KMT vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang is trapped in a firestorm of controversies involving her real estate transactions and labor right records; the U.S. government will reportedly announce a new arms package to Taiwan next month; a new video released by Islamic State showing Taiwan as part of the anti-terror coalition raises fears that Taiwan could become a target of attacks; KMT legislators-at-large nomination raises concerns over exodus of members excluded from the list; Tsai maintains strong lead in latest poll. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
JENNIFER WANG CONTROVERSIES: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) running mate Jennifer Wang (王如玄) has become the object of controversy after her nomination as KMT vice presidential candidate, exposing her to attacks from even within the party. Wang maintains she had done everything “in accordance with the law and without moral flaws.” Chu defended Wang on Thursday, insisting that “Wang’s defects do not outweigh her merits.”
Wang released a list of assets and properties under her and her husband’s names on Wednesday to quash fierce criticism about her alleged profiteering from buying and selling the so-called “military apartments” — built by the government and offered to military servicemen with low cost as a military welfare initiative.
Soldiers and veterans on the long waiting list for such residential units, as well as the opposition, derided Wang as “thirsty for money” and accused her of “abusing her expertise as a resourceful lawyer.” Labor activists also attempted to force Wang’s response on Tuesday to her labor-rights record involving toll collector layoffs and a controversial series of factory closings, causing a clash with police as they blocked her path.
Additionally, the legitimacy of Wang and her husband’s residence in a government dormitory and a land transaction has also come under question.
KMT lawmakers question Wang’s nomination.
CHU CRITICIZES MA’S HANDLING OF PACT: The 12th round of negotiations on the cross-strait trade in goods agreement, which concluded on Monday, was dogged by protests proclaiming that the deal would only benefit large corporations at the expense of farmers and small businesses. Eric Chu had criticized the manner in which President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) handled the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement in 2013, saying the process was “marred by a lack of communication and the government’s ambiguous planning.”
WANG’S DEFENSE FOR KMT SLAMMED: Jennifer Wang defended the Ma administration’s statement about labor wage on Sunday, saying the KMT administration has raised the minimum wage five times during the past seven-and-a-half years while the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government only did so once between 2000 and 2008.
Wang’s remarks were quickly countered by the DPP, which said that real wages in Taiwan have fallen back to 1999 levels and the income gap has surged over the past seven years. “Wang’s remark indicated her lack of honesty and the Ma administration’s inability to reflect on its ineffective policies that resulted in low wages and an unfair accumulation of wealth,” the DPP said, adding that Wang had evaded the issue as a former minister of labor.
TSAI MAINTAINS STRONG LEAD: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) continues to enjoy a commanding lead in the 2016 presidential election. The latest poll by the Chinese-language newspaper Liberty Times, published on Thursday, showed Tsai with 47.8% of the vote, with her KMT rival Eric Chu at 13.87 percent of support and the People First Party’s (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜) at 6.89 percent. Analysts said the controversies surrounding KMT vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang may have had an impact on Chu’s popularity.
CANDIDATE REGISTRATION: PFP presidential candidate James Soong and his running mate, Republican Party (Minkuotang) Chairperson Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), took the lead to register their candidacy with the Central Election Commission on Tuesday. Their KMT contender, Eric Chu and his vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang, completed the procedure a day after. DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen and her running mate, Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), a former vice president of Academia Sinica, registered on Friday. The candidates are scheduled to draw lots to determine their numerical designations on Dec. 14.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
KMT LEGISLATORS-AT-LARGE NOMINATION FIASCO: The KMT formally confirmed on Saturday all its 34 nominees for legislator-at-large positions for the Jan. 16 elections. Although KMT chairman and presidential candidate Eric Chu said the nominations reflected the KMT’s efforts to present more legislators with professional expertise, critics and observers described it as “the worst list in history” and interpreted it as a compromise to various political factions within the party.
The KMT attempted to highlight five “specialists” from non-political fields among the top 12 members on the list who are virtually assured of getting legislative seats, while the other seven are all political veterans — with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) at the top.
The nomination has faced challenges from within the party, in particular from those who were excluded from the list, such as Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu Chu (洪秀柱), whose presidential candidacy was taken over by Chu a month ago. Hung is reportedly among some KMT lawmakers who are considering joining the Jan. 16 legislative elections.
Tai Po-te (戴伯特), director of the KMT’s Huang Fu-hsing (黃復興) military veterans branch, allegedly proposed his resignation in protest of the nomination of Wang and TEDxTaipei cofounder Jason Hsu (許毓仁), while 19th-ranked Taiwan Petroleum Workers’ Union chairman Chuang Chueh-an (莊爵安) withdrew his name from the list due to his low ranking. KMT politicians in Chiayi County also threatened to withdraw from the party after Chiayi-based KMT lawmaker Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞) was absent from the list.
Chu on Wednesday defended the list, saying it was “not in the least inferior to that in the last elections.” He urged all party members to put aside personal feelings for the sake of party unity.
MORE ON LEGISLATORS-AT-LARGE NOMINATION: The PFP and the DPP announced their lists of legislator-at-large candidates on Tuesday, with the DPP’s list earning praise from supporters and political observers.
The Republican Party announced its list of legislators-at-large candidates on Thursday with a pair of nominees with intelligence ties raising eyebrows. Chen Hu-man (陳虎門), a former Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) official involved in the murder case of US citizen Henry Liu (劉宜良) in 1984, and former National Security Bureau official Lee Tien-tuo (李天鐸) were on the list.
Former KMT lawmaker Chiu Yi (邱毅) topped the New Party’s legislators-at-large nomination list.
MA MAY VISIT ITU ABA: President Ma said on Tuesday that he had never ruled out visiting Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) amid reports about a planned visit to the island on Dec. 12. The visit was reportedly intended for Ma to reiterate Taiwan’s sovereignty over the island in the disputed South China Sea and to promote his South China Sea peace initiative. Ma would preside over a ceremony to mark the completion of a new pier on the island if it is finished next month, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported.
FORMER CHU DEPUTY INDICTED: The Taipei City District Prosecutors’ Office has indicted former New Taipei City deputy mayor Hsu Chih-chien (許志堅), who was Eric Chu’s right-hand man and a close associate of President Ma, on charges of corruption involving alleged bribes totaling NT$7.58 million (US$233,000), with six others, to facilitate urban renewal projects on bids by construction contractors.
► TRADE & ECONOMY
CROSS-STRAIT TRADE NEGOTIATIONS: Several major issues remained unresolved in the 12th round of negotiations over a cross-strait trade in goods agreement to reduce or eliminate tariffs on goods traded between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, which included automobile parts, machinery products, petrochemical products and display panels, but Taiwan’s team still hopes to “make major progress” by the end of this year. One consensus reached before the three-day negotiations concluded on Monday was the clearance of goods within 48 hours of their declaration at customs, with any batch of goods that authorities or the customs deem necessary as an exception so as to ensure food safety. Both sides have also agreed on special rules of origin and on technical barriers to trade.
CHINA’S ROLE BEHIND EBC BID: Los Angeles-based entertainment company DMG Entertainment has reportedly acquired one of Taiwan’s largest television networks, Eastern Broadcasting Co (EBC). The news triggered concerns over China’s future influence in television content in Taiwan, as Peter Xiao (肖文閣), allegedly the son of a former Chinese People’s Liberation Army leader, is one of the cofounders of Dynamic Marketing Group to which DMG belongs.
The Los Angeles Times reported that DMG chief executive Dan Mintz had signed an agreement to buy EBC from the Carlyle Group for US$600 million. Mintz said the purchase would be his personal investment and does not involve Chinese capital.
According to the Chinese-language Next Magazine, DMG Entertainment is represented by a law firm founded by minister-without-portfolio Jacyln Tsai (蔡玉玲). With Tsai’s role in overseeing the National Communications Commission’s operations, the authority responsible for reviewing the deal, Tsai apparently failed to avoid an apparent major conflict of interest, the magazine said. The commission asserted on the same day that Tsai’s role in the acquisition would not affect its neutrality in the case.
MAYORS LODGE PROTEST WITH ICLEI: Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) have lodged a protest with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) over a name issue after it listed their cities as being in China. Chen and Lai demanded a speedy correction from “China” to “Chinese Taipei,” threatening that if the correction is not forthcoming, they will withdraw from the mayoral alliance.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
NEW US ARM SALES TO TAIWAN: The U.S. government is expected to announce in mid-December a $1 billion arms package for Taiwan, the first new sale in more than four years. Washington will likely offer Taipei transfers of missile frigates, about a dozen AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, one replacement AH-64 Apache helicopter and munitions including Stinger, Javelin and TOW missiles, the article said, citing unnamed US officials.
In related news, senior members of the U.S. Senate have urged U.S. President Barack Obama to develop and implement a new plan for Taiwan’s military modernization by increasing arms sales to Taiwan, citing that “America’s long-standing commitment to Taiwan … must be exercised as we seek to support and safeguard the ability of the people of Taiwan to determine their own future.”
IS VIDEO PROMPTS SECURITY CONCERNS: Taiwan’s national flag was displayed among those of over 60 other nations which the Islamic State (IS) named as members of the global anti-IS coalition in its latest propaganda video — released two days after U.S. President Obama noted Taiwan as an Asia-Pacific partner in the global efforts against the militant group in a speech on Sunday, spurring concerns that Taiwan could become a target of the IS attacks.
In a bid to ease public fears, President Ma said on Wednesday that authorities have taken all necessary precautions following a high-level meeting of the Cabinet on national security last week as well as a discussion with the premier in the morning.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified on Monday that Taiwan has focused its anti-terrorism efforts on providing humanitarian assistance rather than military actions, but declined to confirm rumors that Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) joined a U.S. Department of State meeting on Tuesday to discuss the expansion of the global anti-IS coalition.
SPY RULING UPHELD: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a guilty verdict for Lo Chi-cheng (羅奇正), who was arrested as a senior member of the Ministry of National Defense’s Military Intelligence Bureau in 2010, handing down an 18-year prison term on espionage charges for compromising national security and spying for China. The ruling, effectively a reduced sentence from the original life term, was criticized as too lenient.
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:
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