Asia in Review Archive (2019-2020)

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

4 August 2020

Taiwan: National Human Rights Commission established

(ef) On past Saturday, Taiwan’s National Human Rights Commission was established, tasked with reviewing complaints of abuses and discrimination, drafting and proposing a national human rights report and providing advice to government agencies on related policymaking. The setup of the Commission aims to bring national laws in line with global standards and promote human rights in Taiwan. In particular, the Paris Principles – key evaluation criteria for national human rights institutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN General Assembly – are supposed to be met and monitored. [Focus Taiwan]


4 August 2020

Taiwan: Former President Lee Teng-hui dies

(ef) Last week, former President Lee Teng-hui died aged 97. He was the first Taiwanese President elected by the popular vote and held the office from 1988 to 2000. Under his presidency decades of martial law rule ended and the groundwork for the Taiwan’s transformation from dictatorship to a full-fledged multi-party democracy was laid. Furthermore, he introduced the concept of “New Taiwanese” – meaning all islanders, no matter whether mainland born Chinese or native Taiwanese – in an attempt to forge a common sense of identity that could support the democratic political system.

Lee, who joined the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1971 and served as its chairman from 1988-2000, was mayor of Taipei and governor of Taiwan Province before becoming Vice-President in 1984.  [New York Times] [Focus Taiwan]

28 July 2020

Taiwan: Ordinary citizens to participate in criminal trials

(ef) Last week, the Legislative Yuan passed the Citizen Judges Act that mandates the participation of ordinary citizens in those criminal trials that involve offenses with a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The panel will be made up of three professional judges and six citizen judges. At least two-thirds of the nine judges will need to find the defendant guilty. The act requires the citizen judge to participate in the proceedings, unless they have a sufficient reason to not show up. Approximately 500 criminal cases will involve citizen judges each year. Despite the disagreement of the opposition, the DPP, the ruling party, pushed through this act that was proposed by President Tsai Ing-wen in her inaugural address. A survey showed that more than 70% of the citizens favored the act. [Focus Taiwan] [Focus Taiwan 2]

28 July 2020

Taiwan: National airline to be rebranded

(ef) The Taiwanese Legislature has voted to rebrand the Taiwanese airline “China Airlines” in order to strengthen national identity. In a first step, Taiwanese symbols will be monitored on the airplanes. In a second step, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications will be asked to come up with new name ideas that do not offend China but also represent the Taiwanese origin of China Airlines.

Additionally, the Legislature unanimously passed a resolution that the country’s passports should emphasize the reference to “Taiwan” in order to clearly distinguish Taiwanese citizens from Chinese citizens. The DPP, the ruling party, contended that the move should ensure the travel convenience and safety of Taiwanese citizens after the Chinese handling of COVID-19 raised a global uproar. To pursue this goal, the size or position of the word “Taiwan” should be changed on passports. [Focus Taiwan]

The legislative moves came after pro-Taiwan independence activists urged legislators to take action to ensure a clearer differentiation between Taiwan and China. [AiR No. 29, July/2020, 3]

28 July 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Defense Secretary Esper reassures US support 

(dql) US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a public speech last week reassured that the US will remain steadfast in its support of Taiwan, continue to sell weapons to Taiwan and conduct exercises in the region as Taiwan is facing an increasingly assertive China and “hundreds, if not over a thousand, missiles aimed at Taiwan.” At the same time, he confirmed that Washington would uphold its commitment to “a constructive and results-oriented relationship with China and within our defense relationship to open lines of communication and risk reduction.” [Focus Taiwan] [Military Times]

21 July 2020

Taiwan: Independence group calls for “Taiwan” passport

(dql) Pro-Taiwan independence activists urged legislators to change the country name on the Taiwanese passport and that of the nation’s flagship carrier, from “Republic of China” to “Taiwan” and from “China Airlines” to “Taiwan Airlines” respectively. The activists further argued that according to a survey 70% of the population would support theses changes. [Focus Taiwan]

21 July 2020

Taiwan: Ruling party pushes through controversial Control Yuan nominees 

(dql) For the third time in the past two weeks, Taiwanese legislators last week scuffled in parliament. This time it was over the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) approval of the controversial appointments of all 27 nominees to Control Yuan, Taiwan’s government watchdog body. 

All nominees were confirmed with the votes from the DPP, which commands 63 seats in the 113-member legislature. The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers boycotted the voting to express their continued rejection especially of the nomination of an aide of President Tsai Ing-wen as president of the Control Yuan. [Focus Taiwan]

21 July 2020

Taiwan-EU relations: Brussels urges Taipei to push for death penalty abolition

(dql) During the annual human rights talks with Taiwan, the European Union last week reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty and “called on Taiwan to reinstate a de facto moratorium and pursue a policy towards the abolition of the death penalty.”

Further topics discussed included protections for migrant workers, the protection of rights of Taiwanese detainees in the EU, as well as LGBT rights. 

14 July 2020

Cross-strait-relations: Taiwan annual military drill 

(ef) Taiwan has started its annual military drill to test combat readiness of the Taiwanese military forces. The exercise includes a simulation of an attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, in response  to the Covid-19 caused halt of cross-strait travels, China has intensified its efforts to take its reunification campaign to the virtual world and make use of live broadcasts, online conferences and video-making competitions to strengthen a sense of ancestry and ‘knowing your roots’ in order to reignite Chinese patriotism in Taiwanese hearts and minds.

However, the campaign may not have the desired, if any, effect with 27% of citizens of Taiwan currently supporting its formal independence and only 0.7 per cent wanting to reunify with the PRC. [Reuters] [New York Times]

14 July 2020

Taiwan: Opposition party calls for impeachment of Control Yuan nominee

(ef) Two weeks after the Legislative Yuan was occupied over the nomination of Chen Chu, [AiR, No. 26, June/2020, 5] the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) called for her impeachment over donation abuses. Previously, the KMT brought forth that she would lack impartiality as a member of the Control Yuan. Now, they presented the Control Yuan with a petition to investigate and impeach Chen Chu as there was new evidence of her illegal handling of funds. The vote on the nominees for the Control Yuan – one of the five branches of the government monitoring the other branches and consisting of 29 members are appointed by the president and approved by the Legislature Yuan every six years – is expected to take place this week. [Focus Taiwan]

In a latest development, members of the KMT on Tuesday blocked Chen from entering the parliament to attend a hearing resulting in a brawl between lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the KMT. [France 24]

7 July 2020

China joins Arms Trade Treaty amid continued tensions with the USA over South China Sea and Taiwan

(dql/ef) China on Monday formally joined the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, becoming the 107th country to enter into the multilateral treaty which regulates the international trade in conventional weapons and which the USA spurned last year. Referencing this move, China’s permanent representative at the UN criticized in a statement at the UN that a “[c]ertain country has quit multilateral arms control agreements and international treaties and organizations in succession, walked away from international commitments, and launched acts of unilateralism and bullying.” [AA]

The USA, meanwhile, were flexing military muscles amid high running tensions between China and the USA over the South China Sea, when two US aircraft carriers – the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz –, joined by a B 52 bomber, carried out military exercises in the South China Sea over the weekend. The exercises were conducted at the same time when China was completing its own naval exercises in the disputed region. While Washington reassured that the drills were “an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we [the US] are committed to regional security and stability”, Beijing denounced the move as “totally out of ulterior motives” and criticized it for its destabilizing effect for the region. [The Dipomat] [Stars and Stripes][Time]

Meanwhile, a draft of the Taiwan Defense Act was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, a month after the same bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate. The bill reassures that Taiwan is “a steadfast partner of the United States in the common pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region […]” and aims at ensuring the U.S. to meets its obligations towards Taiwan according to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 by requiring the US Department of Defense to take measure to guarantee that Taiwan will be able to thwart a Chinese invasion, in particular a “fait accompli” against Taiwan.

The TRA itself aims at making sure that the USA and Taiwan continue substantial de-facto diplomatic and economic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. It contains also a pledge to provide Taiwan with sufficient defense weapons and services to enable self-defense. [Focus Taiwan] [Senator Hawley, who introduced the bill to the Senate for the text of the bill]

7 July 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese war planes fly again over Taiwan

(ef) After the People’s Liberation Army of China announced last week that it would conduct a five-day military exercise in the South China Sea, a Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone. The aircraft was chased off by Taiwanese patrol planes. This incident marks the 10th time since July 9 that Chinese military planes entered Taiwan’s airspace. [Focus Taiwan]


7 July 2020

Taiwan prepared to post-Covid economic challenges

(dql) Taiwan has been worldwide hailed for its successful curbing of the Covid-19 pandemic. Liu Shih-chung at [Brookings] demonstrates how Taiwan not only overcame the coronavirus crisis, but also how due the government’s prudent policy of diversifying its businesses, industries and markets Taiwan is well prepared to remain economically strong in the post-Covid period and to “team up with the international community for a better future.”


30 June 2020

China-USA relations: Tensions high over Hong Kong and Taiwan

(dql/ef) In the latest sign of escalating tensions between China and the USA over Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, US State Secretary Pompeo on Monday announced that the USA will stop exports of defense equipment to Hong Kong, originating from the USA, and impose new restrictions on the export of dual use items to the city, a move by which Washington signals that Hong Kong no longer enjoys the special trade status with the USA. [Politico]

In an earlier Hong Kong-related move last week, Washington announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong, a move Beijing was quick to condemn and to announce to retaliate with similar visa restrictions targeting certain US individuals. [CNN] [BCC]

Meanwhile, several moves in the last week on US side further worsened already sour Sino-US relations over Taiwan. The US Army took a rare action and posted a promotional video of a joint training session of Taiwanese and US-American special forces  soldiers, showing – among others – how a mock casualty is carried by Green Berets to what appears to be Taiwanese Army helicopter as well as  a soldier carrying a Type 91 assault rifle, the Taiwanese military’s standard individual arm. [Taiwan News] [The Drive]

In response to the video footage, Chinese state-run news outlet Global Times cited Chinese experts who see the joint military exercise as proof that “it was the US and the separatist authorities on the island that first changed the status quo and provoked the mainland.” Washington and Taipei would have to “bear full responsibility” for a possible reunification by force in the future. [Global Times]

Further complicating the situation over Taiwan, three American military planes were spotted over a strategic waterway that is used by Chinese submarines while US. lawmakers have introduced the Taiwan Fellowship Act to both chamber of the US Congress. The Act aims to help US government officials obtain deepened understanding about Taiwan by offering federal government employees fellowships for taking part in an exchange program which provides opportunities to learn, live and work in Taiwan. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taipei Times]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen President announced that she will take measures to provide the regular military force with a stronger military reserve force. Measures under consideration include ensuring the reserve force having similar combat capabilities like to regular Armed Forces as well as synchronizing human and strategic resources mobilization and establishing closer cooperation between the reserve force and government bodies. [Focus Taiwan 2


30 June 2020

Taiwan: Opposition party occupies parliament

(ef) To protest against the nomination of a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as the new head of the Control Yuan – one of the five branches of the government in Taiwan which functions as an investigative agency monitoring the other branches of government – members of the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) occupied the Legislative Yuan for one day by locking doors with chains and chairs before being overwhelmed by energetic interbvention of members of the DPP. The Deputy Secretary-General of the KMT stated that the occupation was staged in order to show the disapproval of the nomination of the candidate to her policy mismanagement during her time as Taiwan’s labour minister and mayor of Kaohsiung. [Taiwan News] [Reuters]


23 June 2020

Cross-strait relations: PRC warns Taiwan against offering protection to Hong Kongers

(ef) After Taiwan announced that it would set up an office dedicated to handle humanitarian relief and care for Hong Kongers, the PRC denounced that plan of action by stating that providing humanitarian relief would “only continue to bring harm to Taiwan’s people”. The new office will begin operations on July 1, the day Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago. [Aljazeera]

The office is part of the Taiwanese relief plan for those citizens of Hong Kong who will be affected by the new national security law. The Taiwanese government will cover necessary expenses for those Hong Kongers whose freedom and safety are under threat. The office will handle applications of those seeking to stay in Taiwan for political reasons. [Straits Times]


23 June 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese Air Force enters Taiwanese air zone

(ef) Marking the seventh encounter in two weeks, Chinese Air Force jets entered the Taiwanese air defense identification zone on Monday. One of the involved jets was the H-6 bomber which is a nuclear-capable bomber. After the Chinese Air Force received warning via radio, they left the air space. [Japan Times] A legislator has stated that the spike in such encounters could be a sign that the PRC deployed jets at a base in the South China Sea or that they are engaged in extensive combat training. [Taiwan News]

The sighting took place on the same day as President Tsai Ing-wen’s overseeing of the first public test flight of an advanced home-grown jet trainer. The new AT-5 Brave Eagle is the first domestically made jet in more than three decades and was developed as part of an increase in domestic military designing. [New York Times]


16 June 2020

Taiwan: Preparations for refugee influx from Hong Kong

(ef) With the enactment of Beijing’s Hong Kong national security law expected to come soon, Taiwan has started to prepare for an influx of refugees from Hong Kong. Measures under consideration by the Tsai administration include providing a monthly allowance for living and shelter opportunities as well as the establishment of a government panel to vet applications and issue visas for studying or working in Taiwan. A particular challenge will be to detect Chinese spies pretending to be activists from Hong Kong. 

Since the protest began June last year close to 200 Hong Kong people have fled to Taiwan with around 10% of them having been granted visas. [Reuters]

16 June 2020

Taiwan-Japan relations: Fishermen protection vowed amid Japanese renaming effort

(ef) Amid the Japanese effort to rename the disputed Diaoyutai Islands [AiR No. 23, June/2020, 2] and in response to the ensuing concerns of Taiwanese fishermen over their fishing rights in the surrounding waters the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has vowed to protect those rights and reaffirmed that it expressed serious concerns to Japan over the renaming plans. [Focus Taiwan]

9 June 2020

Taiwan: Kaohsiung mayor recalled 

(ef/dql) The citizen of Kaohsiung overwhelmingly voted to recall their mayor Han Kuo-yu, the former presidential candidate of the opposition Kuomintang. Accused of dereliction of duty as mayor in the wake his presidential campaign for which he took three months leave, 97.4% of the voters decided to remove him from office.

The recall – the first ever recall of a mayor in Taiwan – reflects Han’s dramatic rise and fall as politician who managed to win for the KMT in November 2018 the mayoral election in Kaohsiung – hitherto two decades long a stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – and to become the celebrated hopeful for the presidential election which he eventually lost against President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP. [Focus Taiwan]

For a take on the recall as a major blow for the KMT which is struggling to reform itself after the dire results in the presidential and legislative elections in January see [Taiwan News], [Aljazeera].

9 June 2020

Taiwan-Japan relations: Taiwan reiterates sovereignty over Diaoyutai Islands

(ef) Following a Japanese municipality’s announcement to hold votes on changing the name of the Diaoyutai Islands, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated that the Diaoyutai Islands were “undoubtedly inherent parts of the Republic of China,” adding that any Japanese unilateral action could harm regional security and stability; thus, restraint should be exercised. [Focus Taiwan]

The Diaoyutai Islands are also known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands. They are uninhabited islands in the East China Sea and claimed by China, Taiwan, and Japan, respectively.

9 June 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese fighter jets enter Taiwan’s airspace

(dql) Chinese Su-30 fighter jets this Tuesday briefly entered Taiwan’s airspace, prompting the island’s air force to issue verbal warnings and “active responses” to drive away the intruders. [Reuters]

Beijing’s move came as Taiwan announced that its largest annual live-fire drills, the Han Kuang exercises, will be conducted in July and September with a focus on testing the country’s asymmetric capabilities to ward off hostile forces at sea and along its beaches involving all three branches of Taiwan’s military. [Focus Taiwan]

In an earlier development last week, the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s only entirely home-built aircraft carrier Shandong was performing sea trials testing weapons and equipment as well as enhancing training of the crew after it had left her home port of Dalian in late May on her maiden voyage for training since being commissioned five months ago.

While military experts consider the Shandong inferior to US Navy counterparts, she nevertheless reflects China’s rise to a regional naval power amid tensions with the USA and others over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea. [Defense News] [Asia Times]

2 June 2020

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s legislature condemns Beijing’s Hong Kong national security law resolution

(ef) Taiwan’s legislature denounced Beijing’s decision on imposing a national security law on Hong Kong with all major parties stating that the security law negates the PRC’s promise of ‘a high degree of autonomy’ in Hong Kong. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Meanwhile, civic groups have called for the establishment of an asylum system for political refugees from Hong Kong. Currently, there is no law governing the refugee policy, albeit Article 18 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs states that ‘necessary assistance’ shall be given to Hong Kong and Macau residents whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons. President Tsai Ing-wen has announced that a ‘humanitarian assistance action plan’ covering residency rights and social assistance for Hong Kongers shall be drafted. [Focus Taiwan 2 ] Article 18 has never been publicly utilized to avoid antagonizing the PRC. Whilst Taiwan has quietly extended temporary visas of many Hong Kongers, the government has not provided them with financial or other direct assistance. [The Diplomat 1]

Meanwhile, a leading PRC-official reiterated that the PRC will use its armed forces to ‘resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions’ of the Taiwanese government. The 2005 secession law [for an English version see China Embassy] allows the use of force if peaceful reunification efforts fail. However, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office assured that the preferred modus operandi remained ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘peaceful reunification’. [Aljazeera

A recent study on the Taiwanese public opinion toward Taiwan, China and Taiwan’s future can be assessed at [The Diplomat 2].

2 June 2020

Taiwan: Criminalization of adultery unconstitutional

(ef) Reversing an earlier decision of its own, the Taiwanese Constitutional Court ruled in a landmark decision that the criminalization of adultery is unconstitutional arguing that the relevant Article 239 of the Taiwanese Criminal Code which sets out that those who commit adultery shall be sentenced to prison for less than one year if the alleged victim files a complaint infringes on people’s privacy rights. [Focus Taiwan 1]

The ruling triggered mixed reactions within Taiwan’s society. While it was criticized by conservative groups for favoring sexual freedoms over loyalty on the on hand, it was celebrated by activists as a crucial step in Taiwan’s constitutional history and the promotion of marriage equality. 

According to the International Commission of Jurists, women were 20% more likely to be convicted of the charge. [Focus Taiwan 2] [New York Times]

26 May 2020

Deterrence in the Pacific: US Navy Sends Submarines to Sea 

(jk) The US Pacific Fleet Submarine Force announced that “all of its forward-deployed subs were simultaneously conducting “contingency response operations” at sea in the Western Pacific”. []

The openly announced deployment of the submarines, as well as the uptick in activities in and around the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait [e.g. The Drive] are clear signals of tensions that are continuing to increase and another sign that the US is slowly refocusing its deterrence strategy amid Chinese naval activity. 


26 May 2020

Japan calls Taiwan “extreme important partner”

(dql) Amid thawing Sino-Japanese relations, Japan in its annual foreign policy report designated Taiwan as “extreme important partner”, elevating the status as “crucial partner and an important friend” in the previous year. The report also stresses Japan’s support of Taiwan participation in the World Health Organization against resistance from China. 

Taiwan’s rise in status reflects a continued improvement of the relations between Tokyo and Taipei over the past years. Besides close economic ties, Taiwan plays an important strategic role for Japan as a bulwark against Chinese maritime ambitions. [Nikkei Asian Review]


26 May 2020

Taiwan: ‘Necessary assistance’ promised to Hong Kong citizens

(ef) In light of China’s proposal to enact security legislation that is widely seen as posing a serious threat to Hong Kong’s freedom and judicial independence, President Tsai Ing-wen promised to provide Hong Kong with ‘necessary assistance’. However, for security reasons, she said that the administration would consider invoking Article 60 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs (LRRHM). Article 60 LRRHM sets out that the LRRHM – which stipulates special rights for Hong Kong and Macao citizens – can be suspended, in whole or in part, if there is a change in the situation of Hong Kong or Macao that would endanger the Taiwan Area. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Hong Kong citizen living in Taiwan are concerned that the suspension pursuant to Article 60 LRRHM could affect their residency status. [Focus Taiwan 2] All three opposition parties proposed an amendment to the LRRHM instead. The proposed amendments would make it easier for Hong Kong’s citizens to seek political asylum, should the situation in Hong Kong get worse. Especially Article 18 LRRHM should be amended in order to provide clearer guidelines for prospective immigrants. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Currently, Article 18 LRRHM stipulates that those citizens of Hong Kong and Macao whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons shall receive necessary assistance from Taiwan. In the first four months of 2020, the number of immigrants from Hong Kong to Taiwan has increased by 150%. This is viewed as correlated to the increase of violent protests in Hong Kong. [Deutsche Welle] [Japan Times]


26 May 2020

Taiwan: President Tsai is sworn in for second term

(dql/ef) On May 20, President Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in for a second term after winning a landslide in the presidential election in January. In her inaugural address, she focused on domestic issues including sustaining economic growth in the face of the fallout of the pandemic, the establishment of a constitutional amendment committee to enhance consensus-building on constitutional reforms pertaining to state institutions and democracy as well as the creation of a National Human Rights Commission scheduled for August.

With regards to China, Tsai reiterated her readiness for dialogue with China but reasserted her ‘Taiwan independent and equal’ stance by saying that she “will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo,” adding that she hope that “the leader on the other side of the Strait will […] work with us to jointly stabilize the long-term development of cross-strait relations.” [Focus Taiwan 1: full text of inaugural speech]

Meanwhile, Tsai was criticized for her composition of the Cabinet in which only two out of 42 members of the new cabinet are women, marking the largest relative gender disparity in 30 years. At the same time women make up 41.59% of the member of the Legislative Yuan. [Focus Taiwan 2]

19 May 2020

Taiwan: Cabinet resigns en masse

(dql) Ahead of the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen for her second term this Wednesday, Taiwan’s Cabinet last week resigned en masse to pave the way for Tsai’s reshuffle. 

It is widely believed that most of the Ministers will be re-appointed to ensure stability during the pandemic period. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]

12 May 2020

Taiwan: Final confirmation of recall vote against Han

(dql) An appeal by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu to halt a planned recall vote against him has been rejected by Taiwan’s Supreme Administrative Court confirming an earlier decision of a lower court. [Focus Taiwan] [AiR No. 16, April/2020, 3]

With the recall vote now set  to take place in early June, recall campaign organizers and supporters of the recall among the pan-Green politicians have alleged that the Han administration is trying to manipulate the vote in various ways, including using the Kaohsiung police to take down campaign advertising calling for his recall while leaving up ads supportive of him and pressuring advertising firms to only allow pro-Han advertisements and to reject advertisements critical of him. [New Bloom]

12 May 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: US Senate approves pro-Taiwan bill

(dql) In a move signaling US support for Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts to boost its international standing, the US Senate unanimously passed a bill which calls for US Secretary of State to develop a strategy to enable Taiwan to regain its observer status in the World Health Organization. [Bloomberg

While US President Trump is upholding his accusations against China of covering up the origin of the coronavirus, the bill hails Taiwan as “a model contributor to global health, having provided financial and technical assistance to respond to numerous global health challenges.” [Congress, USA for the text of the bill]

In a related move New Zealand expressed its support for Taiwan obtaining the observer status, defying warnings from Beijing. [The Guardian]

Taiwan had observer status from 2009 to 2016 under then President Ma Ying-jeou and lost it in 2016 when independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party became president and refused to accept the one-China principle. Since then, Beijing has been blocking Taipei from the WHO as part of efforts isolate the island.

In an earlier move, Taiwan’s Vice President in an interview did not rule out that the coronavirus might have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, despite warning that one has “to be cautious with this finding,” but also adding his conviction that China did not provide correct numbers of victims of the pandemic. [France 24]

5 May 2020

Taiwan: Proposals for referendums on constitutional revisions/new constitution submitted

(dql) The Taiwan New Constitution Foundation (TNCF), a hard-line pro-independence group last week submitted two petitions to the Central Election Commission (CEC) proposing referendums on revising the constitution and drafting a new constitution for Taiwan, along with more than 3,000 signatures for each of the proposals which surpass the required number of signatures for the first in a three-stage process for holding a referendum. 

The two questions contained in the petitions are first, “Do you support the president in initiating a constitution reform process for the country?” and second, “Do you support the president in pushing for the establishment of a new constitution reflecting the reality of Taiwan?” [Focus Taiwan]

The proposals for the constitutional referendums and their wordings put President Tsai Ing-wen under pressure as the TNCF refers to her 2015 presidential campaign pledge to revise the constitution in accordance with Taiwan’s political reality, while at the same time Beijing was quick to warn that such referendums “will only push Taiwan towards an extremely dangerous abyss and bring an extremely serious catastrophe to Taiwanese compatriots.” [South China Morning Post] [Xingdao Global Times, in Chinese]

28 April 2020

Taiwan: Constitutional Court favors Japan’s lay judge model over Western jury system

(dql) Since 2017 legislative efforts have been underway to introduce citizens’ participation in the judiciary. 

Last week Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has presented in a document submitted to the parliament for further hearing its stance and reasons against the introduction of a jury system while expressing its preference for adopting Japan’s lay judge model under which lay judges and court judges jointly decide both the verdict and the sentencing. [Taipei Times]

28 April 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Rare inter-ministerial phone talk

(dql) In a rare move, signaling further deepening relations between Taiwan and the USA, the US health minister and his Taiwanese counterpart held a teleconference at which both sides expressed mutual gratitude for support in the context of the pandemic. While Taiwan thanked the United States for its support in pushing for the island’s participation in the World Health Organization despite China’s objections, Washington in turn thanked Taipei for sharing its Covid-19 best practices. [Reuters]

Meanwhile, the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) transited the Taiwan Strait last Friday for the second time this month. The transits come at a time when China is increasing its drills in the region in both numbers and substance. [USNI News] [Aljazeera]

In response, China scrambled air and sea patrols to track, monitor, verify, identify and expel the warship while denouncing the transits as “provocative acts” that “seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, deliberately increased regional security risks and could easily trigger an unexpected incident.” [South China Morning Post]

21 April 2020

Taiwan: Kaohsiung mayor to face recall vote 

(dql) In a historic first, Kaohsiung’s citizens will be able to decide on the fate of their Kuomintang (KMT) mayor, Han Kuo-yu, in a recall vote scheduled for June 6. The Central Election Commission (CEC) announce its decision last Friday after a last-minute legal challenge by Han to the recall motion  [AiR No. 15, April/2020, 2] was dismissed. 

Never before has such a high official been targeted with a recall vote in Taiwan. Han, who claims that the recall motion is politically motivated, unexpectedly won the mayoral election in Kaohsiung in November 2018, but he rapidly lost public support in the course of his presidential campaign due to grandiose promises and careless statements made there. In January he eventually lost the presidential election against Tsai Ing-wen by a wide margin. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]

21 April 2020

“Milk tea alliance” unites young Thai, HK and Taiwanese internet users against China

(ls) In unprecedented show of “online solidarity”, mostly young internet users from Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan have jointly rebutted what most observers considered concerted Chinese troll attacks on a Thai celebrity who had mistakenly referred to Taiwan as a country. The Diplomat recounts the events that led to the creation of the self-styled “milk tea alliance”, describing the internet’s unifying potential as opposed to bots, misinformation and media manipulation. [The Diplomat]

“This is the first transnational geopolitical Twitter war Thais have engaged in,” Prajak Kongkirati of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science said. Meanwhile, also users in the Philippines took on the respective hashtag to attack Chinese action in the disputed South China Sea. Twitter is blocked in China and only accessible for those using virtual private networks or with official approval. [Reuters]

21 April 2020

U.S. military plane spotted near Taiwan’s airspace 

(dql) A United States military reconnaissance plane was flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace last Friday. It was the ninth time U.S. military aircraft have been observed operating near Taiwan in April. [Taiwan News]


14 April 2020

Taiwan: Defeated Kuomintang presidential hope to lose in Kaohsiung mayor recall motion, too?

(dql) Only a few months after losing the presidential race against Tsai Ing-wen, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is facing another bitter political defeat. The Kaohsiung City Election Commission announced that the petition to recall him has passed the second of three stages after a total of 377.662 signatures out of 406.880 submitted were confirmed as valid. The required minimum stands at 228.134. If the Central Election Commission approves this result, a recall vote will be held within 60 days. [Taiwan News]

Han stands accused of dereliction of duty as city mayor during his presidential campaign. In January, the petitioners took the first stage. [AiR No. 3, January/2020, 3]

Meanwhile, Han’s lawyers filed an administrative litigation, requesting the court to review whether a recall vote against him should be allowed to proceed, arguing that the groups which launched the recall petition violated the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act by collection signatures long before Han had been in office for one year. [Focus Taiwan]


14 April 2020

Six US military aircraft appearances in South Taiwan in one week

(dql) Last week, AiR reported about intensified US military activities in recent months in the South China Sea. [AiR No. 14, April/2020, 1] This trend continues with six appearances of U.S. military aircraft in the same area of South Taiwan in the past week while China sent its aircraft carrier Liaoning along with five accompanying warships near Japan and Taiwan at the past weekend. [Focus Taiwan] [Stars and Stripes]

The heightened frequency of military aircraft passages in the region comes at a time when Washington is even further deepening its ties with Taipei both through legislation such as the recent TAIPEI Act and diplomatic efforts to help Taiwan to access international organizations such as the WHO. [AiR No. 14, April/2020, 1


7 April 2020

China angered by Taiwan’s mask diplomacy and US support for Taiwan

(dql) In response to Taiwan’s pledge to donate as many as 10 million surgical face masks to the USA and 11 European countries as well as 15 diplomatic allies [Focus Taiwan], Beijing warned Taipei to stay away from “political tricks” to buy support for accession to the World Health Organization from which Taiwan is excluded as China has been blocking any accession attempts. Beijing further warned that the “US and Taiwan should be reminded that if there is anyone trying to use this pandemic to play political games and hurt China’s core interests, they should be very careful.”  [South China Morning Post]

China’s warnings come amid efforts taken by the US administration and lawmakers in the USA to push for support for Taiwan’s standing in international organizations in the wake of Taipei’s widely recognized response to the pandemic such as the World Health Organization or the International Civil Aviation Organization. [The Diplomat] [East Asia Forum 1].

In an earlier move, President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 into law which provides the US Secretary of State with the power to expand, reduce, or terminate U.S. aid to countries depending on whether they improve, worsen, or sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and also calls for increased American support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations either as a member or observer. [AiR No. 13, March/2020, 5]

For an assessment of China-USA relations in the light of Covid-19 see Ryan Hass and Kevin Dong in [East Asia Forum 2] who argue that there will be more, not less, tensions between China and the USA over the pandemic while suggesting that the USA would fare better if they would “prioritise the development of an Asia strategy for dealing with China, rather than concentrating on bilateral confrontation with Beijing” as reflected by the US narrative of “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” on the causes of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Bill Clinton and one of the grand and most influential scholars in international relations and US foreign policy, criticizes both Beijing and Washington for “short-term, zero-sum approaches” to their  respective pandemic response which pays to “too little attention to international institutions and cooperation” and calls on both sides to “plan for future waves of the coronavirus and establish bilateral and multilateral frameworks to enhance collaboration.” [Project Syndicate]

7 April 2020

U.S. military aircraft fly near Taiwan

(dql) For the fourth time in March, a United States military aircraft, a submarine-hunting aircraft  was reported flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace last Tuesday, signaling intensified US military activity in the South China Sea as well as continued monitoring of the region, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. [Focus Taiwan]

For an overview of military activities of China in the Taiwan Strait China Sea in the first quarter of 2020 and the corresponding political signaling towards Taiwan and the USA see John Dotson at [The Jamestown Foundation: China Brief]. 


31 March 2020

Taiwan: Lowering voting age

(dql) The main opposition Kuomintang has submitted to the parliament a proposal to amend the Constitution to lower the voting age from currently 20 to 18 and the age of candidacy to 20 from 23. The party hopes that the reform will be completed before the 2022 local government elections.

In response, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party announced that it will come forward with an own proposal for such a constitutional amendment and set up a constitutional reform committee to deal with the matter. [Taipei Times] [Focus Taiwan]

31 March 2020

Transitional justice in Taiwan: Files on white terror political cases to be disclosed to public

(dql) Taiwan’s National Archives Administration (NAA) has received from the National Security Bureau (NSB) a total of more than 400 declassified files on 118 political cases that occurred during the white terror era in Taiwan from 1947-1987. The NAA is instructed to make the files available to the public as part of furthering the process of transitional justice in Taiwan.  

Among others, the declassification is expected to shed light on the deaths of former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung’s family members and democracy activist Chen Wen-chen. Both cases are believed to be politically motivated killings. [Taiwan News]

31 March 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Trump since TAIPEI Act into law

(dql) As widely expected, President Donald Trump last week signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 into law. The legislation aims to discourage Taiwan’s diplomatic allies from cutting ties with the island country due to pressure from Beijing. It provides the Secretary of State with the power to expand, reduce, or terminate U.S. aid to countries depending on whether they improve, worsen, or sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The law also calls for increased American support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations either as a member or observer. [Congress.Gov] [Focus Taiwan]

Beijing expressed strong objection against the move and called it an act hegemony. [South China Morning Post 1]

A day earlier, a US military vessel sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the latest sign of intensified military activity in the South China Sea in the recent years. [Aljazeera] [South China Morning Post 2]

24 March 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Trump presented TAIPEI ACT for signing into law

(dql) The U.S. Congress presented the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 to President Donald Trump for signing into law after its unanimous passage in both chambers of Congress earlier this month. The Act authorizes the U.S. State Department to consider “reducing its economic, security and diplomatic engagements with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine Taiwan” and call on the U.S. government to provide Taiwan with support to gain participation in international organizations, either as a member or an observer, and to express support for Taiwan’s international participation whenever it has discussions with China. [Focus Taiwan]

24 March 2020

Taiwan: Large-scale military exercises

(dql) Taiwan’s Armed Forces held large-scale military exercises throughout the country on Tuesday, involving eight F-16 fighter jets from Hualien Air Base conducting simulated long-range intercept missions above Taiwan. According to the Ministry of National Defense, the exercises were primarily held to test the military’s combat readiness against an all-out Chinese aerial invasion. [Taiwan News]

17 March 2020

Taiwanese jets warning off Chinese air force again 

(hg) Taiwan’s air force has again scrambled to warn off approaching Chinese jets in context of a military exercise. 

The “island encirclement” drills come amid even worsening relations due to the global corona virus threat, with both countries accusing each other of spreading fake news, and Taiwan being embittered by China blocking its access to the World Health Organization repeating experiences of the SARS outbreak 2003. [Straits Times]

10 March 2020

Transitional justice in Taiwan: New report on 228 incident released

(dql) Serving as reference for Taiwan’s government push to transitional justice, a new report on the 228 Incident, a civil uprising back in 1947 which led to a bloody government crackdown, was officially published past weekend.

The report incorporates latest historical materials including government documents that have been declassified over the past two years and touches on several issues which have been not or rarely explored so far, including role of the government intelligence agencies and the deployment of government troops in  quelling the uprising and the casualties. [Focus Taiwan]

10 March 2020

Taiwan: New KMT chairman 

(dql) In the latest development of its re-organization [AiR No. 4, January/2020, 4] following the crushing defeat in the presidential elections in January [AiR No. 2, January/2020, 2], Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has elected and sworn in Johnny Chiang, a US-educated politician and three- term lawmaker, as its new Chairman. [Focus Taiwan]

3 March 2020

Taiwan: Bill on disclosure of personal information of quarantine offenders passed

(dql) Taiwan’s parliament last week passed a bill containing a provision which allows disclosing personal information of violators of coronavirus quarantine rules.

Other provisions of the law increase the penalties to a substantial extent for breaking quarantine regulations on home quarantine or home isolation terms. Driving up the prices of supplies related to disease prevention or hoarding such supplies could be punished with prison terms of up to five years while the sentence for spreading false information regarding the virus could be imprisonment up to three years. [Focus Taiwan]

3 March 2020

Taiwan: Declassification of political archives of 228 and ‘White Terror’  

(dql) In her speech commemorating the 228 Incident, an anti-government uprising in Taiwan which was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government in 1947 [AiR No. 8, February/2020, 4], President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to further push for transitional justice and ordered the National Security Bureau to declassify political files related to 228 and the subsequent authoritarian  period of the ‘White Terror’ by end of March and to make them accessible to an investigation committee. Exempted are only a few files defined by the law as being security sensitive. [Taiwan News]

In an earlier move last week, Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission launched an online database containing curated court files of almost 10,000 victims of political persecution during the martial law period as well as names of military officers involved in the victims’ court trials. [Focus Taiwan]

25 February 2020

Taiwan: Remembering 228

(dql) Civic groups staged a march in Taipei past Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary of the so-called 228 Incident which refers to an anti-government uprising in Taiwan on February 28, 1947 that the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government violently suppressed killing thousands of civilians. [Focus Taiwan]

Taiwan’s independence movement invokes the 228 Incident as a source of its identity. For insights into the historical background and the Kuomingtang’s memory of the incident in Taiwan see [The Diplomat].

25 February 2020

Cross-strait relations: Czech companies threatened over Taiwan visit

(dql) In a latest example demonstrating China’s attempts to cut off Taiwan’s partners and international relations, Beijing has threatened to retaliate against Czech companies over a planned visit of the Czech Senate speaker Jaroslav Kubera to Taiwan. A letter by China’s embassy in Prague to the Czech president’s office contains the warning that Czech companies operating in China “will have to pay” for breaking the ‘One China Policy’. [The Diplomat]

18 February 2020

Philippines lifts travel ban on visitors from Taiwan

(jk) The Philippines has lifted a travel ban on visitors from Taiwan over fears of spreading of the Coronavirus. It had initially banned travelers from Taiwan as part of the ban of travelers from the PRC, but Taiwan had objected to this view, also in light of the fact that it has significantly less cases than the mainland. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the World Health Organization’s “mistaken designation of Taiwan and listing it as part of China’s virus area had misled the international community, causing huge problems for Taiwan’s government and people.”   [Straits Times]


11 February 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese warplanes cross median line in Taiwan Strait

(dql) Taiwan’s air force scrambled after Chinese warplanes on Monday crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait on their way to the western Pacific. While Taiwan denounced the move as threat to regional peace, reassuring that it will not bow to China’s threats, the People’s Liberation Army announced that its forces carried out the drills “to further refine and test their multi-service joint combat capabilities.”

The incident came as Taiwan’s vice-president-designate William Lai Ching-te concluded his week-long ‘private’ visit to the US. He has been considered the highest-level Taiwanese official to meet with National Security Council officials since the US switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979. [The Diplomat][Aljazeera][South China Morning Post]

28 January 2020

Taiwan: KMT reform on the way

(dql) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) last week decided to set a committee to carry out reforms of the party in four main areas, including the party’s organization, cross-Taiwan Strait narrative, finances, and youth involvement, with preliminary reform recommendations expected to be presented to the party’s Central Standing Committee by end of March. [Focus Taiwan]

The move comes two weeks after the KMT lost the presidential election and failed to meet expectations in the legislative election winning only 38 of the 113 parliamentary seats. In an earlier move, KMT’s leadership resigned en masse to take responsibility for the disappointing election results. [AiR No. 3, January/2020, 3]


21 January 2020

Taiwan: Leadership of defeated KMT resigns en masse

(dql) Taking responsibility for the main opposition Kuomintang’s defeat in the presidential election and results in the legislative election, which  failed to meet the party’s own expectations, the party’s leadership last week resigned en masse, including the party’s Chairman, Vice Chairmen, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. [Focus Taiwan 1]

In a related development, Acting Secretary-General Tseng Ming-chung announced that the KMT will undergo reform “and will come out as soon as possible with new approaches and strategies for reform.” He also said that the party will be open for views on scrapping the “1992 consensus” formula which the KMT has long advocated as a basis for interaction with China, but has now come under pressure after President Tsai Ing-wen has won the presidential election with a robust anti-1992 consensus campaign. [Focus Taiwan 2]

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has confirmed that the campaign to recall defeated KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu from his post as Kaohsiung City Mayor has cleared its first of three hurdles, securing more than the required number of signatures from eligible voters in the southern city, or 1 percent of the eligible voters in the previous mayoral election. [Taiwan News]


21 January 2020

Cross-strait relations: Tsai deepens anti-Beijing stance after reelection

(dql) Frosty cross-strait relations aren’t likely to see any improvement in the foreseeable future, following President Tsai Ing-wen’s latest statements on relations between Taiwan and China. 

In her first post-reelection interview, she reiterated her rejection of Beijing’s ‘one country, two systems’ frame for re-unification and said: “We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan, adding: “We have a separate identity and we’re a country of our own. We deserve respect from China.” [Taipei Times]

In prior move last week, Beijing responded to Tsai’s reelection and insisted on adherence to the “1992 consensus” as the pre-condition for cross-strait relations, adding that peaceful reunification and ‘one country, two systems’ were “the fundamental guideline for seeking a solution to the Taiwan question.” []

The “1992 consensus” refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government and the Chinese government, which the KMT has consistently interpreted as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging that there is only “one China” while each side is free to interpret what “China” means. However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation. 

14 January 2020

Taiwan: President Tsai reelected

(dql) Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a second term in office after a landslide victory in Saturday’s presidential election. She garnered 57.13% of the votes, compared with 38.61% for her main contender Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang. [Focus Taiwan 1]

In the simultaneously held legislative election, the DPP was able to win 61 out of the total of 113 seats, securing the party the majority in the parliament. [Taiwan News]

While Tsai, who campaigned with a strong anti-unification stance, hailed in her acceptance speech the election results for demonstrating “that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened, the Taiwanese people will shout our determination even more loudly back,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “[s]plitting the country is doomed to leave a name that will stink for eternity,” adding that the “one-China principle” will “not be affected in the slightest by a local election in Taiwan.” [Foucs Taiwan 2] [Aljazeera]

7 January 2020

Taiwan: President Tsai set to be reelected 

(dql) Final polls for the presidential election on coming Saturday indicate that President Tsai Ing-wen of will secure a second term in office as she enjoys a 45% to 29% lead over her main contender, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT). [Focus Taiwan 1]

Less probable is that Tsai’s party, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will be able to win again the majority of seats in parliament in the legislative election to take place on the same day.  Currently the DPP holds 68 out of 113 seats. [Focus Taiwan 2]

Last week, election campaigning was put on hold for a few days after eight armed forces members, including the Chief of the General Staff, were killed in a helicopter crash. Results of the investigation into the causes of the crash are expected for this week. [Reuters]

31 December 2019

Taiwan: Anti-infiltration law against China passed

(dql) Less than two weeks ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in which the relations to China play a decisive role, Taiwan’s legislature passed an anti-infiltration law to counter perceived threats from China.

The move concludes years-long efforts to combat what many in Taiwan view as Beijing’s efforts to influence politics and the democratic process by means of illicit funding of politicians and media and other underhand methods. [Reuters 1]

In November, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had initiated a renewed push for the legislation which proposes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison for requesting and engaging with external “infiltration sources” to endanger Taiwan’s political system and its democratic procedures. The main opposition party, the Kuomintang, has slammed the legislation as a politically motivated move of President Tsai Ing-wen and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to gain votes in the presidential and legislative elections. [AiR No. 48, November/2019, 4] [Reuters 2]

31 December 2019

Charting Convergence – Exploring the Intersection of the U.S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

(jk) “The United States has advanced its vision for the region through the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy, which is founded on – and aims to protect – common principles that have benefitted all countries in the region. Taiwan upholds the same principles and has a similar vision for the Indo-Pacific. To this end, Taipei is implementing the New Southbound Policy (NSP), which seeks to leverage its cultural, educational, technological, agricultural, and economic assets to strengthen Taiwan’s relations across the Indo-Pacific.”[CSIS]

24 December 2019

Taiwan: Pro- and anti-KMT presidential candidate rallies

(dql) Three weeks ahead of the presidential election in Taiwan, parallel rallies for and against Han Kuo-yu, the opposition Kuomintang’s candidate, were staged at the past weekend in the southern city of Kaohsiung where Han has been elected mayor in November 2018.

While hundreds of thousands anti-Han protestors took to the streets to demand that he withdraws his candidacy or to step down as the city’s mayor, an equally high number of demonstrators joined a parallel march to support him. [Deutsche Welle]

In a related development, leaders of ‘Wecare Kaohsiung’, the movement pushing for a recall of Han as city mayor, announced that their recall petition has passed the threshold of the necessary 22.800 signatures in the first phase and announced to quickly follow up with the second stage in which estimated 228,000 signatures would be needed before the Central Election Commission could hold a vote on recalling the Kaohsiung mayor. Han is accused of dereliction of duty towards the Kaohsiung local government as he is allegedly is preoccupied with his bid for presidency. [Focus Taiwan]

17 December 2019

Taiwan: Ruling and main opposition clash over cross-strait policy TV election debate

(dql) Less than four weeks before the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan on January 11, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) expectedly clashed over cross-strait policy in the first of a series of televised debate on Sunday in which representatives from eight political parties participated.

While both parties stressed their opposition to the ‘one country, two systems’ reunification framework proposed by China, the DPP assertively insisted on Taiwan to be recognized by China as sovereign state before dialogue with China will be possible. The KTM, meanwhile, claimed that only “1992 consensus” is the only basis for cross-strait interaction, highlighting that the KTM interprets the 1992 understanding between the then-KMT government and the Chinese government as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging there is only “one China” with each free to interpret what “China” means. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

According to the latest opinion poll released by the Taipei-based Cross-Strait Policy Association this Tuesday President Tsai Ing-wen is very likely to be re-elected as she received 56.5% support, giving her a comfortable margin of 38 percatage points against her main contender, opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential hopeful Han Kuo-yu who garnered 18.1% support. [Taiwan News]

For an account of internal and external factors responsible for Tsai’s strong position shortly before the election, including Xi Jinping’s reunification posture and rhetoric, the Hong Kong protests as well as the “difficulties and dilemmas besetting the KMT” see Yoshiyuki Ogasawara in [The Diplomat].

17 December 2019

Taiwan: Law amendment passed to boost counter-espionage 

(dql) In a move to strengthen the country’s security against espionage and infiltration activities, Taiwan’s legislature last week passed an amendment to the National Intelligence Service Act which increases jail terms for Taiwanese guilty of spying, removes the statute of limitations on the prosecution of espionage and expands the scope of counterintelligence provisions now allowing intelligence agencies to operate not only in national security and military areas but also foreign and cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, business, technology and public security. [Focus Taiwan]

The passage came a few days after a scam was uncovered involving the smuggling of over 5,000 Chinese nationals into Taiwan through fake invitation documents. Among those Chinese nationals were high-ranking Chinese government officials of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. [Taiwan News]

10 December 2019

Taiwan: Tsai likely to win presidential election

(dql) Four weeks ahead of the presidential election in Taiwan, incumbent Tsai Ing-wen is likely to win a second term according to latest polls which see her enjoying a comfortable margin of 46% of the vote for her and 31% for main contender KaoHsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu from the opposition Kuomintang. 

Tsai, who around this time a year ago was heavily criticized and even faced calls for withdrawing from running for presidency within her own Democratic Progressive Party after the crushing defeat in the local elections in 2018, was able to gain ground over the course of this year as she managed to present herself as defender of Taiwan’s democracy in the wake of China’s assertive rhetoric on unification and the ongoing Hong Kong protests. [South China Morning Post

26 November 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s ruling party proposes “Anti-Infiltration Act”

(dql) Less than two months ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has revealed its draft Anti-Infiltration Act. According to the party the bill aims to prevent foreign hostile forces from interfering in Taiwan’s political system and elections.

It proposes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a fine of over 160,000 USD for requesting “infiltration sources” defined as “organizations or institutions affiliated with the government, political parties or other political groups of a foreign hostile force, and individuals dispatched by such entities” while “hostile force” is described as  “a country or group at war with or in a military standoff with Taiwan that upholds the idea of jeopardizing the nation’s sovereignty by non-peaceful means.” [Taipei Times]

In a related development, Taiwan has detained two executives of a Hong Kong-based company accused of spying for China while at the same time probing allegations made by a Chinese asylum seeker in Australia who claims to be Chinese spy and admitted to infiltrating Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election as well as the 2018 municipal elections. [Aljazeera] [New York Times]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s legislature last week approved a special budget for the purchase of a new fleet of advanced F-16 fighter jets from the United States, allocating 8.1 billion USD over seven years from 2020 to 2026 for the purchase of 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter planes. [Focus Taiwan]

5 November 2019

PRC: Beijing extends benefits for Taiwanese weeks before Taipei election

(jk) The PRC government has announced “26 measures” that will grant Taiwanese people and businesses more equal treatment with mainlanders. The measures are designed to attract more people and business from Taiwan to the mainland but are being dismissed by the government in Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) as a mere attempt to buy political support ahead of the elections in January. A similar package, containing 31 measures, was decided upon back in March, but according to the MAC, the measures had not been executed properly.

Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, responded with a tweet, written in simplified Chinese:  “China’s Taiwan Affairs Office came out with 26 measures and last year there were 31 – it looks like there are so many measures. But we in Taiwan do not need one country, two systems, so there is really no need to be so polite. Giving your people more freedom is also good!” [Focus Taiwan, South China Morning Post]

5 November 2019

U.S.-Taiwan cyber exercises open in Taipei

(jk) Taiwan and the US are hosting a multinational security exercise in Taiwan, focussing on cyber-attacks, in particular from mainland China. In 2018, Taiwan’s public sector faced “an average of 30 million cross-border cyberattacks per month […] with about half of all the attacks [coming] from China“. The US and Taiwan have also invited other nations to join the exercise, including teams from Australia, Japan, Malaysia and the Czech Republic [Focus Taiwan].

5 November 2019

Human rights groups criticise East Asia Summit for not including human rights issues

(jk) Rights groups criticised the state of human rights protection in Southeast Asia in particular over the weekend as they pointed out that the big summits, such as the East Asia Summit, do not include official discussions or statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.

Human rights watch and other organisation expressed grave concern over the fact the Rohingya crisis, the war on drugs in the Philippines, the punishment of the LGBT community or enforced disappearances of activists were largely ignored throughout the summit. [Bangkok Post]

The Rohingya refugee crisis, although not in these terms, was mentioned at length in the final statement of the 35th ASEAN Summit however. ASEAN leaders noted their desire to

facilitate the safe, secure and dignified return displaced persons currently in Bangladesh to

Rakhine State from which they fled. [Chairman’s Statement Of The 35th ASEAN Summit] At the same time, they commended the work of AICHR, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights [for background on AICHR, see this article in CPG’s COM Online Magazine 4/2019]

22 October 2019

Taiwan builds Kamikaze drones against China

(dql) Taiwan is reportedly building suicide drones aimed at striking targets in China in the case of an attack by the People’s Liberation Army. The Chien Hsiang drone targets in particular the S-400 missile system China is acquiring from Russia. [Taiwan News]

China’s defence minister, meanwhile, declared on Monday at the Xiangshan Forum that resolving the “Taiwan question” was China’s greatest national interest, adding that no force could prevent the country’s “reunification”, while separatist activities will go nowhere. [Voice of America China, in Chinese]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: President’s message of defiance to Beijing on National Day

(dql) Hardening her anti-China stance, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in her speech on the National Day last week accused China of “challeng[ing] free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might,” adding that under these conditions “Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values.”

Tsai’s remarks come ahead of the presidential elections in January. Benefitting from the developments in Hong Kong, she is far ahead of her Kuomingtang contender Han Kuo-yu with approval rating at 41% in latest polls. [Nikkei Asian Review]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: KMT presidential Han recall petition hits first of three legal thresholds

(dql) Main opposition Kuomingtang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu is facing political pressure after a petition to recall him as Kaohsiung Mayor reached 300.000 signatures, surpassing the estimated legal threshold in the first of three stages of the recall process. [Focus Taiwan]

The petition was launched in July by the local NGOS accusing Han of neglecting his duties as the city’s mayor while pursuing his ambition to become Taiwan’s president in the upcoming elections next January.

8 October 2019

On the successes of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

(jk) At the East-West Center, several authors discuss Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy from domestic, foreign policy, and strategic perspectives. It has had success improving trade, investment, tourism and educational engagement with ASEAN countries. In his piece on Vietnam, one of the authors sums up that “after Tsai’s inauguration, Taiwan’s exports to ASEAN increased by 14.2% in 2017, and investment rose by 73.3% in 2016 from the previous years. In addition, the number of ASEAN students studying in Taiwan ranks second after China while the number of tourists from Southeast Asia rose by 29% in 2017 from the previous year as a result of the relaxation on visa policy for ASEAN nationals”. [East West Center] [A Vietnam Perspective on Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy]

8 October 2019

Taiwan set to sharpen anti-espionage law

(dql) An amendment bill to the National Intelligence Service Law containing provisions to increase the maximum penalty for espionage to a life sentence last week passed the committee stage in Taiwan’s parliament. According to the bill, penalties for intelligence officers and other government officers convicted of leaking state secrets, ranging from 10 years imprisonment to life sentence, while the statute of limitations on espionage crimes will be removed.

Under current law, the penalties cover sentences of three to 10 years for handing information over to a foreign power, and one to 12 years for working clandestinely for a foreign power. [Focus Taiwan]

1 October 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s ruling party reassures rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula

(dql) Ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan in January, in which the relationship to Taiwan is expected to play a decisive role, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed a resolution during its annual national congress Saturday, reaffirming its rejection of China’s “one country, two systems” formula which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated in his speech on the occasion of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC on Tuesday. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanhwile, China and Kiribati have established diplomatic relations, days after the Pacific island nation cut its links with Taiwan. [South China Morning Post] [AiR No. 39, September/2019, 4]

24 September 2019

Taiwan: Down to 15 allies

(dql) After the island nation of Kiribati decided to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the number of Taiwan’s allies has been reduced to 15. Kiribati’s move comes shortly after the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taipei. [Aljazeera] [AiR No. 38, September/2019, 3]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Minister confirmed on Monday Taiwan’s request to buy M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers from the USA, in a move to strengthen its defense capabilities. [Focus Taiwan]

17 September 2019

Taiwan: Taiwan’s richest person won’t run for presidency

(dql) Against widespread expectations, Terry Gou, founder of Apple supplier Foxconn and according to Forbes Taiwan’s richest person with a net worth of 7.6 billion USD announced on Monday that he will not run for presidency in 2020. [Focus Taiwan]

Following his defeat in the July primaries of the opposition Kuomintang party (KMT) it was widely believed that he would join the presidential race contending with the KMT’s candidate Han Kuo-yu and President Tsai Ing-wen from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

In an earlier move last week, Gou withdrew from the KTM, according to one of his aides, because the KMT’s “conservative, hidebound party leadership is putting their own interests ahead of their party’s, and the party’s interests ahead of the nation’s.” This move was widely seen as paving the way for his presidential bid. [Straits Times]

3 September 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan to lose another ally this week? 

(dql) The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies, has formed a team of ministers to talk to Beijing ahead of a possible switch in ties believed to be announced this week. The move would reduce the number of Taiwan’s allies to 16. The Pacific island nation, which has recognized Taiwan since 1983, would be a prized chip for China in its bid to win the allies of Taiwan over. [Taiwan News]

Meanwhile, a US Navy research vessel sailed into Taiwan waters last week, further signaling a strengthening of defense cooperation between the two unofficial allies amidst deteriorating Cross-Strait relations. [Asia Times]

The move comes after the Trump administration in August approved sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, against which Beijing announced retaliation in form of sanctions against US companies manufacturing jets. [VoA] [AiR No. 34, August/2019]

Date of AiR edition

News summary

Web links

16 July 2019

Taiwan: KMT presidential candidate elected

(dql) Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is the opposition Kuomintang’s candidate in the 2020 presidential election in Taiwan after winning the party’s primary against four other contenders.

Han, who last November unexpectedly won the mayoral race in Kaohsiung – a traditional stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) where the party had been ruling for the past 20 years – is known for being in favor of closer relations with mainland China.

With this  outcome of the KMT primary, the issue “China” will define the presidential campaign as his contender, President Tsai Ing-wen (DPP), will run a resolute independence-leaning campaign. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

For background information on Han’s career from a political nobody a few years ago to KMT’s presidential candidate see [South China Morning Post].

9 July 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan bars retired top officials from ‘political events’ backed by Beijing

(dql) Last week, Taiwan’s parliament approved an amendment to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan and the Mainland Area which bans retired high ranking officials – those above the deputy minister or major-general level – for life from attending political events organized by Beijing either on or outside the mainland.  

The amendment is the latest in a string of legislative efforts [AiR 4/6/2019] [AiR 1/6/2019] countering Beijing’s influence to protect Taiwan’s security. Critics slam it as a violation of the freedom of movement of the affected. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, the US State Department has approved a potential arms sales to Taiwan, with an estimated worth of 2.2 billion USD. The deal includes 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. [Axios]

For policy recommendations on strengthening Taiwan’s political warfare against China, see Kerry Gershaneck in [Global Taiwan] arguing that “Taiwan must invest in counter-political warfare education now to safeguard its freedom and sovereignty, along with the freedom and sovereignty of like-minded Southeast Asian nations.”

9 July 2019

Taiwan: Rally against referendum law revision

(dql) Tens of thousands took to the streets in Taipei on Sunday to protest against an amendment of the Referendum Act passed last week on behalf of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [AiR 4/6/2019]

The rally was organized by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) which accuses the DPP of eroding voters’ rights with the amendment and to misuse the revision as a strategy to win the 2020 presidential and general elections. [Focus Taiwan]

The amendment allows for national referendums to be held only every two years on the fourth Saturday of August, starting from 2021. As a consequence, future referendums will be separate from national elections which are held in even-numbered years. The rally was staged ahead of the KMT’s primaries to select the party’s candidate for the presidential race next year.

2 July 2019

Taiwan-USA relations: President Tsai transits on US soil and enhanced security cooperation

(dql) Taiwan’s government has announced that President Tsai Ing-wen will stay for four nights in the USA during her visit to Caribbean allies. In response, China has lodged a protest against Tsai’s transit plans as violation of the “One-China Principle” and urged the US government not to authorize these transits. [Nikkei Asian Review] [Taiwan News]

The US State Department defended Tsai’s transits as in line with the “One-China Principle” arguing that “[s]uch transits are undertaken out of consideration for the safety, comfort, convenience and dignity of the passenger.” [Focus Taiwan]

In an earlier move, the US Senate last week adopted provisions for enhancing defense and security cooperation between Washington and Taipei, particularly on arms sales. The provisions are part of the National Defense Authorization Act for next fiscal year, approved by the Senate last week and authorizing 750 billion USD in spending for defense programs at the Pentagon and other agencies. [The Hill]

2 July 2019

Taiwan: Amendment to Jugdes Act toughens punishments for corrupt judges

(dql) In a move aimed to toughen disciplinary action against judges committing wrongdoings, Taiwan’s legislature last week passed an amendment to the Judges Act. Under the revised act judges or grand justices of the Judicial Yuan found guilty of corruption charges or dismissed from office in a disciplinary action, must now return to the state coffer the salary they have received during the period of time they are suspended from duties pending an investigation. In addition, the pension and retirement allowance of retired judges or grand justices convicted of corruption will be revoked. [Focus Taiwan]

18 June 2019

Taiwan: President Tsai wins DPP primary poll, KMT hopeful Han rejects “one country, two system” unification formula

(dql) President Tsai Ing-wen is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate for the presidential race next year, defeating her contender former Premier William Lai Ching-te in the party’s in a fiercely fought primary last week. [Taiwan News]

Meanwhile, the main opposition Kuomintang’s Kao-hsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, likely to win the KMT’s primary in July to become Tsai’s contender for presidency, is trying to disperse claims made by the DPP and other political opponents that he is too Beijing-friendly citing his visits to Beijing’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau in March where he signed trade deals. In a latest rally last Saturday, allegedly attended by more than 120.000 supporters, he asserted his resolute rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two system” unification formula vowing that this formula “will never be carried out” if he was given the opportunity to lead Taiwan as president.” [Focus Taiwan]

11 June 2019

Taiwan: Freedom of press best in East Asia, Freedom House says

(dql) According to the Freedom House report “Freedom and the Media: A Downward Spiral” released last week, Taiwan has the highest level of press freedom in East Asia receiving the best score of four, along with only 35 other countries among 195 assessed in the report. [Taipei Times]

The report acknowledges in its key findings that “[f]reedom of the media has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade” and that “[i]n some of the most influential democracies in the world, populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector.” [Freedom House]

11 June 2019

Taiwan: Ruling DPP’s primary kicked off, KMT contenders announced

(dql) On Monday, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s nomination for the presidential election 2020 kicked off. Until Friday, public opinion polls will be conducted to select the party’s candidate for the presidential election in January 2020. 

On Saturday, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and her contender former Premier Lai Ching-te presented policies and visions for Taiwan under their respective potential presidency at the sole televised debate prior to the primary. Key issues debated included the country’s economy, social welfare, national sovereignty and cross-strait relations on which both contenders’ proposals resembled each other. In particular, with regards to the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty both fiercely rejected the “one country, two systems” model, that Beijing is adhering to as unification formula, and stressed that Taiwan’s future should be decided by its people. [Focus Taiwan 1] [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) last week announced five contenders for the party’s presidential nominee, including former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, former Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei, National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung, billionaire Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.

With the latter’s campaign rally on Saturday attended by more than 150.000 supporters, observers believe the KMT’s race for the presidential candidate to be a heated one, in particular between the outspoken Beijing-friendly Han and Gou, Taiwan’s wealthiest man, who has pledged to balance Taiwan’s relationship with both the United States and China.

The KMT’s public opinion polls to select the presidential candidate will be conducted nationwide from July 5-15, with the results to be released July 16 and candidate announced on the following day. [Focus Taiwan 2][Taiwan News] [Straits Times]

4 June 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s military exercises prepare for invasion from China, bill on national referendum on future agreements between Taiwan and China passed

(dql) Last week Taiwan’s military conducted major military exercises simulating an invading Chinese force and involving air, sea and land forces. The drills included fighter jets launching strikes and warships opening fire to destroy an enemy landing on the beachhead as well as jets practicing landing on the country’s main highways while air-raid drills brought its major cities to a standstill. Over 3,000 soldiers took part in the live-fire drill in the southern county of Pingtung. [DW]

Meanwhile, earlier last week, Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill to amend the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, according to which any potential political agreement  with China will require not only the approval of lawmakers, but will also need to pass a national referendum before it can be signed and can be signed and put into effect. [Focus Taiwan] 

4 June 2019

Taiwan: Polling method at presidential primary of ruling DPP decided

(dql) After a weeks-long internal dispute within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over a change of the polling process to select the presidential candidate at the party’s primary [AiR 3/5/2019], the DPP’s Central Executive Committee last week finally reached a decision, according to which landline and cell phone samples will each make up 50-percent in the party’s presidential primary poll, scheduled for the period between June 10-14. Earlier in March the DPP had decided that only landline phone calls would be used to count the nationwide poll for its presidential primary. [Focus Taiwan]

William Lai, challenger of President Tsai Ing-wen, who had been rejecting a change of the polling method, expressed strong dissatisfaction with the decision, saying that changing the rule in the middle of the game has not only damage the primary, but also the entire reputation of the party, alluding to foul play in favor of President Tsai. [Taiwan News]

28 May 2019

Taiwan-USA relations: Taiwan and U.S. National Security chiefs meet for first time since 1979

(dql) Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday confirmed that Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met White House national security adviser John Bolton earlier this month during the former’s visit to the US from 13-21 May to deepen cooperation. It was the first meeting between senior Taiwanese and US security officials since 1979 when both sides ended formal diplomatic relations. [Reuters]

Beijing expressed strong objections against this move and urged Washington to stop “having official exchanges or upgrading substantive relations with Taiwan.” [CNN]

Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen announced last Friday that Taiwan has begun to construct three stealthy missile corvettes and four minelayers in an attempt to improve its asymmetric warfare capabilities amid a surge in tensions in Cross-Strait relations. [The Drive]

28 May 2019

Taiwan: First Same-Sex couples marry 

(dql) In a historic first for Asia, last week on Friday a total of 526 same-sex couples registered for marriage, a week after Taiwan’s parliament legalized same-sex marriage on 17 May.

Gender equality advocacy groups, however, cautioned that much work still lies ahead arguing that the new law doesn’t permit the adoption of non-biological children by same-sex couples, and also doesn’t allow same-sex couples from marrying in Taiwan in cases where one party is from a country in which gay marriage is illegal. [Taiwan News] [Quartz]

28 May 2019

Taiwan: DPP race for presidential candidate getting nasty

(dql) The race within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the presidential candidate 2020 between President Tsai Ing-wen and her contender, former Premier Lai Ching-te, is heating up with both sides accusing each other of lying. While Lai accused the Tsai election campaign team of spreading lies by claiming he had told Tsai that he would not run for presidency, Tsai’s campaign manager accused Lai of not telling the truth in this matter as well as of disrespecting the party’s internal democratic mechanisms after Lai demanded a clean primary and sticking to the party’s established procedures and rules of primary polling. Alluding to efforts on the side of the Tsai camp to change election rules at the primary, which the Lai camp views as foul play to favor Tsai, Lai said: “Anyone who wants to win must do so cleanly. If that does not happen, I’m afraid there will be no way to unite the party, or heal the divisions in society.” Lai, however, also insisted that he would not quit the DPP to run as an independent. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News] [Taipei Times]

19 March 2019

Taiwan: Former Premier registers for DPP presidential primary

(dql) Former Premier Lai Ching-te, who resigned from his post in the wake of the major defeat of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) in the local elections in November last year, registered Monday to seek the nomination of the DDP as its candidate in the 2020 presidential election, running against President Tsai Ing-wen who recently announced to run for president next year. Lai, former mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, is believed to receive strong support in southern Taiwan, a traditional DPP stronghold.

Countering questions whether his move would may cause intra-party divisions, Lai argued that the DPP has a democratic primary process that will not be divisive. He also stressed that his decision to compete in the primary was not based personal reasons, but on support from the party members at grass-root level. [Focus Taiwan][Bloomberg]