August 2016: Taiwan Life in Brief

ATM HEIST — An East European suspect was arrested for being part of a gang that pulled off a string of ATM heists. (Photo: CNA)

Domestic ATM Heist At First Bank

An international crime ring made up of Eastern European and Russian nationals made off with NT$83 million (equivalent to US$$2.6 million) removed from 34 of the First Commercial Bank’s automatic teller machines around Taiwan on July 9 and 10. The heist was carried out by using malware to make the ATMs dispense cash automatically. As of press time, around NT$60 million dollars of the stolen funds had been recovered and three suspects arrested. Another 13 suspects are believed to have already fled the country. President Tsai has praised the police force for their quick work in finding the criminals and recovering the money.

Tang Prize Winners Announced for 2016

The 2016 winners of the Tang Prize were announced in June. Canadian Louise Arbour won in the Rule of Law category for her work in international criminal justice. William Theodore de Bary, a 97-year-old professor and provost emeritus at Columbia University, won the prize for Sinology. His work focuses on Confucianism and promoting understanding between East and West. In the category of Biopharmaceutical Science, there were three winners: French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, American geneticist Jennifer Doudna, and Chinese-American biologist Feng Zhang, all of whom are credited with making substantial contributions to the genetic editing technique called CRISPR. The last category, Sustainable Development, was won by American physicist Arthur Rosenfeld. The prize money for each category is US$1.24 million, with another US$311,000 given as a research grant. The Tang Prizes, established by entrepreneur Samuel Yin call attention to issues faced by the world today, are given out every two years. The first awards were made in 2014.

Navy Under Fire For Missile Mishap

An accident that sent a Taiwanese missile flying towards China ended with a Taiwanese fisherman dead and two others injured on the morning of July 9. The missile was mistakenly fired during a simulation drill when an unsupervised petty officer put the system on combat mode instead of training mode. The missile’s launch raised many questions, including why it was not destroyed during its two-minute flight and whether the incident will raise tensions with China. The opposition Kuomintang demanded that Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan take responsibility for the launch and criticized President Tsai Ing-wen for not convening a national security meeting immediately after her return from her trip to Latin America to address the matter.

Bus Fire Kills 24 Chinese Tourists

BUS FIRE CARNAGE — 24 Chinese tourists and two Taiwanese were killed when the tour bus they were on burst into flames under mysterious circumstances. (Photo: CNA)
BUS FIRE CARNAGE — 24 Chinese tourists and two Taiwanese were killed when the tour bus they were on burst into flames under mysterious circumstances. (Photo: CNA)

Twenty-four Chinese tourists and their Taiwanese tour guide and bus driver perished after their tour bus burst into flames on July 19 on Taiwan’s National Freeway No. 2 en route to Taiwan Taoyuan Airport for the tourists’ flight home. The driver, Su Ming-cheng, apparently continued to drive for over one kilometer while the bus was spewing smoke. Initial reports focused on possible problems with the bus’s electrical system and emergency exit doors. But attention later turned to the five bottles of gasoline found on the bus, in clear violation of laws forbidding the transport of flammable liquids on a bus – and especially odd considering the bus was diesel-powered. It also emerged that Su reportedly had recently been convicted of rape and sentenced to a five-year prison term. The incident raised the possibility that concern in China over the safety of travel in Taiwan would further discourage tourism to the island. The number of visitors from the mainland had already been in decline, apparently due to political factors.