Week of Jan. 17-23, 2015

Taipei Mayor Ko wages relentless war against business conglomerates over controversial and illegal government-business; Eric Chu becomes KMT chairman; the public urges a complete review of the nation’s firefighting policy after six firefighters die in a terrible blaze. Welcome to this week’s issue of the Insider.



PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE DENIES MA’S ILLNESS: The Presidential Office denied a report of Chinese-language Next Magazine that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was advised to stop running after he almost went into shock during a 5km event in November last year, saying that he runs every morning as usual.

AIR ROUTE CONTROVERSY: China on Saturday said it was willing to hold more discussions with Taiwan over its planned opening of four flight routes just west of the Taiwan Strait’s median line. Washington said it was delighted to see such talks taking place. Taiwanese military officials insisted that the routes should be moved westward because the current routes are in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and pose threats to Taiwan’s national security.

The U.S. Department of State said on Wednesday that a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which claimed that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) had conducted an air safety assessment with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2007 and that the new air route had since received approval and had been assigned flight codes by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), was “inaccurate.”

ZHANG TO VISIT KINMEN NEXT MONTH: Taiwan and Chinese officials have confirmed that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) will visit Kinmen in early February and meet with Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦). The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) urged Wang to call off the meeting to protest against China’s unilateral plan to open the aforementioned air routes. Wang pledged that his meeting with Zhang would not involve political talks.

CHALLENGE FOR NEW KMT CHAIR: New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) was inaugurated as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman on Monday. The 53-year-old “rising star” was elected on Saturday, receiving 99.61% of the total votes in the chairman election. Chu has vowed to review the “impact of fast-paced cross-strait exchanges” and “doubts” over the uneven distribution of benefits generated by cross-strait economic interaction, while making personnel changes at KMT headquarters. Former mayors Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) were named vice chairpersons. Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lee Shih-chuan (李四川) was appointed KMT secretary-general.

The new chairman has also commissioned a panel to look into the party’s assets and decided to postpone a decision on a proposal that the party withdraw its appeal of a ruling in favor of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) amid efforts by President Ma to have Wang expelled from the KMT.

DPP PERSONNEL CHANGES: Former foreign minister James Huang (黃志芳) was named director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs on Wednesday. Huang will also serve as deputy executive director of the New Frontier Foundation, the DPP think tank. Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) will remain the party’s representative to the U.S. Meanwhile, director of the Policy Research Committee Alex Huang (黃重諺), one of chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) main speechwriters, is expected to become head of the newly established News Department next month. Former Yunlin County deputy commissioner Shih Keh-he (施克和) is expected to fill Huang’s position at the Policy Research Committee.

DPP CROSS-STRAIT EXCHANGE PLAN: With the DPP winning 13 of the 22 constituencies in the Nov. 29 “nine-in-one” elections, a guideline on cross-strait exchanges at the municipal level has become imperative. The party on Wednesday passed a resolution urging local government to set up a taskforce to handle cross-strait affairs, but noted that all exchanges must benefit Taiwan’s democracy and must be “mutually beneficial.”

FREEZING INDEPENDENCE CLAUSE? Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), a professor at National Chengchi University who served as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) deputy minister during the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration, brought up the issue of freezing the DPP’s independence clause and a “democratic unification process.” His call occurs as the DPP re-launches its China Affairs Committee.

SOLID TAIWAN-US TIES: Evan Medeiros, Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, said on Wednesday that relations between Washington and Taipei remain solid despite the recent “flag-raising ceremony” controversy, according to Central News Agency.

TAICHUNG SCRAPS ARCHITECTURAL PROJECT: Citing safety and cost concerns, Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) has temporarily halted the NT$15 billion (US$479 million) Taiwan Tower project designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. The project was initiated by former mayor Jason Hu (胡志強).

CIVIC FORCES SPLIT: The Taiwan Citizen Union (TCU), a civic political group established after the Sunflower Movement, has split over ideological differences. Some members of the group, led by lawyer Lin Feng-jeng (林峯正), are expected to announce the founding of the New Power Party (時代力量) on Jan. 25. The remaining members, led by Fan Yun (范雲), a professor at National Taiwan University, are expected to establish another new party, which could also use a new name. Both parties are expected to nominate candidates in the legislative elections next year.

SUNFLOWER ANNIVERSARY RALLY: Leaders of last year’s Sunflower Movement urged the public to support their demands for direct democracy by attending a large rally on April 10 to mark the one-year anniversary of protesters’ exit from the legislature, which they occupied for three weeks.



KO DECLARES WAR IN TAIPEI: Less than one month into his tenure, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has launched an unprecedented offensive against questionable government-business relations, targeting several major public projects negotiated during previous municipal administrations. Some of the largest business conglomerates in Taiwan, such as Farglory Land Development Co (遠雄建設) and Hon Hai Group (鴻海集團), are in the crosshairs.

After initial resistance, Farglory sat down with Ko on Thursday and agreed to renegotiate the contract for the Taipei Dome, one of the main venues for the 2017 Universiade, which should have been completed in June last year. Ko had described the contract as “ridiculous.” In 2009 the Control Yuan had ordered the city to revise 39 questionable articles in the contract, but the previous administration did nothing to address the revisions.

Meanwhile, Ko and Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) engaged in war of rhetoric over the controversial Syntrend Creative Park (三創園區) project in downtown Taipei. Ko said the bidding process and the contract were questionable. Gou subsequently announced a construction freeze and placed front-page advertisement in six major newspapers demanding the Taipei City Government disclose all documents related to the bid within 48 hours.

With the establishment of the Clean Government Committee, the Ko administration is now re-assessing a development plan for the Shezidao (社子島) peninsula and probing the Taipei New Horizon (臺北文創) complex, and the MeHAS City (美河市) residential project and the Taipei Twin Towers (雙子星). Former mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who spearheaded all those projects, has described Ko’s efforts as a “political purge.”

Ko also experienced setback, with sports department head Yang Jong-her (楊忠和) becoming the first official under Ko to resign. Meanwhile, one city official, whose identity remains unknown, is reportedly a regular marijuana user.



NEW COAST GUARD BASE: The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said it plans to open a new base at Port of Taipei in New Taipei City next year, a move that is expected to strengthen the CGA’s enforcement of maritime law, especially in disputed waters north of Taiwan, including waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea.

CHINA LISTENING STATIONS: The Chinese military has set up at least three new large aerial listening stations in coastal Fujian Province to monitor radio signals from Taiwan, including mobile phones and other type of wireless communications from military bases and government institutions across the western half of Taiwan, according to a report by the Canada-based monthly Kanwa Information Center.

NAVY’S NEW SUPPLY VESSEL: The Navy took delivery of the locally developed supply vessel Panshih (磐石), which will be used to transport fuel, ammunition and other supplies, at a harbor in Kaohsiung on Friday. The vessel cost NT$4.09 billion, according to the Navy.

ARMY GRAFT CASE: Prosecutors have arrested 13 people, including four army personnel, in a major graft case involving members of the military allegedly receiving regular monthly bribes and kickbacks from contractors in exchange for procuring contracts for tanks and armored vehicles. The suspects allegedly admitted to having supplied “bad quality treads” to the Army Logistics Command in Taipei’s Nankang District (南港). The procurement of the treads also involved the Ordnance Readiness Development Center (ORDC) in Jiji Township (集集), Nantou County, which is known for its production of the CM-12 and CM-11 “Brave Tiger” tanks, along with CM-21 armored vehicles and the CM-32 “Clouded Leopard” Taiwan Infantry Fighting Vehicle.



TAIWAN TAKES CANADA TO WTO: The Ministry of Economic Affairs announced on Wednesday that it will take a legal challenge to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Canada for levying anti-dumping duties on steel exports. This will be Taiwan’s first time as the sole plaintiff in a challenge lodged via the Geneva-based body. Ministry statistics show that following the sanctions, revenue from steel exports to Canada plummeted from US$19 million in 2011 to US$11 million in 2012 and about US$5 million in 2013.



NEW HIV REGULATIONS: Foreigners with HIV are no longer banned from entering, staying or residing in the country. This comes after amendments to the HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act (人類免疫缺乏病毒傳染防治及感染者權益保障條例) were passed at the legislature on Tuesday. The amendment removes Article 18 of the Act, which stipulated that foreigners had to submit a recent HIV test report if they wised to remain in the country for more than three months and could be deported or have their visas and permits annulled if the test was positive.



SIX FIREFIGHTERS DIE: Six firefighters, all of them in their 20s, were killed in Taoyuan early on Tuesday morning after the bowling alley in which they were battling a blaze collapsed. Officials from the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office announced that an inquiry would be conducted to determine the cause and circumstances of the fire, and to determine if there was any negligence or dereliction of duty.

AVIAN FLU FOUND IN CHICKENS: Avian influenza has been confirmed on two farms in Pingtung County’s Wanluan Township (萬巒). All 220,000 birds at the two farms hit by highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu strain were culled on Tuesday, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA). The H5N3 strain was also discovered in Miaoli County last week. On Sunday, chickens in Changhua County were confirmed to have been infected with the H5N2 strain, a variant of a virus first seen locally in 2004. Animal Husbandry Department division head Chiang Wen-chuan (江文全) said the impact on the nation’s poultry flocks has been limited, with about 410,000 chickens affected, or about 0.5 percent of the nation’s annual supply. Chiang added that geese have borne the brunt of the outbreaks, with about 416,000, or 30 percent of the nation’s total, culled as of Monday.

MANPOWER SHORTAGE: Taiwan’s declining birth rate will soon take a toll on the country’s workforce, the National Development Council (NDC, 國發會) warned on Tuesday, noting that Taiwan’s working population will fall by an average of 180,000 people annually starting in 2016. The NDC estimated that the size of the working population aged 15-64 will reach its peak at 17.37 million people this year and begin to slip next year until 2060, resulting in increasingly large manpower shortages.

ELECTRICITY PRICING SCHEME: Lawmakers on Monday reached an agreement on a new electricity pricing mechanism, which will cap annual electricity rate increases at 6 percent. State-run Taipower will be required to adjust its rate every six months, with the company’s profit capped at five percent. The new scheme will take effect as soon as April.


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.

One Response to “TAIWAN INSIDER Vol. 2 No. 4”

January 29, 2015 at 6:26 am, jollyolspekkio said:

I thought Korea was the sole offender among industrialized Asian nations in subjecting non-citizens to HIV testing. Good on Taiwan for removing an embarrassing law.


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