Week of Feb. 21-26, 2016

Representatives from both sides of the political spectrum meet for the first time to discuss presidential transition; The KMT challenges the constitutionality of the DPP’s power transition draft bill to limit the incumbent president’s powers; Tsai Ing-wen says that substantive arrangements for power transfer are more important than meeting President Ma; Beijing is said to be manipulating the number of Chinese tourists as warning to the incoming DPP administration; a DPP legislator’s proposal to end the requirement that portraits of Sun Yat-sen be present at official ceremonies prompts a controversy over the ‘founding father’; Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



TRANSITION TEAMS MEETING: Representatives from President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held their first meeting last Friday to discuss the transition of power. During the meeting, the two sides agreed that the outgoing government should promptly provide a list of contacts to the transition team, that both the handover of the Presidential Office and the National Security Council, as well as the results of later negotiations, be done in accordance with the law, and that the Cabinet finalize draft regulations governing the transition of power after receiving feedback from the DPP team.

LEGISLATION FOR POWER TRANSITION: After the first meeting of presidential transition teams, the DPP delegation on Monday emphasized in a written note to the Presidential Office team the necessity of setting out power transfer arrangements in the form of legislation, along with four other demands. In response, the Presidential Office said that President Ma “has agreed to the necessity” of the legislation on the precondition that it be “constitutional.” Based on the DPP’s proposed bill, which awaits committee review, the incumbent president’s appointment and decision-making powers would be restricted, prompting attacks from the KMT caucus last Friday, which questioned its constitutionality. Addressing the same issue of power transfer, New Power Party (NPP) legislators proposed last Friday that early presidential power transitions should be negotiated to shorten the interregnum between administrations.

MA-TSAI MEETING: President-elect Tsai on Tuesday said that substantive arrangements for the transition of power should be the top priority. Tsai was responding to a report that the Presidential Office was mulling a meeting with president-elect Tsai “based on past practice and due to the necessity of such a meeting for power transition.”

STATE-SECRET DISCLOSURE: State secrets protected by the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法) and the Archives Act (檔案法) will not be disclosed during the presidential transition until either the passage of a proposed presidential transition act or the formal appointment of officials with the appropriate security clearance. President Ma has nevertheless agreed to expedite the sharing of non-classified information with Tsai and her office, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported on Tuesday, citing Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信).



CHINA’S MANIPULATION OF TOURISM: Despite Beijing’s “pretext” that the recent decline in Chinese tourist arrivals to Taiwan was simply due to “market demand,” Chinese media outlets have reported that Beijing is enforcing policies to discourage outbound tourists visiting Taiwan to send a “warning” against possible changes to Taiwan’s China policy by the Tsai administration. The number of daily Chinese visitors has dropped by at least one third. Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson An Fongshan (安峰山) said on Wednesday that China would “respond to the issue based on the development of future cross-strait relations.”

IMMIGRATION PLAN FOR CHINESE: Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) on Sunday blasted changes to naturalization rules for Chinese children who have grown up in Taiwan, which will increase the number of eligible candidates from 180 to 300 people annually. Lai said the new regulations, which were announced prior to last month’s elections, were completed at a time when President Ma is about to step down. Lai said the issue requires more public discussion and that the decision should be made by the legislature. The relaxation of regulations includes allowing children of Chinese immigrant spouses from previous marriages to remain in Taiwan, an extension of the application pending period, and, for those over 20 years of age, permission to attend college during the pending period without returning to China.



US-TAIWAN RELATIONS: The incoming Tsai administration will play its role in the region in accordance with the U.S.’ regional strategic plan and will not become a “troublemaker,” said York Chen (陳文政), convener of the Defense Policy Advisory Committee at the New Frontier Foundation, the DPP think tank, at a Washington conference on Taiwan-U.S. strategic relations. As to the DPP administration’s cross-strait policies, Tsai was unlikely to adopt President Ma’s language on “no unification, no independence and no use of force,” as most Taiwanese people would opt to “maintain the ‘status quo,’” Chen said.

FOUNDING FATHER DISPUTE: DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) has triggered criticism from the KMT with a controversial proposal to scrap the gesture of saluting to the portrait of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), often referred to as the “founding father” of the nation, during official ceremonies by amending two relevant laws, adding that there was no constitutional basis for Sun’s title. The title, Gao said, was crafted by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) simply to justify the legitimacy of his KMT regime. Gao’s proposal was among a series of legislative bills initiated last week by the DPP, which now enjoys an absolute majority in the legislature, to push for transitional justice.

Taking advantage of the controversy to attract supporters for her chairperson bid, acting KMT chairperson Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) said Gao’s proposal “sparked fears that this was the first step in a DPP plan to do away with the Republic of China (ROC).” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office also weighed in on Thursday, labeling Gao’s idea aimed to de-Sinicize Taiwan and threatened the “status quo” of peaceful development on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

During the DPP’s weekly Central Standing Committee meeting, president-elect Tsai emphasized that the DPP needs to think strategically and to engage in thorough internal discussions on “politically sensitive and major issues.” Her comments prompted speculation that she was “implicitly” addressing the controversy over Gao’s proposal.

KMT CHAIRPERSON RACE: Acting KMT chairperson Huang Min-hui, former Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) and Taipei City Councilor Lee Hsin (李新) on Monday registered their candidacies for the party’s chairperson by-election, which is scheduled to take place on March 26. The KMT’s screening committee will verify the endorsement signatures and announce on the qualified candidates on Friday

In contrast to Huang, who is regarded as coming from the pro-localization faction within the KMT, Hung, whose “pro-unification” stance cost her popularity that led to the party’s decision to drop her presidential candidacy late last year, insisted on Sunday that “The ROC holds sovereignty over all China.”

Former KMT chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has refused to endorse any candidate in the race.

KMT ASSETS: Now a minority party after its election defeat last month, the KMT on Friday blocked a DPP-proposed bill on “ill-gotten party assets” and sent it back to the Procedure Committee despite the party’s repeated promise to carry out reforms to regain public trust. KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said his party opposed the DPP’s bills because they were “apparently singling out the KMT.” Commenting on the failed attempts that would address KMT assets obtained through controversial means after it took control of Taiwan following Japan’s surrender in World War II, Social Democratic Party spokesperson Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) said the the DPP could counteract the KMT’s move if it was “determined to propose the bill” since a caucus can only block the referral of a bill to a committee when “there are too few lawmakers present to conduct a vote.”

AMNESTY ANNUAL REPORT: In its annual report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International said that no independent and impartial investigation had been taken place over the use of excessive force by police during the removal of protesters from the Executive Yuan or the overall actions of the authorities during the Sunflower Movement in March 2014. It added that freedom of peaceful assembly in Taiwan “continued to be curtailed.”

INFIGHTING AMONG YOUNG KMT POLITICIANS Lee Zheng-hao (李正皓), founder of the Grassroots Alliance, a group established by young KMT members to push for party reform, announced on Wednesday that he would temporarily withdraw from the alliance following an alleged sex video scandal, which appears to have emerged as a result of infighting among young KMT politicians.

228 MASSACRE: With the 69th anniversary of the 22 Massacre this weekend, an academic said on Friday that the central government should name those responsible for the then KMT-regime’s bloody response to the nationwide anti-government uprisings that began on Feb. 27, 1947. Meanwhile, Academia Sinica associate research fellow and 228 Massacre historian Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深) said on Wednesday that Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall should be converted into a museum because of Chiang’s role in the incident.



US SUPPORT IN S CHINA SEA: With Chinese missiles, radar installations, runways and jets “changing the operational landscape in the South China Sea,” the U.S. will continue to support Taiwan’s security, Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Harris said China seeks hegemony in East Asia.

NO NUCLEAR ARMS FOR TAIWAN: The Ministry of National Defense on Sunday said that in accordance with international conventions and government policies, Taiwan would not develop or store nuclear weapons. The ministry was responding to an article in The Diplomat on Saturday discussing Taiwan’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons in the 1970s.



TVBS OWNERSHIP: Three Taiwanese companies reportedly affiliated with HTC Corp chairwoman Cher Wang (王雪紅) obtained approval by the National Communications Commission (NCC) on Wednesday to acquire a 47-percent stake in Television Broadcasts Satellite (TVBS). The move, which still requires approval from the Investment Commission, would give full ownership of the nationwide cable network to Wang. The three companies already hold a 53-percent stake in TVBS, which was previously owned by Hong Kong television broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB).

 HON HAI BUYOUT OF SHARP: Sharp’s board of directors on Thursday accepted a US$6.2 billion rescue deal by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, marking a landmark acquisition by a foreign company of a Japanese tech firm that is expected to bolster Hon Hai’s competitiveness as Apple’s largest supplier. Sharp was divided between Hon Hai’s offer and another one by Innovation Network Corp of Japan, a state-backed fund. However, just hours after winning the board vote, Hong Hai said in a surprise reversal that it would postpone signing a definitive agreement because of new information about a ¥350 billion contingent liability by Sharp.

EXPORT ORDER DECLINE: Taiwan’s export orders dipped 12.4 percent annually in January, marking the tenth month of consecutive decline and the largest monthly decline since June 2009, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced on Wednesday. The decline was driven by a sluggish global economy and weak demand for portable mobile devices in the international market, the ministry said.

TPP TASK FORCE: Adjusting national industrial and trade policies, as well as regulations, will be the most important issue to deal with in Taiwan’s attempt to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), president-elect Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, adding that the DPP has begun to prepare for global trade negotiations and that a special TPP task force headed by former minister of finance Lin Chuan (林全) had been set up. The incoming DPP administration will also set up an office under the Executive Yuan to handle Taiwan’s external trade negotiations, Tsai said.


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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