Taiwan Life in Brief – February 2020

The military funeral for Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming. Photo: Martti Chen

Taiwan’s Military Chief Dies in Accident

Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming was among eight military officers killed January 2 when their helicopter made a crash-landing in mountainous terrain shortly after take-off from Taipei on the way to visits troops stationed in Yilan County in the island’s northeast. Shen, who was 62, assumed Taiwan’s top military post last year after previously serving as commander of the Air Force and Deputy Minister of Defense. 

The flight recorders from the downed UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter have been analyzed by Taiwan’s Air Force and sent to the manufacturer, U.S.-based Sikorsky Aircraft, for further analysis.

President Tsai Ing-wen appointed Navy Commander Admiral Huang Shu-kuang to be Shen’s successor. Huang has held such posts as head of the Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Operations and Planning and Chief of Staff of the Navy Command Headquarters. 

KMT Official Accused of Intimidation

According to Australian newspaper The Age, self-proclaimed Chinese spy William Wang Liqiang, who is attempting to defect to Australia, was warned that he could face repatriation to China and death unless he publicly recanted his allegations. The newspaper said that its sources linked Wang to KMT Deputy Secretary-General Alex Tsai and a Chinese businessman named Sun Tianqun. 

The Age reported that Tsai and Sun had entreated Wang through text messages and video calls to retract assertions that he had funneled money to Han Kuo-yu’s mayoral campaign in 2018. The pair allegedly provided Wang with a script stating he had in fact been bribed by the DPP to make the claims to swing the election in that party’s favor. In return for his cooperation, Wang was said to have been promised safe passage and residence in Taiwan or China.

 Calling a press conference in Taipei the day after the allegations emerged, Tsai denied all of revelations in The Age’s report. DPP lawmakers have called for an investigation, arguing that Tsai’s alleged actions constituted a violation of the recently passed Anti-Infiltration Act. 

Anti-Infiltration Act Enacted

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan on December 31 passed a major bill aimed at reducing or eliminating political interference by hostile foreign forces – primarily China. The Anti-Infiltration Act was approved by a DPP majority during a tense runup to the national elections in early January. 

Under the Act, any individual found to have interfered in Taiwan’s democratic process at the behest of a hostile foreign actor is subject to fines and possible prison time. The legislation prohibits lobbying efforts, fundraising for referendums, or campaigning for a political candidate for any public office on behalf of an infiltrating individual or organization. It is aimed largely at “red media,” outlets that maintain ties to China and may be responsible for spreading disinformation.

Fines for violating the provisions of the law range between NT$500,000 and $5 million, and certain infractions carry an additional prison term of up to three years. Violators who confess will be considered for reduced punishment.

Representatives of the opposition KMT, as well as the People’s First Party and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-Je’s Taiwan People’s Party criticized the bill as being too far-reaching. Several questioned whether the act would target Taiwanese who regularly conduct business or exchanges with China. In response, the Mainland Affairs Council gave assurances that the law will target only intentional illicit behavior and will not apply to individuals who have been manipulated by foreign actors.