Week of Jan. 24-30, 2015

Several Cabinet ministers resign; top military officials and commanders are replaced; President Ma files another lawsuit against a member of the media to “protect his integrity”; the DPP sets it schedule for the primaries, kicking off the campaign season; Taipei Mayor Ko continues his war against corruption in the nation’s capital. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



MA SUES LAWMAKER, PUNDIT: Facing various accusations of corruption, embattled President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) filed a lawsuit against political pundit Chen Min-feng (陳敏鳳) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) on Thursday, according to presidential spokesperson Ma Wei-kuo (馬瑋國). Chen and Tuan accused Ma and Kang Ping-cheng (康炳政), director of the President’s office, of receiving NT$200 million (US$6.4 million) in illegal political donations in 2007.

TAIWANESE IDENTITY AT ALL-TIME HIGH: According to a survey by the National Chengchi University Election Study Center, the number of people who refer to themselves as “Taiwanese,” as well as those who support Taiwanese independence, hit historic highs. The poll showed that 60.6 percent — up from 17.6 percent in 1992 — of respondents regard themselves as Taiwanese, while 23.9 percent support Taiwanese independence. The results also showed a record-low of 32.5 percent of respondents who identified as both Taiwanese and Chinese, down from 47.7 percent in 2004, while 3.5 percent said they considered themselves Chinese, down from 26.2 percent in 1994.

CABINET PERSONNEL CHANGES: The Executive Yuan announced the latest Cabinet member changes on Friday, filling the vacant seats left by recent resignations. Among the new members are Culture Minister Hung Meng-chi (洪孟啟), Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Jian-yu (陳建宇) and Minister of Science and Technology Shyu Jyuo-min (徐爵民). Meanwhile, local media reported on Thursday that Premier Mao Chih-kuo (毛治國) had accepted the resignation of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), minister of the National Development Council (NDC), who will go back to teaching in February. Former economics minister Woody Duh (杜紫軍) has been appointed new NDC head.

The Minister of National Defense has also resigned. See the “Military and Security” section below.

LAWMAKER WITHDRAWS FROM KMT: Legislator Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩) of Hsinchu County announced her withdrawal from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Tuesday, citing perennial political stagnation due to ideological party competition and her disappointment with the KMT. Hsu’s departure leaves the KMT with 62 of the 113 seats in the legislature. Hsu will reportedly join a new political party that is currently being planned by former PFP lawmaker Chen Cheng-sheng (陳振盛).

HUALIEN COMMISSIONER MAY REJOIN KMT: Hualien Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁), who saw his KMT membership revoked after entering the race for commissioner without securing the party’s nomination in 2009, is reportedly expected to rejoin the party. Fu was re-elected last year.

DPP SETS PRIMARY SCHEDULE: The DPP’s Central Standing Committee on Wednesday approved its schedule for selecting nominees to represent the party in next year’s presidential and legislative elections. The official announcement for the presidential primary will be posted on Feb. 11. Registrations will be accepted from Feb. 12 to Feb. 16, and negotiations for the presidential nominees will end on Feb. 24. The primary campaign will be held from Feb. 26 to March 15, followed by an opinion poll from March 16 to March 18 to gauge the popularity of the presidential contenders. As to the legislative elections, the announcement for the primary will be posted on Feb. 26, the registration period will run from March 2 to March 6, and an opinion poll will be conducted from March 19 to April 10. The lists of nominees for president and legislators will be made public on April 15.

DPP POSITION ON CROSS-STRAIT TIES: Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), director of the DPP’s China Affairs Department, said on Wednesday that the party insists that cross-strait exchanges be based on the public interest and that the fruits of exchanges should safeguard public interests and be shared by society. In addition to these, Chao said that cross-strait relations should be handled based on the principle of “three benefits” — the promotion of cross-strait ties should benefit the nation’s development of freedom and democracy; regional peace, security and stability; and exchanges between Taiwan and China.

DPP GOALS FOR 2015: DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said in Tainan on Sunday that the party’s three goals for this year would be good local governance, to initiate constitutional reform, and formulate new economic models for Taiwan.

DATE SET FOR COMBINED ELECTIONS? The Chinese-language United Daily News reports that the Central Election Commission could set the date for the combined presidential and legislative elections to Jan. 16, 2016, given that public opinion shows strong support for holding concurrent elections. The commission’s final decision is expected to be made on Feb. 16.

CHEN SHUI-BIAN INDICTED: Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who was released on a medical parole, was indicted on Jan. 23 over money laundering charges. Chen is accused of receiving NT$10 million from former Taipei Financial Center Corp chairwoman Diana Chen (陳敏薰) for helping her secure the position. Chen’s office said in a press release that the indictment was an attempt by the government to shift the focus away from various public construction scandals.

CONCERNS OVER CHINESE TOURISTS: Lawmakers said plans by the Ma administration to further relax regulation on Chinese tourists could pose a serious threat to national security. The government said it would initiate a test run beginning on Feb. 1 to allow Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan via the outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu. The Tourism Bureau said it planned to expand the number of Chinese cities that are eligible for individual travel from 36 to 46, and that the maximum number of Chinese tourists allowed in the country would increase from 4,000 at present to 5,000.

LEGISLATIVE BY-ELECTIONS APPROACHING: Five legislative by-elections will be held on Feb. 7. The votes are regarded as the first battle between new KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and DPP Chairperson Tsai, and as crucial for the momentum in the run-up to the presidential campaign. As turnouts are expected to be low, DPP Deputy Secretary-General Hong Yao-fu (洪耀福) said the party had comfortable leads only in Pingtung County and expects dogfights in Taichung, Nantou County and Changhua County. The KMT says it has the advantage in Miaoli County and Nantou County.

NEW PARTY LAUNCHED: Lawyer Lin Feng-jeng (林峯正) and metal band Chthonic vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) on Sunday announced the official establishment of the New Power Party (NPP, 時代力量黨), which “takes pride in its roots in civic movements.” The party said it would focus on normalization of Taiwan’s national status and constitutional amendments. The NPP is an offshoot of the Taiwan Citizen Union (TCU), a political civic organization established after the Sunflower Movement that recently split over ideological differences. TCU president Fan Yun (范雲) is expected to launch a separate activism-based party in March.

BUDGET FROZEN DUE TO SUNFLOWER CRACKDOWN: A resolution of the Legislative Yuan on Friday froze NT$84 million of the Executive Yuan’s (EY) annual budget — one-fifth of the EY’s budget outside personnel salaries — until the administrative branch submits a report on the order to launch a bloody crackdown against protesters during the Sunflower Movement occupation in March last year. The EY has refused to provide information to an investigative panel of the legislature.

CROSS-STRAIT MEETING ON ECFA: Trade negotiators from Taiwan and China met in Taipei on Thursday for the seventh meeting of the Economic Cooperation Committee aiming to ensure implementation of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). A decision was made to further involve small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the process of cross-strait economic integration.

WASHINGTON STILL ANGRY: A U.S. official said that while no lasting damage appeared to have been done to U.S.-Taiwan relations, there was lingering anger among senior Washington officials over the “unauthorized” raising of the Republic of China (ROC) flag at Twin Oaks in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 1.



KO APOLOGIZES FOR DIPLOMATIC GAFFE: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Tuesday apologized for his comments about a timepiece given him by visiting British Minister of State for Transport Susan Kramer on Monday. Upon receiving the gift, Ko said he would “regift it to someone or take it to a scrap metal dealer and sell it for cash.” A report by Agence France-Presse described the incident as a “double gaffe,” as giving a clock as a gift is taboo in Taiwanese and Chinese culture. Local politicians lambasted Ko for his “inappropriate diplomatic manners.” A humbled Ko said he will take political ethics classes.

KO ENJOYS STRONG SUPPORT: A public opinion poll conducted by TVBS prior to the one-month anniversary of Ko’s inauguration found that 68% of respondents approved the mayor’s performance and 63% said he is “likable.”

KO FIGHTING CORRUPTION: Despite a recent death threat, Ko continued his war against corruption in the nation’s capital, a move that has antagonized former mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌). The mayor was unwavering in his renegotiations with Farglory Land Development Co (遠雄建設) over the contract for the Taipei Dome and called the conglomerate “cunning.” A Clean Government Committee was officially launched on Thursday. Annie Lee (李安妮), the daughter of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), is among the members of the committee. A committee member, former Control Yuan member Ma Yi-kung (馬以工), accused the former Hau administration of helping the developer of the MeHAS City (美河市) residential project secure profits of at least NT$300 million.

TAINAN POLITICIANS INDICTED: Campaign aides of a KMT politician and a DPP politician in Tainan were indicted on Monday for vote-buying and receiving bribes. Campaign manager of Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the KMT and four other individuals —t wo of them voters — were charged with vote buying. Deputy Speaker Kuo Hsin-liang (郭信良) of the DPP was indicted on charges of receiving bribes of NT$12 million in 2012. Lee was also allegedly involved in vote buying in the speaker election, which led to Tainan Mayor William Lai’s (賴清德) refusal to attend any council session.



KMT BLOCKS PENSION REFORM PROPOSAL: The DPP accused President Ma of breaking his promises to reform the national retirement pension program after the KMT blocked reform proposals at the Legislative Yuan on Friday. Retired government employees are entitled to a year-end bonus in addition to their regular monthly retirement pensions, a policy that has been widely criticized. The original reform triggered protests from public servants — mostly KMT supporters — who threatened to boycott the party in future elections.

FISHERIES ACT PROMPTS OUTRAGE: Civic groups lambasted the legislature for passing an amendment to the Fisheries Act (漁業法) that relieves the employers of foreign fishermen of the obligation to pay for their employees’ health insurance premiums dating back to 2009.

LAW REGULATES CHILDREN ELECTRONIC USE: A revision to the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) has expanded regulations banning underage smoking, alcohol consumption, betel nut and drug use to cover the use of electronic devices. The revision bans the use of electronic devices for children under the age of two and caps the daily use of children under the age of 18 to 30 minutes a day. Parents who fail to monitor their children’s use of electronic devices will be subject to a maximum fine of NT$50,000.

FOREIGNERS DETENTION PERIOD REDUCED: A revision to the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法) reduces the maximum detention period of foreigners from 60 days to 15 days.



MILITARY ‘PERSONNEL EARTHQUAKE’: Citing personal reasons, defense minister Yen Ming (嚴明) has resigned. Chief of General Staff Admiral Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) will replace Yen in one of the largest “military personnel earthquakes” in recent years, in which commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force were all replaced.


Overview of personnel changes at MND (new position, name, previous position):


Minister of National Defense, Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) (Chief of General Staff)

Chief of General Staff, Yen De-fa (嚴德發) (Army Commander)

Army Commander, Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) (Deputy Minister of Defense)

Navy Commander, Lee Shi-ming (李喜明) (Deputy Chief of General Staff)

Air Force Commander, Chen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) (Administrative Deputy Defense Minister)

Deputy Chief of General Staff, Pu Tze-chun (蒲澤春) (Vice Navy Commander)

Deputy Minister of National Defense, Liu Chen-wu (劉震武) (Air Force Commander)

Presidential Adviser, Chen Yong-kang (陳永康) (Navy Commander)

Presidential Adviser, Liao Jung-hsin (廖榮鑫) (Deputy Chief of General Staff)


CHINESE CYBERATTACK EXAMINED: Taiwan has been used as a “training ground” by a Chinese cyber army to hone their skills, and many of the attacks are new types of cyber warfare, Vice Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said at an Executive Yuan meeting in Taipei on Thursday. Chang said that Beijing has targeted the Presidential Office, Executive Yuan, Ministry of Economic Affairs and the National Development Council, and that it is clear that Chinese cyber warfare is conducted prior to elections and political events.

ARMY EXERCISE: The Ministry of National Defense held a combined drill in Hsinchu County on Tuesday, with displays of firepower and maneuvers by CM-11 main battle tanks, CM-32 “Clouded Leopard” armored vehicles and mechanized infantry units demonstrating the Army’s ability to engage and repel an enemy invasion. Military officials said the scenario for the drill was an air landing and amphibious assault by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).



ENERGY CONFERENCE ENDS IN CHAOS: A two-day National Energy Conference failed to produce results, ending with arguments between pro- and anti-nuclear energy advocates and inconsistent positions between KMT heavyweights, President Ma and KMT Chairman Chu. Ma was criticized for saying that he supported the gradual phasing out of nuclear energy, but reiterated that all forms of energy should remain on the table. Chu said he does not support nuclear power.

WEI OUT ON BAIL: Former executive of food-scandal-plagued Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co (頂新製油實業) Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) was released on NT$100 million bail on Wednesday.

FLU STRAINS NOT PATHOGENIC TO HUMANS: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on Saturday that the H5N2 and H5N8 avian influenza strains currently sweeping the nation will not affect humans. It made the announcement after completing an analysis on the viruses’ genome sequences. Meanwhile, the Council of Agriculture imposed a second ban on poultry slaughtering this month to contain the outbreaks.

FOREIGN HUSBANDS AT ALL-TIME HIGH: The number of foreign men who married Taiwanese women last year totaled 4,521, the highest number since 2003, according to Ministry of the Interior statistics. The ministry said 55.8 percent of all foreign spouses who married last year were from China, Hong Kong or Macau; 27.7 percent were from Southeast Asian nations, and 16.5 percent from elsewhere.


The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at editor@thinking-taiwan.com.

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.