February 2016: Taiwan Politics in Brief

Teen Singer Waves Flag, Angers China

The presidential campaign of Tsai Ing-wen got an unexpected boost when it was revealed that China was picking on little girls. Chou Tzu-yu, a 16-year-old member of the Korean pop band Twice, raised the ire of Chinese nationalists, who called her a Taiwan independence supporter when images of her waving the ROC flag began circulating on social media.

Apparently fearful that the group would be banned from performing in China, the management company for the band, JYP Entertainment, pressured the teen to make a videotaped apology that was widely broadcast. Media furor over the incident grew so strong that Tsai Ing-wen herself addressed the issue, calling the incident “a constant reminder of the importance of our country’s strength and unity to those outside our borders.”

Political analysts say the impact on the election was likely limited, but may have boosted the vote for the DPP by one or two percentage points.

Premier Leaves Ma on His Doorstep

Premier Mao Chi-kuo’s abrupt resignation following DPP victories in the presidential and legislative elections January 16 forced not quite a constitutional crisis, but at least some awkwardness for President Ma Ying-jeou in the waning weeks of his presidency. Ma initially refused to accept Mao’s resignation and even called at Mao’s home on January 17, but was left waiting at the door while Mao’s wife tried to the deflect the unwelcome visitor by telling him that her husband was out, though Mao was actually inside.

Meanwhile, Ma urged the soon-to-be incoming DPP to install its own cabinet, but President-elect Tsai Ing-wen declined on the grounds that the constitution gives that prerogative to the president. The new legislature convenes on February 1, but Tsai will not be inaugurated until May. A potential crisis was averted when Ma finally accepted the resignations of Mao and the rest of the cabinet and installed Vice Premier Simon Chang, a former Minister of Science and Technology, as the new premier. Chang then reinstated most of the cabinet ministers to their recently resigned posts, with some small changes.

Among them, National Development Council minister Duh Tyzz-jiun was named vice premier, and was replaced at the NDC by vice minister of the Mainland Affairs Council Lin Chu-chia. Tseng Ming-chung, who stepped down as chairman of the Financial Supervisory Committee to begin his term as a KMT legislator at large, is succeeded by his former vice chairman Jennifer Wang.