Han anti-recall campaign gets dirty. Wu says what!? And PRC drops “peaceful”–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

Coronavirus updates

One new case of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease was reported in Taiwan on Thursday, breaking a 13-day stretch of zero new confirmed infections in the country.
He is a Taiwanese man who went to Mexico in January on a work trip and returned to Taiwan on Wednesday.
There were no new cases on Friday.
Meanwhile, the suspension of all outbound and inbound tours imposed on Taiwanese travel agencies will be further extended until the end of June.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Friday introduced a bilingual chatbot that will allow local residents and foreign nationals to ask questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Chinese and English.

Economy roundup

The government will issue stimulus coupons to members of the public in July amid ongoing efforts to boost the economy.
Further details and a timetable for the rollout of the plan will be made public in June.
That may be needed, as Taiwan’s manufacturing sector suffered a year-on-year sales drop of 2.15 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to last year, the fifth consecutive quarterly fall, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said Tuesday.
There was some good news, however.
Export orders last month again defied expectations by increasing 2.3 percent year-on-year to US$38.53 billion amid robust demand for information and communications technology (ICT) products and electronics.
On top of that, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Taiwan approved by the Investment Commission in the first four months of this year surged 48.68 percent annually to US$2.97 billion, driven by the wind power sector and the semiconductor industry.

Han recall getting dirty

The campaigning and skirmishing over the recall vote on June 6 over Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is getting dirtier.
The mayor’s continued efforts to use the courts to get it shut down was dismissed for the third time in a Taipei High Court.
Prosecutors on Wednesday initiated an investigation of Kaohsiung Civil Affairs Bureau Director-General Tsao Huan-jung (曹桓榮) for allegedly telling supporters of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) to interfere with a recall vote against Han.
Complainants provided evidence that Tsao on Saturday last week wrote on messaging app Line that Han supporters should not vote in the June 6 recall vote, saying: “We shall not vote, but we must monitor polling stations to put pressure on people voting to recall Han,” the office said.
It could be even worse, the Taipei Times has reported on reports “that members of Han’s camp last week attended a banquet in Taipei for talks with China Unification Promotion Party Chairman Chang An-le (張安樂) and members of the Bamboo Union crime syndicate.
Plans were made at the banquet for gang members and Han supporters to obstruct the recall vote by lining up at polling stations, where they would try to delay and disrupt the process, sources said.
Some of the tactics include filming the proceedings outside of the polling stations to intimidate voters, as well as having older people and gang members in line move slowly and cause delays, such as by not presenting their identification when at the head of the line, to prolong the process, with the aim of making people give up on voting on what is expected to be a hot day, the sources said.”
If those reports are proven correct–and I should stress they remain allegations–then this would be disastrous for Han.
There is no way to explain using gangsters to interfere that the public would find acceptable.
All of this follows on credible reports that the Han administration has been targeting pro-recall advertising, and tried to limit the number of polling venues.
So, does Han have any hope that all this will work?
Highly doubtful.
According to polls, these tactics would have to turn away over ⅓ of the people planning to vote to recall him, more if those saying they might vote turn out.
However, he may have turned away his best chance at seizing total power.
DPP city councillors gifted him with a Thanos’ “Infinity Gauntlet” from Marvel’s Avengers franchise.
He turned it down.
Considering how well his campaign has been going so far, he might as well have given it a try.

KMT Chair has some interesting things to say

KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang had some very interesting things to say in a CNA interview.
He said the party is still learning how to be an opposition party, “an unfamiliar role” for an organization that has spent most of the past 70 years in a position of power in Taiwan.
He continued, saying the 126-year-old party was once Taiwan’s only party and has governed the country for a long period of time.
It was not until 2016 that the party found itself completely in opposition, having lost the presidential election and not being in the majority in the Legislature.
What the KMT quickly learned is that “we are definitely not good at being an opposition party,” Chiang admitted.
The article continues:
As a younger generation KMT member, the Taichung native admitted that the party was carrying “too much of a burden” because of its culture, compared with younger political parties, making it challenging for the KMT to launch comprehensive reforms.
“But this does not mean we are not capable of reforms,” he said, adding that pushing through reforms will be his main focus during the remainder of his time on the job.
As I’ve mentioned before, Chiang shows all signs of being very aware of what the party needs to do to reform.
I’ve also mentioned it will be tough to actually implement much more than launching a flashy new online marketing campaign.
He is, after all, a Taiwanese Red Faction politician from Taichung–far removed from the powerful elites in the party.
In this interview, he is essentially admitting as much.
The burden of the culture, the difficulty of adjusting to being in the opposition and calling it challenging for the KMT to launch comprehensive reforms all speak to that.

Japan increases Taiwan’s weight

The Nikkei Asian Review is reporting an improvement in Taiwan’s relations with Japan:
Japan called Taiwan an “extremely important partner” in this year’s annual foreign policy report submitted Tuesday, a step forward from last year’s description of “crucial partner and an important friend.”
The wording seen in Diplomatic Bluebook 2020, presented by Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to the cabinet, emphasized the relationship amid mounting tensions over the self-governed island’s status.
Symbolic of the shift in weight, the bluebook devoted a full page to Taiwan, twice as much space as the 2019 edition.
The report states that Japan “has consistently supported” Taipei participating in the World Health Organization as an observer, aligning Tokyo with the U.S. in its clash with mainland China over the issue.

Support from Czechia

The Czech Republic’s Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution that supports a possible visit by the senate president to Taiwan.
The resolution blasts Beijing for having its Prague embassy send a letter to the former Czech Senate president Jaroslav Kubera earlier this year threatening repercussions for Czech businesses if he visited Taiwan.
The former Senate president passed away soon after.
His family later said that the threat contributed to his death.
The resolution was passed with 50 votes in favor, one against and one abstention.
That’s a pretty emphatic majority.

New arms sale from the US

The United States has approved a $180m sale of heavyweight torpedoes to Taiwan.
“This proposed sale serves US national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” the State Department said.
The sale “will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region,” it added.
The MK-48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology Heavy Weight torpedoes, which can be launched from a submarine are being provided from existing US Navy stock.
That suggests a fairly quick delivery is possible.

FM: no more losses of diplomatic ties.

Minister of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) vowed Thursday to keep Taiwan’s current diplomatic ties intact.
The Global Times, a daily tabloid under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said in an editorial the other day that the number of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies could become zero.
“I will ensure that not one diplomatic ally will be lost,” Wu said after being pressed by a legislator.
This begs some questions, including:
Why would he say this?
Seven countries cut ties during President Tsai’s first term, and there have been indications of wavering support in several countries–never mind China’s increased pressure using economic and financial leverage Taiwan can’t hope to match.
Does he know something we don’t know?
This is possible, and it is possible the Solomans may restore diplomatic ties.
But from where we’re standing, this seems a rather bold statement.

China drops “peaceful”

According to Reuters, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang left out the word “peaceful” on Friday in referring to Beijing’s desire to “reunify” with Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
Thank you Reuters for putting “reunify” in quotes.
Li said “We will encourage them to join us in opposing Taiwan independence and promoting China’s reunification.
With these efforts, we can surely create a beautiful future for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
However, there was no mention of the word “peaceful” in front of “reunification”, departing from the standard expression Chinese leaders have used for at least four decades when addressing parliament and mentioning Taiwan.
The report continues:
A senior Taiwan official, however, told Reuters the absence of the word “peaceful” did not signal a fundamental change in China’s approach towards the island.
“They are still talking about the concept of peaceful unification, just in an indirect linguistic expression,” said the person who is familiar with Taiwan’s policy towards China, pointing to Li’s remarks on cross-Strait exchanges and economic integration.
“It’s neutral. We do not look at it that way.”
I’m not so sure.
The Chinese Communist Party does things very much by the book, using jingoistic partyspeak formulations.
When these formulations are changed, it is also often intended to signal a change.
Is that the case this time?
Don’t know yet, but it is very much worth keeping an eye on.
China’s state-controlled media has been much more vocal recently on using military force against Taiwan, and has been conducting significantly more military activities around Taiwan.
There is a clear pattern of increasing the sharp edge of their message.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually planning to invade, but there is no doubt they are increasing their bullying tactics.

Image courtesy of Chang An-le’s Facebook page

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