The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Wednesday that it plans to relax its COVID-19 control measures on trains and domestic flights after June 7, as the disease has been slowing in Taiwan.
Passengers taking Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) and High Speed Rail (HSR) trains will still be required to have their temperatures checked at the gate and to wear a mask up to that point, but they will be allowed to remove the mask after that, if certain conditions are met, the MOTC said.
Those conditions include observing proper social distancing and respecting the barriers put in place to keep people apart, the ministry said.
The same rules will apply at post offices.
When the restrictions are eased, passengers will be allowed to eat on trains and domestic flights, once social distancing is observed or neighboring passengers are wearing masks.
Five research facilities and biotechnology companies in Taiwan are currently developing vaccines for the COVID-19 coronavirus, most of which are expected to enter clinical trials by the end of this year, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the MOE had tentatively planned to remove relevant restrictions and allow in foreign students from countries less affected by the virus as soon as July.
The plan was shelved given the severity of the pandemic which continues to spread in many parts of the world, a decision made at a cross-departmental Cabinet meeting.
According to the MOE, around 26,000 international students registered in Taiwan’s colleges and universities have not been allowed to enter the country due to the coronavirus.
Chunghwa Telecom Co. received the first 5G license in the country Wednesday.
Chunghwa Telecom said it will try to launch 5G services on July 1.
It added that the fees for the new services are still being studied.
Meanwhile, Singapore-based DBS Bank on Wednesday retained its forecast of a 1 percent contraction of Taiwan’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.
Taiwan govt makes strategic investment move
Focus Taiwan is reporting: “The Cabinet is planning to allocate some NT$10 billion (US$334 million) to a program to attract foreign tech firms that specialize in emerging technologies, a source familiar with the matter told CNA Wednesday.
The NT$10 billion budget, to be finalized soon, will be used to provide incentives to foreign tech firms that are willing to invest in research and development in Taiwan.
While the focus of the plan is on foreign companies, domestic high-tech firms can also benefit from the incentives by working with their foreign counterparts in R&D.”
Reuters meanwhile, reported the target was more specific: “The incentive program is mainly targeted at makers of memory chips, the people said, though part of it will also be used to attract global 5G and artificial intelligence technology companies, they added.
Another target is power semiconductor companies, one person said.”
There are four possible reasons they are proposing this, and they’re not mutually exclusive.
The first two are obvious, to bring more tech expertise and jobs into the local market, and to encourage tech companies to bypass China.
Bringing in more jobs and expertise would likely help tackle Taiwan’s problem of low wages and brain drain to higher paying countries.
The foreign companies they are targeting would likely pay higher than local companies, meaning the brain drain would more likely be contained to within Taiwan.
The fourth reason is to further tie critical key elements of the tech supply chain to Taiwan, making Taiwan’s continued existence a matter of national security for the United States, Japan and other advanced economies.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) touted the nation’s indigenous ship program as being successful as she presided over a ceremony in Kaohsiung for the launch of the first of the Coast Guard Administration’s (CGA) planned fleet of four 4,000-tonne frigates.
Named Chiayi (嘉義), the ship is also capable of carrying one Sikorsky S-70C helicopter, which could ferry sick patients to medical establishments on land and would increase the ship’s patrol capabilities.
Although designed foremost as a support ship, the Chiayi could be quickly refitted with armaments if war should break out across the Taiwan Strait, the president added.
Meanwhile, the nation’s first indigenously manufactured advanced jet trainer, the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC) T-5 (AT-5) Yung Ying (勇鷹, “Brave Eagle”), yesterday conducted its first preflight taxi test ahead of its planned flight test later this month.
Taiwan has in past made fighter jets, not trainers, hilariously named the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo.
Fraud, gangsters and the criminal diaspora
Ninety-two Taiwanese suspects accused of cross-border telecom fraud in Montenegro were indicted Wednesday in Taiwan, after they were repatriated in several groups over the past few months.
Working at several call centers set up between September 2019 and January 2020 in Montenegro, the suspects allegedly fleeced over 2,000 Chinese victims of approximately NT$632.78 million (US$21.17 million) in total.
Every year hundreds and hundreds of Taiwanese are arrested for fraud in countries all around the world.
Some countries deport them to China, which Taiwan vehemently opposes.
However, under international law, in this case China is actually usually correct–the victims are overwhelmingly in China.
There are probably thousands of Taiwanese fraudsters out there operating in countries all over the world, including Europe, Africa and Asia.
While fraud cases frequently pop up in the local papers, they’re usually small fry compared to these overseas operations.
In short, there is a large Taiwanese criminal diaspora.
And yet, Taiwan is one of the safest, most crime-free countries in the world.
So what is going on here?
It wasn’t always like this.
Back in the 1980s and 90s gangsters were everywhere.
They would swagger around, not in the least trying to hide who or what they were.
It wasn’t uncommon to see them beating the shit out of people, collecting protection money in shops and generally being menacing, the kind of people you would get out of their way.
I for one was attacked by gangsters, who, among other things smashed a chair over my head.
The cops were totally corrupt, and the KMT was in on it as well–the local patronage faction politicians were effectively gangsters themselves.
The KMT would use the police and enforcement of certain laws, like those governing gangster cash cows and money laundering nightlife establishments to punish them if they got too far out of line, but they had no interest at the time in trying to stop it–they were profiting handsomely.
Taiwan was not so safe and crime free back then.
Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s several things happened.
Electoral pressures started to have an impact in the 1990s, as did public reaction to a wave of kidnappings and murders.
Some notable cases that come to mind include the slaughter of the Taoyuan County Commissioner and some other people, which led to the election of the DPP’s Annette Lu to the post, the future vice president.
Another famous case involved started with the kidnapping and murder of a major celebrities’ daughter, let to a nationwide manhunt involving lots of shoot outs and lots more crime, finally ending with the last one still not caught taking a South African diplomat and his family hostage.
South Africa was just withdrawing after cutting diplomatic ties, and the criminal, Chen Chin-hsing thought he’d get more attention if he took a “hello” hostage.
By “hello” he meant foreigner.
That hostage situation was finally brought to an end by a certain police captain named Hou Yu-ih, the current New Taipei Mayor.
For awhile, a Justice Minister in the 90s gained a reputation for being clean–well, by the standards of the time–and tackling some of these problems until he got sacked.
His name was Ma Ying-jeou.
As the situation got harder to operate in in Taiwan and the economy cooled, huge numbers of the gangsters relocated to China, which was starting to boom and had the kind of corrupt, one party state they had thrived under.
A subset of this criminal class who had worked so hard perfecting their craft, the fraudsters, became hated in China and the government cracked down on them.
So, they moved to other countries, and used phones and internet in those countries to target Chinese from a safer remove.
Han recall updates
The recall vote against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is this Saturday.
According to a local media report, the Han camp plans to issue a simple statement thanking the people of Kaohsiung for giving him a chance as mayor–regardless of whether he wins or loses the recall.
Some new polls have been released.
Sixty percent of respondents in a poll released Sunday said Taiwan’s government should amend its laws to better offer assistance to people in Hong Kong who wish to seek asylum in the country, despite officials claiming existing regulations are fit for purpose.
According to the survey conducted by trend Survey and Research Co., Ltd. for the opposition New Power Party (NPP), 60.3 percent of respondents said the government should amend the “Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs” to make it easier to meet the practical needs of asylum seekers from Hong Kong.
According to the China Impact Survey, which is conducted annually by Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology 73 percent of the respondents said they disagreed with the statement that “the Chinese government is a friend of Taiwan’s,” compared to only 23 percent who said they agreed with the statement.
The figures represent a significant shift from last year, when 58 percent said they disagreed and 38 percent said they agreed.
Also according to the poll, 67.1 percent of respondents said that they supported the Hong Kong protests, while 32.9 percent said they did not.
Finally, in an NPP poll asked about what name is more suitable for the country, 48.6 percent said “Taiwan”, 24.1 percent said President Tsai’s formulation of Republic of China, Taiwan and 22.8% picked Republic of China.
It is interesting that Tsai’s formulation, which she hasn’t been using all that long, has gained such traction.
China rejects Taiwan’s call to apologize for Tiananmen
Taiwan, in a statement on the eve of the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, said Beijing should face up to the people’s expectations for freedom and democracy and begin political reform.
China should “reassess the historical facts about the June 4 incident and sincerely apologise” the Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.
“We believe that those currently in power should have the courage to correct mistakes, immediately initiate reforms and return power to the people”.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian rejected Taiwan’s calls.
“The relevant remarks of the Taiwan authorities are totally nonsense.
As to the political disturbance in the late 1980s China has drawn a clear conclusion,” Zhao told a daily news briefing.
Image courtesy of the National Police Agency Facebook page