Taiwan Government and International – November 2019

President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President Chen Chien-jen, and other cabinet members wave to the crowd at this year's National Day celebration in Taipei. Photo: Edward Lau

Foreign Dignitaries Attend National Day

Observance of the 2019 National Day – also known as Double Ten because it occurs on October 10 – featured Taiwan’s new immigrant communities and attendance by a large number of foreign dignitaries. More than 6,000 Taiwanese living abroad returned for the celebration, the highest number in three years. A parade in Taipei included 23 floats highlighting such national symbols as Taiwan’s “Bravo the Bear” mascot.

In her National Day address in front of the Presidential Office, President Tsai Ing-wen once again rejected the possibility of a “one country, two systems” arrangement for Taiwan, citing the ongoing protests in Hong Kong as underscoring the failure of this model. Tsai emphasized the resilience of the Taiwanese people in the face of international isolation and stated that “as President, standing up to protect national sovereignty is not a provocation – it is my fundamental responsibility.”

Meanwhile, in Pingtung County, the longest-ever Double Ten fireworks display drew immense crowds – over 320,000 attendees, according to local government estimates. The show lasted around 40 minutes and included a total of 16,280 fireworks.

Senator Ted Cruz Visits Taiwan

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an outspoken supporter of Taiwan, visited the island in mid-October as one stop on a tour of countries in the Asia-Pacific region. During his visit, Cruz attended this year’s Double Ten celebrations, making him the first American senator to do so in 35 years. He also met with President Tsai at the Presidential Office, where the two discussed several issues related to the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and held a joint news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu at the Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel.

Cruz also made time to sit down for lunch with AmCham Taipei Chairman Leo Seewald and President William Foreman. They were joined by Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan. The group discussed business opportunities for U.S. companies in Taiwan, cross-Strait relations, and Taiwan’s economic outlook.

Forum Focuses on Asian Partnerships

The third annual Yushan Forum: Asian Dialogue for Innovation and Progress, organized by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, was held on October 8 and 9 at the Grand Hyatt Taipei. This year’s event was entitled “Deepening Progressive Partnerships in Asia” and featured panelists and speakers from Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, and Kyrgyzstan, among others.

The government-backed Foundation was set up to help promote Taiwan’s New Southbound policy of  strengthening relations with neighboring countries in the Indo-Pacific. In opening remarks, President Tsai signaled Taiwan’s desire to engage in more regional partnerships, but noted that doing so has become increasingly difficult in the face of Chinese pressure on other countries to limit or cease dealing with Taiwan.

Among the speakers was former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the first Canadian Prime Minister, former or current, to visit Taiwan. China’s foreign ministry issued an angry complaint. Other speakers included former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said President Trump is committed to strengthening relationships with all of the U.S.’s allies in the region, and Sandra Oudkirk, U.S. Senior Official for APEC, who emphasized the U.S. vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” that can be accomplished by fostering “robust trade relationships rooted in the principles of fairness and reciprocity.”

Murder Suspect Said Willing to Return

Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai, the chief suspect in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend while they were on vacation in Taiwan last February, has reportedly expressed willingness to return to Taiwan for trial. Canon Peter Douglas Koon of the Hong Kong Anglican Church,  who visited Chan in prison several times, said Chan decided to face justice after converting to Christianity. Koon said he would accompany Chan to Taiwan.

However, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said that it would not lift the entry ban currently in place for Chan unless Hong Kong authorities agreed to share more information and evidence on the case. National security concerns could also prevent Koon from entering Taiwan due to his membership in the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

MAC’s position regarding Chan’s possible return was criticized by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, the Chinese Nationalist Party presidential candidate, who argued that the policy amounted to “castrating [Taiwan’s] sovereignty.” In response, MAC announced that if the Hong Kong authorities decide to relinquish their jurisdiction and formally extradite Chan to Taiwan through mutual judicial assistance, Taiwan will handle the case.

Chan fled Taiwan before law-enforcement authorities could identify him as a suspect in the murder, but was apprehended in Hong Kong on charges of money laundering connected to use of his girlfriend’s credit card. An arrest warrant was eventually issued in Taiwan, but the lack of an extradition treaty between Taiwan and Hong Kong made returning him through official channels impossible.

Chan, who accepted a plea deal on the money laundering charges, was released from prison in Hong Kong on October 22. His case spurred the introduction by the Hong Kong government of a now-shelved extradition bill that sparked the massive wave of protests currently engulfing the territory.