Week of Dec. 5-11, 2015

KMT vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang’s disclosure of disputed real estate transactions fails to convince the public and backfires; Chinese envoy Chen Deming warns that DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s popularity could cause an Hitler-style tragedy; KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu urges voters who are “moderate, rational and appreciate the middle way” to stand up to “defend the Republic of China”; The DPP announces plans to collaborate with candidates from various parties. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



WANG CONTROVERSY ESCALATES: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice presidential candidate Jennifer Wang (王如玄) held a press conference on Tuesday, almost three weeks after her investments in military housing units raised public questions. Wang was hoping to mitigate the impact of the controversy surrounding her alleged profiteering from the government’s military welfare initiative on the KMT’s already poor electoral prospects. Wang’s clarifications on the issue, particularly the gross profit from the dealings, however, failed to convince the public, and triggered further questions about her credibility and eligibility.

Her absence from a media event for KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) on Wednesday was interpreted as an attempt to limit the damage of the controversy to Chu’s image.

Wang likened the accusations of various critics to “political murder,” though she admitted that she had gained NT$13.8 million (US$420,000) from speculating in 12 military housing units. Reiterating that all her property dealings were legal, Wang apologized for “letting the presidential campaign drift away from the core issues” and offered to donate her earnings to the Legal Aid Foundation.

Wang’s decision to hold a press conference came after KMT presidential campaign manager Jason Hu (胡志強) said on Monday that the matter needs to be addressed to meet public expectations. “I cannot deny that the property furor has affected public support for the KMT,” said the former Taichung mayor, who was appointed head of Chu’s campaign staff last Friday.

Wang’s husband, Huang Tung-hsun (黃東焄), resigned from his post as director of the Judicial Yuan’s Department of Government Ethics on Thursday.

KMT COUNTERATTACKS: In clear retaliation for the Wang controversy, the KMT legislative caucus on Thursday accused DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of land speculation in several properties in Taipei in the late 1980s, when Tsai was in her early 30s. Citing land registration transcripts, former KMT legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said that Tsai had purchased 15 plots of land totaling 271 ping (894.3m2) in the city’s Neihu District on April. 15, 1988, and sold the plots nine years later for a profit of NT$180 million. Tsai refuted the accusations on the same day, saying the figures and the facts provided by Chiu — the man who during the Sunflower Movement’s occupation of the legislature last year couldn’t tell the difference between sunflowers and bananas — were inaccurate.

CHINA ENVOY MAKES HITLER ANALOGY: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has urged Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) to be “discreet in his behavior and words” during his visit to Taiwan ahead of next month’s elections. Tsai made the remarks after Chen compared Tsai and her popularity to Adolf Hitler with a warning that “sometimes a politician with a high support rating causes disaster.” Tsai said that she did not perceive Chen’s visit in a negative way, but hoped that Chen could gain a better understanding of Taiwan’s democracy, especially during Taiwan’s election campaign.

Responding to demonstrations during his visit on Saturday, Chen said that “anti-China” protests are not an “accurate” expression of Taiwan’s democracy.

TSAI DEFENDS DPP TEAM: Tsai on Saturday refuted accusations by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Saturday that her choice of advisory team was “questionable,” as many of the advisors and staff had worked for the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration between 2000 and 2008. “My team consists of people from party headquarters, our think tank, the legislative caucus, and local governments — they come from everywhere; it is a big and strong team,” Tsai said, adding that the team belongs “to the nation” rather than to a single individual.

CHU APPEALS TO ‘SILENT STRENGTH’: Eric Chu and his running mate Jennifer Wang unveiled their national campaign headquarters on Saturday, calling on Taiwan’s “silent strength”-the “mainstream” public that is “moderate, rational and appreciate the middle way”- to stand up to “defend the Republic of China.”

Faced with grim electoral prospects and a rift within the party, KMT heavyweights, including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Wang Jin-pyng, attended the opening ceremony to echo Chu’s call for solidarity. Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), whose presidential candidacy was taken over by Chu in October, was also present.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC’s Chinese Website last Friday, Chu touted the party’s cross-strait policies as “on the right track,” adding that the party would never change its stance even if it fared poorly in next month’s elections.

CHEN PLEDGES TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: DPP vice presidential candidate Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) pledged on Tuesday to establish a governmental commission for the pursuit of justice and compensation for the victims and families of the 228 Massacre and White Terror era if the DPP wins the presidential election next year.

Separately, both DPP and KMT presidential candidates have yet to put forth any policies on land expropriation, and neither have agreed to ban forced evictions, the Taiwan Association of Human Rights lamented on Monday.

TSAI WIDENS LEAD IN POLL: Support for the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen/Chen Chien-jen surged to 52.6 percent in a poll published by the Cross-Strait Policy Association on Tuesday, while their KMT opponents Eric Chu and Jennifer Wang trailed with 20.1 percentage points. PFP presidential hopeful James Soong (宋楚瑜) and his deputy Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩) came third with 9.2 percent. In another survey released by Next TV on Thursday, the three pairs received (in the same order) 41.1, 16.6 and 9.8 percent.



DPP IDENTIFIES ALLIED CANDIDATES: In a bid to optimize its chances of defeating the KMT in the Jan. 16 elections, the DPP on Wednesday approved a list of legislative candidates from other parties that it will support in constituencies where the DPP’s chances are slim. “We seek to cooperate with them as allies, with victory in the elections as our ultimate goal,” DPP Campaign Strategy Committee convener Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) said. Some DPP members and supporters, however, have criticized the move, saying they found it difficult to support candidates with different political ideologies and affiliations.

TSU VOWS TO UPHOLD NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY: As the growing number of “third force” political parties seeking legislative seats is likely to have an impact on the chances of Taiwan Solidarity Union — known for its stance in support for Taiwan independence — in the Jan. 16 legislative elections, the TSU on Sunday highlighted its commitment to maintaining Taiwan’s sovereignty. The party hopes to receive at least 1.5 million votes in next month’s poll from those who seek to counterbalance pro-China unification forces.

WANG CALLS FOR LEGISLATIVE REFORMS: The best time to accomplish reform of the legislature would be before the term of office of the incumbent lawmakers ends next month, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said on Sunday. With his leadership in the legislature likely to be challenged following the Jan.16 elections and the KMT facing bleak electoral prospects, Wang has been particularly vocal with his proposed reforms in recent weeks.

Wang on Monday lashed out at Tsai Ing-wen for her remarks that the proposed legislative reform should be left in the hands of the lawmakers in the new session, implying that Tsai’s refusal to cooperate was evidence of her lack of sincerity for reforms. The DPP countered that if Wang truly cared about legislative reform, he’d had the opportunity to do so in the past decade as legislative speaker.

RIGHTS PROTECTION, DEATH PENALTY: With the Jan. 16 elections approaching, public satisfaction with the reduction in vote-buying fell from 3.1 last year to 2.7 this year, according to a survey published by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy on Wednesday. Meanwhile, although a majority feels that the government has failed to ensure judicial fairness this year, only 8.9 percent of respondents expressed support for the abolition of capital punishment.

TAIWAN IN COP21: Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥), who is attending the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change with Taiwan’s delegation from the Industrial Technology Research Institute, urged the UN on Monday to be inclusive of all political entities in the fight against climate change and pursuit of carbon reduction. Although Wei is the first EPA head of Taiwan to be present at a COP climate-change meeting, he cannot participate in any official or observer-state capacity, as Taiwan was ousted from the UN in 1971 and supplanted by China.

LEE RETURNS HOME: Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) returned to his residence on Monday after spending 11 days in hospital following a minor stroke. His appearance at all election campaign events has been cancelled on doctors’ instructions.



EXPORTS FALL 10 MONTHS IN A ROW: Taiwan reported a 10th consecutive monthly decline in exports on account of the slow recovery of global economy, marking the steepest year-on-year downturn in more than six years, according to figures of the first three weeks of last month. A slowing Chinese economy could constrain demand for electronics goods ahead of Lunar New Year, Department of Statistics Director-General Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) said on Monday.

TSMC APPLIES FOR FACTORY IN CHINA: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, revealed plans on Tuesday to set up a US$3 billion 12-inch wafer factory in China to fulfill fast-growing customer demand, adding that an application has been submitted to the government. A final ruling on the investment should be made before the Lunar New Year holiday, the Investment Commission said.



US REITERATES SUPPORT FOR TAIWAN: Citing a U.S. new arms sales package for Taiwan that is expected to be announced next week as well as its engagement with Taiwan in evaluating, assessing and reviewing its defense needs, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Abraham Denmark on Tuesday reiterated U.S. support for Taiwan, stressing that a “credible deterrent” against potential coercion and aggression against Taiwan is a shared objective.

Separately, International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow Richard Fisher said the U.S. should to do more for Taiwan to deter a Chinese attack. If the U.S. does not pay more attention to the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, it will be “inviting a war,” Fisher told a forum on Capitol Hill, urging the U.S. to provide fighters to replace Taiwan’s aging French Mirage 2000s. Rachel Hoff, Director of Defense Analysis at the American Action Forum, also argued in an article published on Wednesday that selling Taiwan the best defense technologies would demonstrate support for its democracy regardless of which party wins in 2016.

The defense of Taiwan is probably the most critical and enduring strategic challenge facing U.S. security professionals today, Project 2049 Institute research fellow Ian Easton said on Saturday.


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: 

“The Last Thorn on China’s Periphery,” by Peter Enav
“The Wang Controversy is a Symptom of KMT Sclerosis,” by J. Michael Cole
“Xinjiang, Terror, and China’s Contempt for Freedom of the Press,” by J. Michael Cole

Comments are welcome, but will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive language, personal attacks or self-promotion will not be published. We encourage healthy discussion and, above all, tolerance of other's views.