6 lawmakers and NPP chair accused of bribery–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

Hsu

Summary: EVA Air offers a dream Hello Kitty trip to nowhere for Father’s Day. Taiwan may be gunning for Hong Kong’s finance industry. Six sitting legislators and the NPP chair are grilled in a bribery probe. Biden’s top foreign policy advisor speaks out on Taiwan, possibly giving us some insight. But up first, some headlines.

Headlines

Taiwan experienced no typhoons or tropical storms in July for the first time since records started, according to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB).

Taipei prosecutors on Thursday indicted the Far Eastern Air Transport Corp. (FAT) Chairman Chang Kang-wei (張綱維) on a number of charges, including embezzling NT$3.5 billion (US$120 million) from his debt-ridden carrier.
According to the Taipei District Prosecutors Office indictment, Chang took over the management of FAT in 2009 after the carrier announced bankruptcy a year earlier, by producing falsified financial statements of his own Huafu Group (樺福集團).
Prosecutors are seeking severe punishment for Chang as he allegedly obtained the FAT for his own financial gain and paid little attention to maintaining the safety of the airline’s planes, putting the lives of its passengers and crew at risk.

The Sports Administration has postponed the date when people can start claiming sports vouchers for one week to provide time to add more businesses that would accept payments with vouchers to the program.

Zeng Li-yan (曾麗燕) of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) was confirmed Friday as the new Kaohsiung City Council speaker, replacing Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源) who died after falling to his death in early June.
Zeng was confirmed as the new speaker in a 35-27 vote.
That is good news for KMT chairman Johnny Chiang, who had said he would resign if the KMT did not get the post.

The Taiwan Creative Content Agency and CatchPlay announced that they have invested a total of NT$200 million (US$6.78 million) in a new company, Screenworks, to promote original Taiwanese television and film content to an international audience.
CatchPlay is one of the teams behind such original Taiwanese content as The World Between Us (我們與惡的距離) and The Making of an Ordinary Woman (俗女養成記).
Its over-the-top (OTT) service, CatchPlay+, launched in 2016, is the only Taiwanese platform to successfully enter the international market, the agency said.
I still think of CatchPlay as the company producing VHS tapes.

Taiwan’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell 0.73 percent from a year earlier in the second quarter because of the effects of the COVID-19 scare, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said Friday.
The second quarter real GDP figure was well below an earlier forecast of 0.50 percent growth made by the DGBAS in May.

Taiwanese firms expect growth to resume in the second half of the year, but profit margins would remain short of full recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER, 中華經濟研究院).

American Senator Cory Gardner on Wednesday called on executive branch of the United States government to initiate discussions soon with Taiwan on a comprehensive Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA).
According to a press release on Gardner’s official website Wednesday, he made the proposal in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer earlier in the day.
In the letter, which was also published on the website, Gardner said there is strong bipartisan support in Congress for the growing bilateral economic relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.

EVA Air offers dream Hello Kitty trip to nowhere for Father’s Day

EVA Airways (EVA Air) started selling tickets Wednesday for a special Father’s Day flight next month, which will fly close to Japanese territory without landing and then return to Taiwan, as international air travel restrictions remain in effect in many countries due to the pandemic.
The aircraft, decorated with the popular Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty, will take a route across northeastern Taiwan, towards the Ryukyu Islands in Japan, then head south along Taiwan’s east coast, the airline said.
I’m sure this is every father’s dream gift for Father’s Day, what with a whole lot of time going nowhere crammed into a small seat on a plane filled with Hello Kitty paraphernalia.
Sorry, I normally focus on hard news, but this was just too funny to resist.

Taiwan may be gunning for Hong Kong’s finance industry

Speaking at the Taiwan Capital Market Forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had some interesting comments:
“We are going to make Taiwan the No. 1 center in Asia for capital movement.
In the future, we are going to relax rules for international finance institutions to establish offshore banking units [OBU] in Taiwan and make it more convenient to use foreign currencies.
With more OBUs in Taiwan, we will be able to strengthen manufacturing development with all that capital,” she said.
“Secondly, we also wish to establish ourselves as a wealth management center,” Tsai said.
“This means loosening rules and providing more diversified financial products and services.
We can expand the scale of wealth management businesses, and attract more international institutions and capital to Taiwan.”
Tsai said that Taiwan has two major advantages.
“First, our transparent laws and efficient courts are appealing to international businesses.
Second, our comprehensive financial institutions,” she said.
In addition, dividend yields are high in Taiwan, transactions are stable and transparent, and compared with surrounding countries, the liquidity of Taiwan’s capital markets is high, Tsai said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told the forum that Taiwan has taken advantage of the US-China trade dispute by encouraging investment.
“There has been more than NT$1 trillion in investment in Taiwan since last year’s rise in US-China trade tensions,” Su said.
“According to last month’s international assessments, Taiwan is the safest investment environment in Asia, and third in the world, after Switzerland and Norway.”
Clearly they’re gunning for Hong Kong’s financial industry, which is now under a cloud due to the new national security law imposed on it and the loss of special treatment by the US.
Most analysts think Taiwan’s current regulations are too restrictive to attract these businesses from Hong Kong.
They are restrictive to cut down on money laundering and to help keep the NT dollar stable.
The president’s remarks, however, suggest that they plan to tackle this.
Other reasons why Taiwan is considered unattractive it is unclear if they will tackle those.
One is that both Hong Kong and Singapore use English common law, while Taiwan does not.
English language ability and low salaries are some of the other issues.

Six sitting legislators and the NPP chair grilled in a bribery probe

Six incumbent and former legislators were questioned and had their offices and homes raided by Taipei prosecutors Friday morning over bribery allegations.
The lawmakers questioned included Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT); independent lawmaker Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇); and Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The two former lawmakers under investigation are Mark Chen (陳唐山) of the DPP and New Power Party Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明).
All of the lawmakers except for Chao were questioned on whether they took bribes from former Pacific Distribution Investment Co. Chairman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆) to help Lee in his legal battle against the Far Eastern Group over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department store chain.
The Legislative Yuan said it was cooperating with prosecutors’ searches of lawmakers’ offices and would not comment on the ongoing investigation.
In all, the prosecutors’ office sent 34 prosecutors and 230-plus investigators to conduct searches at 65 locations across Taiwan.
According to prosecutors, Lee allegedly bribed five legislators with thousands to millions of New Taiwan dollars through Kuo Ke-ming (郭克銘).
Kuo was previously office manager of the incumbent DPP legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清).
Arriving at the district prosecutors’ office with investigators on Friday, Lee told the press he did not give the lawmakers any money.
However, he admitted loaning NT$20 million ($681,672) to his “good friend” Su and said this had been paid back.
Former DPP legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) was released on bail of NT$500,000 Saturday morning.
KMT legislator Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and NPP Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) both denied receiving money from Lee.
In addition to the SOGO case, prosecutors are investigating whether two funeral service firms tried to bribe the independent legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇).
Kuo Ke-ming is once again accused of being the middleman.
If these allegations are true and these politicians are convicted, it will be a very bad look for the parties involved.
The KMT probably won’t take much damage politically, they’re already associated with corruption.
The DPP may take some damage, but its a big party with its own share of past corruption issues.
Both parties may lose some support to the Taiwan People’s Party as a result, but I doubt very much.
It’s the NPP that stands to take the biggest hit.
This is supposed to be an idealistic, clean party free of the sleaze of the two major parties.
Hsu isn’t just any party member, he’s the chairman of the party.
In the last legislature, the party had to kick out a legislator for ethical lapses.
But this is a whole other level of sleaze and corruption if proven true.
How the party handles this may be crucial to their image going forward.
But no matter what, some damage has been done to their squeaky clean image already.

Biden foreign policy advisor speaks out on Taiwan

Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and top foreign policy adviser to presumptive Democratic nominee for US president Joe Biden, said Friday in a Bloomberg TV interview. “President Trump has helped China advance its own key strategic goals” by weakening alliances, abandoning U.S. values on human rights, and debasing America’s democracy, he added.
Blinken warned that an emboldened China, seeing that it can get away with its increasingly tight hold over Hong Kong, may next seek to change the status quo in Taiwan.
“If China is getting signals of impunity, then one’s concern is it may think it can do the same with regard to Taiwan,” he said.
Biden would “step up defenses of Taiwan’s democracy by exposing Beijing’s efforts to interfere,” he said.
“The irony is Taiwan has been a success story over the last decades in terms of how the U.S. and China have handled it.”
This is so far the closest we’ve gotten to finding out what Biden thinks, and unfortunately it isn’t directly from the horse’s mouth.
It’s also a mixed bag.
Certainly stepping up defences of Taiwan’s democracy sounds good, but what exactly does he mean by “exposing Beijing’s efforts to interfere”?
And to call how the US and China have “handled” Taiwan over the last decades could hardly be called a “success story”.
The US has imposed upon itself all sorts of restrictions on how it can interact with Taiwan, with no necessary legal basis and only done to appease China–to no useful purpose.
Successive administrations were also parsimonious in allowance of arms sales.
China, meanwhile has been acting the bully at every turn, and has already changed the status quo, no matter what Blinken may think.
It’s hard to find these comments entirely encouraging, but they aren’t entirely discouraging either.
Biden historically has been a China appeaser, and has voted against arms sales to Taiwan in the past.
However, he also changes his mind and goes with the times, and he has been talking a tougher game on China.
But his signalling on Taiwan recently has been mixed.
For example, he congratulated President Tsai on her inauguration on Twitter, which is good.
But, he referred to her as “Dr. Tsai”, not president, which is bad.
The people I’ve spoken to who are former diplomats or military–many of whom don’t like President Trump–are uniformly concerned that if Biden is elected he’ll bring back many of President Obama’s foreign policy team, which was considerably less friendly to Taiwan than the current administration.
Blinken’s comments sound stronger than Obama-era policy, but less full-throated in support for Taiwan than the current administration.

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Image courtesy of 徐永明’s Facebook

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