Week of Sept. 5-11, 2015

KMT presidential hopeful Hung Hsiu-chu is back on the campaign trail after a short break; Presidential Office senior adviser King Pu-tsung is reportedly orchestrating Hung’s recent campaign tactics; media speculates on a KMT plot to topple the Cabinet to desynchronize next year’s legislative and presidential elections; the possibility of DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen attending the Double Ten celebrations sparks attacks from Hung; China launches live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



HUNG BACK ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) concluded on Sunday a three-day suspension of her campaign activities, vowing to keep up her fight until the end amid speculation that her self-imposed break for “self-reflection” was a prelude to her withdrawal from the race.

Speaking at a news conference announcing the resumption of her activities, Hung said she had always considered her main rival to be Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), while making no mention of People First Party Chairperson James Soong (宋楚瑜). The omission was perceived as a new campaign strategy to consciously avoid Soong, whose presidential bid risks splitting the pan-blue vote. Hung also discarded her controversial “one China, same interpretation” stance on cross-strait relations, which KMT lawmakers said would cost them their legislative seats, and instead adopted President Ma Ing-jeou’s (馬英九) oft-stated formula of “one China with different interpretations.”

The speech, filled with references to a “populist society” that unjustly “tolerates the betrayal of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) of his own roots and the corruption of his successor Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁),” was heavily criticized as “hollow” and “featuring attacks on others rather than self-reflection.” The full text of Hung’s statement is available here.

Various media outlets speculated that the recently installed Presidential Office senior adviser King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), a former National Security Council secretary-general, has been orchestrating Hung’s latest campaign tactics.

Separately, Hung was in a dispute with the KMT over the management of her campaign spending. Hung said she rejected the party’s depositing of campaign expense subsidies in a campaign account at her disposal, but continued to send invoices of her campaign expenses to the party for reimbursement, the Apple Daily reported on Thursday. Hung pledged that she would not “take a penny from the KMT” upon joining the election.

KMT TO TOPPLE THE CABINET? The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Thursday that in light of the possible negative impact that KMT presidential candidate Hung’s dim electoral prospects could have on her party’s performance in the legislative elections, the KMT is “plotting” to topple the Cabinet, which would allow the president to dissolve the legislature and hold parliamentary elections in November, ahead of schedule rather than concurrently with the Jan. 16 presidential election. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said he was unaware of the matter. KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) dismissed the allegations as groundless, and denied that he had been secretly calling on KMT lawmakers to support a vote of no confidence against Premier Mao Chi-kuo’s (毛治國) Cabinet.

WANG SUPPORT FOR HUNG IN DOUBT: Although Legislative Speaker Wang displayed a newspaper headline on Monday showing he fully supported KMT presidential candidate Hung, many found it difficult to believe that he genuinely backs her presidential bid, as the previous day he had urged a KMT legislative candidate to “concentrate on his own campaign” and “not worry about the impact of the party’s presidential prospects.”

TSAI MAY JOIN DOUBLE TEN CELEBRATION: DPP presidential candidate Tsai said on Tuesday that she might adjust her itinerary to attend this year’s Double Ten celebrations (Oct. 10). Legislative Speaker Wang, who doubles as head of the National Day Celebration Organizing Committee, said Tsai’s presence would be “conducive to reconciliation between the ruling and opposition parties.” KMT rival Hung cast doubt on Tsai’s motives, however, citing her absence in the ceremony over the past years, which in turn prompted criticism that Hung herself had boycotted and even “disturbed” the event — by participating in Red Shirt rallies against President Chen — when the DPP was in power.

TSAI ON PLA FORCE REDUCTION PLANS: Commenting on last week’s announcement that China would reduce the size of its military, DPP presidential hopeful Tsai said last Friday that such a move would not necessarily reduce the might of the People’s Liberation Army. Tsai nevertheless said she took note of Beijing’s declaration that it would not seek hegemony. Tsai expressed her hope that China would sincerely work with other nations to maintain regional peace and stability, while stressing the indispensability of strengthening Taiwan’s armed forces to ensure the nation’s security, democracy, and way of life.

Separately, Tsai on Saturday described the KMT’s economic policies, which insist on the benefits of the free market and rely on tax cuts and subsidies, as “outdated,” and vowed to implement policies that attract investment, encourage business innovation, and ensure fair wealth distribution while upgrading and transforming the industrial sector if elected.

SOONG KEEPS LOW PROFILE: PFP presidential candidate James Soong made his first appearance in nearly a week on Tuesday, refuting speculation that he had intended to go into “seclusion” like KMT rival Hung. Soong said he had been busy having consultations with “old friends from the KMT” and “DPP members who previously served the government” to craft his policies. Separately, Soong reiterated that PFP Secretary-General Chin Ching-sheng (秦金生) did not attend the large military parade in Beijing last week, and denied saying that Chin would face disciplinary action if it were found that he had lied to Soong about the matter.

CHINA, US VIEWS ON ELECTION RESULTS: The U.S. and China are now “almost” operating under the assumption that DPP presidential candidate Tsai will win next year’s presidential election, said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington Wednesday, adding that it was unlikely that Tsai would pursue provocative policies toward China.

CAMPAIGN SUBSIDIES: Independent presidential candidate Shih Ming-teh (施明德) on Monday called for an end to government subsidies for political campaigns, particularly in the face of a spiraling national debt, to prevent “fat cat” politicians from taking advantage of the fund for personal wealth. President Ma has benefited the most from the subsidies, raking in NT$480 million (US$14.57 million) from his participation in two Taipei mayoral elections and two presidential elections, Shih said.



‘TAIWAN ISSUE’ A PRIORITY DURING XI’S US VISIT? “Discredited” by China’s recent economic downturn, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) could place the “Taiwan issue” at the “top of his agenda” during his state visit to the U.S. later this month, former National Security Council deputy secretary-general Parris Chang (張旭成) told a conference organized by the Hudson Institute on Tuesday. Chang speculated that Xi would aim to pressure U.S. President Obama to terminate arms sales to Taiwan so as to strengthen his authority back home.

KMT RETALIATES AGAINST LEE: A proposal by a KMT lawmaker to revoke the benefits accorded to the nation’s retired leaders “if they offend the nation’s dignity” has been placed on the agenda of the legislature’s plenary session. The move follows attacks by the KMT against former president Lee Teng-hui last month over an interview with a Japanese magazine, in which the 93-year-old said he and his late brother fought for Japan as Japanese soldiers. The decision to put the proposal on the agenda was regarded as a possible attempt to use the controversy as a campaign tool.

LIEN ‘IMMUNE’ TO KMT DISCIPLINARY ACTION: Lauding former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰) “contributions to cross-strait peace” on Wednesday, the KMT’s central committee did not propose any disciplinary action against the former chairman for attending a large military parade in Beijing marking the anniversary of the end of World War II — despite repeated efforts by the Ma administration to dissuade him.

Ma and Lien avoided each other during a book event on Wednesday, with Ma leaving before Lien arrived at the venue and refusing to answer questions about Lien. Ma and several other KMT heavyweights were all absent from Lien’s wedding anniversary celebration last Saturday, which the KMT had called on its members to boycott.

In related news, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and a legislator filed separate charges of treason against Lien on Friday, accusing him of breaching national security by attending the military parade. Separately, a DPP lawmaker accused Lien of abusing the state’s security resources by requesting a nine-person security detail despite the expiration of his four-year period of retirement benefits.

TAIWAN FUNDING FOR APEC MEMBER PLAN: Taiwan has pledged US$700,000 in additional funding for initiatives by APEC forum members on human security and greater economic integration across the Asia-Pacific region, the APEC Secretariat said in a statement on Sunday.

MA URGES CLOSER TAIWAN-INDONESIA TIES: In an interview published on Saturday in the Kompas, the largest newspaper in Indonesia, President Ma urged the Indonesian government to strengthen its cooperation with Taiwan by signing an economic cooperation agreement and other bilateral accords, while calling on Indonesia to support Taiwan’s bid to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

CHEN’S ILLICIT GAINS RETURNED TO TAIWAN: Swiss authorities have returned to Taiwan approximately NT$208.9 million (US$6.36 million) of former president Chen’s illicit gains laundered in Switzerland by his family members, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said last Friday. A Supreme Court ruling in 2012 found Chen guilty of receiving bribes from Yuanta Financial Holdings to facilitate its merger.

PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE SECURITY GAP: Delays in the Ministry of Justice’s resettlement into a building it took over from the Ministry of National Defense has created a security gap for the neighboring Presidential Office with an after-hours unlit area lacking adequate guards, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Sunday.

REPORT ON MOE OCCUPATION: The Taipei City Government on Monday released a preliminary report on its investigation into the break-in at the Ministry of Education by high-school protesters against controversial China-centric curriculum guidelines. The report did not condemning the much criticized arrest of students and journalists during the incident. The report concluded with suggestions that police should look into their decision-making processes and “keep emotions in check” during rapidly changing situations at protests. Critics blasted the report as “perfunctory” and “evasive.



PLA TO LAUNCH LIVE-FIRE DRILLS: Amid concerns over the possibility of strained cross-strait relations following Taiwan’s presidential election next year, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will stage three days of live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait starting on Friday Sept. 11. China’s Maritime Safety Administration, which issued the notice, did not elaborate on the purpose of the exercises, which will be held between 3pm and 5pm. The drills occur as Taiwan concludes its annual Han Kuang military exercises. Downplaying the drills as “routine” and part of its annual training, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it was aware of the matter.

The second phase of the Han Kuang exercises, which simulated an attack from China, featured live-fire drills from Monday to Friday, following computer-assisted war games held in May. The exercises test the combat readiness of Taiwan’s Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the joint response of government agencies for the security of the nation’s key facilities, information infrastructure, strategic communications and resource integration in the event of war.

US DRONE PASSES OVER DURING EXERCISES: The Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Wednesday a report in the Liberty Times that a Global Hawk surveillance drone from the U.S. military had passed over waters off eastern Taiwan on Tuesday, the second day of the Han Kuang war games. The military immediately dispatched two F-16 aircraft to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle, the report said. The ministry stressed that the aircraft had remained outside of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, but refused to further comment on the matter.

US ARMS SALES: A “house cleaning” arms sales package for Taiwan is making its way through the complex channels of the U.S. political system, though consisting of nothing more than second-hand equipment, upgraded equipment and munitions, and is unlikely to happen before the fourth quarter of next year, US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said on Wednesday.

CHINESE SPECIAL FORCES ‘OMINOUS’: Chinese Special Operations Forces are “particularly ominous for Taiwan” and could target political and military leaders for capture or assassination, whether they are government officials or not, according to an analysis by senior U.S. intelligence officer Kevin McCauley published by the Jamestown Foundation, which added that Taiwan and its outlying territories were “obviously” the target of Chinese plans for a large-scale landing.



EXPORT WOES: Taiwan’s exports plunged 14.8 percent year-on-year to US$23.93 billion last month due to global economic downturn and China’s expansion of its supply chain, marking the seventh consecutive monthly exports decline and the sharpest contraction since the end of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday.

DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK: The Centers for Disease Control urged the public on Thursday to take all necessary precautions against dengue fever, as 7,453 cases have been confirmed since May, the highest number for the same period on record. The outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease has shown no sign of abating, with 18 deaths and nearly 90 percent of the cases reported in the southern city of Tainan.

TRANS FAT BAN: The Food and Drug Administration proposed a draft bill on Monday to ban artificial trans fats in processed foods, with a compliance of three years, in a bid to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent fatal heart attacks.


The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang, and staff. 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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