During and after the Lunar New Year holiday, public attention was focused on who will enter the KMT presidential primary. The Ma administration had reportedly worked out a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the outlying island of Kinmen before the plan was axed. Welcome to this week’s issue of the Insider.
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
WANG GUNNING FOR KMT NOMINATION? Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Tuesday denied media reports of a potential bid for Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential nomination, saying, “the information was, of course, incorrect.” Various media outlets reported that Wang could announce his presidential bid after the Lunar New Year.
KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) reiterated that he would serve out his four-year term as New Taipei City Mayor and said the format of the KMT’s presidential primary would be announced soon. Meanwhile, political commentator Hu Chung-hsin (胡忠信) said on Tuesday that Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) was still not giving up on a presidential bid and has secretly established an office for his campaign. Wu denied the existence of the office.
LAI MUM ON VP CANDIDATE RUMOR: Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) remained tight-lipped on a potential collaboration with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as her running mate in the 2016 presidential election, a rumor that has circulated since Lai announced he would not enter the party’s presidential primary.
TSAI LISTS PRIORITIES: DPP Chairperson Tsai, who has virtually secured the DPP’s presidential nomination, on Monday listed four priorities for her party in the new year — reviving the nation’s economy, emphasizing justice in the party’s policy formulation, strengthening Taiwan’s democracy, and pushing for constitutional reform. As the sole candidate in the presidential primary, Tsai’s nomination is expected in mid-April.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
MA WAS TO MEET XI IN KINMEN: The Chinese-language Liberty Times on Wednesday reported that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Kinmen on Aug. 23 last year on the day marking the 56th anniversary of the end of the second Taiwan Strait crisis in 1958. The source of the report was a testimony of former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) deputy minister Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀), who was accused last year of spying for China but was subsequently exonerated.
The Presidential Office and the MAC both denied the reported arrangements, saying the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit was the government’s only — and best — option for such a meeting because it was an international event. The Liberty Times also reported that the Sunflower Movement, s well as the “One country, two systems” framework advocated by Xi, were the main reasons the Ma-Xi meeting did not materialize.
ISIS TARGETS TAIPEI? A Twitter post by account holder Abu Abdullah Britani featuring a digitally manipulated picture of a burning Taipei 101 has raised fears of a potential attack by ISIS on the capital. The post was accompanied by text which read, “When Islamic State attack your cities, it won’t look nice. By the permission of Allah that day is not far.” The account was subsequently suspended by Twitter. The Ministry of National Defense and the Executive Yuan’s Office of Homeland Security said they would closely monitor potential threats against national security.
‘THIRD-FORCE’ READY FOR ELECTION DEBUT: A pair of newly established parties, dubbed as the “third [political] force” in Taiwan, are getting ready to make nominations in the legislative elections next year. The New Power Party (時代力量黨) has recruited death metal singer Freddy Lim (林昶佐) and Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), elder sister of late Army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), as well as a pair of lawyers for local legislative elections. Meanwhile Fan Yun (范雲), a professor at National Taiwan University, said the Social Democratic Party (社會民主黨) would be established by the end of March. Fan said she would run for a legislative seat in Taipei.
The new parties are expected to target the same support base as the DPP’s, which said it hoped to hold talks with the two parties to work out a mechanism to maximize voter support to create an “alliance of legislative majority” rather than compete against each another.
CHU DROPS WANG CASE: KMT Chairman Chu on Wednesday said that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s party membership was confirmed and that continuing an ongoing legal case against him would be unnecessary. Chu’s olive branch, which attempted to promote party harmony, however, was inconsistent with the position of former chairman Ma Ying-jeou, who has insisted on filing an appeal with the Supreme Court and argued that Wang’s membership should have been revoked. In a statement, Ma said he was “disappointed,” adding that the case was not a personal war between him and Wang, but a matter of justice.
MA REJECTS LAME-DUCK LABEL: The embattled Ma said after a meeting with honorary KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) on Feb. 19 that he would not be a “lame-duck” and “caretaking” president during the remainder of his presidential term and would do whatever it takes to move the country forward, adding that Lien supported his position. Ma appeared to be trying to back up his comment on Tuesday, telling hundreds of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople that although cross-strait relations have stalled, the grand policy of the “1992 consensus” and “One China with different interpretations” would remain unchanged.
CONTRACTS SHOWS POTENTIAL MA ERRORS: Consecutive Taipei City administration under Ma Ying-jeou and Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) could have helped developer of the MeHAS City (美河市) residential project make inappropriate profits in the tens of billions of New Taiwan dollars, the Liberty Times reported on Tuesday, citing the original contract between the developer and the Taipei City government in 2000 under then-mayor Ma.
KMT LAWMAKER NOT SEEKING RE-ELECTION: Three-term KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) of Keelung said on Saturday that he would not seek re-election in the legislative election next year, adding that he would continue to help the party’s Keelung chapter. The announcement was yet another surprise after legislator-at-large Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩) withdrew from the KMT last month. Following her withdrawal from the KMT, Hsu announced the creation of the Mingkuotang (民國黨), a new party whose name and emblem resembles those of the KMT.
PO ATTACK AN ACCIDENT: Taipei police said on Monday that a man who crashed his SUV into a stone platform in front of the Presidential Office early on Monday morning was simply trying to get hold of his cellphone while driving. The accident follows a case in January 2014, when Chang Te-cheng (張德正) rammed his 35-tonne gravel truck through barriers and up the front steps of the Presidential Office.
CHEN CHIH-CHUNG REJOINS DPP: The DPP on Wednesday approved an application by Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), the son of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), to rejoin the party after a two-year controversy over the issue. The decision means that Chen Chih-chung and his father are now both DPP members again. The younger Chen, who aspires to run in the legislative election in Kaohsiung, is now officially eligible for the DPP primary.
228 MASSACRE COMMEMORATION: A number of events will be held around Taiwan over the next few weeks to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the 228 Massacre, an anti-government uprising and subsequent brutal crackdown, a prelude to nearly four decades of martial law.
NEW CROSS-STRAIT CRISIS? Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, wrote in an article published in The National Interest that a new crisis in relations between Taiwan and China was likely in the coming months as the DPP stands a good chance of returning to power next year and Chinese President Xi could not afford to see Taiwan “slip away.” Roy urged Washington to support Taiwan with robust arms sales and added that abandoning Taiwan “would signal to the region the end of Pax Americana.”
DPP OPEN TO COOPERATION: The DPP’s Central Standing Committee decided on Wednesday said the party was willing to work with candidates from other parties in the legislative elections next year in 30 of the 73 constituencies, where the party received less than 42.5% of the vote in the previous elections. The decision means that the DPP could decide not to nominate candidates in some of those constituencies.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
NSB TO SET UP CYBERSECURITY DEPARTMENT: The National Security Bureau will establish a cybersecurity department in the near future to improve the government’s computer surveillance. The announcement came amid increasing cyber attacks from China that simulate similar strikes against Western countries.
DPP ON US BEEF IMPORTS: If the Ma administration decided to lift a ban on U.S. cow offal, which would include six types of beef, the DPP would hope that all measures would be conducted according to international norms and risk management mechanisms, DPP Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said during a caucus meeting on the first day of the new legislative session on Tuesday. The comment hinted that the DPP would not oppose relaxing the ban.
TAIWAN BANS CANADIAN BEEF: The Food and Drug Administration announced on Sunday that it had banned imports of Canadian beef products effective that day following the confirmation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, in a cow in Alberta. Canada confirmed the case on Feb. 13. This was the first reported case of BSE in the country since 2011. The ban will not be lifted until Ottawa provides sufficient information regarding the BSE case, the agency said.
IMMIGRATION FROM HONG KONG RISING: While the number of people moving out of Hong Kong has been declining, Taiwan gave the green light to 7,498 applications by Hong Kongers for residency permits last year, the highest in more than two decades, statistics compiled by the National Immigration Agency showed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.