Taiwan Life in Brief – December 2019

President Tsai Ing-wen chose former Premier William Lai as her running mate for the 2020 elections. Photo: Martti Chen

Tsai, Han Announce Running Mates

President Tsai Ing-wen, who is up for re-election in January, on November 17 announced that she had chosen former premier William Lai as her vice-presidential running mate on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket. Lai also previously served in Taiwan’s legislature from 1999 to 2010 and as Mayor of Tainan from 2010 to 2017. He ran unsuccessfully against Tsai in the DPP presidential primaries earlier this year.

Given Lai’s outspoken support of Taiwanese independence, his nomination is perceived by some as an attempt by Tsai to court deep-green voters. The day after his nomination, Lai stated in a Facebook post that he is a “realistic worker for Taiwan independence” and that Taiwan is a sovereign nation called the Republic of China. Tsai has echoed this statement, expressing on November 20 that “the Republic of China, Taiwan, is a free and sovereign nation, and that people have the right to vote, and the freedom to choose from among political parties and presidential candidates.”

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and current Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu announced on November 11 that his running mate will be Simon Chang, a blue-leaning independent who had served as premier under former President Ma Ying-jeou from February to May 2016. Chang also has extensive private-sector experience, including a 10-year stint at Taiwanese computer and electronics producer Acer and another two years working for Google. His well-rounded resume and stated aversion to partisan politics are seen by some as a counterbalance to the bombastic rhetorical style employed by Han.

KMT, DPP Release At-Large Legislator Lists

Both of Taiwan’s major political parties in mid-November released their legislator-at-large lists for the 2020 elections. The KMT’s initial list garnered significant criticism for its roster of mainly older, conservative candidates, several of whom have espoused pro-unification views. One such candidate was Chiu Yi, a former KMT legislator who, at a cross-Strait forum in China’s Fujian Province in March, stated that Taiwanese “separatists” who oppose the “one country, two systems” formula stand to be “decapitated” in the event of annexation by China.

Another candidate, Wu Sz-huai, is a retired lieutenant general and anti-pension reform activist, who in 2016 appeared at an event held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing commemorating the 150th birthday of Sun Yat-sen. During that event, Xi Jinping gave a speech warning against “separatism,” and Wu was filmed standing during the Chinese national anthem.

After the list was issued, a number of KMT politicians expressed concern about its composition, including Vice Presidential candidate Simon Chang, who said that the list “lacks diversity and could make the elections more difficult for district legislative candidates.” Legislator Jason Hsu criticized the lack of younger nominees on the list, saying that the choices reflected the party leadership’s desire to lock down the support of more conservative factions. He and others opined that the list would sap support for the KMT in the upcoming elections.

Responding to the overwhelming criticism, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih on November 16 convened an extraordinary meeting of party representatives to revise the list. Chiu Yi was dropped from the slate, while Wu Sz-huai and a few other contentious candidates remained.

The DPP on November 14 issued its own at-large legislator list. It included a diverse range of candidates, including Hung Shen-han, deputy secretary-general of the Green Action Alliance, and Nantou City Counselor and Malaysian immigrant Lo Mei-ling. However, only two indigenous Taiwanese candidates made in into the top 15 on the list, one of whom was subsequently removed.

The indigenous candidate who was removed from the list is Tuhi Martukaw, a TV host of Puyuma origin. She cited concerns regarding her involvement in a foundation established by Premier Su Tseng-chang, her past experience as an assistant to a KMT legislator, and the spread of an unverified accusation that she had been involved in a fraud case.

James Soong and his running mate, Sandra Yu, registered as the People First Party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates in mid-November. Photo: Martti Chen

James Soong Enters Presidential Race

People’s First Party (PFP) founder James Soong on November 18 registered as his party’s presidential candidate at the Central Election Commission. His running mate will be former United Communications Group chairwoman Sandra Yu. In light of the controversy surrounding the KMT’s at-large legislator list and Han Kuo-yu’s poor performance in recent polls, Soong’s candidacy is viewed as likely to draw votes away from the Han campaign in favor of Tsai.

Soong, who from 1994 to 1998 served as the only elected governor of Taiwan Province, a now-abolished position, has run in every presidential election since he founded the PFP in 2000. A recent poll by the Apple Daily shows that Soong has the support of around 8% of voters.

AmCham Taipei Senior Director and TOPICS Editor-in-Chief Don Shapiro shakes hands with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu at the conferment ceremony for the Friendship Medal of Diplomacy. Photo: MOEA

Medal for TOPICS Editor-in-chief

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on November 8 conferred a Friendship Medal of Diplomacy on AmCham Taipei Senior Director Don Shapiro at a ceremony at the Ministry. He praised Shapiro’s “remarkable contributions over the years in strengthening relations between Taiwan and the United States.”

Wu cited Shapiro’s reporting for the New York Times and Time magazine on Taiwan’s democratic development in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, as well as his role for the past 18 years as editor-in-chief of AmCham’s Taiwan Business TOPICS magazine and annual Taiwan White Paper. Shapiro first came to Taiwan in October 1969 under a fellowship from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Weatherhead East Asian Institute.