New Infrastructure Plan to Boost Economy
Premier Lin Chuan on March 23 unveiled a NT$880 billion (US$28.9 billion) infrastructure stimulus plan, dubbed the Forward-looking Infrastructure Program (FIP). It aims to build capacity in such sectors as the digital infrastructure, railways, renewable energy, urban-rural development, and water resources. On March 28, speaking at a station on the newly opened Taiwan Taoyuan Airport MRT line, President Tsai Ing-wen explained that the program would bolster economic development, streamline transportation links, and foster development of green technology. Railways will take a significant amount of the budget, which aims to integrate the existing rail and public transportation systems as well as build additional capacity. Tsai described the plan as including a comprehensive, convenient, and low-carbon rail network connecting Taipei, Keelung, and Taoyuan. According to Premier Lin, the projects will be paid for through tax revenues, and will include the development of solar power and other forms of renewable energy. The government said that the program was established to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs for the next three decades, and is expected to add NT$975.9 billion to Taiwan’s GDP over eight years and create up to 50,000 new jobs.
Ma Not Guilty But New Charges Await
In what has become a tradition in Taiwan of criminal charges filed against former presidents once they lose the immunity provided by the office, Ma Ying-jeou has prevailed in one criminal trial, but more are on the way. On March 28, Ma was found not guilty by the Taipei District Court of violating the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act as well as defamation charges. The case stems from a 2013 incident in which Ma allegedly leaked evidence obtained through wiretaps of an investigation into illegal lobbying between Democratic Progresssive Party (DPP) legislator Ker Chien-ming and then-Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng of the Kuomintang (KMT), after receiving information from then Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming. Ker filed the lawsuit against Ma in 2013, but had to wait for the former president to leave office before prosecutors would proceed with the case. Additional charges were filed against Ma earlier in March. The KMT is calling the charges a “witch hunt.”
Baseball Losses Spur Outrage
Chinese Taipei’s failure to win a single game in the recent World Baseball Classic tournament has prompted a petition to fire its management and reform the national organization for the sport. The Taiwan team was eliminated in the first round of the quadrennial tournament, which was held in Seoul, Korea from March 6 to 22. Taiwan has traditionally been a strong contender in international baseball competitions and at least 40,000 outraged fans have signed an online petition calling for the abolition or reorganization of the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA). Public anger rose to the point that Premier Lin Chuan called for a Cabinet-level review “to determine why the national squad did not have the best possible lineup and why players could not perform at their best.” He made the remarks at the Legislative Yuan following the team’s return to Taiwan.
CTBA is a non-governmental organization but is funded by the Sports Administration under the Ministry of Education. In response to the public anger, the government appointed Lin Te-fu, former Sports Council head during the Chen Shui-bian administration, to take over as head of the association. Lin oversaw Chinese Taipei’s participation in the 2004 Athens Olympics, among other accomplishments.
Hockey Game Ends in Brawl
Shockingly, a hockey game between fierce rivals Taiwan, playing as “Chinese Taipei,” and China ended in a bench clearing on-ice brawl. The incident reportedly started when Chinese forward Wang Ziqiao skated into a Taiwan player after the final siren in the game, which China won 4-0. A melee ensued as players from the two sides went at it, and the crowd joined in by throwing bottles and even a chair onto the ice. Members of the Chinese team had reportedly been angered by the taunts of the spectators, with many at the Taipei Annex Arena shouting for them to go back to China. As the referees tried to control the situation, Chinese players unfurled a large Chinese flag while making insulting gestures at the crowd.