Week of Feb. 7-13
Photo: J. Michael Cole / TT

President Ma loses two of his most trusted aides as senior officials pull out of his administration; prosecutors press charges against more than 100 activists from the Sunflower Movement but do not indict a former official accused of spying for China; DPP Chairperson Tsai’s presidential nomination seems almost certain; the presidential and legislative elections will be combined; the bodies of 43 passengers killed in a plane crash have been found. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



NSC, MAC HEADS RESIGN: National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) and Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), two close aides of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), resigned on Feb. 6 and Feb. 10 respectively, sending shockwaves through the political scene and marking the latest exodus of Ma administration officials.

King cited personal health and family reasons for his resignation and is to be succeeded by former minister of national defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱). King reportedly underwent several heart operations, including a coronary artery stenting procedure in October last year.

Wang resigned after prosecutors decided not to indict a former deputy, Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀), whom he had accused of spying for Beijing. He told reporters that it was King who informed him of Chang’s spying acts. Prosecutors said there was not enough evidence against Chang, who was relieved of his duty in August last year. Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Hsia (夏立言) has reportedly been tapped to succeed Wang.

King said on Wednesday that he would file a lawsuit against political pundits for describing him as the mastermind behind efforts to remove Chang.

SUNFLOWER ACTIVISTS INDICTED: Prosecutors on Tuesday indicted 119 people — including leading figures Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), Dennis Wei (魏揚) and Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) — for their roles in the student-led Sunflower Movement that occupied the main legislative chamber, the Executive Yuan compound and held a subsequent protest last year. At least two foreigners were also among the indicted — American political activist and long-term resident Lynn Miles and Canadian photojournalist David W. Smith. The movement leaders lambasted the prosecutors for not investigating and charging the police officers who exercised excessive violence. Amnesty International also urged the government to drop the charges and questioned its failure to investigate police conduct.

LAI, SU WILL NOT RUN IN 2016: Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) announced on his Facebook page on Feb. 6 that he would not participate in the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential primary, putting an end to speculation that he might challenge DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the primary. Lai also said he supported Tsai’s presidential bid. Former DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) made a similar pledge on Thursday in New Taipei City. Tsai could be directly nominated as the party’s presidential candidate if no one enters the primary before Feb. 16.

REGIME CHANGE EXPECTED: Public opinion polls showed that the majority of Taiwanese people expect the DPP will return to power next year. Almost 76% of respondents in a poll conducted by Taiwan Thinktank, and 65% of those polled in a United Daily News survey believing the DPP will win.

COMBINED ELECTIONS A DONE DEAL: The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on Thursday that the presidential and legislative elections will be combined and held on the same day next year. Polls conducted by the CEC found that nearly 70% of respondents favored combining the elections.

SECOND-GENERATION DPP POLITICIANS: DPP members criticized Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧), daughter of former DPP chair Su, and Yu Ping-tao (游秉陶), son of former premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), after the pair announced their intention to run in the DPP’s primary for legislative elections, saying it was time to end “family politics” in Taiwan. Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) was also reportedly interested in running for legislator in Kaohsiung, but Hsieh denied the rumor.

TAINAN SPEAKER DETAINED: The Tainan District Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of a request by prosecutors to detain Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and three other politicians over alleged vote-buying in the city council’s speaker election on Dec. 25. Lee was intercepted by prosecutors on Monday before his scheduled departure to China. Lee reportedly offered between NT$300,000 and 10 million (US$9,500-317,000) for each vote. As many as half of Tainan city councilors may have been involved in the vote-buying scandal.

FORMER PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SENTENCED: The Taiwan High Court on Thursday sentenced former prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) to 15 months in prison, which can be converted into a fine, for leaking classified information related to prosecutors’ investigation in a case involving President Ma, former premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

SMALL VICTORY FOR DPP IN BY-ELECTIONS: The DPP edged the KMT three to two in the five legislative by-elections on Saturday with both parties retaining the constituencies they previously held. Controlling 64 of the total 112 seats, the KMT still holds majority over the DPP’s 40 seats. The results:

Miaoli County: Hsu Chih-jung (徐志榮), KMT, defeated Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻), DPP.
Taichung City: Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書), DPP, defeated Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇), KMT.
Changhua County: Chen Su-yueh (陳素月), DPP, defeated Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源), KMT.
Nantou County: Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華), KMT, defeated Tang Huo-sheng (湯火聖), DPP.
Pingtung County: Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄), DPP, defeated Liao Wan-ju (廖婉汝), KMT.

BUSH ON 1992 CONSENSUS: Richard Bush, director of Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, said the 1992 Consensus is not a party-to-party (KMT-CCP) agreement because it was reached by government-authorized institutions across the Taiwan Strait.

KAO TO BE KMT’S TOP CHINA AFFAIRS OFFICIAL: KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has appointed former Strait Exchange Foundation vice chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) as head of the party’s Mainland Affairs Department. Analysts said Kao’s priority is likely setting up a meeting between Chu and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

MAJORITY OPPOSES UNIFICATION: A public opinion poll conducted by Taiwan Indicator Survey Research found that 67.7% of respondents oppose unification with China. In the 20-29 age group, 84% said they oppose unification. Over half of the respondents, or 51.3%, agreed that Taiwan should eventually become a new and independent country, and 50.9% described the current cross-strait status as “One China, one Taiwan.”



POTENTIAL BEEF CONCESSIONS RAISE CONCERNS: Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng’s (鄧振中) visit to Washington with the aim of winning U.S. support for Taiwan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations could offer concession in lifting a ban on U.S. cow offal, which would include six types of beef — bone marrow, blood vessels, head meat, cheek meat, weasand and tallow — local media reported on Saturday. The report has raised concerns from lawmakers across party lines, academics and consumer rights groups, with the Food and Drug Administration also saying that no U.S. beef offal import is allowed under current law. KMT Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) said he was more worried about pork imports.

AIT URGES BAN LIFT: American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesperson Mark Zimmer told reporters that U.S. beef has been proven safe and that Taiwanese consumers should be able to have the freedom to buy U.S. products. Zimmer raised the importance for Taiwan to “base its food safety regulations on established science and ensure laws and regulations that affect agricultural market access are in line with Taiwan’s bilateral and international trade commitments.” On the TPP, he said the U.S. welcomes Taiwan’s participation in economic integration as long as it is ready.



LAST CRASH VICTIM FOUND: The last missing body of the passengers died in the crash of TransAsia Airways Flight 235 was found on Thursday, nine days after the accident in the Keelung river that killed 43 and injured 15. TransAsia Airways announced on Wednesday that it would pay NT$14.9 million in compensation to relatives of each of the victims.

According to the flight information from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder released by the Aviation Safety Council on Friday (Feb. 6), the pilots may have mistakenly turned off the engine that could have kept it airborne after the second engine failed after takeoff.

PRISON HOSTAGE CRISIS: A hostage crisis in a prison in Kaohsiung ended early Thursday with all six inmates holding two prison officials hostage in a 14-hour standoff taking their own lives. The hostages, including the prison warden, are safe. President Ma ordered an investigation report by Friday and a prison reform plan within a week.

PRESS FREEDOM DOWN: Taiwan ranked 51st globally in the 2015 Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders on Friday. While Taiwan earns the third-best ranking in Asian-Pacific countries, behind New Zealand and Australia, it dropped one spot from No. 50 last year. China finished 176th among 180 countries in the ranking.

WEI’S BAIL UPHELD: The Changhua District Court upheld its earlier decision to release senior Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團) executive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) after a contentious debate during a hearing on Tuesday, granting Wei bail on NT$300 million, the same amount as last time, after the Taiwan High Court ordered a reconsideration.

CORPORAL DEATH CASE: The Taiwan High Court on Tuesday delivered harsher sentences to several military officers involved in the 2013 death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died from hyperthermia-induced disseminated intra-vascular coagulation, or DIC, after being forced to perform a series of strenuous exercises in a confinement facility. However, major general Shen Wei-chih (沈威志) was found not guilty.



PLANNED MILITARY PARADE? The Ministry of National Defense is reportedly planning a military parade in Hukou, Hsinchu, in October to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War to “rival” China’s own commemorations. The last military parade in Taiwan was held on the National Day in 2011.


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.

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