Taiwan Government & International Affairs in Brief – November 2016

U.S. and Taiwan Hold TIFA Council Meeting

In early October, U.S. and Taiwan trade authorities concluded the tenth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting under the pact designed to foster trade and investment ties between the two countries. Ambassador Robert Holleyman, Deputy United States Trade Representative, and Wang Mei-hua, Taiwan’s Vice Minister of Economic Affairs, headed the two delegations, which met this year in Washington, D.C. The agenda covered a broad range of trade and investment issues important to both nations, and U.S. authorities praised Taiwan for adopting concrete measures related to intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, while Taiwan representatives highlighted their government’s efforts in lowering technical barriers to trade and enhancing transparency in trade and investment. Both sides also committed to deepening dialogue on streamlining time-to-market of medical devices, while the U.S. authorities pressed Taiwan to remove remaining barriers to the import of American beef and pork, which they asserted is a requirement for strengthening the trade relationship.

KMT Borrows Money After Assets Frozen

The recent freezing of the bank accounts of the opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), by the Cabinet’s Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee has forced party chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu to take out personal loans of up to NT$90 million (US$2.85 million) to pay party workers, according to media reports. The committee, formed following the implementation in September of the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations, froze KMT accounts containing some NT$468 million and caused the KMT to delay paying staff salaries while it sought alternative funding sources. A late-October appeal to have the funds released was rejected by the committee, and the party’s internal fundraising drive likewise fell short. By the end of October, Hung was forced to take out two loans in her own name rather than the party’s to this money from also being frozen. One of these loans for NT$45 million was reportedly from the mother of billionaire industrialist Terry Gou, the head of Foxconn, while the second lender remains anonymous.

RESOLUTE - KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu has faced down criticism over her planned trip to China and stress on the "1992 Consensus" Photo: CNA
RESOLUTE – KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu has faced down criticism over her planned trip to China and stress on the “1992 Consensus”
Photo: CNA

KMT Riven By Internal Dissent Over “One China”

Disagreements over how the KMT’s policy on the “1992 Consensus” should be defined have created controversy within the party in the lead-up to party chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu’s early November visit to China to attend a conference and meet with President Xi Jinping in his capacity as head of the Chinese Communist Party. The “1992 Consensus,” in which leaders from China and Taiwan allegedly agreed on “One China, different interpretations” as the basis for future cross-Strait interaction, is controversial in its own right, and Hung injected further controversy by advocating “One China, same interpretation” during her aborted campaign last year for the Taiwan presidency. Many KMT members consider Hung’s stance as out of touch with current sentiment in the electorate and it was a factor leading to her replacement at the top of the party ticket. Now, KMT party members have expressed concern that Hung will misrepresent the party’s policy towards the 1992 Consensus during her meeting with Xi, but both Hung and party spokesman Alex Tsai have sought to assuage any concern on that score.

Judicial Yuan Heads Receive Confirmation 

Former Grand Justice Hsu Tzong-li and Supreme Court Justice Tsai Chiung-tun were endorsed by the Legislative Yuan October 24 as president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan respectively despite protests by the opposition KMT. The president and vice president of the Judicial Yuan both automatically serve as grand justices as well, and the KMT claims that it is unconstitutional for a former grand justice to take a repeat term in this position. The 35 KMT lawmakers abstained from voting on the endorsement. Hsu promised to promote “pragmatic, in-depth and efficient” judicial reform.

Ex-Military Officers Held for Spying

Investigators on October 17 detained two retired lieutenant colonels, surnamed Lin and Pien, for questioning on suspicion of spying for China. Two other former officers are said to be under investigation. Both detained ex-officers had long been involved in highly sensitive operations under the Ministry of National Defense. Lin reportedly worked at the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology’s Systems Manufacturing Center, while Pien was with the secretive Communication Development Office, which surveils China’s military activities, including telecommunications. The two are charged with traveling to China and meeting with a major general in charge of intelligence gathering and espionage operations against Taiwan.

High-Level Officials Submit Resignation

The Presidential Office announced on October 19 that President Tsai Ing-wen had approved the resignations of Presidential Office Secretary-General Lin Bih-jaw and National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General John Young. Lin said that as the office was running smoothly, his role had been fulfilled and he was no longer needed in the position. Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Liu Chien-hsin will step in as acting chief until a permanent replacement can be found. Meanwhile, ex-Air Force Commander-in-Chief Peng Sheng-chu has been tapped to succeed Young as the NSB director-general. Peng brings wide-ranging experience in military intelligence and security operations to the role.