Week of Oct. 3-Oct. 9, 2014

Welcome to this week’s issue of Taiwan Insider. A new tainted oil scandal has shocked Taiwan in the past week, with food safety now becoming a top government priority issue. Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) called for Chinese democracy — at least in some parts of the country — after his dreams of meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing dashed. Meanwhile, Taiwan and the U.S. held talks about defense, among them the submarine program, during an annual conference.



MA CALLS FOR CHINESE DEMOCRATIZATION: In his National Day address, President Ma on Friday said that “now is the right time for China to begin its democratization process” and reiterated that Taiwan’s cross-strait policy of the “1992 Consensus” and “One China with different interpretations” will remain unchanged. The latter appeared to be a response to Chinese President Xi’s recent comment on “one country, two systems.”

Citing former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) policy in the early 1980s, which aimed at “allowing some people get rich first,” Ma said China could allow some places to “become democratic first” and that no place was a better fit than Hong Kong, where people are demanding universal suffrage. “Democracy and the rule of law are not the prerogatives of the Western world,” Ma said.

However, Ma was taking a strong stance against student movement, protesters and opposing parties on this side of the Taiwan Strait, saying that the occupation of the legislature in March/April and the opposition’s boycott in the legislature were reasons for of backsliding in democracy in Taiwan. Using a standard trope, he added that the “irrational actions” have hurt Taiwan’s national development.

SIEW NAMED APEC ENVOY: President Ma named Former president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) his special envoy for the upcoming APEC Summit in Beijing next month. The announcement was also evidence that a proposed meeting between Ma and Xi during the summit will not materialize. While Beijing had never ruled out a meeting, it had repeatedly hinted that it would not take place in the setting of an international conference such as APEC.

XI’S WARNING: Former National Security Council secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起), who coined the phrase “1992 Consensus,” said during a speech at a Taiwan Brain Trust forum that Chinese President Xi’s recent reiteration of the “one country, two systems” formula was a “pre-emptive warning” to Taiwan independence forces, adding that there have been growing concerns in Beijing that the independence movement in Taiwan is gathering momentum.

CHINA BLOCKS TAIWAN FTA TALKS: Economic Minister Woody Duh (杜紫軍) acknowledged that China has been using its influence to block Taiwan’s effort to sign free-trade agreements with other countries in at least two cases (those two countries are believed to be Malaysia and Australia). Meanwhile, President Ma continued to advocate an economic cooperation partnership (ECA) with the European Union during a meeting with a congressional delegation from the U.K.

MA’S KAOHSIUNG COMMENT BACKFIRES: While campaigning for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), President Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, told a party Central Standing Committee weekly meeting on Wednesday that the average life expectancy of Kaohsiung residents was four years shorter than that of the residents in Taipei because incumbent Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has not been keen on promoting the Mass Rapid Transit system and that residents in the southern city have always preferred riding scooters, which contribute to air pollution and bad health.

The comment drew criticism from the Kaohsiung City Government, local residents and the DPP, with analysts saying that Ma’s intervention did not help Yang’s campaign.

MINISTER SUPPORTS DEATH PENALTY: Justice Minister Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) told lawmakers on Wednesday that public surveys show that a majority (between 76 and 80 percent) of Taiwanese is in favor of the death penalty. As a devout Buddhist, Luo said that she also supported capital punishment.

CHINESE FARMERS IN TAIWAN? Citing a serious labor shortage in the agricultural sector, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said on Wednesday that importing foreign farm workers was “inevitable” and that the policy could take effect as soon as January next year. Such a move would mean that Chinese farmers would be allowed to work in Taiwan, a violation of Ma’s pledge that no Chinese workers would be brought in. The opposition and local labor rights groups have voiced strong disagreement over the policy.

TAIWAN’S TERRORIST LIST: National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Lee Hsiang-chou (李翔宙) told lawmakers that Taiwan has a list of 52 suspected terrorists who have been barred from entering the country. Since the National Immigration Agency established an advanced passenger information system in June 2013, eight travelers from Saudi Arabia who are allegedly involved in terrorist activities were discovered at border checks, Lee said.



TAINTED OIL SCANDAL: Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) resigned last Friday to take responsibility for a tainted oil scandal, the latest to hit the nation in the past several months. His resignation came before evidence of yet another scandal came to light on Tuesday. As the latest tainted oil scandal was snowballing, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered Cheng I Food Co (正義股份) to recall 68 of its cooking oil products — suspected of being tainted with oil meant for animal feed — from shelves nationwide.

At the center of the storm is Wei Ying-chun (魏應充), who resigned from his posts as chairman of Ting Hsin International Group, Cheng I Food and Wei Chuan Foods on Thursday. The Ting Hsin Group was involved in at least three waves of oil scandals in the past two years. Consumer rights and lawmakers have called for boycotting the group’s products.

The scandal could have further political ramification as the opposition lambasted Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) for his “slow response” to the crisis and for what it called a “cover-up” to protect the company. DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has also called for Jiang to step down. Lawmakers said they did not rule out launching a vote of no confidence against Jiang.

HOUSING RIGHTS PROTEST: Thousands of protesters camped out on Taipei’s Renai Road on Saturday night to protest against what they regard as government inaction in the face of soaring housing prices. This was the largest demonstration against housing prices since 1989.

WORKER PROTEST AT PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE: More than 100 people from the Hualon Self-Help Organization, who have been owed retirement payouts since their employer failed to make monthly deposit as required by law, staged a surprise demonstration outside the Presidential Office on Thursday and clashed with police as they demanded a meeting with Ma.

LOCAL LANGUAGES NOT REQUIRED COURSES: The opposition and local groups lambasted a decision by the Ministry of Education on Monday stipulating that local language classes would not be listed as required courses for junior-high school students in the 12-year national education program. Currently, elementary-school students must take one local language class each week, choosing from among Hakka, Hoklo and Aboriginal languages.



SUBS THE TALK OF ANNUAL CONFERENCE: U.S. experts expressed optimism about Taiwan’s renewed plans for diesel-electric submarines at the 13th U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference held in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Retired Taiwan Navy colonel Wang Chih-peng (王志鵬) told the Central News Agency that while reverse engineering was possible, Taiwan would be better off building smaller submarines (around 500 tonnes) than the standard 1,500 to 3,000-tonne ships. The DPP had made a similar recommendation in its defense blue paper released a week earlier.

Meanwhile, the Taipei Times reported that senior officials from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon had mentioned arms sales to Taiwan, the first time they made serious mentions on the subject in the past three years. Whether this stems from a re-evaluation of the threat that China poses to Taiwan, strained ties between Washington and Beijing, or the 2016 elections remains to be seen. Regardless, this is good news for Taiwan.

PIER ON ITU ABA: A pier on Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the largest of the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, is to be completed by the end of next year, according to Coast Guard officials. The pier is expected to be able to accommodate 3,000-tonne frigates and Coast Guard cutters.

TAIWAN-CHINA SEA EXERCISE IN 2016: The Coast Guard Administration says it is planning to discuss holding joint exercises with its Chinese counterparts in 2016, focusing on training and mobilization for rescue operations at sea.



TAIWAN’S IRS SCANDAL? The National Taxation Bureau of Taipei was accused of acting as a political tool to harass opposition candidates after the bureau launched an extensive investigation into alleged tax evasion by independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) last week. The bureau has denied it is targeting Ko and said the investigation was launched after it received a tip-off.

LEEWAY FOR KMT CANDIDATES? The DPP on Wednesday demanded the judiciary investigate and begin trials for several KMT candidates running in the commissioner and mayoral elections next month. The DPP said that Miaoli County candidate Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌), Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭) Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) — the last two are seeking re-election — were either found guilty or involved in corruption scandals, but the judiciary has been sitting on the cases.

SURVEYS IN TAIPEI, TAICHUNG: Polls conducted by the Chinese-language Liberty Times found that independent candidate Ko Wen-je and DPP candidate Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) still enjoyed solid leads in the Taipei and Greater Taichung mayoral elections, but that their opponents were narrowed the deficit.

According to the poll, Ko leads the KMT’s Sean Lien (連勝文) 41.6 to 24.6 percent. Undecided voters went up from 26.8 percent in the previous poll to 32.8 percent. In Taichung, Lin was leading incumbent Jason Hu (胡志強) 42.4 to 24.8 percent, with almost one-third of respondents still undecided. However, Hu cut his deficit by 5.7 percentage points since the previous poll in August.

KMT LEADING HAKKA CONSTITUENCIES: According to polls conducted by the Chinese-language China Times, the KMT is doing very well in its traditional strongholds of the predominantly Hakka constituencies of Taoyuan, Hsinchu County and Hsinchu City.

John Wu is leading DPP candidate Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) 47 to 21 percent in Taoyuan County, which will soon receive special municipality status. In Hsinchu County, where the DPP did not nominate a candidate, incumbent Chiu Ching-chun (邱鏡淳) of the KMT is leading independent candidate Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金) also by 47 to 21 percent. In Hsinchu City, the KMT appears to be taking advantage of a split in the DPP, with incumbent Mayor Hsu Ming-tsai (許明財) leading DPP candidate Lin Chih-chien (林智堅) 38 to 18 percent. Tsai Jen-chien (蔡仁堅), who decided to run as an independent and was stripped of his DPP membership, finished last with 14 percent.

That’s it for the week!


The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at editor@thinking-taiwan.com.

2 Responses to “TAIWAN INSIDER Vol. 1 No. 3”

October 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm, Mr. Wang said:

Can you never cut President Ma any slack? So, his disagreement with the Sunflower Movement’s occupation of the Legislative Yuan means he’s against democracy? Can one not support democracy and also think that the occupation of the legislature is an inappropriate way to block legislation in a constitutional democracy?

I understand that the Sunflower movement represents a real frustration on the part of many in our society. However, I still do not think their actions were appropriate. And despite your hysteric warnings, the government was very tolerant during that occupation. Ma is really a poor excuse for a heartless dictator.

I for one am proud of Ma for calling out China, and urging them to democratize. He is putting the ball in their court, and drawing a line for which we will not cross. He is making it clear that one country two systems will never work for Taiwan, and that the only way forward in the cross-straight relationship is for China to take some real steps toward democracy. Despite the rhetoric from the Green Camp, Ma is defending the sovereignty of the ROC and he is not selling Taiwan to the PRC.


October 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm, Oyster Omlet said:

So Prez Ma Ying-jeou had named Vincent Siew to represent Taiwan’s interests at the APEC in Beijing? Does this mean that Ma refuses to meet up with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping?


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