The Cabinet resigns en masse; President Ma talks about ‘political vengeance’; The incoming administration decides to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly session without accepting the ‘one China’ proviso; Tsai reportedly will not mention the ‘1992 consensus’ in her inauguration speech despite pressure by Beijing; Tsai will reportedly visit Panama in June; The hasty execution of a high-profile inmate sparks criticism. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider. Please note that starting on May 20, the Insider will only be available in newsletter format and will no longer be posted on the Thinking Taiwan website, which will be ceasing operations on that day. To subscribe to the newsletter, see the link at the bottom.
► WHA INVITATION
‘ONE CHINA’ FOR WHA: Taiwan finally received an invitation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week to participate in this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. In a departure from past practice, the letter mentioned the “one China” principle and UN Resolution 2758, sparking criticism against Beijing’s intervention to pressure president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) into recognizing the so-called “1992 consensus” based on the “one China” principle during her inauguration next Friday.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) last Friday referred to Taiwan’s attendance in the WHA session as a “special arrangement” under the framework of “1992 consensus,” stressing China’s insistence that Taiwan’s participation in the international community be made through cross-strait consultation under the “one China” principle, a core concept of the “consensus.”
Amid a chorus denunciation of Beijing’s move by lawmakers across party lines, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) viewed the invitation in a positive light, regarding it as a result of his administration’s adherence to the “consensus.” The Presidential Office said upholding the “consensus” was the best solution to the WHO premise. Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council said that “one China” refers to the Republic of China.
Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), the spokesman for the incoming Cabinet, said Ma’s comment neither represented the new government’s view nor the mainstream public opinion in Taiwan, adding that an outgoing government has no right to set any political framework for the nation’s international participation.
TAIWAN TO ATTEND MEETING: The incoming Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government announced Sunday that Minister of Health and Welfare-designate Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) will attend this year’s WHA session despite the controversial “one China” proviso because it prioritizes the fundamental and universal right to health, adding that the participation “does not indicate “acceptance of conditions proposed by the WHO secretariat.”
Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said on Tuesday that international reality might not permit the DPP’s “ideal concept” of disentangling people’s right to health from politics.
REGISTRATION: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Tuesday that Taiwan completed its WHA registration face-to-face due to the WHO’s failure to include a set of usernames and passwords for online registration in its invitation, an alleged technicality interference. Taiwan’s representative to Geneva Yi Chih-chen (易志成) personally delivered the registration documents to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan’s (陳馮富珍) office, with two letters respectively from Chiang and Lin, according to the ministry. The WHO letter was specifically directed to outgoing Health Minister Chiang Been-huang (蔣丙煌) despite the MOFA’s previous notification that Lin is to lead Taiwan’s delegation to this year’s WHA session.
US STANCE: The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Monday expressed its support for Taiwan’s “meaningful participation in international organizations” amid the controversy, but did not comment on the “one China” premise, as many had hoped.
► SOUTH AND EAST CHINA SEA
OKINOTORI DISPUTE: The Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported on Tuesday that Japan’s foreign minister Kishida Fumio refused to accept a proposal by the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration to resolve the Okinotori atoll dispute through bilateral negotiations due to “regret” over Taiwan’s deployment of patrol boats last Friday to the area surrounding the Okinotori atoll in the wake of Japan’s recent seizure of a Taiwanese boat and its crew in its self-declared exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Meanwhile, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) blasted former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), the incoming administration’s envoy to Japan, for his opinion that sending military vessels to protect Taiwanese fishing boats amounts to declaring war on the U.S. and Japan, accusing him of “acting like a concubine to Japan” and promoting “geisha diplomacy.”
US NAVAL VESSEL PASSAGE: Taiwan is concerned about the recent passage of a U.S. naval vessel through waters surrounding the Fiery Cross Reef, part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as it took place without prior notification, MOFA said on Wednesday, adding that it is following the matter closely.
ITU ABA: The fly-by of two U.S. F/A-18 jets last Thursday near a C-130 plane carrying senior KMT officials returning from Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) sparked debate among politicians. DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said this was a message by the U.S. expressing its disapproval with Ma’s arrangement of the trip to uphold sovereignty claims “on behalf of China.” For its part, the KMT interpreted the move as “routine.”
SOUTH CHINA SEA ARBITRATION: The submission of written evidence by the government-linked Chinese Society of International Law in the Philippines’ international court case against China’s claims in the South China Sea has pressed Taipei’s position that Taiwan is entitled to a swath of the disputed waterway as an economic zone, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The move could delay the ruling and potentially complicates worsening territorial disputes roiling across the vital trade route, the report added.
‘CONSENSUS’ FOR INAUGURATION: Tsai declined on Wednesday to confirm a report by Next Magazine that she is to omit the so-called “1992 consensus” in her inauguration speech next Friday amid Beijing’s intensifying pressure to force the Ma administration’s cross-strait formula on her. The report said Tsai has decided to mention neither the “consensus” nor “one China” in her inaugural speech so as to respond to her mandate from the electorate. Beijing needs to know that the KMT upholding these concepts have been voted out in the Jan. 16 elections, the report added, citing an unidentified source in Tsai’s camp. The report also disclosed that Tsai’s speech would focus on the significance of the nation’s third transfer of power, the predicaments facing Taiwan and her cross-strait policies.
TAIWAN-JAPAN INTERACTION: China’s former State councilor and now president of the China-Japan Friendship Association Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) reportedly expressed his discontent with exchanges between Japanese and Taiwanese parliamentarians last Wednesday.
DESIRE FOR TSAI’S FAILURE: Beijing does not want to see Tsai and the DPP succeed, said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Tuesday, citing its concern that the DPP might be the dominant party in Taiwan for a very long time to come following the incoming administration’s success.
KENYA, MALAYSIA INCIDENTS: The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) sent a delegation to China on Thursday to discuss issues regarding Taiwanese fraud suspects deported by Kenya and Malaysia, including their repatriation and joint investigation in their alleged scam operation. Meanwhile, the TAO said Wednesday that Beijing will allow the visit of the 45 Kenya deportees detained in Beijing by their family members starting on Sunday.
BUSINESS SUMMIT: This year’s Cross-Strait CEO Summit (CSCS), an initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), is to be held in November in Kinmen as well as Xiamen, China, according to CSCS Taiwan secretary-general Steve Chen (陳瑞隆), who expected that the event will attract a large number of entrepreneurs and experts from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
POLITICAL VENGEANCE: In an interview with UDN TV on Thursday, President Ma said that “political vengeance” against him “has already begun,” but he has faith in his innocence and will not leave Taiwan after stepping down.
US DELEGATION: AIT last Friday released the names of the U.S. delegation to Tsai’s inauguration next Friday. Former U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk ill lead the delegation, joined by former U.S. deputy secretary of state John Negroponte, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt, AIT Director Kin Moy and Stimson Center distinguished fellow Alan Romberg. The list, however, disappointed some Taiwanese Americans who expected Washington to send higher-ranking officials.
TSAI TO VISIT PANAMA? President-elect Tsai will attend the inauguration ceremony of the expanded Panama Canal on June 26 and may transit through the U.S. during her first overseas trip after she takes office on May 20, the United Evening News reported on Thursday, adding that Tsai would also visit Paraguay.
SOUTHWARD POLICY OFFICE: Former foreign minister James Huang (黃志芳), who is reportedly to become the incoming administration’s envoy to Indonesia, will serve as head of a new southward policy office of the DPP government, members of the party’s Central Standing Committee said on Thursday.
‘PRODUCTIVITY’ OF POLICY INITIATIVES: Premier Simon Chang last Friday described the incoming administration’s plans to undertake transitional justice and adjust the curriculum guidelines as “not productive,” adding that such initiatives would only let the economy and industries continue to falter and give an impression that the government is “seeking revenge.” Chang said the incoming government should concentrate on boosting the economy and industrial development in its first two years in power.
CRONY CAPITALISM: Taiwan was listed No. 10 on The Economist’s latest index of crony capitalism, which gives an indication of how much the livelihood of people in certain countries or cities depends on close relationships between business people and government officials－often legal but always unfair.
REFERENDUM REFORM: Lawmakers at the Legislature’s Internal Administration Committee on Wednesday approved a proposal to lower the referendum voting age from 20 to 18 through an amendment to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), with consensus reached for other reforms to the act.
CONTROVERSIAL EXECUTION: Cheng Chieh (鄭捷), a death row inmate sentenced for killing four people and injured 22 in a stabbing frenzy on a Taipei MRT train in 2014, was executed on Tuesday night, just two days after the outgoing Cabinet members’ resignation en masse. The execution was carried out within an unusually short time — in just 18 days after the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence and just 13 minutes before his defense attorney filed the request for extraordinary appeal against the sentence.
Outgoing Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) defended her decision to “prioritize” Cheng’s “swift” execution as a special response to the public’s feeling, adding that the ministry did not give Cheng’s attorney any prior notice of the execution in a bid to prevent “efforts to seek extraordinary relief that would make all executions impossible.” Minister of Justice-designate Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said on Monday that he has no personal stance on whether to retain or abolish the death penalty.
ACADEMIA SINICA HEAD’S RESIGNATION: President Ma on Tuesday approved the resignation of Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) despite Wong’s change of mind to stay in post amid an ongoing investigation into his alleged involvement in an insider trading scandal involving biotech company OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎).
CURRICULUM CONTROVERSY: Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) claimed that one of his greatest legacies was that education authorities at various levels have found no problems with the controversial curriculum guidelines, a remark that prompted criticism from DPP lawmakers as the allegedly China-leaning revisions of the guidelines have stirred up controversy and waves of protest by students and civic groups since last year.
FOREIGN HIRING: The Ministry of Labor (MOL) announced on Monday that it has put on hold a plan to ease restrictions on hiring foreign professionals pending the incoming administration’s further discussion, citing the objection to the proposal from “other parties.”
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
PROPOSAL FOR CYBERARMY: A DPP proposal to establish a cyberarmy as the fourth branch of the nation’s armed forces to counter “digital warfare” and the impairment of government agency websites met with resistance Wednesday from the military establishment and the KMT out of concerns over recruitment challenges.
INFO SECURITY CENTER: Premier Simon Chang criticized the Legislature abolition of the Act for Establishing the National Information Safety Center, accusing DPP lawmakers who support the move of failing to understand the matter before making the decision in haste and making the nation vulnerable to China. Lawmakers who voted against the act said the legislation was unsustainable and lacked clear parameters on the powers the center was given.
► ECONOMY AND FINANCE
EXPORT DECLINE: The nation’s exports contracted 6.5 percent last month year-on-year, marking a downturn that has continued for 15 consecutive months－ longer than the trough following the 2008-2009 worldwide financial crisis, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday.
WATER SUPPLY FOR GOOGLE: The Ministry of Economic Affairs said the government has built sufficient facilities to supply water for enterprises in the Changhua Coastal Industrial Park, responding to a United Daily News report that a water supply issue has delayed Google Inc’s US$300 million data center expansion plan in the industrial park. Google said later that its investment plans in Taiwan have not changed.
MORE RALLY AGAINST FPG: Vietnamese police detained scores of protesters during the second demonstration against a steel subsidiary of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group, which has been accused of piping toxic wastewater into the sea and causing a fishery disaster.
EARTHQUAKES: Four earthquakes shook Taiwan on Thursday, including one of magnitude 5.8 and another one of 5.5. No casualties and major damages are reported. The Central Weather Bureau warned of aftershocks over the next three days.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang and staff members. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.