Controversies surrounding KMT vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang’s real estate transactions have snowballed and hurt the already dismal KMT election campaign; DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s office urges KMT presidential hopeful Eric Chu to open his campaign finances to public scrutiny; the KMT and DPP are in deadlock over which television station should host the televised presidential debate; Tsai maintains a commanding lead in polls. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
JENNIFER WANG’S CONTROVERSY: The controversy over Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang (王如玄) continued to snowball this week, sparking fears among KMT campaigners that her credibility would bungle the party’s chances in the Jan. 16 elections.
In response to mounting accusations that Wang abused her expertise as a lawyer in her controversial real estate deals involving alleged profiteering from buying and selling “military apartments,” Wang insisted that what she did was legally flawless and filed an aggravated libel lawsuit on Wednesday against Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), a vocal critic, to defend her “moral integrity.” KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) continued to attribute his running mate’s poor public image to smear tactics by their rivals.
Tuan and the Chinese-language Next Magazine have both allege that Wang released only part of her real estate transactions involving “military housing units” built by the government and offered to military servicemen with low cost as a military welfare initiative. Tuan also said that Wang’s moving out of a government dormitory on Monday－taunted by critics as show for sympathy－was actually due to her husband’s job transfer rather than to deliver her pledge to answer the public’s concern about the legitimacy of the couple’s residence as she claimed.
The Ministry of National Defense pledged on Thursday to review all dealings involving military housing units to ascertain whether any were sold during the five-year prohibition period.
Additionally, the exclusion of Wang’s doctorate in law from Beijing’s Renmin University of China and her experience at the Cabinet’s Women’s Rights Committee during the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration on the KMT presidential campaign website has also raised discussion about the reasons behind the omissions.
DISPUTES OVER TV DEBATE: The issue of which television station should host the presidential debate remain deadlocked, following KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu’s insistence to have the first televised debate held by the Public Television Service and five other news outlets so as to “follow the tradition.” The DPP argued that Chu should stick to the KMT’s prior commitment in August to allow SET-TV (三立電視), which tendered its invitation last year, to be the host, although the consent was given before Chu took over Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu’s (洪秀柱) candidacy. The DPP said the KMT was simply taking the so-called “tradition” as an excuse to avoid the debate.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Following the second release of its campaign contribution and expenditure report on Tuesday, DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) campaign office urged KMT presidential hopeful Eric Chu to follow suit to allow public scrutiny. Tsai’s chief executive officer, Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀), expressed “concerns” about the “injustice” of unequal political resources due to the KMT’s vast assets. According to the DPP report, Tsai’s campaign headquarters face a deficit of NT$71,963,923 (US$2.2 million). Chu said he would “wait some time before considering whether to release the information” as his campaign account was set up only a month ago.
HUNG MAKES PEACE WITH CHU: Hung Hsiu-chu announced last Friday that she would not risk losing her KMT membership by running for a legislative seat in New Taipei City’s Yonghe District (永和) as an independent candidate or accepting a New Party offer to be listed as one of its legislator-at-large nominees. Hung pledged to stay with the KMT to “push for reform,” but did not clarify whether she would run for the party’s chairmanship after the Jan. 16 election. Admitting that it would be a “lie” to say that she had fully put the controversy over her failed presidential bid behind her, Hung’s choice of words at the launch of her book, Unfinished Road to the Presidency, on Wednesday betrayed a hint of bitterness toward Chu. “I have finished off the bitter days for him. I hope he can fare better down the road,” she said.
CHU’S LONG-TERM CARE PROPOSAL SLAMMED: The DPP criticized KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu’s proposal to fund Taiwan’s long-term care program through the National Health Insurance program as “increasing the burden of all and being no different from a tax hike.” The DPP said it would instead seek funding for the program from specific sources such as the inheritance tax, with the wealthy asked to make larger contributions.
TSAI MAINTAINS LEAD: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen maintained a comfortable lead in the latest polls as the KMT’s Eric Chu and Jennifer Wang are bogged down in the Wang controversy.
Recent poll results:
|Tsai Ing-wen, Chen Chien-jen
|Eric Chu, Jennifer Wang
|United Daily News
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
CHINA ENVOY URGES TAIWAN TO ‘OPEN UP’: China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) arrived in Taiwan on Monday for a seven-day visit. Chen met with Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) and Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) later in the day. During his visit, Chen pledged to promote cross-strait cooperation on elder care services and youth entrepreneurship, urging Taiwan to “unlock” itself for more cross-strait collaboration, which he said would “make Taiwan an attractive destination of Chinese venture capital investments.”
Meanwhile, Economic Democracy Union activists who insisted on Taiwan’s economic autonomy clashed with police on Wednesday as they sought to protest against plans to allow Chinese investment in the integrated circuit (IC) industry and to allow individual Chinese investors to invest in Taiwanese stocks, as well as ongoing trade in goods negotiations and plans by foreign investors with alleged Chinese connections to acquire Eastern Broadcasting Co.
KMT LEGISLATIVE REFORM PROPOSAL QUESTIONED: Responding to a call for an inter-party dialogue by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on his proposed reform of the legislature last week, New Power Party (NPP) legislative candidates accused the ruling party’s legislative caucus of repeatedly blocking proposals for such reforms in the past, casting doubt on the genuineness of KMT’s reform package.
Meanwhile, NPP Chairman and legislative candidate Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), a leader of the Sunflower Movement, demanded KMT chairman Eric Chu reveal his stance on several controversies in the legislature, including President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) attempt to oust Wang from his post as legislative speaker in September 2013.
HEALTH INSURANCE FOR CHINESE STUDENTS: The legislature last Friday put off a controversial draft bill proposing to register Chinese studying in Taiwan for the National Health Insurance program (NHI)－with 40 percent of the premiums covered by the Taiwanese government －after the Taiwan Solidarity Union threatened to boycott the session.
Had the bill been forced through by its KMT advocates, the status of Chinese students in Taiwan for more than six months would be changed from “stay” to “residency” and paved the way for the inclusion of Chinese students in the program.
In a committee meeting last month, KMT legislators vetoed a DPP proposal stipulating that all foreign students, including Chinese, pay full NHI premiums. The DPP version also prohibited non-Taiwanese residents from applying for NHI reimbursement of medical expenses made on foreign soil.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
MND DENIES ‘SPY SWAP’ DEAL: Local media reported that Taiwan agreed to release Li Zhihao (李志豪), a Chinese spy serving a life sentence in Taiwan in late October, following the return of Chu Kung-hsun (朱恭訓) and Hsu Chang-kuo (徐章國), the two highest-ranking Taiwanese agents ever to fall into Chinese hands, on Oct. 13 — the first “spy swap” between Taiwan and China. The Chinese-language China Times on Sunday reported the news as an “ice-breaking” move with historical and political significance. The Ministry of National Defense on Tuesday confirmed the release of the two military intelligence officers by China, but denied it was the result of any “spy swap” deal.
US ARMS SALE: The U.S. never said it would stop selling weapons to Taiwan, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director William Stanton said last Friday, adding that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan were imperative. Stanton made the remarks in response to media queries about an article by Bloomberg View columnist Josh Rogin saying that the U.S. was close to announcing its first arms package to Taiwan in more than four years, a move that could cause a rift in Washington’s relationship with Beijing.
FOREIGN ASSISTANCE TO INDIGENOUS SUBS: Foreign assistance will be crucial to ensure the sophistication and effectiveness of submarines produced by Taiwan, which has a legitimate, long-standing requirement for a modern fleet of diesel-electric submarines, Project 2049 Institute executive director Mark Stokes said on Tuesday, encouraging the U.S. to allow the transfer of needed technology.
► TRADE & ECONOMY
GDP OUTLOOK SLASHED: The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics has cut its GDP growth forecast this year to 1.06 percent, a 0.5 percentage point cut from its projection in August, due to a weak global economy. Separately, the number of workers taking unpaid leave rose slightly in the past two weeks－the highest since March 2012, according to data released by the Ministry of Labor on Tuesday. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) expected the situation to worsen with the recent struggles of Taiwan’s LCD industry.
FOOD SCANDAL ACQUITTAL RILES NATION: All defendants in an adulterated cooking oil scandal that shook the nation last year were found not guilty in a ruling by the Changhua District Court last Friday. The prosecution’s failure to collect and present evidence for the trial to prove that the animal feed-grade material in question was unfit for human consumption was reportedly behind the court’s decision. An angered public launched an extensive boycott against products by Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團), the importer of the oil from Vietnam.
In a statement on Sunday, the prosecutors’ office said it would appeal the ruling, which allowed former Ting Hsin chairman Wei Ying-chun (魏應充), who was facing a 30-year jail term if convicted, to walk free.
NO INDICTMENT FOR WRONGFUL EXECUTION: The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office decided on Tuesday not to indict former minister of defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) and five others implicated in the wrongful execution of airman Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) 15 years ago, on the ground that the statute of limitations has run out. It added that although “improper” interrogation methods were used to intimidate Chiang, it was unlikely that Chen and the other accused “had any ability to tamper” with Chiang’s trial.
Chiang was subjected to torture and forced to confess to raping and killing a five-year-old girl. He was executed a year after. Chen was chief of the Air Force Combat Command at the time. Chiang’s mother and judicial reform advocates criticized the prosecutors’ opinions as “illogical” and “unacceptable,” adding they would likely seek a reconsideration in the case.
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.
Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:
“The New Arms Sale to Taiwan and U.S. Policy Toward the DPP,” by Peter Enav
“Of Bicycles and War: A Review of Wu Ming-yi’s ‘The Stolen Bicycle,’” by Yahsin Huang
“The DPP Did Not Mastermind Sino-Skepticism,” by J. Michael Cole
“The ‘Spy Swap’ That Wasn’t,” by J. Michael Cole