The deportation of Taiwanese telecoms fraud suspects in Kenya and Malaysia sparks political and legal disputes across the Taiwan Strait and at home; the justice minister is criticized over her ministry’s position and performance in the deportation cases; China forces Taiwan out of an OECD meeting in Brussels; more new Cabinet members are introduced; President Ma says the Republic of China never pulled out of the United Nations. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► DEPORTATION DISPUTE
KENYA CASE: The Legislative Yuan issued a joint statement across party lines last Friday denouncing Beijing’s “forced deportation” of Taiwanese telecommunications fraud suspects from Kenya to China as a “serious infringement of basic human rights and the nation’s sovereignty.” China asserted it had jurisdiction because the victims were Chinese.
Beijing snubbed bilateral practices that had prevailed since 2011 when dealing with such cases and slighted Taiwan’s sovereignty and jurisdiction claims, the statement said, adding that negotiations and adherence to international principles should be in place to reach a solution. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told the Straits Times on Thursday that it would be “quite difficult” to bring back the suspects before the swear-in of the incoming administration.
Observers argued that Beijing had manipulated the incident to further pressure incoming president Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.”
Beijing subsequently pushed back a scheduled China trip by a Taiwanese delegation, comprised of officials from several government agencies, to negotiate on bringing back the Taiwanese detainees from Tuesday to Wednesday, Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said.
MALAYSIA INCIDENT: New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) last Friday exposed a request by Malaysia-based Chinese officials to send a separate group of Taiwanese fraud suspects to China in the wake of the Kenya incident. Amid mounting public pressure following the Kenya case, Taiwanese authorities managed to convince Malaysia to send the 20 suspects to Taiwan.
The suspects were released upon arrival in Taiwan last Friday after being questioned briefly by police, who said that they were not able to detain the suspects due to Beijing’s refusal to release information concerning alleged criminal activities. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office went on to accuse “Taiwan’s failure in sufficiently punishing scam perpetrators”－an argument that Beijing reiterated to justify the Kenya incident.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and NPP lawmakers slammed China on Saturday for its denial of Taiwan’s access to the information as a breach to an agreement by both sides in 2011 to boost cooperation in fighting cross-border crime. China only processed 1,357 of the 4,061 requests from Taiwan to demand information about criminal cases from 2009 to this year, while Taiwan processed 1,090 of the 1,346 Chinese requests, Huang said.
JUSTICE MINISTER UNDER FIRE: Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay’s “confrontational style” and “supercilious responses” to concerns over Taiwan’s sovereignty, jurisdiction and human rights protection in the Kenya and Malaysia cases continued to shock the nation and draw criticism.
Grilled at the legislature for the ministry’s “advising” the public not to be led astray by the prevailing “populist sentiment,” Luo had a heated exchange with lawmakers, which resulted in the subcommittee’s approval of a motion demanding Luo’s resignation for endorsing China’s argument in the Kenyan case, failing to ensure Taiwan’s sovereignty in the incident and being contemptuous toward lawmakers. Luo also personally penned a press release on Saturday, in which she blasted unnamed lawmakers and further fueled conflict between her and the legislature. Luo described the lawmakers who pushed tightly on the rescue as “disregarding the time needed for bilateral negotiations” and “sowing hatred and social divisions by denouncing China.”
KMT REACTION: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) referred to the “1992 consensus” as the foundation of goodwill and a cross-strait communication channel with mutual trust, implying that the formula was the best solution for all bilateral disputes. Hung said that she expects the KMT to be the mediator between the DPP government and Beijing should a political impasse arise.
TAIWAN FORCED OUT OF OECD MEETING: Taiwan lodged a protest with China, Belgium and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) after it was forced to leave an OECD steel committee meeting in Brussels on Monday owing to China’s complaints that “the Taiwanese delegates’ ranks were not senior enough.” Taiwan was able to attend previous committee meetings at the same level and in the same capacity. The hard stance has been regarded as Beijing’s attempt to coerce Tsai into recognizing its “one-China” formula. The delegation was allowed to attend an OECD meeting the next day following an apology from two Belgian officials, who said they were “under great pressure” from China, according to Representative to the EU Tung Kuo-yu (董國猷).
WHA INVITATION: Taiwan has yet to receive an invitation to attend this year’s session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision-making body, although the name of incoming minister of health and welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) was sent to the WHO Secretariat, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday. If Taiwan is invited, Lin would lead a delegation to the meeting scheduled to take place in Geneva from May 23-28. The ministry said it will not speculate on whether Beijing will attempt to block the invitation as Taiwan is to undergo a power transfer to the DPP on May 20, adding that the process of sending an invitation was based on the WHO’s internal operations. Chinese academics reportedly said Taiwan would not receive the invitation due to Tsai’s resistance to Beijing’s “one China” policy, the China Times reported on Wednesday.
US DELEGATION: MOFA said on Tuesday that the U.S. government is expected to send a high level delegation to Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration ceremony next month amid concerns over China’s intervention. U.S. Representative Henry Zuber revealed last month that he had received a letter from the Consulate-General of China in Houston warning him not to attend Tsai’s inauguration.
SOVEREIGNTY ISSUE: Lawmakers blasted China on Tuesday over the denial of entry by Macau immigration last Thursday of a Taiwanese traveller on account of a sticker on the back of her passport declaring support for Taiwan’s sovereignty. The incident shows China is targeting Taiwanese, NPP Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) said. A total of 16 Taiwanese had been denied entry as of Tuesday by Macau customs in similar scenarios this year, MOFA said.
In related news, Costco Wholesale Corp said last Thursday that it would correct its identification of Taiwan on its online job application site from a “province of China” to “country” as it “very much considers it a country.” This was in response to a request by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a Washington DC-based non-governmental organization advocating for Taiwan’s interests.
TOURISM DECLINE ‘POLITICAL’: President Ma on Tuesday said that the recent decrease in the number of Chinese tourists is clearly a political matter as China has made it a type of “political boycott” of the incoming administration unless cross-strait relations develop in line with its “one-China” policy.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
CABINET APPOINTMENTS: Premier-designate Lin Chuan (林全) introduced another 14 Cabinet members of the incoming administration, with Deputy Taichung Mayor Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) tapped as the future education minister, DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) named minister of culture, and Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Lee Yung- te (李永得) appointed to head the Hakka Affairs Council.
Separately, PFP Deputy Secretary-General Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) confirmed that Tsai Ing-wen met with People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) for the second time in two months on Tuesday, adding that the two exchanged views on a wide range of issues, but did not address government personnel issue.
The almost all-male cabinet appointments that have been announced so far include:
Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤): Presidential Office Secretary-General
Joseph Wu (吳釗燮): National Security Council Secretary-General
Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀): Vice Premier
Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶): Executive Yuan Secretary-General
Tung Chen-yuan (童振源): Cabinet Spokesperson
David Lee (李大維): Minister of Foreign Affairs
Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬): Minister of National Defense
Sheu Yu-jer (許虞哲): Minister of Finance
Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠): Minister of Education
Chiu Tai-san (邱太三): Minister of Justice
Lee Shih-guang (李世光): Minister of Economic Affairs
Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君): Minister of culture.
Lin Tsou-yen (林奏延): Minister of health and welfare
Kuo Fan-yu (郭芳煜): Minister of Labor
Yang Hung-duen (楊弘敦): Minister of Science and Technology
Lin Mei-chu (林美珠): Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Minister and Minister Without Portfolio
Wu Hsin-hsing (吳新興): Overseas Community Affairs Council Minister
Icyang Parod (夷將拔路兒): Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister
Lee Yung- te (李永得): Hakka Affairs Council Minister
Ding Ke-hwa (丁克華): Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman
Chen Tain-jy (陳添枝): National Development Council Minister and Minister Without Portfolio
Katherine Chang (張小月): Mainland Affairs Council Minister
Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻): Minister of Agriculture
Lee Ying-yuan (李應元): Environmental Protection Agency Director
Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀): Public Construction Commission Minister and Minister Without Portfolio
Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民): Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister
Jay Shih (施能傑): Directorate-General of Personnel Administration Minister
Lin Jeng-yi (林正儀): National Palace Museum Director
Wu Cheng-chung (吳政忠): Technology Minister Without Portfolio
Chang Ching-sen (張景森): Minister Without Portfolio
Lin Mei-chu (林美珠): Minister Without Portfolio
Hsu Chang-yao (許璋瑤): Minister Without Portfolio
Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉): Minister Without Portfolio
MA ON UN REPRESENTATION: President Ma on Wednesday said that despite losing its representation at the UN, the Republic of China (ROC) has never really pulled out from the organization, as “the ROC is still as a permanent member of its security council based on the UN charter, which has not been amended since 1971.” Ma made the remark without going into UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 that required “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” be expelled. Taiwan’s loss of the China seat at the UN, which was taken by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) 30 years ago, has led to its isolation from the international community.
TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: The legislature on Tuesday approved a referral of draft bill on transitional justice promotion to a legislative review committee, overcoming opposition from the KMT caucus. Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) criticized the KMT caucus’ call for a “reconsideration” of the referral last Tuesday last week as “a deliberate ploy to delay its passage.”
CURRICULUM CHANGES: Civic groups urged president-elect Tsai Ing-wen on Monday to announce whether the incoming administration is to withdraw the guidelines as soon before she is sworn in on May 20, as schools are beginning their textbook selection processes — with the options to choose between textbooks based on either the old sets of curriculum guidelines or the new ones with controversial “China-centric” revisions.
KMT APPOINTMENT: Alex Tsai (蔡正元), a controversial former KMT legislator regarded as a political extremist because of his radical rhetoric, was appointed director of the KMT’s Central Policy Committee on Wednesday and became the first non-lawmaker to take up the key role of coordinator between the party’s central headquarters and its legislative caucus. The appointment is deemed by media as Hung Hsiu-chu’s attempt to improve the party’s “combat ability.”
OBI PHARMA CONTROVERSY: Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) on Monday apologized for the controversy caused by his handling of OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎) shares, but dismissed allegations of insider trading. Wong added that he would remain in his position until his term expires in October, although he offered his resignation twice to Ma earlier. Shortly after Nobel laureate and former Academia Sinica head Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) said Wong should step down should he be put under investigation, Wong was listed as a defendant by prosecutors on Wednesday.
LY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP: Fifty-six lawmakers joined a newly established Parliamentary Cross-Party Group on International Human Rights. Members of the U.S., EU, French and UK representative offices attended the inauguration of the group, with EU and UK representatives calling for Taiwan’s abolition of the death penalty.
WOLFOWITZ VISIT: US-Taiwan Business Council chairman and former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is leading a delegation of U.S. business executives to Taipei this week. The delegates are to meet with Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen.
PRESS FREEDOM: Taiwan tops its Asian neighbors in journalistic freedom, according to the latest annual index from Reporters Without Borders released on Wednesday. As Taiwan stayed at No. 51 for a second year, China was the second-poorest in the region, ranking 176th out of 180 countries surveyed,
CZECH WORKING HOLIDAY: MOFA on Monday announced the official launch of a reciprocal working holiday program between Taiwan and the Czech Republic for young people from both countries. The Czech Republic is now the ninth European country and the 14th worldwide to have sealed a working holiday agreement with Taiwan.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
US SPY CASE: The trial of Taiwan-born U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin (林介良), who was charged with espionage earlier this month, might take place behind closed doors to protect secret information that is far too sensitive to reveal in an open court, the Taipei Times reported. Lin was suspected of passing military secrets to Taiwan and China.
DEFENSE AGAINST RISING THREAT: Academics and lawmakers urged the incoming administration to build up its submarine, cyberspace and fighter jet capabilities to defend itself, in response to a report from last September that China would complete building its capability to wage an all-out war against Taiwan by 2020, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Sunday.
► ECONOMY AND FINANCE
GDP GROWTH FORECAST SLASHED: The Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER, 中華經濟研究院) cut Wednesday its forecast for Taiwan’s GDP growth this year to 1.36 percent, from its previous forecast of 2.24 percent in December last year, citing sluggish global economy and weak domestic demand.
EXPORT ORDER DECLINE: Export orders received by Taiwanese companies in March fell 4.7 percent from the same month of 2015 to US$36.62 billion, marking the 12th month straight of annual contraction in orders, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Wednesday.
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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