Week of April 25-May 1, 2015
Labour Day. Photo: J. Michael Cole

President Ma defends the “1992 consensus” days before the Chu-Xi meeting; independence advocates have different views than Tsai Ing-wen on China policy; Taiwan seeks to join AIIB based on the APEC model; Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng mulls entering the KMT presidential primary. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



WANG’S INTENTION REMAINED UNDISCLOSED: Asked if he would run in next year’s presidential election for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or instead run for legislative office in Changhua County as has been rumored, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Tuesday dismissed the speculation, while refusing to give a definitive answer about the presidential race. Wang further revealed on Wednesday that he is “proactively deliberating on the issue.” Separately, Wang commented that nothing would be “non negotiable” between Taiwan and China once certain conditions are met, including the compatibility of the political systems of the two sides. Wang would enjoy higher public support than New Taipei City Mayor and KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) in the presidential race, according to a survey published on Wednesday by Taiwan Brain Trust (TBT), a pro-independence think tank.

SUPPORTERS URGE CHU TO JOIN PRIMARY: Chu’s supporters have continued to urge him to run in next year’s presidential election, with the KMT’s caucus whip in the New Taipei City Council pledging on Monday to collect an application form and to pay for Chu’s deposit for the party primary on Chu’s behalf. Chu reiterated that he would complete his term as city mayor. He said on Wednesday that the public should deliberate on “what kind of president they want rather than who should run in the election.”

BUSINESS TYCOON FOR PRESIDENT? Former Control Yuan president Wang Chien-hsien (王建煊) proposed on Sunday that the KMT back Hon Hai Group (Foxconn) Chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) as an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election.



MA ON CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS: Just days before the meeting between Chu and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) scheduled for May 4, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Wednesday said in an inspection visit to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) that Taiwan must uphold the “1992 Consensus” — a political formula endorsing the “one China” principle — as “the political basis for cross-strait interaction [which] is irreplaceable.” His conclusions echoed Xi’s recent statement that challenging the consensus would “trigger an earthquake and topple hills.” Ma also said that none of the initiatives proposed by various political heavyweights, including Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the party’s presidential candidate, are feasible alternative frameworks for engaging with Beijing, since “they were neither endorsed by Taiwanese society nor by [China].”

As Tsai has said that the DPP would maintain the “status quo” in cross-strait ties if it returns to power, Ma further urged Tsai to provide a clear definition of the “status quo” and to elaborate on how she would maintain it. Analysts said Ma’s comments may also have been directed at Chu to show that he is still the KMT boss on cross-strait policies. The full text of Ma’s speech is available here.

On Thursday, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) described the 1992 Consensus as “the kiss of death for Taiwan.”

TSAI’S STANCE ON “STATUS QUO”: In response to Ma’s criticism on her remarks about “maintaining the status quo” of cross-strait relations, DPP Chairperson Tsai said she has clearly explained that she refers to maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait and maintaining stable developments in cross-strait relations, which is in line with public expectations. Tsai accused Ma of not knowing the public’s real concerns. Meanwhile, 74.1% of respondents in the TBT survey supported Tsai’s position on the “status quo,” while 52.2% did not think that Tsai should accept the 1992 consensus. However, Taiwanese independence movement leader Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) opposed Tsai’s China policy, arguing that maintaining the status quo would cause a “fatal wound” to Taiwan. Several pro-independence groups, however, declared their support for Tsai on Monday.

US OFFICIAL ON TSAI’S CHINA POLICY: U.S. Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asia Evan Medeiros said on Monday that Tsai’s comments on cross-strait issues were “interesting” and “constructive,” and that Washington “looks forward” to hearing more from her during her upcoming visit to the U.S.

DRAFT OVERSIGHT BILL: Civic group representatives on Wednesday urged the government to withdraw its proposed oversight bill to monitor future cross-strait agreements, saying that the draft only required the government to “explain” potential cross-strait treaties to the legislature, but failed to give lawmakers binding powers to monitor government actions. MAC Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said the demands to withdraw the proposed bill were “unfair” and “too arbitrary.”

INCENTIVES FOR TAIWANESE BUSINESSES: Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) pledged last Friday that the Chinese government was poised to carry out a series of previously promised incentive programs for Taiwanese businesses operating in China, while meeting with former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who is in Nanjing in his capacity as KMT vice chairman. Hau’s visit to China with a delegation of KMT officials has been dubbed a “warm up” for the Chu-Xi meeting scheduled for May 4.

CHU’S VISIT TO CHINA: The National Immigration Agency confirmed on Monday the approval of Chu’s application for his planned visit to China, adding that Chu is not allowed to signing any agreement with his Chinese counterparts. DPP lawmakers on Monday questioned the legality of Chu’s trip, accusing him of failing to state in his application that he would also be acting in his capacity as head of the KMT during the planned Chu-Xi meeting. Chu responded that his application adhered to regulations governing cross-strait exchanges.



NEPAL TURNS DOWN TAIWAN SEARCH AND RESCUE OFFER: Taiwan is still awaiting permits from Kathmandu to send search-and-rescue teams, authorities said. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Kao (高振群) cited the lack of diplomatic ties as having contributed to Nepal’s declination of Taiwan’s offer of assistance on Monday. Three Taiwanese who were trekking 130 km north of Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu when the earthquake rattled the region, called Taiwan’s representative office in New Delhi, India, Wednesday afternoon, saying they were airlifted by the Indian army and were safe. MOFA said all but two of the 288 Taiwanese tourists in Nepal were confirmed to be safe as of 9pm on Thursday.

Taiwanese disaster relief and healthcare workers, representatives of charity groups and a medical team led by government officials left for Nepal Tuesday and two more civic groups are set to leave for Nepal on May 2.

APEC MODEL FOR TAIWAN’S AIIB BID: President Ma said on Wednesday that Taiwan has proposed joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) based on the APEC model and would not join the bank if its participation is not treated with dignity and equality.

COMFORT WOMEN ISSUE: Lo Koon-tsan (羅坤燦), secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations, which handles Taiwan’s ties with Japan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, said on Thursday that Japan should apologize for its military’s abuse of “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II. The comment came one day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid homage to Americans killed in the war but offered no apology for Japan’s wartime atrocities. Lo said the Taiwanese government would continue to press Japan for an apology to comfort women.

JAPANESE FOOD IMPORT DISPUTE: Association of East Asian Relations chairman Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) on Sunday suggested that Japan should be more patient in dealing with the misgivings of Taiwanese about the safety of Japanese food from prefectures affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A delegation of Japanese parliamentarians led by Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday and raised the issue during meetings with Taiwanese officials and lawmakers. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihido Noda urged Taiwan on Thursday to review its policy on restricting imports of Japanese food items.

GRAND JUSTICES NOMINATION REVIEW: The KMT caucus on Wednesday urged all the legislative caucuses to initiate the procedure to review Ma’s nominations for four grand justices a year before the end of his presidential term, despite disputes over the constitutionality of the nominations. Civic groups had criticized that all 15 Constitutional Court justices of the Constitutional Court would have been handpicked by the same president if the legislature approved the nominations and created a risk of “dictatorship.”

DIAOYUTAIS CLAIM: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday reiterated Taiwan’s sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, saying they are an indisputable part of Taiwan’s territory, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Japanese leaders two days earlier that Washington’s treaty commitments to Japan’s security cover all territory under Tokyo’s administration, including the tiny islands known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyutais in Taiwan. China also claims sovereignty over the islets.

SWITZERLAND TO RETURN FUND HELD BY EX- PRESIDENT: Switzerland’s Supreme Court has ruled that the US$6.74 million (NT$205 million) deposits in accounts held by family members of former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) implicated in graft tied to a high-profile financial merger should be returned to Taiwan, the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Special Prosecutors Office said on Wednesday.

DPP CAMPAIGN BUDGET SET: The DPP on Wednesday approved a budget of NT$200 million (US$6.56 million) for its 2016 presidential and legislative election campaigns. The budget is larger than that for previous elections, as the party anticipates high turnouts in next year’s elections.

LAI’S NEXT STOP: NEW TAIPEI CITY? Rumors are circulating that Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) is considering running for New Taipei City mayor should New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu announce a bid for next year’s presidential election. Lai did not rule out the possibility, regarded by supporters as “‘taking his political career to the next level.’

HIGH-SCHOOL CURRICULUM REVISIONS: Civic group representatives staged a protest outside the Ministry of Education last Saturday against the revised high-school curriculum guidelines, demanding the Ma administration reverse the policy aimed at “brainwashing” the younger generation through the “de-Taiwanization” of the curriculum. The ministry appealed a ruling by the Taipei High Administrative Court in February, which threw into doubt the legitimacy of the revisions made in January last year.

EX-PREMIER JIANG LOSES APPEAL: The Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by former premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), upholding a decision made by the Taiwan High Court in February asking the Taipei District Court to reconsider an attempted murder charge against him over the government’s forced eviction of activists from the Executive Yuan during the Sunflower movement last year.



CHINA’S SATELLITE SURVEILLANCE: The Chinese military has strengthened its satellite surveillance of neighboring countries, especially Taiwan and Japan, with at least one imaging satellite passing over Taiwan daily to conduct full-coverage reconnaissance, according to Kanwa Defense Review.

REPORTS OF PLA MISSILE LOCK-ON DISMISSED: The Air Force on Monday rejected as “false and unfounded” media reports suggesting that one of its Indigenous Defense Fighter aircraft had been automatically tracked by a People’s Liberation Army missile defense system during a routine patrol last year.

CHINESE-MADE BATTERIES IN TAIWANESE MILITARY: A DPP lawmaker on Tuesday urged an investigation into the manufacturing origin of batteries used in telecommunications networks at Taiwan’s main military radar and signal tracking stations, as the units are suspected of having come from China.



US SINGER AND TAIWANESE FLAG: American pop singer Katy Perry raised eyebrows when she grabbed a Nationalist flag from a fan during her concert in Taipei on Tuesday and draped it around her shoulder while also donning a dress with sunflowers — the symbol of the Sunflower Movement which occupied the legislature last year. Perry’s action was praised by Taiwanese fans, but analysts are concerned that the move could anger Beijing and lead to her being banned from performing in China.

FORTY-HOUR WORKWEEK: Legislators across party lines on Thursday pledged support for major reforms to shorten the legal workweek to 40 hours, as the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee cleared amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法). If passed by the legislature later this month, the landmark piece of legislation would change regulations that define work hours as 84 hours per two weeks to 40 hours per week — effectively ensuring two days off per week.

NUCLEAR SAFETY: An auxiliary power converter outside a nuclear reactor of Taiwan’s Third Nuclear Power Plant caught fire last Saturday. The reactor was consequently shut down early on Monday. The county government could file a lawsuit against Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) over its failure to report the accident to local authorities, and had demanded severe punishment on the plant’s administrators for negligence. The company has refused to make public the maintenance records of the plant, citing concerns over the builder’s intellectual property rights.

VIETNAMESE LABOR BAN TO BE LIFTED: A decade-long ban on Vietnamese fishing workers and caregivers is scheduled to be lifted on July 1 in a bid to deal with Taiwan’s labor shortage, according to the Ministry of Labor on Wednesday.

LAFAYETTE FUNDS: Prosecutors said on Tuesday they would pursue the family of Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), indicted on corruption charges in 2006 over his involvement in a slush fund linked to a US$2.8 billion contract to buy six Lafayette-class warships in 1991 from a controversial French arms deal over two decades ago, even after his death earlier this year.

MORE COMPENSATION DEMANDED IN RCA CASE: Former employees of Radio Corp America (RCA) staged a protest outside the cabinet on Tuesday, demanding labor-insurance compensation for occupational diseases. The group further announced on Wednesday that they will file an appeal against the Taipei District Court’s ruling on April 17, in which the amount of compensation they had sought was cut to nearly one fifth.

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. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.


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