Taiwan Life in Brief – September 2020

Newly elected Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chi-mai celebrates his landslide win. Photo Credit: Martti Chen

Kaohsiung Elects Chen Chi-mai

Chen Chi-mai of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected mayor of Kaohsiung on August 15, defeating Jane Lee from the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Wu Yi-jheng of the Taiwan People’s Party. The special election follows the recall in June of the KMT’s Han Kuo-yu. After losing to Han in 2018, Chen served as Vice Premier until resigning to run again for mayor.

It was a landslide victory for Chen, who won 70% of the vote, while Lee took away 25% and Wu garnered a paltry 4%. The very low vote share for the TPP candidate was a surprise for many, considering the issues surrounding Jane Lee’s campaign, which was plagued by a plagiarism scandal.

In early August, the Chinese-language Mirror Media alleged that Lee had copied at least 96% of her master’s thesis while at National Sun Yat-sen University. Although she initially fought back against the accusations, claiming they were politically motivated, she eventually apologized and attempted to renounce her degree. The university, however, said that there was no precedent for such an action and revoked the degree in late August.

Corruption Case Affects Legislators

Two high-profile bribery cases involving legislators from three political parties has rocked Taiwan’s law-making body. In the first case, four legislators, including Sufin Siluko and Chen Chao-ming of the KMT, Hsu Yung-ming of the New Power Party, and Su Chen-ching of the DPP are accused of accepting bribes from former Pacific Distribution Investment Co. Chairman Lee Heng-lung over a period of seven years. Pacific has long been embroiled in a struggle with the Far Eastern Group for control of Taiwan’s SOGO department store chain, and the bribes were allegedly intended to provide political support to strengthen its case.

The second case involves independent legislator Chao Cheng-yu, who was charged with accepting bribes from two funeral services providers to develop a cemetery on land designated for private use within a national park. Kuo Ke-ming, a former aide to Su Chen-ching, was said to be acting as the intermediary in the deal. When police raided Chao’s home in late July, they found NT$9.2 million in a bag, which they suspected to be the bribe in question.

The wide-ranging corruption case also impacted other prominent public figures. Su Chen-ching is the nephew of the DPP’s Su Jia-chyuan, who was then the Presidential Office secretary-general and a former speaker of the Legislative Yuan. As news of the corruption broke, the elder Su resigned his position. He was replaced by Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman David Lee, a former foreign minister, a few days later.

Many observers were shocked by the alleged involvement of NPP Chairman Hsu, given his party’s status as representing the more politically progressive younger generation of voters. Hsu was suspended from his position and he resigned from the party shortly thereafter.

New COVID Cases Cause Alarm

Several new cases of COVID-19 set off alarm bells in Taiwan in August, prompting the resumption of stricter measures regarding mask-wearing and social distancing. Unlike all of the cases that occurred between April and July, which were imported, some of the August cases involved foreign residents or visitors in Taiwan who tested positive for the coronavirus upon return to their home countries.

One case involved a Belgian engineer who had worked as a technician on an offshore wind project. Although he did not experience any symptoms while in Taiwan, he tested positive for COVID-19 virus and antibodies upon his departure in late July. Taiwan’s health authorities then set to work investigating the man’s movements. The 473 people he came into contact with while in Taiwan all tested negative for COVID-19.

Other cases involved migrant workers from Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines who had tested positive after working for various periods of time in Taiwan, as well as Taiwanese citizens who tested positive upon arriving in the Philippines and Shanghai.

New Appointments in MOEA Reshuffle

Chern-chyi “C.C.” Chen, the former director-general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, was appointed deputy minister of the MOEA in early August. Chen previously served in the economic division of Taiwan’s overseas missions in Singapore and Washington, D.C., and worked closely with AmCham during his tenure in the U.S. and as a negotiator with the MOEA’s Office of Trade Negotiations from 2007 to 2013.

Succeeding him as director-general at BOFT is Cynthia Kiang, a former deputy director-general at the Bureau. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

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