Taiwanese accused of telecommunications fraud in Kenya are deported to China, sparking accusations of ‘extrajudicial abduction’; New round of Cabinet appointments announced; Appeals for pardon of former president Chen Shui-bian draws discussion; A U.S. officer is suspected of spying for Taiwan. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► KENYA INCIDENT
EXTRAJUDICIAL ABDUCTION: Eight Taiwanese acquitted by a Kenyan court last Tuesday of operating telecoms equipment without a license were handed over by Kenyan authorities to China last Friday. The incident has sparked not only public fury in Taiwan against China’s role in the “extrajudicial abduction” in violation of human rights and Taiwan’s jurisdiction but also debate over the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s adherence to “one China.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang (陸慷) said China highly approved of Kenya upholding the “one China” principle. It is widely believed that Beijing manipulated the incident to further pressure incoming president Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.”
On Tuesday, Kenyan police forced another 37 Taiwanese suspected of telephone fraud onto a plane to China. The Kenyan authorities decided that it was unnecessary to put 22 among these Taiwanese on trial in Kenya, listing them as persona non grata and sending them directly to China. The other 15 Taiwanese were found not guilty along with eight others who were deported to China from Kenya last week.
Taiwan’s representative to South Africa rushed to Kenya to try to stop the deportations, to no avail, due to the intervention by the Kenyan authorities, which worked closely with Beijing. Kenya’s dependence on Beijing for financial support is growing. A loan of 530 million euros (US$604.68 million) from China was finalized last week to cover Kenya’s budget deficit, Radio France International reported on Monday.
PROTEST TO CHINA: President Ma issued orders on Tuesday to send government representatives to Beijing at the earliest opportunity to protest Kenya’s latest deportation of Taiwanese implicated in fraud to China. Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said the stern protests by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) were “highly appropriate.”
MAC, MOJ UNDER FIRE: MAC Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) faced criticism in the legislature Wednesday over his “overoptimistic” interpretation of a response to Taiwan’s request to visit the Taiwanese detained in China. Hsia’s assertion was challenged as a copy of the fax from Beijing clearly states that it would be “inconvenient” for Taipei to send people there at the moment. Hsia said the MAC was organizing a delegation that will be ready to depart within two to three days to China to discuss the incident.
The MAC was grilled at the legislature earlier for its apparent lack of information on the matter and the failure of its cross-strait hotline with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office until Tuesday. The Ma administration has regarded the hotline, set up last December, as a major accomplishment of Ma’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore last November.
Lawmakers across party lines earlier fumed over remarks by both the MAC and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that Beijing acted in conformity with the principles on legal jurisdiction in having them deported to China, where the targets of the fraud schemes reside.
Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) further made a controversial statement Wednesday that seemed to endorse China’s move, saying “it is not good that some people have intended to obscure the facts of the case in the name of protecting human rights and Taiwanese nationals.” Lo, whose trip to China in an official capacity last week was blasted as “lacking transparency,” asked further if the Taiwanese public prefers to “protect criminals instead.” The ministry was unaware of the deportation until informed of by its Chinese counterpart on Monday.
MOFA ACTION: Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂 ) refuted on Wednesday remarks by the Kenyan foreign minister that Taipei had not contacted Nairobi about the deportations, adding that legal action had been taken against Kenyan government officials for ignoring a court injunction and cooperating with China in its forced deportation. Lin also dismissed concerns that similar cases could take place in Indonesia, expressing “confidence” in the safety of the 31 Taiwanese who were arrested in the Southeast Asian nation earlier this month for suspected involvement in telecoms fraud.
TAIWAN GIVES UP AIIB BID: Taiwan will no longer apply to participate in the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) because it is not being treated with dignity and equality, Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) said on Tuesday. Chang said the matter would be left to the next administration to decide.
AIIB president Jin Liqun (金立群) has repeatedly described Taiwan’s AIIB bid as a “family matter,” insisting that Taiwan should follow the Hong Kong model by asking the Chinese Ministry of Finance for its membership application because “Taiwan is not a sovereign state.”
NO ‘ONE CHINA’: Most Taiwanese do not subscribe to the “one China” policy, or the idea that Taiwan is part of China, a new survey conducted by the Taiwan Cross-Strait Policy Association shows. According to the survey, 59.7 percent of respondents said president-elect Tsai should not state in her inauguration speech that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China,” while 22 percent said she should.
TAIPEI-SHANGHAI FORUM: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Sunday denied reports that Beijing had pressured the Taipei City Government to push forward the date of this year’s Taipei-Shanghai forum, which was scheduled to take place in August, to ensure its opportunity for reasserting the “1992 consensus” before the incoming DPP government takes office on May 20.
TOURISM: Taiwan could see a double-digit percentage drop in the number of Chinese visitors after Beijing has restricted the issuance of travel permits to Taiwan, Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Jian-yu (陳建宇) said on Thursday. Beijing has already indicated that the number of Chinese tourists would be determined based on developments in cross-strait relations and the tourism market. The number of international tourists could decrease for the first time in 17 years as a result of the decline in Chinese tourists, the ministry said. Pointing out that about 40 percent of the nation’s foreign visitors come from China, lawmakers urged the government to step up its efforts to attract tourists throughout the region to mitigate the risks.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
NEW GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS: The incoming Tsai administration unveiled new cabinet appointments on Wednesday and Friday. They are:
Joseph Wu (吳釗燮): National Security Council Secretary-General
Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤): Presidential Office Secretary-General
Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶): Executive Yuan Secretary-General
Katherine Chang (張小月): Mainland Affairs Council Minister
Lin Cheng-yi (林正義): Deputy Mainland Affairs Council Minister
Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正): Deputy Mainland Affairs Council Minister
David Lee (李大維): Minister of Foreign Affairs
Wu Chih-chung (吳志中): Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Javier Hou (侯清山): Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (currently in that position)
Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬): Minister of National Defense
Chiu Tai-san (邱太三): Minister of Justice
Sheu Yu-jer (許虞哲): Minister of Finance
Lee Shih-guang (李世光): Minister of Economic Affairs
Ding Ke-hwa (丁克華): Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman
Yang Hung-duen (楊弘敦): Minister of Science and Technology
Lee Ying-yuan (李應元): Environmental Protection Agency director
Wu Cheng-chung (吳政忠): Minister Without Portfolio
Is it still not known whether DPP Legislator-at-large Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) will be named Minister of Culture.
CHEN SHUI-BIAN PARDON: Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) lawyers confirmed on Sunday that Chen has been summoned to appear at the High Court on May 13 after the court reopened a trial on corruption charges against him over alleged misuse of state affairs funds. DPP Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) suggested that President Ma was behind the court’s decision to summon Chen at “a sensitive time” amid renewed calls for his pardon.
Pardoning the former president would be conducive to social harmony, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) said last Friday after the Presidential Office turned down appeals for a Chen pardon by the Tainan and Kaohsiung city councils. The latest poll by the Taiwan Indicators Survey Research on Thursday showed that 26.7 percent of respondents agreed that President Ma should pardon Chen, while 53.1 percent expressed their disapproval of such a move.
SOUTHBOUND POLICY: The DPP provided some new information about its “new southbound policy” on Wednesday, underscoring it as “one of this nation’s crucial policies” for the near future. A “new southbound policy office” is to be set up to handle decision-making and integration, while a national-level think tank for the research of ASEAN and South Asian studies would also be built, according to the party.
MA VISITS PENGJIA ISLET: President Ma on Saturday visited Pengjia Islet, a small island considered the northernmost part of Taiwan’s territory in the contested East China Sea, to reassert Taiwan’s sovereignty. Ma visited Pengjia to propose his East China Sea peace initiative in 2012, aimed at addressing territorial disputes between Taiwan, China and Japan over the nearby Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan. Ma reiterated the initiative when unveiling a monument to maritime peace during the visit before he leaves office next month.
SCS CLAIM CLARIFICATION: The U.S. hopes the new government of Taiwan will make available relevant historical data on the South China Sea and shed light on the status of the Republic of China’s (ROC) “U-shaped line” — the ROC’s formal claim of sovereign territory in the disputed region post-World War II based on agreements made in the 1943 Cairo Declaration and the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, according to National Taiwan Ocean University’s Institute of the Law of the Sea director Robert Chen (陳荔彤) last Thursday.
OBI PHARMA CONTROVERSY: Academic Sinica President Wong Chi-huey, who has been in the U.S. citing health concerns following his entanglement in the alleged insider trading involving OBI Pharma’s development of a new breast cancer drug, is to return to Taiwan on Friday and brief President Ma on the same day, Academia Sinica Vice President Wang Fan-sen (王汎森) said on Thursday. Wong is also to fulfill the legislature’s demand for a briefing next week on the case, added Wang. Wong was reportedly present at a high-ranking meeting of OBI Pharma, raising more questions about his role in the matter. The exposé that Wong sold the company’s shares owned by his daughter right before the disclosure of unfavorable drug trial results for OBI Pharma has swept him up in a political storm. OBI Pharma shortly denied the allegation, saying Wong attended an expert meeting rather than the company’s “internal discussion” as reported.
TIES WITH VATICAN: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Thursday said Taiwan’s ties with the Holy See remain strong amid renewed rumors that the Vatican and China are going to enter talks on resuming diplomatic relations. The Holy See is Taiwan’s sole European diplomatic ally.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
SPY CHARGES AGAINST US OFFICER: In addition to leaking secret information to the People’s Republic of China, a U.S. naval flight officer emigrated from Taiwan facing espionage charges is also suspected of passing secrets to Taiwan, reported the USNI News on Monday. The suspect, Lt. Cmdr. Edward Chieh-Liang Lin, is now held in Virginia on several charges of spying for both countries. If Taiwan indeed cultivated the spy as a source of classified information, the revelation could damage relations between Taipei and Washington, said Randy Schriver, a former U.S. Navy officer now with the Armitage International consultancy.
The Ministry of National Defense denied on Tuesday that it had engaged any active or retired U.S. military personnel to collect intelligence on the U.S. military. “The ministry knows nothing about anything concerning the case,” ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. David Lo (羅紹和) said.
TAIWAN’S AIR DEFENSE: Taiwan’s air defense problems could be the most “difficult in the world,” according to a recent report by RAND Corp, which described Taiwan as having gone from having a qualitative advantage over the People’s Liberation Army in the air to being trapped in a “grim situation.” The report recommends gutting the fighter plane fleet and spending the savings on surface-to-air missiles (SAM). The Ministry of National Defense said “the way the report made its analysis is correct overall.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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