Taiwan Life in Brief – August 2017

HISTORIC RULING — Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lu Tai-lang informs the media about the Council of Grand Justices interpretation that opens the door to single-sex marriage in Taiwan. Photo: CNA

High Court Supports Marriage Equality

In a landmark ruling on May 24 that made headlines around the world, Taiwan’s Council of Grand Justices found that Taiwan’s Civil Code violated constitutional rights of freedom of marriage and equality by defining marriage only as an agreement between a man and a woman. The court instructed the government to begin crafting the requisite regulations to codify gay marriage in Taiwan. The decision, which follows years of activism by gay rights and human rights organizations, will make Taiwan the first East Asian country to implement marriage equality. The government was given two years to implement the ruling. If it has not done so within that time, the Judicial Yuan has stated that gay couples will automatically have the right to register their unions with household registration offices.

Infrastructure Plan Passes Review

The Forward Looking Infrastructure Development Project, the Tsai administration’s keynote economic stimulus and development project, passed the Legislative Yuan July 5 following the halving of its budget from NT$880 billion (US$29 billion) to NT$420 billion (US$13.85 billion) and its duration from eight to four years. The plan is aimed at spurring development in a range of sectors, including rail transportation, water resources, urban and rural development, digital economy, and green energy, as well as helping the society to deal with issues related to food safety and low birthrates and generating jobs. The size of the plan was reduced by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) due to concerns raised by opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislators, as well as some economists and business leaders, that the original scope was too big and lacked sufficient detail. The specifics of the budget are now being hammered out in an extraordinary session of the legislature, leading to brawls between ruling and opposition party legislators over where the monies should be allocated.

LEGISLATIVE PROTEST — KMT lawmakers raising objections to the budget for the Forward Looking Infrastructure Development Budget hold placards with such slogans as “This Session is Invalid.” Photo: CNA

Causeway Bay Books to Reopen in Taipei

Lam Wing-kee, former owner of the Causeway Bay Bookstore in Hong Kong who was seized by Chinese authorities in late 2015 and held for months on charges related to overthrowing the government, said that he would reopen the bookstore in Taiwan. The store specializes in books critical of the Chinese government.

Lam said that the bookstore would initially be supported by independence activists from Hong Kong who preferred to remain anonymous until it was established.

Kuomintang Remains the Richest Party

A Ministry of Interior report released July 16 noted that the KMT remains Taiwan’s wealthiest political party by a long stretch, with reported assets valued at NT$18.1 billion (US$595 million), compared to only NT$700 million (US$23 million) for the DPP and NT$20 million for the New Power Party (NPP). The reporting of assets, income, and expenditures is mandated by the Guidelines for the Financial Declarations of Political Parties and Political Organizations. The details are expected to be posted on the Ministry’s website in August. Reportedly several major assets reported by the KMT have also been targeted by the Ill-Gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.

Worshippers Incensed Over Incense Rumor

An estimated 50,000 Daoist worshippers gathered in front of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall on July 23 to join what was initially described by organizers as a protest against government intrusion into religious practices, but later referred to as a “religious carnival.” The rally was sparked by internet rumors that an Environmental Protection Administration initiative to reduce the burning of incense and joss paper and the use of firecrackers to protect air quality was the first phase of a total ban. The government denied the rumors and President Tsai criticized THE Ministry of Interior for failing to quell the rumors promptly. Believers were joined by thousands of temple staff carrying divine palanquins for a parade along Ketagalan Boulevard and rally organizers were quoted in the media as being satisfied with the suggested compromise of a one incense stick per person limit at temples.

Ousted EVA Head Completes Exit

Chang Kuo-wei, former chairman of Eva Airways Corp., finalized his exit from the company June 26 and is currently preparing to launch his own carrier, StarLux Airlines. The former chairman was jettisoned from his post last year after losing the succession battle following the death of his father, Evergreen Group founder Chang Yung-fa. Chang Kuo-wei’s elder brother, Chang Kuo-hua, secured full leadership of the company. Steve Lin, who was selected as the new chairman for EVA Air, wished Chang Kuo-wei well in his new venture, noting that EVA Air is focused on competing against larger regional carriers and does not see StarLux Airlines as a threat.

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