Week of March 19-25, 2016

President-elect Tsai plays down the impact of China’s renewed diplomatic ties with the Gambia and asks for goodwill from both sides; former premier Frank Hsieh to be Taiwan’s representative to Japan; Taiwan arranges a foreign media tour of Taiping Island in the South China Sea to challenge Philippines’ claim; President Ma and Tsai will meet next week to smooth out power transition. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



GAMBIA GAMBIT FOR ‘ONE-CHINA’: President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) last Friday expressed hope that China’s resumption of diplomatic ties with Taiwan’s former ally the Gambia was not aimed at any specific target, adding that there was no need for Taiwan and China to target each other.

While the Chinese foreign ministry said its resumption of ties with the Gambia “targets no one,” the move occurred amid fears that Beijing may be ramping up pressure on Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to accept the “1992 consensus.” The resumption of ties was seen by many as a warning to Tsai, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said. A report presented on Monday by the National Security Bureau (NSB) said China’s Gambia action was meant to pressure Tsai to “fall in line” with China’s expectations ahead of her inauguration speech on May 20.

IMPLICATIONS: A foreign ministry official on Monday expressed concerns over Taiwan’s relations with African diplomatic ally Sao Tome and Principe while answering questions about “an avalanche of ruptured diplomatic ties.” Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) nevertheless insisted that Taiwan’s ties with its 22 diplomatic allies are stable. Lin also dismissed remarks by former foreign minister Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) that all Taiwan’s diplomatic allies desire to establish diplomatic ties with China. Ou warned on Sunday that China’s move on The Gambia was a clear “signal” of potential crisis over Taiwan’s international space since both sides “no longer share a mutual understanding.”

POST-GAMBIA INTERACTIONS: It has been learned that China informed the MAC about its renewal of ties with The Gambia just hours before the official announcement. MAC Minister Hsia was unable to reach the Taiwan Affairs Office through a hotline set up at the end of last year. Hsia described the disruption in communication as “showing China’s total lack of sincerity.” Despite the “Gambia incident,” Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) is still scheduled to make a 10-day visit to China early next month, the SEF said.



TSAI CALLS FOR MORE OLIVE BRANCHES: President-elect Tsai on Monday called on China to extend more olive branches during Taiwan’s presidential transition period. During an interview with the Chinese-language China Times, Tsai added that goodwill requires “comprehensive and continued observation” rather than simply looking at what happens in a short period of time. The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times responded on Tuesday with an op-ed by its editor-in-chief in which he dismissed any possibility that China may compromise on the “consensus.”

CHINA’S NINE-POINT APPROACH? Maintaining a hardline approach against independence while refraining from making direct criticism of Tsai is part of China’s latest tactics for Taiwan, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported on Sunday, quoting an unnamed lawmaker. According to the report, the “nine-point approach” includes:

“Maintaining a stable cross-strait situation”
“Maintaining the achievements of past exchanges”
“Preventing operations that could undo the progress made”
“Containing Taipei through Washington”

The reports adds that China primarily aims at a “hardline approach supplemented by soft strategies” while it is also keen to take advantage of “practices with flexibility” and some “buffer space for cross-strait ties.”

The DPP declined to comment on the report Monday as the authenticity of its source could not be ascertained.

AIIB BID: The name under which Taiwan should participate in the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is still “under discussion,” ARATS Chairman Chen Deming (陳德銘) said on the sidelines of the Boao Forum, which began on Tuesday.



ITU ABA PRESS TOUR: A group of foreign reporters visited Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea on Wednesday. The tour was to showcase Taiwan’s claims that Taiping Island qualifies as an “island” that can sustain human habitation under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said his administration had put a lot of effort challenging the Philippines’ claim in its arbitration case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration that Itu Aba is a rock and not an island, which could result in Taiwan’s loss of entitlement to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Taiwan was not named a party in the case due to its international status.

Ma has also made a verbal invitation to Manila and the tribunal’s judges to visit the island. Taiwan has been upgrading work on the island for humanitarian aid purposes. An earlier visit by President Ma in January to bolster Taiwan’s sovereignty claim was criticized by the U.S. as “extremely unhelpful and does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes” in the region.

MA-TSAI MEETING: President Ma and president-elect Tsai will meet next Wednesday to work toward a smoother transition of power, the DPP and the Presidential Office announced on Wednesday. The Presidential Office said that Ma had taken the initiative to invite Tsai to meet so as to discuss cross-strait relations and foreign affairs.

ENVOY TO JAPAN: Tsai will appoint former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) as the nation’s representative to Japan after she assumes office in May, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reports. The United Evening News also reports that Chen Liang-Gee (陳良基), executive vice president for academics and research at National Taiwan University, will be named Minister of Education.

MALACCA STRAIT SHOOTING: Two Taiwanese fishing boats reported to the Coast Guard Administration on Monday that they were fired upon by what they believe to be an Indonesian military vessel while sailing through the Strait of Malacca earlier that day. Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said the incident was triggered by poaching in Indonesian territorial waters. Premier Simon Chang (張善政) described the incident as “unacceptable” while the Fisheries Agency, using satellite positioning date, dismissed the accusations. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Siswadi, Deputy Representative of the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei, to convey its grave concerns over the matter, demanding the Indonesian authorities present evidence supporting the allegations against the Taiwanese fishermen.

OCCUPATION ANNIVERSARY: Protesters who participated in an occupation of the Executive Yuan compound on March 23, 2014, during the Sunflower Movement commemorated the second anniversary of the incident on Wednesday. Over 30 activists who were the victims of a violent police crackdown in the early hours of March 24 filed claims on Thursday for state compensation for excessive use of force by law enforcement.

Premier-designate Lin Chuan (林全) said on Wednesday that dropping the charges against the protesters was “an option” for the incoming administration, adding that the occupation was more a political matter than a judicial one.

OBI PHARMA CONTROVERSY: The KMT caucus has demanded that Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) step down for his alleged involvement in conflicts of interest. The request came after reports on Wednesday claimed that his daughter was the 10th-largest shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎), which works with the nation’s leading research academy. Wong’s daughter allegedly bought nearly 3 million shares of OBI Pharma in 2012, a potential opportunity for her to reap billions of dollars in profit afterwards, the Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Wednesday.

Wong had been criticized for his endorsement of the company when its share price plummeted after announcing a negative outcome for a new breast cancer drug. In a statement on Thursday, Wong said his daughter had purchased the shares well before the company’s future could be foreseen, with money gifted from parents and her own savings in an attempt to support its development of the drug after her aunt died of breast cancer.

KMT ASSETS: KMT chairperson candidate Lee Hsin (李新) said KMT party assets have been secretly pocketed by “a select few,” accusing those in charge of the party’s finances of selling Central Motion Pictures Corp (CMPC, 中央電影公司) for NT$2.2 billion (US$67.65 million) while recording only NT$800 million in the contract. The remaining NT$1.4 billion was merely marked as kickback and never appeared in the KMT’s account book, Lee said.

CLINTON ADVISERS: The names of several specialists on Taiwan-U.S. relations have appeared on the list of U.S. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s top advisers on Asia, according to the Nelson Report. Among those on the list with direct Taiwan experience are former assistant secretary of state for East Asia Kurt Campbell, Harvard academic and political scientist Joseph Nye, Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser for Asia Bonnie Glaser, and two former directors for Asian affairs at the National Security Council-Evan Medeiros and Jeffrey Bader.

TSAI ON ELDERLY CARE: The long-term care program of the incoming administration will be funded primarily by income from gift and inheritance taxes-without these taxes “climbing too steeply,” president-elect Tsai said on Monday. Tsai said that long-term care services for senior citizens would be a top priority of her government. Tsai also assured the business sector that she was not considering increasing the sales tax to fund the scheme.

Tsai has appointed Vice President-elect Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) as chair of the national pension reform committee for the incoming administration.

NAME DISPUTE IN VIETNAM: Taiwan has requested Vietnam correct its reference to Taiwan’s national soccer team from “Taipei, China” to “Chinese Taipei,” Taiwan’s official name in international competitions. The national soccer team arrived in Hanoi on Sunday to prepare for a Thursday qualifying match with Vietnam for the 2018 World Cup. The Vietnamese organizers’ move sparked anger among DPP lawmakers who argued that the name change was the result of pressure from China.

CHING-KUO HALL? The Presidential Office has announced plans to name an auditorium after former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to “honor his dedication to young people.” The announcement has sparked criticism from lawmakers and political commentators that the proposal was a setback for the nation’s push for transitional justice.

PANAMA INVITATION: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that Panama, one of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Latin America, has issued an official invitation to president-elect Tsai to attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly expanded Panama Canal in June. It is also said that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has been invited.



FOREIGN PHOTOGRAPHERS: Two foreign travellers taking photos of advanced combat aircraft and their armaments outside an airbase in Taichung were released as soon as they deleted the pictures without further questioning despite suspicions that they were spying for China, the Apple Daily reported on Monday. In response to lawmakers’ criticism of its “passive response,” the National Security Bureau said security officers are not authorized to take further action unless current regulations are amended.

BLACK HAWKS FOR RELIEF EFFORTS: Three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters entered into service on Wednesday with the National Airborne Service Corps for rescue missions amid criticism by former minister of the interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) that the government’s decision to employ them rather than Eurocopter AS365 Dauphins for such missions was “a waste of money.”



CAPITAL CASE RETRIAL: Prosecutors on Monday applied for a retrial in the case of death row inmate Cheng Hsing-tse (鄭性澤), who was accused of killing a police officer in 2002, citing new evidence challenging his conviction. Cheng has been in jail for 14 years.


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.


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