President-elect Tsai prioritizes truth and reconciliation for the 228 Massacre while a majority of Taiwanese sees transitional justice as incomplete; a drastic decline in the value of KMT assets raises questions; China’s Taiwan Affairs Office says Chinese foreign minister Wang’s remarks on Taiwan’s Constitution should not be misread as conciliatory; Tsai is to double as DPP chairperson; the NPP defines cross-strait ties as between two states in a draft bill for oversight mechanisms governing cross-strait affairs; a candidate for the KMT chairperson job urges President Ma to allow a visit by the Dalai Lama. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
BEIJING ON ‘ONE CHINA’: Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) said last Thursday at Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should abide by Taiwan’s (i.e., Republic of China) Constitution, the basis upon which she was elected, and the provision that “the mainland [sic] and Taiwan belong to one, the same China.”
Local experts had mixed reactions to the comment, with some noting that Wang’s mention of “Taiwan’s Constitution” was a major conciliatory move toward Tsai while others argued that it was a typical “two-handed strategy” of the Chinese.
President Ma Ying-jeou interpreted Wang’s statement as China’s acknowledgement of the existence of the Republic of China’s (ROC) Constitution, which he said would be conducive to maintaining peaceful cross-strait relations. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), however, stressed on Tuesday that Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan remained unchanged, adding that people should not “misread the core message behind Wang’s statements about Taiwan’s constitution, which is essentially about Beijing’s insistence on the “one China policy”.
Last Friday, Daniel Kritenbrink, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, reiterated Washington’s calls for China to show flexibility in its relations with Taiwan, but did not comment on Wang’s remarks about “Taiwan’s Constitution.”
MA ‘ADVICE’ TO SUCCESSOR: President Ma on Wednesday warned president-elect Tsai to not “recklessly make wrong judgments” on cross-strait issues, and called on her to cherish the peace across the Taiwan Strait that his administration has achieved. Ma was addressing a group of industry and business leaders.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE/228: President-elect Tsai on Sunday vowed that her administration would achieve transitional justice and declassify more official documents regarding the 228 Massacre, in which tens of thousands of people were arrested, imprisoned, or executed in 1947. Tsai added that she would set up a “truth-finding and reconciliation committee” for the restoration of historical facts in the pursuit of transitional justice, which is indispensable to Taiwan’s quest for true reconciliation and solidarity.
A survey by the Chinese-language weekly Business Today on Wednesday showed that 76.3 percent of people believe that transitional justice remains incomplete in Taiwan, regardless of their political inclination.
Responding to Tsai’s proposal, KMT Acting Chairperson Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠), who accompanied President Ma to pay tribute to the victims of the massacre at a memorial ceremony marking its 69th anniversary on Sunday, urged the DPP to “refrain from cashing in” on the Massacre.
Several statues of Chiang Kai-shek across the nation were defaced on Sunday during 228 Memorial Day. KMT headquarters in Taipei was targeted in an arson attack on the same day. The suspect is said to have accused the KMT of “perpetrating mass murder.”
KMT ASSET DISPUTE: The net worth of the KMT’s assets dropped by nearly 23.8 percent in less than six months last year, from NT$21.8 billion in July to NT$16.6 billion in December, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Tuesday, citing an anonymous source from the party. The drastic and rapid decline in the value of KMT’s assets raised questions from DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) as to whether the KMT had covertly liquidated its assets during the election campaign or transferred some of its properties under a different name. The KMT dismissed the allegation of foul play on Wednesday, saying the drop was caused by legitimate factors.
Separately, KMT chairperson candidate Lee Hsin (李新) vowed on Tuesday that if elected, he would distribute all of the party’s cash assets to KMT members to rid the party of the controversy over its “ill-gotten assets.” DPP legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) said on Tuesday that many of the KMT’s controversial assets could have been private property confiscated by Japan during its rule of Taiwan, before they were taken over by the KMT regime following Japan’s surrender in World War II.
While Lee described his proposal as a “party cohesion booster,” one of his rival for the post, former deputy legislative speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) cast doubt on the feasibility of the plan. Hung added that all the problems concerning the KMT assets have been addressed.
DALAI LAMA VISIT: KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖), a candidate in the party’s chairman by-election on March 26, launched a petition on Monday urging President Ma to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama so the Tibetan spiritual leader could visit Taiwan before Ma’s presidential term ends on May 20. As China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, the Ma administration has turned down visits by the Tibetan on several occasions since 2009.
During a meeting on Wednesday with Yang Jianli (楊建利), president of Initiatives for China, a Tiananmen veteran and former political prisoner in China who is close to the Dalai Lama, Chen denied that his proposal for a visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader was a campaign ploy to woo votes for his pursuit of KMT leadership.
Premier Simon Chang (張善政) on Tuesday promised to keep an open mind on the issue, adding that the government would not reject an application by the Dalai Lama. Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said “everything depended on the situation if and when the Dalai Lama submitted an application.”
TSAI TO DOUBLE AS DPP CHAIRPERSON: President-elect Tsai on Wednesday confirmed that she will continue to head the DPP after her inauguration on May 20. The decision followed approval by the DPP Central Executive Committee of a motion proposing that Tsai should double as the party’s chairperson to ensure communication between the next administration and the party.
OVERSIGHT MECHANISM FOR CROSS-STRAIT PACTS: The New Power Party (NPP) titled its proposed draft act on an oversight mechanism for cross-strait agreements as “the act governing the signing of agreements between ‘this country’ and the People’s Republic of China,” incorporating the concept that Taiwan and China are in at least a “special state-to-state” relationship. “This country” pertains to the ROC. Should there be any different views on this interpretation by other caucuses, discussions will take place at the legislative committee meetings,” NPP Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said. The draft bill calls for pre-signing supervision for cross-strait agreements, a notable difference compared with the Executive Yuan’s version, Huang said.
LEGISLATIVE CONVENOR SEATS: The KMT, which has 35 seats in the 113-seat legislature following the Jan. 16 elections, seized seven convener seats thanks to support from the People First Party (PFP), luck in the draw and a blunder by a DPP lawmaker. The legislature held elections for the heads of 16 legislative committees on Tuesday. The DPP won nine seats.
TSAI ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST: President-elect Tsai said this week that she knew nothing about her brother’s investment activities and that she would make addressing possible conflicts of interest issues a priority before her inauguration and address relevant matters as quickly as possible. Tsai was responding to an article by online news outlet Storm Media that raised questions about her ties to OBI Pharma (台灣浩鼎), a biotech firm that made headlines last week following its claim to have developed a drug for breast cancer treatment and which is now under investigation for insider trading. Fu-tai Investment Co (富鈦投資), where her brother is a board member, is a major stockholder in OBI.
DIAOYUTAIS DISPUTE: Citing “historical evidence,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday insisted that Japan’s “occupation” of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan, is an act of “secret annexation.” The islets are also claimed by China.
Separately, Taiwan and Japan launched a new round of bilateral fishery talks in Taipei on Wednesday, discussing fishing regulations in waters near the Diaoyutais. The negotiations occurred amid requests by Japanese fishermen that their government unilaterally exclude a designated area near the islets from the fishing areas covered by the Taiwan-Japan Fishery Agreement to restrict access by Taiwanese fishermen. The Taiwan delegation’s position is to protect the interests of Taiwanese fishermen as well as the nation’s sovereignty, Fisheries Agency Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw (蔡日耀) said in his opening remarks ahead of the three-day meeting.
HONG KONG REJECTS STICKER: Two Taiwanese were denied entry in Hong Kong last Saturday for placing stickers on the cover of their passports, marking the first incident in which supporters of Taiwan independence who cover the words “Republic of China” and the national emblem on the cover of their passports were denied entry by the special region of China. The Hong Kong Immigration Department warned that the unauthorized alteration of travel documents can result in criminal charges.
PRAGUE KOWTOWS TO BEJING: Responding to anger in Taiwan following a decision by the Prague City Council to support China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan with a statement in its new sister city deal with Beijing that it “recognizes Taiwan as an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said the ministry would strongly protest any action slighting Taiwan’s sovereignty and express its concerns to the Czech government.
NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL: Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) on Tuesday confirmed a media report that it plans to store used fuel rods at its Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City for as long as 40 years before the company can find a more permanent repository site for radioactive waste. The statement instantly triggered concerns among environmentalists and strong opposition by New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who criticized the plan as endangering the lives of the 7 million people living in the greater Taipei area.
In related news, Japanese nuclear waste management specialist Masako Sawai addressed flaws in Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) nuclear waste management, describing the contingent measures at a nuclear power plant in New Taipei City and a radioactive waste repository on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) as “ill-planned and careless.”
► MILITARY & SECURITY
US-TAIWAN DEFENSE RELATIONSHIP: China’s recent moves to militarize the South China Sea do not threaten Washington’s ability to defend Taiwan, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said last Thursday while testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations. In his assessment of China’s threat to the region, Carter added that, “It’s not just Taiwan anymore, but it certainly includes Taiwan.”
ELEVEN DETAINED IN CORRUPTION CASE: Prosecutors and officials from the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau on Thursday raided dozens of locations and detained 11 suspects for questioning as part of a corruption probe into the Coast Guard Administration’s (CGA) shipbuilding program. Several coast guard officials are alleged to have colluded with contractors in a NT$10 billion (US$301.4 million) project to build eight patrol boats. Two of the ships have already been built by Kaohsiung-based Jong Shyn Shipbuilding Corp (中信造船集團) and commissioned into service, the Tainan CG126 (台南艦) in 2011 and the Xinbei CG127 (新北艦).
► ECONOMY AND FINANCE
ECONOMIC WEAKNESS: The government’s business indicator in January flashed “blue” for the eighth consecutive month, signaling headwinds for Taiwan’s economic recovery on a slow track amid a continuing global downturn as exports account for more than 60 percent of GDP, the National Development Council said Wednesday, adding that Taiwan’s heavy reliance on the China market suffering an economic slowdown makes it difficult to foresee Taiwan’s recovery of exports any time soon.
INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE: About one in four Taiwanese women has experienced at least one type of violence by an intimate partner, with 10.3 percent saying such incidents had occurred in the past year, according to an official survey released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Wednesday.
CYBERCRIME: Approximately 4 million people in Taiwan fell prey to cybercrime last year as the total losses from cybercrime in the nation reached over NT$34.6 billion in the same year, but 40 percent of Internet users believe they would not become a target of online criminal activities, according to a report commissioned by a division of Symantec Corp.
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 email@example.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:
“The Great Cross-Strait Doublethink Act,” by J. Michael Cole