Saturday, July 30, 2011

DPP slams appointment of Yang Hsi-an

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

The appointment of Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安), who resigned over a scandal surrounding construction of the Xinsheng Overpass last year, as Taipei deputy mayor was the latest example that confidantes or family members of pan-blue politicians continually fail to avoid conflicts of interest, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) decision to appoint Yang, a former Taipei City Secretariat director, as his deputy is “shocking,” DPP spokesman Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) told a press conference.

Yang, 61, was not indicted after prosecutors completed their investigation into the scandal despite being listed as a defendant and accused of conspiring with construction companies during the bidding process, leading to allegations of kickbacks and corruption.

Four of Yang’s subordinates were subsequently indicted in the case, in which investigations showed contractors repeatedly overcharged the city government — sometimes by a factor of 30 — for a beautification project.

“Yang was not held accountable. He has even been promoted to deputy mayor in charge of public construction,” Liang said.

Taipei City Government ignored the fact that Yang’s wife works as secretary for the chairman of a construction consulting firm that has won no less than 68 construction bids in Taipei over the past three years, Liang said, adding that this constituted a violation of the Act on Recusal of Public Servants Due to Conflicts of Interest (公職人員利益衝突迴避法).

The act stipulates that companies found to be in violation of the act can be fined between one and three times the amount of the transaction.

Yang’s controversial appointment is not without precedent, as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government officials are “repeat violators of the act,” Liang said.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) elder sister Ma Yi-nan (馬以南) was involved in a case in 1998 in which China Chemical and Pharmaceutical (CCPC), the company in which she worked as a deputy manager, sold pharmaceuticals to Taipei City government.

Ma Ying-jeou was Taipei mayor at the time.

TECO Electric and Machinery and its chairman, Liu Chao-kai (劉兆凱), were fined for bidding for government projects when his brother, Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), was the serving premier between 2008 and 2009.

The DPP does not rule out the possibility of referring the Yang case to the Control Yuan and the Ministry of Justice, Liang said.


DPP stance on sovereignty clear: Tsai

CHANGE IS THE NORM:A party spokesperson said China should not see the DPP’s return to power as a failure of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s Taiwan policy
By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has always maintained the stance that it wishes to work with China for cross-strait stability and prosperity, the DPP said yesterday in response to criticism from China and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over its stance on independence.

In an interview aired on Thursday evening, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), tapped by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as his running mate in January’s presidential election, attacked DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) advocacy of independence as “only a rhetoric that she dare not implement.”

It is like “fraud,” he added.

King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), executive director of Ma’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, has also said Tsai “dare not include ‘no independence’ as part of her [presidential] campaign platform.”

Coincidentally, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi (王毅), who is visiting Washington, reiterated China’s anti-independence stance and its firm position on the so-called “1992 consensus,” saying that any violation of that position would jeopardize future cross-strait development.

Wang criticized Tsai’s support of “one country on each side” and described her as “walking the path of Taiwan independence.”

When approached by press for response to Wu and King’s criticism, Tsai yesterday said the DPP’s position on Taiwan’s future had been clearly stated in the party’s resolution on Taiwan’s future in 1999.

The resolution states that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country and any change to the status quo must be decided by all the residents of Taiwan by means of a plebiscite.

Meanwhile, party spokesman Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) said the party would not treat Wang’s comments as a major Chinese statement, as “it has been common practice in Beijing for years before Taiwan’s major elections, but we do not encourage unnecessary threats like this.”

“Everyone understands the KMT’s pro-unification position, despite it having excluded related text from its party platform. Will Wu speak out loud about his goal for eventual unification?” he asked, adding that the KMT is also obligated to explain to Taiwanese its position on Taiwan’s future, be it eventual unification, maintaining the status quo or anything else.

Another DPP spokesperson, Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦), said that Wang’s comment showed the agreements signed in the past three years by the Ma administration and China were based on the “one China” principle as defined by China, rather than Ma’s interpretation of “one China, with each side [of the Taiwan Strait] having its own interpretation.”

China should not see the DPP’s return to power as a failure of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) Taiwan policy because regime change should be accepted as a norm in a democracy, Cheng added.

Wang was also quoted as saying that the “Taiwan problem” is China’s “internal affair.”

Denouncing the comment, Cheng said the DPP’s position adheres to the 1999 resolution.

The Mainland Affairs Council on Thursday also criticized Wang’s statement. It said the Republic of China is an independent and sovereign country.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Defense policy questions raised

NO NEED FOR PESSIMISM:One expert said that Taiwan could still afford to be more aggressive in the South China Sea as it controls Taiping Island, the largest in the area
By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

The national defense policy of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration needs a major overhaul as its current direction reflects a fundamental paradox, former government officials and academics told a panel yesterday.

“Failing to appropriately address China’s role — whether as a friend or a foe — is one of the fundamental flaws of current defense policy,” York Chen (陳文政), an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies told the forum, organized by the Taiwan Brain Trust think tank.

This year’s annual national defense report, released by the Ministry of National Defense on July 19, lists China as an “enemy state” and highlights the imbalance in the defense budgets and capabilities of the two sides, Chen said.

However, “the question is whether the Ma administration considers China to be an enemy. Do those active and former government officials who constantly visit China see it as an enemy?” Chen asked.

That demonstrates the very different mindset between military and civilian leadership, Chen said.

The other significant flaw lies in contradictory policy relating to military personnel and armaments, he said.

Although Ma has promised to implement an all-volunteer program, national finances cannot support such a program, Chen said, adding that Ma has yet to explain how he plans to recruit sufficient volunteers in light of the declining birthrate.

The Ma administration has been reluctant both in terms of its efforts to acquire arms from the US and to develop a domestic arms industry, he said.

Facing a rising China, Taiwan should develop “asymmetric warfare” capabilities with a focus on developing indigenous weapons, such as smaller submarines under 500 tonnes, short and mid-range land-based missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, attack helicopters and missile boats, former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) said.

Taiwan should also align itself with allies — predominantly the US and Japan — to ensure regional stability in the Asia-Pacific and the Taiwan Strait and to neutralize China’s military expansion, Tsai said.

On the recent dispute in the South China Sea, Tsai said Taiwan should consult with Japan and the US respectively or submit a statement at APEC or ASEAN summits that it plans to approach the issue in accordance with international law.

Time is on Taiwan’s side for military reform, as there is no imminent threat of China launching an attack, given its internal economic and social issues, said Chang Kuo-cheng (張國城), a senior councilor at Taiwan Thinktank.

“There is no need to be pessimistic about Taiwan’s national defense,” he said.

However, Taiwan can afford be more aggressive on the South China Sea, as it already controls Taiping Island (太平島), the largest island in the area, he said.

Panel questions commitment to fighter jets

SHOW THE MONEY::While the Ma administration says it wants to buy 66 F-16C/Ds from the US, it hasn’t budgeted for them or set military spending above 3% of GDP
By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter
Fri, Jul 29, 2011 - Page 1

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration must demonstrate to the US that it is serious about purchasing F-16C/D aircraft to boost Taiwan’s air defense capabilities and to proactively engage in regional discussions about the South China Sea dispute, former government officials and academics told a think tank forum yesterday.

About two months before the US is expected to announce its decision on Taiwan’s request to buy 66 F-16C/Ds, panelists at a forum organized by the Taiwan Brain Trust said Taiwan has not demonstrated enough determination for the US to approve the sale, which Beijing opposes.

While the Ma administration has publicly voiced its desire to buy the planes on 21 occasions since taking office in May 2008, it has failed to maintain defense budgets above 3 percent of GDP, despite one of Ma’s main campaign promises, or to budget for the 66 planes next year, former minister of national defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) said.

This sends a signal that Taipei is not “serious enough,” Tsai said, adding that he was not optimistic about an announcement Washington has scheduled for Oct. 1, when many analysts believe it will green-light an upgrade program for Taiwan’s 144 aging F-16A/B fleet while mothballing the F-16C/Ds request.

The order, if approved, would create 15,000 jobs at the F-16 -production line in Texas and mean billions of dollars for the US economy, but Washington will also weigh the pros and cons of the deal’s impact on its relations with Beijing, he said.

“There is still time left. The Ma administration should send a strong message through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office [TECRO], Taiwan’s representative office in Washington, and the American Institute in Taiwan, as well as sending a budget plan to the legislature immediately to show the US that it is serious about the procurement,” Tsai said.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration began discussing a F-16C/D purchase with the Pentagon in 2005, when then-US president George W. Bush and the Department of Defense tended to favor the deal, provided Taiwan had the budget, Tsai said.

However, the US Department of State had second thoughts because of China’s role in assisting the US in Afghanistan and over efforts to limit North Korea’s nuclear program, he said, while Washington’s ties with Taipei worsened during the last half of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) second term.

Bush wanted to complete the arms package, which included six PAC-3 air defense systems, eight diesel-electric submarines and 12 P-3C marine patrol aircraft before putting the F-16C/Ds on the agenda, said Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), who served as representative to Washington from 2007 to 2008.

Citing a Washington Times -report on Tuesday that said TECRO “has not lobbied very strongly for new F-16s or the upgrades of old jets,” Wu said the story “carried some weight” because “traditionally, the newspaper has been a channel for US officials to send messages to Taiwan.”

“Rhetoric is not good enough for the US. The US will also monitor what you have done and what you are doing,” Wu said.

Chang Kuo-cheng (張國城), a senior councilor at Taiwan Thinktank and former secretary of the deputy minister of national defense, said the US was unlikely to approve the sale because of its complex relations with China.

“More than anything else, the US is not likely to approve the sale on Oct. 1 — the People’s Republic of China’s national day,” Chang said.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

CEC should do more to publicize electoral system: TSU

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter
Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 3

The Central Election Commission (CEC) should step up its effort to promote the “single-member district, two-vote” electoral system even though the system puts smaller parties such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) at a disadvantage, TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said yesterday .

Even though the system was implemented four years ago, nearly half the respondents in a recent poll conducted by the TSU said they were not aware of a “second ballot” that determines the legislator-at-large seats, Huang said.

Slightly more than 46 percent of respondents said they did not know about the second ballot, while 62.1 percent knew the voting system was designed to determine the legislator-at-large seats, while 37.9 percent mistakenly thought it was for single-member district elections.

About 24 percent did not know next year’s presidential election and legislative elections would be held on Jan. 14.

The survey was conducted from July 19 to Sunday and had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Huang said the commission had “fallen asleep” and been “negligent” in promoting the new system, which he said works against smaller parties, particularly in single-member district elections.

“That is why the second ballot is important to smaller parties to make sure alternative voices can be heard,” Huang told a press conference.

The commission will not launch its promotion program for the January elections until Sept. 15, when the official election announcement is made, Central Election Commission Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu (鄧天祐) said, adding that it would use TV commercials as well as radio and print advertisements.

The second-ballot voting system, in which voters pick the party of their choice, is used to determine 34 legislator-at-large seats. The other 73 seats are elected from single-member districts.

Only the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) were able to secure legislator-at-large seats in the 2008 elections because only parties who garner 5 percent of the vote are eligible for a seat.

The TSU obtained 3.53 percent of the vote in 2008. Between 2001 and 2007, the party held more than 10 seats in the legislature and only five of the 906 local councilors are TSU members.

Although the TSU has pledged to support DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) presidential bid and will not nominate candidates in the single-member district elections, it will try to win at least two legislator-at-large seats to avoid being marginalized.

The TSU needs help from the DPP to do so, Huang said, calling on Tsai to “at least express goodwill, recognize the TSU’s important role as a strong ally of the DPP and help the TSU to surpass the 5 percent threshold.”

The TSU could have been another People First Party (PFP), he said, referring to the KMT ally that decided to nominate its own district candidates and legislator-at-large hopefuls, a move seen as a potential threat to the KMT.

“The DPP needs the TSU more than we need it. However, we have made clear that [the TSU] will not be a spoiler in the elections, so it’s time for the DPP to demonstrate goodwill,” Huang said, without elaborating on what the DPP could do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

DPP attacks KMT over party asset claims

By Chris Wang and Mo Yan-chih / Staff Reporters
Wed, Jul 27, 2011 - Page 1

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday said claims by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) that it has placed all its party assets into a trust are false and urged it to improve transparency on the matter.

Citing the KMT’s annual financial report, DPP spokesmen told a press conference that the KMT had placed “worthless” assets into a trust and put together a team of party officials and confidantes to run its companies and gain “unreasonable profit” through insider trading.

The KMT only placed NT$2.24 million (US$77,700) — a fraction of its billions — into a trust, DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.

“If the Financial Supervisory Commission does not launch an investigation into the ‘surrogate trust’ and ‘wallpaper trust,’ we do not rule out bringing the case to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Panel,” Chen said.

The KMT took over the assets of the Japanese colonial government and countless private businesses and individuals when it took control of Taiwan, a move many of its detractors have described as outright theft. It pledged in 2005 to sell all its assets, which had made it the richest political party in the world.

However, the DPP said the KMT’s annual financial report shows it has failed to deliver on its promise.

The KMT placed the US$24 million (based on the 1949 exchange rate) in public debt issued by the nationalist government in China before it fled to Taiwan in 1949 into trust on March 26, 2001, DPP spokesman Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said.

Auditors of the KMT report said that by law, the debt could not be sold, he said, adding: “In other words, the bonds are probably as worthless as wallpaper.”

Former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) placed NT$2 billion into a trust in 2001, including the public debt and NT$13 billion in cash, Chuang said, but the cash fell to NT$2.49 million in 2005 and NT$2.23 million since 2006.

The NT$2.23 million account for an estimated 0.01 percent of the KMT’s total assets, Chuang said.

“We wonder where all that money has gone,” Chuang said, adding the KMT has been lying to Taiwanese.

Controversy surrounding the Central Investment Holding Co (中央投資), a company with a net worth of about NT$20 billion, resurfaced after data published by the Ministry of Interior on Friday showed that the company’s stock dividends accounted for almost NT$2.9 billion last year and made up more than four-fifths of the KMT’s total earnings.

KMT spokesperson Lai Su-ju (賴素如) had said on Friday that the party did put most of its assets into a trust and that it would sell Central Investment Holding Co, the last of its most controversial assets, via a transparent process.

However, DPP spokesman Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) said all seven members of the company’s board of directors were former KMT members or professionals with strong ties to the party. Auditors have listed the company, as well as its spin-off, “Hsinyutai Co” (欣裕台股份有限公司), as long-term investment projects, which means they are still run like a private company, he said.

The two companies invested NT$18 billion on the local stock market last year and received NT$2.9 billion in dividends, a 16 percent return on investment and almost double the national average return on investments last year, the DPP officials said.

Given the close connections between the company’s directors and the KMT administration and its high profit rate, it would appear the KMT has engaged in insider trading, Liang said.

Lai dismissed Liang’s allegations and insisted the party wants to sell Central Investment Co via a public bidding.

Lai said there were no full-time KMT officials left on the firm’s board of directors and that the seven KMT members who managed the company did not hold any party office.

Reiterating that the KMT would handle the sale of the company in a public and transparent process, Lai said that under former KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄), the party had put its assets into a trust fund and invited experts to handle their management.

Handling the party assets was a major promise of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) when he first became the KMT chairman in 2005. He had promised to find a final solution to the party asset issue and said the party would no longer run any businesses once the issue had been resolved.

Central Investment Co was the last piece of KMT-owned business after it sold the building housing the Policy Research and Development for NT$4.3 billion and the China Television Co, the Broadcasting Corp of China and the Central Motion Picture Co to the China Times Group for NT$9.3 billion in 2005.

The party has failed in four separate tries to sell Central Investment Co — in 2006, February 2009, June last year and in January.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

KMT still hopes to work with PFP

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter
Tue, Jul 26, 2011 - Page 1

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is still confident that collaboration with the People First Party (PFP) in next year’s presidential and legislative elections is possible, and it is willing to withdraw a lawsuit against PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to show its goodwill, the party said yesterday.

“The KMT still has high expectations and confidence of eventual pan-blue camp cooperation in the upcoming elections,” KMT Secretary-General Liao Liao-yi (廖了以) told a hastily called press conference after Soong suggested in an interview published yesterday that the PFP would break off relations with the KMT.

Soong announced on Sunday and reiterated in an interview yesterday in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that the PFP would contest seats in the legislative elections.

Soong was also quoted as saying that he was contemplating three options: To run as a district legislative candidate; to put himself on the PFP’s legislator-at-large roster; or to enter the presidential race.

Soong’s candidacy in the presidential election has been seen as a potential spoiler for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is neck-and-neck with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in most opinion polls.

The PFP’s nominations in various districts across the country — possibly more than 15 according to the party — could also jeopardize the KMT’s chances in the legislative elections.

One of the main obstacles that prevented a meeting between the two party chairmen from being organized was the lawsuit filed by King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), executive director of Ma’s campaign office, against Soong, who accused King of staging fraudulent public opinion polls during Soong’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Soong has always said that the poll results, which falsely favored then-vice president and KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰), were one of the key factors for his narrow loss to DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) by 300,000 votes.

The KMT did not consult the PFP before or during its nomination process of the 73 single-member districts, making cooperation more difficult, Soong said.

King does not rule out withdrawing the suit if both sides are able to “clear the misunderstanding,” Liao quoted King as saying, but added that King would not apologize to Soong.

The PFP chairman is still hesitant about a meeting with Ma because it could create the misconception that the PFP, as a smaller party, was trying to “blackmail” the KMT.

However, Ma has never ceased efforts to contact and communicate with Soong, instructing KMT officials to visit the PFP as early as late March, Liao said.

The PFP subsequently issued a four-point statement last night, stating that the party reaffirmed its participation in the legislative elections, but it neither wanted to “declare war” with any political party nor further engage in rhetoric about the interparty meeting.

The DPP declined to elaborate on Soong’s possible entry in the elections.

“In a democratic society, Soong’s decision should be respected [by everyone]. President Ma will probably be more suited to answer this question since Soong’s next move is expected to pose a greater impact on his campaign,” Tsai said on the sidelines of a campaign event yesterday morning.

The DPP remains confident about winning the presidential election, she said.

The DPP has been observing how the PFP situation is unfolding, Tsai’s campaign spokesperson Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said, adding that the party would neither actively contact nor initiate any arrangement with the PFP.

Ma would not be where he is today, facing a potential challenge from Soong, if he had not created this opportunity for Soong, Hsu said.

Three years after the PFP opted to collaborate with the KMT in elections, its party chairman has re-emerged with a different mindset and vision this time, Hsu said.

“Apparently, he [Soong] is not happy with Ma’s performance. He felt that he had to step up because the president only brags about his accomplishments, but is not held accountable,” Hsu said.

Military in ‘full control’ as centerline breached: MND

TWO TAKES::Lawmakers had diverging opinions on a centerline breach by Chinese fighters, some saying it was a major threat, while others said it was simply a mistake
By Chris Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporters
Tue, Jul 26, 2011 - Page 1

The military and national security apparatus was in “full control” when two Chinese Sukhoi-27 fighters crossed the centerline in the Taiwan Strait on June 29, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday.

The Chinese-language newspaper United Daily News reported that one of the two Chinese fighter aircraft had crossed the theoretical median maritime border between Taiwan and China while allegedly pursuing a U-2S high-altitude US reconnaissance aircraft.

Two Taiwanese F-16 aircraft intercepted the Su-27s, which subsequently returned to Chinese airspace, the report said.

According to the report, the U-2 was based out of a US base in Osan, South Korea, but took off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, to execute a surveillance mission.

Inquiries to a spokesperson at the US Department of Defense to confirm the presence of a U-2 aircraft near the Taiwan Strait on June 29 remained unanswered by press time yesterday.

The ministry confirmed the veracity of the report, but added that the incident was an isolated case and was not regarded as a provocative act.

The military is closely monitoring the activities of Chinese aircraft in the airspace over the Taiwan Strait, it said in a statement.

“When any emergency situation is detected, the military will immediately send the [Taiwanese] air force to the area to deliver warnings,” the statement said.

Legislators yesterday differed on the significance of the incident.

The intrusion was an act of “aggression, demonstration, provocation and unfriendliness,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said at a press conference, adding that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the ministry should file a protest with Beijing.

The act was “an infringement of our sovereignty,” DPP legislators Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) and Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said, urging Ma and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to protest.

The ministry handled the incident in accordance with standard operation procedure, Presidential Office spokesperson Fang Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said.

“With current cross-strait relations the best they have been in decades, I don’t think China sent those fighter aircraft to provoke Taiwan. It did so to warn the US against gathering intelligence along its southeastern coast,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said.

It might be acceptable for Taipei to express its displeasure to China about the incident, but lodging a protest would be unnecessary, Lin added.

“The incident was just a case that has sometimes occurred during the past decades and no armed aerial confrontation ensued,” Lin said.

Lin said he did not support the idea of Taiwan negotiating the creation of a confidence building mechanism (CBM) with China as a result of the incident.

“The time is not right for CBM talks … and that would worry the US,” he said.

“It’s not unusual for soldiers on the front line to commit such mistakes,” said KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民), a retired army general.

Shuai said Taipei should refrain from overreacting because “the centerline has always been an invisible line and the Chinese aircraft did not make their way deep into Taiwanese territory.”

“It comes down to the pilot’s behavior. Taiwanese aircraft were scrambled and the Chinese side turned back. That’s about it militarily,” he said.

If Taiwan overplays the significance of the incident, it would only stir up more trouble, Shuai said, adding that a similar situation occurred every day after former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) defined the cross-strait relationship as “state-to-state” in nature.

“It’s not necessary to demand an explanation from the mainland [China],” Shuai said.

KMT caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) said the caucus would invite ministry officials to brief lawmakers on the incident to clarify possible misunderstandings after the legislature convenes in late September.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Ma’s policies fail to develop agriculture, panelist group says

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Amid a spate of recent controversies related to agricultural development, panelists attending an agricultural forum yesterday described President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) agricultural policy as “unconcerned, incompetent and faithless.”

“Farmers feed the nation. Based on what has happened over the past three years, however, I would say that the Ma administration is unconcerned with [the state of] Taiwan’s agricultural [sector],” Lee Chin-lung (李金龍), a former Council of Agriculture (COA) chairman under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), told a forum organized by the Taiwan Brain Trust think tank.

Saying that the falling price of farm produce was “unbelievable,” Lee, a professor at National Taiwan University, added that the council was supposed to monitor agricultural prices on weekly basis and take the initiative in keeping those prices stable.

In 2004, Lee said, the DPP administration established a “95 percent mechanism,” which meant the government purchased farm produce whenever the selling price fell below 95 percent of direct production cost.

The Ma administration has failed to develop the agricultural sector, evidenced by a reduction of agricultural output and a decrease in farm household incomes, said Wu Ming-ming (吳明敏), a professor at Kainan University.

“The promotion of cross-strait agricultural exchanges and cooperation” is the only thing among the “12 pledges to farmers” in his 2008 presidential campaign that Ma has accomplished, Wu said, adding that extensive cross-strait agricultural exchanges were probably not a positive development for Taiwan.

Questions raised over leak of soldiers’ data to firms

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) yesterday said the Ministry of National Defense and other government agencies have leaked personal information about military personnel to a private human-resource firm.

Citing a report from an unnamed soldier, Huang said an inter-agency employment enhancement program leaked information about military personnel getting ready to leave the service and look for jobs without the troops’ permission, which would be a violation of the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).

Each military unit undergoes an annual performance review, and troops had to submit personal information as part of a review out of fear that “they wouldn’t receive their service discharge orders,” Huang told a press conference.

“We all understand what happens in the military. You follow orders from your superior with no questions asked, especially when it involves the performance of your unit,” Huang said. “However, this practice is a breach of human rights because secrecy of personal information is protected by law.”

The employment-enhancement program was a collaboration of the defense ministry, the National Youth Commission, the Veterans Affairs Commission and the Council of Labor Affairs to assist soon-to-be-discharged -personnel in finding a job., which won the NT$2.1 million (US$72,725) bid from the Youth Commission this year to organize the program, used the information obtained from the defense ministry’s database to send spam to soldiers, Huang said.

The Personal Information Protection Act, which was amended in May last year, states that information collected by a government agency should “be used in accordance with the scope of its job functions.”

Colonel Yen Hua-hsing (嚴華興), from the ministry’s General Staff Headquarters, told the press conference that all military personnel participated in the program, which is in its 16th year, and submitted personal data of their own free will.

However, for the first time in 16 years, personnel were able to register for the job-hunting process through the military’s closed manpower system rather than having to fill in paperwork — a time-saving move aimed at helping the troops, said Shih Jian-chu (施建矗), director of the youth commission’s Second Department.

Given the questions over the legality of transferring personnel information from the military’s database to a commercial one, Yen agreed to consider excluding the participation rate from annual performance reviews of military units. Shih said he would re-examine the program’s content to ensure it is legal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tsai says DPP now moderate, reformist

MOTHER OF REINVENTION:The DPP boss told a business group that, if elected, her administration would focus on employment and upgrading industrial infrastructure
By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will reinvent itself as a “moderate reformist” party to reassure and attract swing voters ahead of next year’s presidential election, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday.

Speaking to a group of Taiwanese businesspeople based in Southeast Asian countries, the DPP presidential candidate said the support of swing voters would be “crucial” in January’s election.

The swing vote is expected to be the main battleground between Tsai and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

While the definition of swing voters in Taiwan is still up for debate, it is true that some voters stress social stability above all else, Tsai said, adding: “And the Chinese Nationalist Party has been taking advantage of this mindset to woo the so-called ‘swing voters’ and to evade reform in the past.”

The KMT has given the public the impression it wants to duplicate the era of the president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), when the country was run by an authoritative regime to achieve social stability, she said.

“The DPP will neither refuse to change for the sole purpose of stability, nor insist on reform and forget about stability,” she said.

The DPP will be moderately reformist because, as a party better at recognizing the global situation than its rival, it is able to identify the most urgently needed reforms, she said.

A good team of experienced former government officials from the DPP’s previous administrations is already in place to advance the party’s ideology, she said.

“That means we’re determined and are able to take care of the underprivileged, one of the DPP’s core values,” she added.
Outlining what would be the priorities of her administration, if elected, Tsai said two issues stand out — providing quality jobs and upgrading industrial infrastructure.

Instead of seeking temporary solutions, such as depending on China to solve any problems as the KMT does, the DPP has always insisted on finding long-term solutions that serve the best interest of the Taiwanese, she said.

The DPP is not opposed to economic exchange with China, she said, but the exchange she has in mind is one that is practiced within a normal framework and fits with international obligations in a multilateral system.

“The exchange should not be politicized either, which is the case at the moment,” she said.

KMT, DPP spar over payouts to elderly farmers

By Shih Hsiu-chuan, Mo Yan-chih and Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporters
Thu, Jul 21, 2011 - Page 1
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday engaged in a war of words over the issue of raising the subsidies for farmers above the age of 65.

The DPP Central Standing Committee yesterday passed a resolution listing an increase in the monthly subsidy for elderly farmers from NT$6,000 to NT$7,000 as a party priority in the next legislative session.

DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said farmers’ costs had increased by 12.61 percent from 2007 to last year, while the average annual household income on farms dropped from NT$937,053 in 2007 to NT$872,668 last year.

Citing statistics from the -Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), Chen said the consumer price index (CPI) had increased by 3.62 percent from 2007 to last year.

While the government has approved a 3 percent pay raise for civil servants and an increase in the monthly welfare allowance for veterans by NT$600, elderly farmers should not be ignored, Chen said.

DPP Legislator Tsai Huang--liang (蔡煌瑯) said DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) had submitted a similar proposal, but the KMT blocked it in the Procedure Committee in the previous legislative session.

Coming to the defense of the KMT government, KMT -spokesperson Lai Su-ju (賴素如) -yesterday said that DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), when she served as vice premier, had threatened to launch a campaign to refuse to pay taxes if the KMT-dominated legislature at the time approved an increase from NT$5,000 to NT$6,000 in monthly subsidies for farmers, adding that the DPP’s current proposal to increase the subsidies contradicted Tsai’s previous stance.

“We cannot help but wonder whether the DPP changed its stance on the issue because elections are approaching. [It seems] the DPP is using the subsidy issue as an election tool,” she said.

Lai said the KMT had spared no efforts in raising subsidies for elderly farmers. When asked whether the party would consider increasing subsidies further, Lai said the KMT would evaluate the demands of farmers before making its final decision.

At a separate setting yesterday, an official who wished to remain anonymous said the Executive Yuan earlier this year did not back a proposal by some KMT lawmakers to increase monthly subsidies for elderly farmers because the plan was contingent on the nation’s fiscal situation.

“This does not mean that the government wavered from its consistent determination to take care of farmers,” the official said. “The government’s fiscal situation should be taken into consideration before a decision is made.”

The official made the remarks in response to a story by the Chinese-language China Times yesterday saying a government plan had been in place since March to grant an additional NT$1,000 in subsidies to elderly farmers.

“One of the main concerns is that the proposal might have a crowding-out effect, but we will give serious consideration to the suggestion,” the official said.

The DGBAS estimated that the proposal would require an annual budget increase of NT$8 billion.

Asked to comment, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said the proposal had been discussed at a regular meeting of top government and KMT officials.

He did not say if the meeting was in March when the government came close to a decision to give a 3 percent pay raise covering 1.25 million government employees who opted for monthly pensions, including civil servants, school teachers, military personnel, starting this month.

KMT lawmakers have offered amendments to the Temporary Statute Regarding the Welfare Pension of Senior Farmers (老年農民福利津貼暫行條例), while there was no proposal by the DPP, Wang said.

According to the statute, farmers older than 65 are entitled to a NT$6,000 monthly allowance as long as they have been insured in the Farmers’ Health Insurance program for more than six months and have not received a pension from other social insurance programs.

KMT Legislator Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) proposed the subsidy be increased to NT$10,000, rebutting DPP allegations that he made an irresponsible offer. He said the amount was based on the minimum cost of living set by the Ministry of the Interior — which was NT$14,000 in Taipei City.

President unveils agency meant to fight corruption

FEARS::To test the neutrality of the agency, DPP officials have put forward a list of 10 potential corruption cases that involve President Ma and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin
By Rich Chang and Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporters
Thu, Jul 21, 2011 - Page 1
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday vowed to rid the nation of corruption at a ceremony marking the establishment of the Agency Against Corruption (AAC), while the opposition cast doubt on the neutrality of the new agency.

“After the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Panel [SIP] revealed a serious scandal involving several Taiwan High Court judges, I decided to establish the nation’s first anti-corruption agency,” Ma told the ceremony.

The purpose of the AAC is to prevent corruption, because prevention should precede crackdowns, he said, adding that its creation should deter public servants from engaging in corrupt activities.

“As the agency investigates corruption cases, one precondition is that it must collect sufficient evidence [of corruption] before it makes an indictment [of a public servant],” Ma said, adding that this should increase the conviction rate.

Ma said public servants who find themselves under criminal investigation would see their reputation severely jeopardized. Their families would feel the impact, spouses would not want to go to work and children would be afraid to go to school, Ma said, adding that because of this, the agency must be careful and precise in how it conducts investigations.

In the early days of Transparency International, a non--governmental organization that publishes a global ranking of countries based on their level of corruption each year, Taiwan ranked No. 25, Ma said.

“Taiwan’s worst ranking was 39th place, but it has improved to 33rd place,” Ma said. “I have found that the top 10 countries in the ranking are all well-developed and highly competitive — and integrity is tantamount to competition.”

Turning to criticism that the AAC, which falls under the Ministry of Justice, does not have the power to carry out investigations against senior government bureaus and their officials and that it should have been made part of the Presidential Office or the Executive Yuan, as is the case in Singapore and Hong Kong, Ma said those fears were the result of a misunderstanding.

“Taiwanese prosecutors are only law enforcement officers who conduct criminal prosecution,” Ma said. “The AAC is headed by a number of prosecutors, so no matter where the agency is located or its level of authority, prosecutors can bring the cases to court without political pressure.”

The agency will investigate -corruption-related crimes and supervise the ethics divisions of various government agencies.

The AAC will be headquartered in Taipei and will have three branches in Taipei, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung, with a total staff of 240 people.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday said it feared the new agency could represent a “second wind for the SIP, which has become a tool for the current administration to carry out political oppression.”

“We want to know whether the agency is for real, so the DPP has collected information on 10 [potential] corruption cases involving President Ma, who served as Taipei mayor in [some of] the cases, as well as Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌),” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

In one case implicating Ma, Tsai said that during his first term as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman in 2005, Ma sold the Broadcasting Corp of China (中國廣播公司), China Television Co (中國電視公司) and Central Motion Picture Corp (中央電影公司) — all ill-gotten KMT assets — at a very low price.

Ma was also suspected of illegally rezoning land for the National Development Institute when he was Taipei mayor, as the party was in the process of selling KMT-owned property, Tsai said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Veteran advocate Koo backs Tsai’s ‘Taiwanese’ line

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Veteran Taiwan-independence advocate Koo Kwang-min (辜寬敏) yesterday backed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) campaign slogan of “I am Taiwanese,” saying that the slogan is “as simple as it can get for real Taiwanese.”

The slogan, which appears in Tsai’s first campaign commercial, has been criticized by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign as “inciting ethnic divisions.”

“Is there anything wrong with Taiwanese calling themselves Taiwanese? I would say that those who feel uncomfortable with the description are the ones who have the identity problem,” said Koo, 84, a former presidential adviser.

After Ma’s campaign staff criticized Tsai’s slogan, Ma this month wrote on his Facebook page: “I am a descendant of the Yellow Emperor in blood and I identify with Taiwan in terms of my identity. I fight for Taiwan and I am Taiwanese. In nationality, I am a Republic of China [ROC] citizen and I am the president of the ROC.”

“Based on what Ma has done [during the past three years], I wonder how many people would believe his claim of being Taiwanese,” Koo said yesterday, urging voters to support Tsai in the presidential election, which he described as a battle between the DPP and a united front of the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party.

Responding to questions about the recent controversy surrounding the DPP’s legislators-at-large roster, Koo said the list seemed “incomplete” to many people, but he refrained from criticizing Tsai, who played a key role in the compilation of the list.

Koo voiced his support for DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), who is No. 22 on the roster and outside the so-called “safe zone” of the 34-member list, saying that Chai has the best connections with the US Congress among DPP lawmakers, and thus would be a valuable asset for the party.

Koo, founder of the Taiwan Brain Trust think tank, yesterday also endorsed eight young legislative candidates nominated by the DPP.

The candidates — Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), Ho Po-wen (何博文), Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏), Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘), David Huang (黃適卓), Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) and Lai Yen-hsueh (賴燕雪) — have formed a coalition called “Our Generation” to advocate a joint effort to advance rights for the underprivileged and the disadvantaged, including women, young people, immigrants, farmers, workers and the handicapped.

TNP, groups file suit against SIP

SUBORDINATION OF PERJORY:The lawsuit accused the SIP of cutting a deal with ex-Chinatrust vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr to testify against former president Chen
By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

A group made up of 26 civic organizations yesterday sued the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Panel (SIP), accusing it of forging documents, subornation of perjury and abuse of judicial power.

Led by Taiwanese National Party (TNP) Chairman Huang Hua (黃華), the groups filed the lawsuit with the Taipei District Court against the SIP, which they said cut a deal with former -Chinatrust -Financial Holding Co (中信金控) vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) to testify against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in an attempt to imprison him.

Koo, who was involved in a scandal over Chinatrust’s bid for rival Mega Financial Holdings Co (兆豐金控) — known as the Red Fire Case (紅火案), after the name of the offshore company used to conduct the illegal transaction — returned to Taiwan in 2008 after evading an arrest warrant and hiding in Japan for two years.

The banker testified at the time that he had donated about NT$300 million (US$10.4 million) of his illegal profits to Chen, currently serving a 17-and-a-half-year term for corruption and money laundering, as a kickback.

Koo’s lawyers told the Taiwan High Court in May that Koo did not remit the money to Chen, adding that he testified out of fear of being detained upon his return to Taiwan.

Koo was released on bail after returning from Japan and was sentenced to nine years in prison in October last year.

The SIP, including former prosecutor Yueh Fang-ju (越方如) who flew to Japan to persuade Koo to return, is suspected of coercing Koo to commit perjury, Huang said.

Despite the SIP’s conclusion on July 4 that no prosecutor had abused his power in the Chen case, the civic groups decided to file the lawsuit in the interest of upholding social justice and human rights, he said.

The groups also said former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) recent indictment on charges of embezzling state funds was a “similar act of oppression against Taiwanese.”

The Lee and Chen cases were both acts of “political oppression,” Huang said.

Dozens of members of the groups chanted slogans calling for “judicial reform” and saying “Taiwanese are innocent” in front of the court.

They also urged the establishment of a jury system.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Taipei mayor urged to scrap botched exams

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Lawmakers and teachers’ representatives yesterday called on Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to scrap the controversial tri-city high-school entrance exams to avoid more trouble that could jeopardize students’ future.

The exams, used in Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung as part of the three municipalities’ single--textbook policy, sparked controversy after students complained about the school application process, which they said had “ambiguous admissions thresholds.”

The admission process created difficulties for students and parents, who have since focused their anger at the municipal governments.

The idea for the exam originated in 2007 out of “narrow-minded regionalism,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said at a forum organized by the Taiwan Brain Trust (TBT) think tank.

It was the brainchild of Hau and Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基), who at the time headed Taipei’s Department of Education, who wanted to replace the nationwide examinations and the multiple-textbook policy of the then-DPP central government, Kuan said.

The problems caused by the exams were “fundamental issues” rather than “technical” as described by Hau, she said, adding that with the national 12-year compulsory education scheduled to be implemented in 2014, if Hau refused to terminate the exams, students in the three municipalities could face four different high-school entrance systems in the five years from last year until 2014.

“We’re talking about students’ future here. How can a national exam be an experimental -project?” Kuan asked.

The tri-city exams, which were created with the aim of reducing stress for students and to be unique, have failed to accomplish their main goal, National Teachers’ Union secretary-general Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) said.

“The questions [on the tri-city exams] are not much different from the nationwide exams,” Wu said. “The experimental exams are not necessary, because we’re only two years away from the 12-year compulsory system.”

DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the party would terminate the exams if it returns to power next year and urged Wu Ching-ji to step up and resolve the controversy.

“We need to hear what New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Keelung [Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮)] have to say about the exam,” TBT chief executive officer Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said. “They haven’t spoken at all.”


NTNU drops ‘national’ in ads

ROLL OVER, BEND OVER:National Taiwan Normal University has dropped the word ‘national’ as a demonstration of ‘goodwill’ in hopes of attracting Chinese students
By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

A Taiwanese public university yesterday confirmed at a forum on cross-strait affairs that it had changed its name in an effort to attract more Chinese students, while a Chinese academic dared Taiwan to join an “experiment in democracy” in China.

National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) has made extensive efforts to attract Chinese students, who will be allowed to enroll starting in September, NTNU professor Tsai Chang-yen (蔡昌言) said at the Cross-Strait Competitiveness Forum organized by the National Competitiveness Forum think tank.

In the school’s promotional posters and application brochures in simplified Chinese, the word “national” is not included in the school name, a move to demonstrate “goodwill” to China, Tsai said as he showed the poster to the audience.

Speaking earlier, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chao Chien-ming (趙建民) attributed what he called Taiwan’s loss of national competitiveness to the “mishandling of cross-strait relations,” without elaborating.

Chao accused former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) of “taking the nation in the wrong direction since the middle of the 1990s,” about the time when Lee put political identity above economic development and everything else.

Taiwan spent too much energy on “meaningless activities” during that period, Chao said.

Meanwhile, Li Minrong (李閩榕), director of the Development Research Center under the Fujian Provincial Government, raised eyebrows, when he said that political systems can be experimental, adding that a project could be launched in Pingtan, Fujian Province, to encourage bilateral cooperation on economic affairs.

“Since Taiwan has always been proud of its democratic system, China is open to a ‘political experiment’ at Pingtan Park. We [China] dare Taiwan to join the experiment,” Li said.

Democracies in the West and the East differ in form and character because of the difference in culture and background, Li added.

National Competitiveness Forum chief executive Hsieh Ming-hui (謝明輝) focused on a potential meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

“If re-elected in January, Ma is expected to accelerate cross-strait engagement in his second term to achieve a ‘breakthrough’ in bilateral relations,” Hsieh said.

With Hu scheduled to leave office in November next year, “the best time for the two leaders to meet falls between Taiwan’s presidential election and Hu’s departure,” Hsieh said.

The Ma-Hu meeting would be a new start for cross-strait relations and a catalyst for ensuing developments, such as a peace accord or a military confidence-building mechanism, he said.

Meanwhile, in a surprise move, Wang Teng-kun (王騰坤), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University and deputy director of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) youth department, challenged Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) over his presentation earlier at the conference.

Kao’s briefing on cross-strait relations, Wang said, failed to mention how much Taiwan’s agricultural sector had suffered since the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) came into force.

In a brief response, Kao brushed off the criticism.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ma sets up agriculture task force

SUPPORTED:The COA minister said the sector has not been overlooked and that the ministry’s budget this year was proportionally higher than South Korea’s

By Chris Wang and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters
Mon, Jul 18, 2011 - Page 3

Following two days of protests on agricultural issues, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to set up a task force to resolve problems in the sector, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) criticized the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) record on the matter when it was in office.

Speaking in Changhua County, Ma said that within a week he would establish a task force and put forward solutions on the controversial Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) and the distribution of water resources, two key issues raised by thousands of farmers, academics and farmers’ rights activists on Ketagalan Boulevard over the weekend.

In a hastily called press conference yesterday morning, officials denied the government was neglecting the agricultural sector, a claim made by the DPP, which sided with the protesters and used the opportunity to criticize the government’s agricultural policy.

Despite its limited contribution to the economy — less than 2 percent of GDP — the government has not overlooked the agricultural sector, Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) said, adding that the ministry’s budget this year accounted for more than 6 percent of the national budget, higher than the 3 percent to 5 percent seen in Japan and South Korea.

The government has set up a goal of increasing Taiwan’s level of food self-sufficiency from 32 percent to 40 percent, he said.

As for water, only 1.6 percent of water for agricultural uses has been transferred to industrial sectors or for commercial use, Chen said, adding that this is only done in winter when the agricultural demand for water is lower, Chen said.

Ma, who is seeking re-election in January, has made efforts to help farmers by exploring exports to China and increasing the government’s purchase of farm produce, campaign spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.

“If [DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate] Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) opposes agricultural exports to China, she may as well make that one of the platforms of her presidential campaign,” Lee said.

Lee said there were 14 cases of supply greatly exceeding demand for agricultural produce during the DPP administration from 2000 until 2008 and at least two cases during Tsai’s tenure as vice premier from 2006 to 2007.

“Those problems were not solved at the time,” she said.

The KMT’s offensive came in the wake of meetings by Tsai with residents in three southern municipalities, during which she focused on increasing subsidies, sustainable development and a law to better protect farmers’ rights.

Capitalizing on the sit-in over the weekend, as well as recent complaints against the Ma administration by fruit farmers concerned about low prices for produce, Tsai pledged to overturn existing farming polices to make the industry more viable and sustainable.

“We need a more responsible president,” Tsai told farmers in Tainan’s Liuying District (柳營). “One that understands the needs of agricultural workers and who will stand on the same side as the people.”

Donning a straw hat and carrying a bushel of rice, Tsai said: “After all, the government’s role should be to truly take care of farmers, not just make remarks to the press,” in response to Ma’s recent comments promising to prioritize the industry.

The controversy, sparked after banana farmers in Pingtung County complained to the president about record-low fruit prices on July 9, could end up proving to be a boost to the DPP’s election chances.

The government has pledged to stabilize fruit prices, with Ma ordering the Council of Agriculture to propose an overall solution regarding water distribution, slumping produce prices and concerns about the expropriation of farmland that led to Saturday’s sit-in.

Tsai said a future DPP -administration would conduct a thorough review of public resource distribution in a manner that would help stabilize rural development and seek to make agriculture and value-added goods a new focus of the country’s economy.

“The DPP will change the old and dated idea of using agriculture to develop the industrial sector and raise the role farming plays in the national economy,” Tsai said, adding that she would support the proposed basic agricultural law bill, which aims to revitalize the sector.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DPP to take legal measures against TPPN allegations

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will take a series of legal measures against false and vicious allegations concerning DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Tsai’s campaign spokesman Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said yesterday.

Taiwan People Power News (TPPN, 台灣公論報) on Monday questioned Tsai’s relationship with an aide in a story titled “Unveiling the secret of Tsai Ing-wen’s sexual orientation.”

TPPN was founded in 1947 as an anti-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) newspaper and was re-launched in 2006 by its current publisher Wu Hsiao-tien (巫曉天), who is married to Hou Hui-hsien (侯惠仙), a member of the KMT Central Committee.

In addition, TPPN president and chief editorial writer Wang Tu-hsueh (王篤學), is the younger brother of Taiwanese entrepreneur Wang You-theng (王又曾), a former member of the KMT Central Standing Committee who fled to the US after being charged with money-laundering.

The publication’s political position has been clear since its relaunch with its staunch criticism of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the DPP, Hsu said.

While any presidential candidate should be thoroughly examined, the media is advised to focus on public issues, she said.

Meanwhile, DPP legislator-at-large candidate Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) yesterday filed a lawsuit against DPP member Tsai You-chuan (蔡有全), reporter Wu Tsu-chia (吳子嘉), political commentator Liu Yi-hung (劉益宏) and political talk show host Chang Chi-kai (張啟楷) on charges of defamation.

In a story written by Wu Tsu-chia and published on the Internet, Tsai accused Wu Ping-jui of having extramarital relationships and the story was mentioned by Liu and Chang on a talk show.

“If anyone has evidence to prove [the allegation] is true, I will commit seppuku to kill myself,” Wu Ping-jui said.

DPP slams Ma, Wu over botched exam procedures

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) should be held accountable for Taipei City’s failure to resolve controversies surrounding the tri-city high-school entrance exams, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

The exams, which are used in Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung, were held in May and last week as part of the three cities’ single-textbook policy. They sparked a furor after students complained about the application process because of “ambiguous admissions thresholds.”

The admission process created difficulties for students and parents.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) on Tuesday opened up more than 2,200 vacancies for new admissions, but refused to terminate the controversial exams, a 2007 brainchild of Hau and Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基), then-head of Taipei City’s Department of Education, to take the place of the nationwide examinations and the multiple-textbook policy of the then-DPP central government.

“Hau and Wu [Ching-ji] were spoiled by President Ma and Premier Wu and refused to stop the mistake. We think that Ma and Wu should also be responsible for the controversy,” said Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青), spokesperson of DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), adding that Tsai also called for Hau to immediately terminate the failed examinations.

Meanwhile, in related news, Tsai, in her remarks on the 12-year compulsory education system published on Tuesday, said the educational system should be “exam-free” to reduce stress for students.

Hsu said the DPP is scheduled to release its 10-year party platform, which contains a detailed policy on education, before the party national congress on Aug. 28.

A series of white papers on various issues — among them education, the environment, energy and cross-strait relations — is also scheduled to be published in September, she added.

If the DPP wins January’s presidential election, Hsu said, it is confident that it will be able to move forward the implementation of the 12-year compulsory education system, which was planned for 2014.

Too little done for victims of White Terror: activists

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

The government has done too little for victims of the White Terror era and Taiwanese tend to forget about what their forebears had to sacrifice for democracy, academics and former political prisoners said yesterday.

The government should establish a task force to explore, collect and manage information on all political cases during the White Terror era, the group said at a press conference announcing the launch of an online database of political prisoners and victims from 1945 to 1987.

The White Terror era began after the 228 Incident, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government launched a brutal military crackdown against people protesting the administration of then-executive administrator Chen Yi (陳儀). During the White Terror era, the KMT government killed tens of thousands of suspected dissidents, many intellectuals and members of the social elite.

Chang Mao-hsiung (張茂雄), 72, a former political prisoner, said that as of now, efforts by the government to explore and document details of that tragic period have been lacking.

Chang, who spent five years behind bars as a prisoner of conscience, has devoted 15 years of his life to building up a database of political cases during the White Terror era. So far, he has catalogued 12,541 persons and 3,250 cases, but these only represent a small portion and more effort is needed before the public can gain more insight into a tragic chapter of the nation’s past, he said.

Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波), a professor at National Taiwan University, who hosted the press conference, said Chang’s database and the false impression that it was Mainlanders who oppressed Taiwanese showed how little is understood about the White Terror era.

Mainlanders, 15 percent of Taiwan’s population, accounted for 41 percent of all political cases in the White Terror period, Wang said.

“That tells you Mainlanders were the victims as well,” said Wang, a pro-unification advocate. “In fact, everyone in Taiwan was a victim during those days.”

There would be no reconciliation if the truth is not revealed, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.

“Taiwan has been a divided country in terms of national identity and emotion, because everyone looks at the past through their own eyes, as we don’t know much of the truth about the past,” she said.

Citing the example of South Africa, which established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid, Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), a researcher at Academia Sinica, said he “often wondered why a rich and mature society such as Taiwan does not care about such values” because many poorer and less-developed countries had set up similar institutions to deal with issues from the past.

A large number of White Terror era files are kept in the National Archive, Wu said, but accessibility has been highly limited, showing that the government is still worried about making the files public.

Former DPP chairperson Shih Ming-teh (施明德), also a former political prisoner, said that if there was no evidence being documented, the government would be able to make up stories about the past and distort history.

“We can’t let that happen again,” he said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

DPP finalizes list of nominees for at-large positions

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday finalized its 34-member legislators-at-large list for the legislative elections in January, filling the No. 3 spot after the original nominee withdrew.

The DPP reaffirmed that the list would remain unchanged, as it hoped to put an end the criticisms that have surrounded the nominations.

The party nominated Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻), a lawyer of Hakka descent and an advocate for women’s rights, to fill the spot vacated by Cheng Su-hua (鄭素華), who withdrew her nomination because of criticism related to her previous violation of an election law.

“The meeting reaffirmed that this will be the final version of the list and it will remain unchanged,” DPP spokesperson Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said after the DPP Central Executive Committee meeting, adding that all party members and supporters were encouraged to “look forward from now on — with exactly six months left before the Jan. 14 elections.”

The last thing the DPP and its supporters want to see are the presidential and legislative elections lost because of “internal division and a lack of solidarity,” Cheng said.

Since the list was released on June 29, some academics, supporters and DPP members have criticized the nominations, saying that they failed to appropriately represent the disadvantaged, underprivileged classes and academia. The nominations also caused party infighting because several senior politicians and representatives of nongovernmental organizations were omitted.

To minimize any damage the internal strife might have caused, the DPP also announced that it had launched two investigations.

The party’s Arbitration Committee will reviews a case brought up by DPP Legislator Wang Sing-nan (王幸男), who has accused party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) of misconduct and asked him to withdraw from the legislators-at-large race, DPP Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) said.

Su added he would also convene a three-member special panel to investigate on allegation made by Tsai You-chuan (蔡有全), who has accused a number of unnamed legislator-at-large nominees based in New Taipei City (新北市) of having extramarital relationships.

Hung Chih-kun (洪智坤), a member of the DPP Central Executive Committee, who publicly voiced his displeasure over the nomination list, appeared to have toned down his words after the meeting, telling the media that he had volunteered to run for the party in one of the nine districts deemed “difficult.”

“If I were not able to represent the DPP as a legislator-at-large, I would rather throw myself into the election,” Hung said without specifying for which constituency he plans to contest.

A total of 73 single-member constituencies will be up for grabs on Jan. 14.

Meanwhile, the DPP announced that it nominated singer-turned-politician Yang Lieh (楊烈) to run in Taipei City’s first electoral district. Yang, once a popular singer, will run against the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) for the Beitou (北投)-Tianmu (天母) legislative seat.

The DPP said its national party congress, which will serve as a rally for the presidential ticket is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 28.

Panel derides lagging judicial reforms

‘LAUGHABLE’:One panelist said that while the public could ‘counter’ the executive and legislative branches with elections, the public has no recourse with the judiciary
By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Transitional justice and civil participation have been lacking from the reform process of the judicial system, which has refused to adapt during the nation’s democratization process in the past two decades, panelists said at a forum in Taipei yesterday.

Taiwan’s judicial reform has a long way to go, academics, lawyers and representatives from judicial watchdogs observed as they reviewed judicial reform in a forum organized by the Taiwan Brain Trust (TBT) think tank.

“The decay of Taiwan’s judicial system has reached the critical point where citizens can no longer tolerate it as you could see from the ‘White Rose’ movement calling for judicial reform last year,” TBT research fellow Lin Iong-sheng (林雍昇) said, adding that the current system was “laughable.”

Having long been criticized for its lack of transparency, integrity, efficiency and fairness, the judicial system has turned a blind eye to the dramatic changes which the other arms of government — the executive and legislative branches — had experienced since the nation’s democratization began in 1987 after the lifting of the 38-year-old martial law, Lin said.

While citizens are able to “counter” the executive and legislative branches with elections, they cannot do anything about the judiciary, he said, adding that any judicial reform would not be a “real” one without citizen participation.

“We asked for judiciary independence and ended up with judiciary authoritarianism,” Lin said. “If self-examination and self-discipline are out of the question [for the judiciary system], heteronomy will certainly be introduced.”

The issue of transitional justice has been overlooked in past reform attempts, said Charles Lo (羅承宗), assistant professor of financial and economic law at Chungyu Institute of Technology. Citing Germany where two-thirds of the 1,500 East German judges were stripped of their duties following Germany’s reunification for committing judicial human rights violations, Lo said there were never such approaches carried out in Taiwan.

“Political oppression disguised as judicial practices will always be there if transitional justice is not served,” Lo said.

In Taiwan, people’s distrust of the judicial system is the fundamental problem, while the lack of education of laws in the school system is another, said attorney Wellington Koo (顧立雄), a panelist at the forum.

The reform in 1999 focused on judicial independence to make sure political and outside interference would be kept at a minimum, Ku said.

However, he said, “judicial accountability” is what the White Rose movement has asked for.

That means people with power should be held accountable at all times and that promotions, evaluations and impeachment of the judiciary should be carried out by independent institutions, rather than judges themselves, Koo said.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

DPP’s Tsai offering better anti-poverty policy: group

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) fared better than her campaign rival, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), in a report card on their anti-poverty policies, a civic group said yesterday.

The evaluation by the Anti-Poverty Association (APA) gave Tsai four A’s and two B’s, while Ma, who is seeking re-election in the January presidential election, obtained two B’s and four C’s.

“It’s only natural for an opposition party to fare better in such examinations because it is the ruling party that has to carry out what it promised,” said Chien Hsi-chieh , director of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan, which is a member of the APA.

The APA, an alliance of several civic grops, met Tsai and Ma on June 28 and July 1 respectively to inquire about their policies on poverty issues, including student assistance programs, part-time jobs, debt clearance, care for the working poor and the homeless, as well as social housing.

Both campaigns submitted their written response within a week, Chien said.

Tsai, who listed wealth redistribution as one of her core policies, expressed her support for almost every category advocated by the association, Chien said.

“However, action speaks louder than words,” Chien said, adding that the DPP had to push legislation in the legislature to show its determination.

The association said it would also re-examine accomplishments by the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) before the end of the year, when it is scheduled to release a “voters’ guide” ahead of the presidential poll.

Tsai pledged to support multiple student assistance programs to help students from poor families, an amendment to Consumer Debt Clearance Regulations (消費者債務清理條例) to help credit-card borrowers restructure their debt, and more assistance and care for the homeless and the working poor — people who have regular employment, but live in relative poverty.

Tsai also agreed that part-time employment should only be a supplementary measure and that part-timers should receive the same compensation as regular workers.

Ma and officials in his administration were generally “vague” in their responses, which Chien said was “disappointing.”

Ma said that most of the ideas advocated by the APA could be resolved with current measures.

He said that as scholarships offered by various schools were sufficient to help poor students, there was no need to amend regulations.

He held the same view regarding legislation to help the homeless and the working poor.

“Homeless people have never been evicted by law enforcement officials,” he said in his response.

Kuo Ying-ching (郭盈靖), a member of the Homeless of Taiwan organization, saw things differently.

“Anyone in homeless service organizations and anyone who has witnessed what is happening on the street will tell you that is not the case,” Kuo said.

Neither candidate elaborated on their policy on family caregivers.

Ma, who received a C in this category, did not respond at all, while Tsai, who was given a B, only pledged to support the legislation, said Yuan Hui-wen (袁慧文) of the Taiwan Association of Family Caregivers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ma touts peace across the Strait

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday touted his administration’s efforts to reduce tensions across the Taiwan Strait over the past three years.

Ma, who is seeking re-election in January, told visiting Canadian members of parliament at the Presidential Office that his administration had “effectively reversed the situation across the Taiwan Strait and institutionalized cross-strait relations and reconciliation with a peaceful approach.”

Cross-strait ties, which were once characterized by “conflict and confrontation,” are now characterized by “reconciliation and consultation,” allowing bilateral engagement, trade and investment to develop “remarkably,” Ma said.

Today, 558 passenger flights cross the Strait each week, facilitating engagement between Taiwanese and Chinese and reducing the chances of cross-strait conflict, he said.

“We do not think an arms race with China is in the best interests of Taiwan or the region; that’s why we have chosen peace and rapprochement,” Ma said.

Turning to Taiwan’s relations with Canada, Ma said about 150,000 Taiwanese visit Canada each year, adding that Canada remains one of the top choices for Taiwanese students.

He said the number of Taiwanese visiting Canada would continue to grow after Ottawa offered Taiwan visa-free treatment and signed a working holiday agreement last year.

Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said in New York that US officials had expressed confidence in Ma’s “responsible” policy.

Lai, who will end her US visit tomorrow, said the so-called “1992 consensus” and the “one China, different interpretations” were an important foundation for cross-strait negotiations, but added that the government firmly believed that the “Republic of China is the only legitimate representative of China in the world.”

Additional reporting by CNA

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nationalists form party for Taiwan

EXPELLING CHINESE:The party defines ‘Chinese’ as ‘people who were born in or have lived in Taiwan for an extended period, but who identify as Chinese’
By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

The Taiwanese National Party (TNP) yesterday announced its formation in Taipei, becoming the only political party in the nation to list a referendum on self-determination and the creation of a new country as its objectives.

Huang Hua (黃華), who served four jail terms for a total of 23 years for his involvement in Taiwan’s independence movement during the Martial Law era, was voted chairman of the party. Huang served as an adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

“No one will give you an independent country as a gift. You have to earn it and that’s why we are establishing this party today,” Huang said.

About 100 independence supporters, most of them seniors, have registered as the party’s founding members. Among them, more than a dozen are retired or active university professors who used to be actively associated with the Taiwan Independence Party, otherwise known as the Taiwan Nation Party, which has lost momentum in recent years.

The party chose its founding day to remember the Taiwanese People’s Party, the first political party established by Taiwanese on July 10, 1927, during the Japanese colonial era.

The new party aims to promote Taiwanese nationalism by what it called the “Taiwan nationalism movement 2.0,” with the ultimate goal of “expelling the Chinese and safeguarding Taiwan” and the mid-term goal of holding a national referendum under international observance on Feb. 28, 2014, to determine Taiwan’s independence.

“Chinese” were defined by the party as “people who were born in or have lived in Taiwan for an extended period, but who identify [themselves] as Chinese,” Ted Lau (劉重義), mastermind of the party’s political philosophy, said in a keynote speech.

The first phase of the Taiwan nationalism movement ended last year in failure, Liu said, adding that a brand new “2.0” era would consist of actions as well as promotion and mobilization through the Internet and social media.

The TNP intends to duplicate the experience of Estonia, a former Soviet Republic that declared independence in 1991, by enlisting Taiwanese who favor the establishment of a new country, before holding a national referendum.

Liu said the party also tried to pattern itself after the Sinn Fein, a political party in Northern Ireland that supports the establishment of a new Irish Republic, and functions as part of a trinity organization, with the Taiwanese National Congress and the Taiwan Guardian Team making up the other two organizations.

“However, I think Taiwan has a mature society and mechanism, so the Taiwan Guardian Team will not be a military organization like the Irish Republican Army. It will be a grassroots organization that works for local communities instead,” Liu said.

“The road to Taiwan independence has been and will be a long and winding road,” political commentator Paul Lin (林保華), a Chinese who obtained Republic of China citizenship, said before giving the TNP his blessing.

The TNP said it would endorse Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the presidential election in January, adding that it planned to nominate candidates for the legislative election.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pro-independence supporters announce establishment of new political party

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Former national policy adviser Huang Hua, center, and others celebrate the announcement of the formation of a new political party, the Taiwanese National Party, outside the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

A group of pro-Taiwan independence supporters yesterday announced the formation of a new political party, the Taiwanese National Party (TNP, 台灣民族黨).

The party, to be officially established tomorrow, will seek independence for Taiwan through a national referendum.

A group of TNP members made the announcement on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei with the Presidential Office in the background, chanting the slogans “Long live the Taiwanese nation” and “Liberate the Taiwanese nation.”

“We are determined to resort to every possible method to achieve the eventual goal of independence for Taiwan,” said the unofficial leader of the party, Huang Hua (黃華), who used to be an adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Huang, 72, then led TNP members to the nearby 228 Peace Memorial Park and took an oath in front of the Memorial Monument that commemorates the tens of thousands of people killed during the 228 Massacre in 1947.

Huang said the party, which currently has about 100 members, mostly senior citizens, will be a grassroots movement and plans to hold open public speeches nationwide to promote Taiwanese identity and garner support for independence.

Citing the example of Estonia, a former Soviet Republic which declared independence in 1991, Huang said the party aims to enlist Taiwanese who favor the establishment of a new country, before holding a national referendum and convening a constitutional convention.

Taiwanese have the right to determine their own future, Huang said, given that the ratification of the UN Charter in 1945 after World War II placed the right of self--determination into the framework of international law and diplomacy.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government illegally occupied Taiwan and never gave Taiwanese an option in terms of their nationality, Huang said, adding that “legally speaking, Taiwanese still hold Japanese citizenship because Japan did not renounce its sovereignty over Taiwan until the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951.”

“After that, we became stateless people,” said Huang, who served four jail terms for a total of 23 years for participating in Taiwan’s independence movement.

The group of senior citizens felt that there was a need to advocate independence, which is still included in the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) platform, but it “is doing nothing about it,” said Huang, who left the DPP in 2005.

Despite the party’s endorsement of the DPP’s presidential candidate, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), in the presidential election in January, the TNP said it plans to nominate candidates for the legislative elections.

“Building a nation will help more people than building a hospital,” said Tom Yang (楊東傑), a physician who practiced in the US and organized independence groups in the 1950s.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Chinese FITs could cause problems for hospitals

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Different expectations about medical services in Taiwan and China could represent a great challenge for Taiwan with the Chinese free independent travelers (FIT) program, a cross-strait medical service provider said yesterday.

“More than a reasonable fraction of hospitalized Chinese tourists intentionally extend their stay in Taiwanese hospitals, which have long been known for top-notch medical services,” International SOS general manager Keynes Chen (陳楷植) said.

“They even invited family members and relatives to come to Taiwan and visit them in hospital so they could brag about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, most Taiwanese clients of the international healthcare and security company asked to return home as soon as possible after falling ill in China, Chen said.

Following the launch of the FIT program on June 28, an increasing number of Chinese tourists could mean more trouble for Taiwanese hospitals, which have had difficulty collecting medical bills from Chinese patients, Chen said.

Although he did not have the numbers for uncollected debt from Chinese patients, Chen said the number could be “alarming.”

The insurance coverage rate in Taiwan reaches 200 percent, which means two premiums for every citizen, Chen said. In China, the coverage rate is about 10 percent, which explains why the medical debt in China is so high, he said.

In negotiations with China, Taiwan has requested that Chinese travelers purchase overseas travel insurance to ensure medical bills will be paid if they are admitted to a hospital, Bureau of Medical Affairs Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said before the first group of FITs arrived.

However, Shih said both sides failed to reach agreement during the sixth round of negotiations between Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

Taiwan will make the request again during a working group meeting this month or next to discuss the Cross-Strait Agreement on Medical and Health Cooperation, which was signed in December.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Traffic crashes Ma’s new page

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign headquarters launched its first Facebook message application for his re-election campaign, but the system was quickly overloaded with traffic and crashed within 30 minutes of its launch.

The application, named “Early Birds,” allowed users to “punch in” every morning between 6am and 10:30am to leave messages, campaign spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said. The office is working to correct the problem, but it is unclear when the application will be relaunched, she said.

The office took over operation of Ma’s Facebook fanpage on Saturday, she said, adding that it has more than 680,000 fans.

“The ‘Early Birds’ was the first of a series of social media applications the office will launch in an attempt to reach out to young voters and Internet users,” she said.

Compared with the 2008 presidential election campaign, Ma’s team is putting more effort into boosting its Internet communications, a battleground generally seen to favor the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which began utilizing the Internet earlier than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did.

Meanwhile, DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said Ma has always tried to prove he is Web-savvy to appeal to younger voters.

However, as a national leader, Ma needs to focus on the wellbeing and livelihood of the people and development of the country rather than waking up early to check his Facebook site, Chen said.

Ma’s main challenger in the election, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), has yet to announce any major Internet activities.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Activists protest political repression in Malaysia

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

Human rights advocates yesterday protested at the Malaysian representative office in Taiwan and submitted a letter demanding an end to what they called the mass repression of pro-reform activists in the Southeast Asian country.

Led by Amnesty International (AI) Taiwan and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), the protesters urged the Malaysian government to release detained activists and respect freedom of speech and assembly for Malaysians.

Since June 24, more than 100 activists have been arrested or questioned by police over their support of an election reform rally, which was initially scheduled for Saturday by the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, also known as “Bersih 2.0,” or “clean” in Malay.

“People in Malaysia are witnessing what Taiwanese experienced 30 years ago during the White Terror period, when a democratic system did not exist and civil rights were not respected. This is why we are here today to voice out our support,” TAHR secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) said.

The civil rights advocates particularly focused on the Internal Security Act (ISA), which they said has been used as a tool for the Malaysian government to oppress activists, allowing police to detain anyone suspected of threatening national security for as long as 60 days.

“The ISA in Malaysia is like the martial law in Taiwan. Both law legalize state violence against the people, which is not right,” AI Taiwan deputy director Tony Yang (楊宗澧) said.

Under the watchful eye of dozens of Taipei police, protesters condemned the Malaysian government’s detention of activists accused of “waging war against the king” and shouted the slogans of “Shame on you, Malaysian government” and “Abolish ISA” in front of the Malaysian Friendship and Trade Center building.

Rohayu binti Md Saad, personal assistant of the office’s president, was sent to accept the letter and said the message would be relayed back to Kuala Lumpur as soon as possible.

However, she said there was no guarantee of an immediate response.

Unexpectedly attending the rally was Chua Tian-chang, a member of the Malaysian parliament and the vice president of the People’s Justice Party — the largest opposition party in Malaysia.

It has been very difficult for opposition parties and reformists to participate in politics in Malaysia, where unfair elections and dirty tactics against the opposition are the norm, the 46-year-old Chua said.

Legislators dispute gang link claim

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

Former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh’s (李遠哲) comments in a newly published book alleging that some lawmakers were supported by gangsters stirred up a ruckus in the legislature yesterday as lawmakers urged Lee to provide evidence and “name names.”

Lee was quoted in a book recently published by the independent watchdog Citizen’s Congress Watch titled Action! as saying that “many lawmakers were financed by businessmen and some were even supported by gang members.”

The 1986 Nobel Prize laureate, who led the state-funded institution as president from 1994 to 2006, said he had been advised by insiders to “go to the men behind the lawmakers” if there were problems to be solved.

Lee’s comments drew mixed reactions in the Legislative Yuan yesterday, with Legislator Chu Feng-chi (朱鳳芝) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) saying the remarks had tarnished the integrity of every lawmaker and that Lee “should name names.”

KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) described the accusations as “groundless” and “doubtful” and that they have made Lee “[just] another TV commentator,” which could hurt his credibility.

While saying it was true that some politicians with gang connections had been elected to the legislature in the past, Lin said: “I don’t see anyone in the legislature who has been [financially] supported by gangsters.”

Under the current electoral -system — a one-on-one battle in every constituency after the system was changed in 2007 from plurality voting to single-member districts — it is highly unlikely that candidates with a mafia background could be elected, he added.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said that it was inevitable that some lawmakers would come into contact with gangsters in their constituencies. However, he added that it does not mean lawmakers will be directed by gang members.

Wu urged Lee to provide concrete evidence to back up his claim.

“Otherwise, this is an unfair accusation against all legislators,” he said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲), on the other hand, -suggested that bribery, under-the-table maneuvers and lawmakers with mafia connections were nothing new in the legislature.

“I really don’t think [Lee’s comment about] legislators being financed by gangsters is surprising,” he said.

Nonetheless, Huang said, Lee, as one of the most respected academics in Taiwan, should describe in detail how he was forced to go via the “back door” in the past to move legislation and budgets in the legislature.

Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said current legislation screening has been seriously affected by rampant lobbying from various interest groups.

“At the end of the day, lawmakers should know how to avoid conflicts of interest,” she said.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Lee Teng-hui indictment is inappropriate: groups

By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

Pro-independence groups voiced support for former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday, after Lee was indicted on charges of embezzling state funds on Friday, saying that even if the handling of state funds was inappropriate, Lee should be pardoned because of the historical circumstances.

There is no evidence to indicate that Lee embezzled state funds, but even if such evidence was produced, he should be pardoned because “Taiwanese presidents have been able to use state funds at their own discretion without regulations since the era of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and -Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國),” former presidential adviser Huang Tien-lin (黃天麟) said at a joint press conference hosted by the Taiwan Republic Office.

“Presidents thereafter simply followed suit,” Huang said, adding that as the first ROC [Republic of China] president to be directly elected, Lee should be immune from prosecution and regulations on the use of state funds should not be retroactive.

The ROC is a government-in-exile and has always resorted to judicial prosecution as a tool to counter anyone considered a threat to the regime, said Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴) of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan.

“In 2000 [People First Party Chairman] James Soong (宋楚瑜) was prosecuted, followed by [former president] Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and now it’s Lee Teng-hui,” he said.

The essence of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has not changed one bit, but it has certainly “improved” its approach, Healthy Taiwan Society president Kuo Cheng-deng (郭正典) said.

“In the past, the party resorted to assassinations to deal with political opponents, now, it uses the judicial system to lock them up,” he said.

Kuo lamented what he called a “double standard” in Taiwanese politics, saying that while Lee has been indicted for misusing state funds, the issue of KMT stolen assets remained unresolved.

Judicial reform on wrong track, DPP’s Tsai says

NEXT PLEASE:Tsai said that her campaign slogan “Taiwan NEXT,” stemmed from a determination to ensure the well-being of Taiwan’s next generation
By Chris Wang / Staff Reporter

Judicial reform under the current administration is on the wrong track, because non-interference in some cases and indictments of heavyweight politicians does not constitute reform, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday.

In an interview published in the -Chinese-language United Evening News, the 54-year-old presidential hopeful talked about President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) judicial reforms, the highly publicized indictment of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) as well as her economic policies.

Judicial reforms should start with systematic changes, she said.


“If President Ma’s reforms starts with cases that have political implications, then they are heading in the wrong direction,” Tsai said.

For example, the indictment of Lee, who on Friday was charged with embezzling state funds, gives rise to certain suspicions, she said, adding that opinion polls showed most Taiwanese, particularly in southern parts of the country, felt the move was politically motivated.

Ma “talks about judicial reform and non-interference in specific cases every day, but that does not represent real reform,” she said.

As to whether the Ma administration had adhered to the principle of non-interference in specific cases, “the public will make its own judgment,” Tsai said.

Tsai said she has consistently refrained from discussing judicial cases involving former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and now Lee because real reform should focus on protecting the rights of ordinary citizens, who tend not to enjoy the support and resources available to politicians.

On rumors that she, too, is implicated in an improper use of state funds case, Tsai said that while she did receive a subsidy for her research at the time, implying she embezzled state funds was a “vicious tactic.”


A national leader should be able to generate the political will and social support to reform the judiciary as well as deal with conflicts of interest and various historical problems, Tsai said.

However, the Ma administration has deliberately shied away from making some much-needed decisions and had remained unaccountable, she said.

Meanwhile, Tsai said she was optimistic the DPP would be able to establish a “clean government,” saying the party had learned from its mistakes when it was in office from 2000 until 2008.

To label the DPP a corrupt party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) uncorrupt would be a “dumbfounding assertion,” she said, as the KMT is much richer and its integrity has continually been questioned.

On economic issues, Tsai, who played a key role in Taiwan’s negotiations with the WTO, expanded on her vision of a “globalized economy” for Taiwan.

The goal, she said, was to develop competitive sectors “with local characteristics,” such as orchid growing and the high-value-added service sector.


“Research and development can also develop into a sector of its own rather than a division controlled by private corporations,” she said, adding that the transformation of Taiwan’s industrial structure could take as long as a decade.

Explaining her campaign slogan “Taiwan NEXT,” Tsai said this stemmed from a determination to ensure the well-being of Taiwan’s next generation and the country’s development over the next 10 years.