the latest poll by Taiwan Brain Trust published on Wednesday-with a record high of 48.4%-despite the Nov. 7 Ma-Xi meeting in Singapore, which was allegedly held to boost votes for the KMT. Eric Chu came second with 20.4 percent and the PFP’s James Soong a distant third.



MA TRUMPETS MA-XI MEETING ‘SUCCESS’: President Ma told an international press conference on Friday that his Nov. 7 talks with President Xi were a success and denied that the meeting had forced a “framework’ upon future leaders.” Ma said he had built a bridge between the two sides and provided a model for future interaction under the “1992 consensus.” Ma insisted that the “1992 consensus” was not forced on Taiwan by China, adding that the world in general has praised the meeting.

Ma held the press event to “report to the public of Taiwan” following the rejection by opposition parties of a proposal to report to the legislature after he returned from the summit in Singapore on the grounds that any legislative oversight of the matter should have taken place before the plan for the meeting was finalized.

New York University School of Law professor Jerome Cohen said the Ma-Xi summit’s immediate impact would be on next year’s presidential and legislative elections, by giving a higher priority to cross-strait relations over domestic issues.

SHORT NOTICE FOR MA-XI MEETING: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave a short notice to Washington about the Nov. 7 Ma-Xi talks via the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Nov. 3, while the Japanese government was informed on Nov. 4, although preparations for the summit had been underway for at least two months, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Monday. Cheng Li, the director of the John L. Thornton China Center and a senior fellow in the foreign policy program at Brookings Institution in Washington, reportedly said “we of course would like for more transparency, more understanding,” adding that he would like to know the reason, when addressing the matter upon KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu’s U.S. visit.

TAIWAN-PHILIPPINES FISHING TREATY: Taiwan and the Philippines earlier this month signed an agreement covering cooperation between law enforcement agencies in fishing matters in overlapping waters, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Thursday. Although the treaty was signed weeks ago, a decision was made to postpone the announcement until after the APEC summit in Manila.

BAN ON PASSPORT STICKERS: In response to attempts by Taiwanese to redefine Taiwan’s identity by putting a “Republic of Taiwan” sticker on the “Republic of China” (ROC) seal on the passport cover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposed an addendum to the Enforcement Rules of the Passport Act (護照條例施行細則) to ban any modifications to the passport’s design, the Executive Yuan gazette said on Monday.

Despite the criticism, the addendum is expected to take effect on Jan. 1, as amendments to enforcement rules of an act need only be sent to the legislature and put on the record for future reference.

PROPOSAL TO INCREASE NUMBER OF CHINESE MINORS: The government is drafting a proposal to loosen the quota for children of legal Chinese residents from a previous marriage with non-Taiwanese citizens and allow them to extend their stay in Taiwan until finishing university rather than by age 20, while their eligibility to join certification exams is also put into consideration. The National Immigration Agency said the proposal aimed to not only protect Chinese immigrants’ right to family but also to “replenish Taiwan’s youth population and increase the size of the working-age population.” Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Cheng-chang (賴振昌) said it was an attempt by the Ma administration “to permit as many Chinese immigrants as it can before Ma’s term runs out” to fulfill China’s expectations.

A group of Chinese spouses launched a protest on Tuesday demanding equal treatment as they can only obtain national identification cards after six years of residency, while other foreign spouses need only four on top of relaxation of restrictions on the time their Chinese children can remain after coming to the nation as dependents.

TAIWAN TO ATTEND UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: Taiwan is to take part in this month’s UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, hoping to establish a goal to cut national greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, according to Environmental Protection Administration Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) on Monday.



CAPITAL GAINS TAX SCRAPPED: The legislature has passed a bill proposed by the KMT to revoke a capital gains tax on equity trades that in a bid to woo investors. The reinstatement of the capital gains tax was forced by the KMT in 2012 and originally scheduled to come into effect in 2018, with its content criticized as “totally out of line even after several rounds of revisions.” The total abolition of the capital gains tax, effective Jan. 1, had prompted grievances over tax unfairness and a widening wealth gap.

CROSS-STRAIT TRADE NEGOTIATIONS: The 12th round of trade in good agreement between Taiwan and China is scheduled to be held on Saturday as Taiwan hopes to negotiate better terms than the China-South Korea free trade agreement for certain products, such as flat panels, auto parts and machine tools, according to Economics Minister John Deng (鄧振中), the Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported on on Thursday.



US BILL MENTIONS TRAINING FOR TAIWAN: The U.S. Congress on Tuesday passed the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that makes provisions for Taiwan’s inclusion in U.S.-led training programs with foreign countries to increase maritime security in the disputed South China Sea and support bilateral military exchanges with Taiwan.

JAPAN ROLE IN SUB PROGRAM? Japan might be persuaded to help Taiwan build diesel-electric submarines, if given “the right encouragement,” Hudson Institute Center for American Seapower director Seth Cropsey, a former deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Navy, said in a recent article, citing Tokyo’s concerns over aggressive naval activities by China that frequently encroach on Japanese territory. “A redoubled Taiwanese effort to engage Japan’s assistance in building the indigenous submarine is worth the effort,” Cropsey wrote on RealClearDefense.


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 editor@thinking-taiwan.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.


Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:

“Perceptions of Gender in Taiwan’s Elections: Results from an Experimental Survey,” by Timothy Rich and Hannah Neeper
“The ‘Ing Clique’: Tsai Ing-wen’s Not-So-Silent Army,” by Yahsin Huang

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