The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a domestically-developed and produced antibody reagent for COVID-19, the first of its kind licensed in Taiwan.
The antibody reagent will help researchers determine how many people have been infected by the coronavirus in a bid to better understand the real extent of infection in Taiwan during the pandemic.
People using Taipei mass rapid transit (Taipei metro) and public bus services will no longer be required to wear face masks all the time when they are at stations, in metro cars or buses from June 7.
The easing of mask control measures will be simultaneously implemented in New Taipei, Keelung and Taoyuan to form a “zone defense” against the coronavirus.
The value of credit card transactions declined to NT$206.2 billion (US$6.89 billion) in April, down 20 percent from a year earlier and the biggest drop in 11 years.
The USDA has announced a new U.S.-Taiwan equivalence arrangement, effective May 30, 2020, that streamlines organic trade with Taiwan.
The arrangement allows organic products certified in the United States or Taiwan to be sold as organic in either market.
It also eliminates the need for organic producers and processors to have separate organic certification to the U.S. and Taiwan standards, avoiding a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork.
MOI proposes changes to election law
Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior on Thursday proposed wide-ranging changes to the nation’s election laws, with provisions aimed at stamping out disinformation and foreign political interference.
The ministry said it had drafted amendments to a total of 112 articles, which it divided into five categories.
Changes in the first category would require all political ads on the internet, television and other media to include a disclaimer identifying the group or individuals behind it, as well as those providing the funding.
Additionally, they would authorize the Central Election Commission to set regulations on political ad content and the keeping of political ad records.
The revisions would also ban foreign entities from purchasing political ads and create a mechanism for political figures to report ads containing false content and have them removed.
Second, the ministry proposed strengthening deterrents against election-related gambling offenses.
Third, the proposals would set up a system allowing people running for public office to collect signatures for their candidate petitions electronically.
Fourth, the ministry said it would seek to allow political parties to hold a televised presentation of their campaign platforms for the election of at-large and overseas compatriot legislators.
Holding a platform presentation or even debate for the parties putting forward an at-large legislator list would give a wider spectrum of parties more public exposure, the ministry noted.
Finally, the reforms would grant voting rights to those under court-ordered declarations of guardianship due to their cognitive or psychological disabilities.
Overall, these proposals seem to be pretty good.
MOI to offer money to snitches
Lest we think that the Ministry of Interior is all cuddly and nerdy and focused on election law, they will soon offer rewards to snitches of up to NT$20,000 (US$ 663) for information leading to the arrest of foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas.
The MOI said the new rewards soon to be officially rolled out will include NT$2,000 for information that leads to the arrest of one overstayer; NT$5,000 if it leads to the arrest of 4-6 overstayers.
The reward rises to NT$10,000 for the arrest of 7-9 and is NT$20,000 for 10 or more foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas.
The MOI’s announcement was made with a three-month amnesty program for foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas set to expire at the end of this month.
Using payments to snitches is widely used in Taiwan.
It saves the police from having to actually find these people themselves, which of course saves money.
But it has some nasty side effects.
One official in Taipei accidentally said the truth when questioned about how people could identify people littering cigarette butts, so they could collect their snitch fees.
The response: turn in your friends, family and coworkers.
Another problem with this is it doesn’t address the source of the problem.
The vast majority of workers who overstay or jump their visas do so because they are underpaid, not paid at all or to escape abuse.
Mostly they take low paid, difficult jobs that Taiwanese don’t want, such as picking tea in Nantou.
The ones that engage in illegal activity are few, and it is usually in areas like illegal logging.
Almost none actually want to be illegal.
The money used for the snitch fees would be better spent on more staff to handle the sources of the problem.
That would help the keep the workers legal, would help them live happier lives while contributing to Taiwan’s economy and society, which in turn means better word-of-mouth about Taiwan in the countries they come from.
Proposal to change name of China Airlines and Passports coming to the LY
According to a local media report, Legislative Speaker Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) has revealed that the DPP caucus is planning to submit a draft law proposal on name rectification for China Airlines and passports in the next legislative session, and could be submitted as soon as June 16 for a first reading.
Wang Jin-pyng drops a couple of bombshells
A local media report on comments by former Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng and New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih caught my eye.
But first, a little context.
In 2018 a little known nobody was exiled to Kaohsiung to run for mayor, which at the time everyone thought was totally hopeless because the city was seen as deeply pro-DPP.
This might have even been a punishment for having the temerity to challenge Wu Den-yih for the KMT party chair.
Meanwhile, the wily Wang Jin-pyn had been quietly touring the countryside uniting the normally fractious local patronage factions.
Wang, who is from a local Kaohsiung patronage faction, threw his weight behind Han.
Long story short, the Wang and Han team created a populist “Han wave” strongly backed by the patronage factions that saw Han not only win Kaohsiung, but the KMT in general sweep much of the nation in the 2018 local elections.
KMT Chair Wu was largely sidelined, outmaneuvered by Wang.
Then in early 2019 Wang launched his presidential campaign, hoping to be the KMT’s candidate in the January 2020 race.
However, Wu had a trick up his sleeve, and even repeatedly changed the primary rules to make it happen: He convinced Han to run for president.
Han eventually accepted, and Wu had his revenge on Wang by getting Han to stab him in the back.
Han went on to be crushed in a landslide, and tomorrow is facing a recall vote, which may strip him of his post as mayor.
Unsurprisingly a pissed off Wang had not been supportive during the presidential race, but what would he say about the recall?
The other day he said “Of course I hope he can do a good job and finish his term.”
However, he was later quoted as saying–and I’m translating here for how it would sound in English, not word accuracy–”the only way out of this crisis for him is to grovel before the people of Kaohsiung.”
He later claimed that the press had leaked his private conversation.
Not Wang, he’s the master of this sort of thing, this is intentional.
Right on the eve of the recall vote he delivers a gut punch.
But wait, that’s not all!
Also in this so-called personal conversation that mysteriously found its way into the media was another bombshell.
He also disclosed that the crotchety old deep green Taiwan independence supporter and billionaire Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) had suggested to Wang he start a new political party.
According to Wang, Koo told him he thought the chances of the KMT reviving were not high, but he wanted a revival, and suggested Wang start a new party.
There is a lot to unpack here.
Koo is the type that is unhappy with President Tsai’s more moderate stance on sovereignty.
He’s also been supportive trying to start a new deep green political party, with no success.
That he would be supportive of Wang is very interesting…if Wang is telling the truth about this.
Wang has never said anything that suggested he was pro-independence, though it has been widely assumed he is more pro-Taiwan than the KMT elites.
So, it could simply be that Koo is hoping for a democratic balance to the DPP, and trusts native Taiwanese Wang more than the traditional KMT.
Or, Koo could know something about Wang that we don’t.
But why would Wang leak this?
Probably to hint to the KMT that he’s not a spent force.
Him starting a new party could be a problem for the KMT.
While no longer as powerful as he once was, he still has considerable contacts and supporters.
Such a new party could go nowhere…but if the KMT continues to melt down and can’t find a way to handle their crushing financial situation, Wang’s new party could provide a welcome alternative for defectors.
And unlike the big egos James Soong dominating the People’s First Party and Ko Wen-je dominating the Taiwan People’s Party, Wang is a low key operator very skilled at working with people and making deals.
He knows when and how to let other people shine.
My take is he’s probably not seriously planning to start a new party, at least not yet, but I’ll bet he’s given it plenty of thought.
Most likely this is a shot across the bow to the KMT to remind them to take him seriously.
He could be planning a run for KMT chair next May.
But maybe not…this is something to pay close attention to.
Meanwhile, the report also had comments by New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih, who is right now by far the KMT’s most popular figure.
He said that now that Han and his team were doing their job, he supported Han.
Hou and Han were both elected in the same KMT wave, and took office on December 25, 2018.
However, by late spring of 2019, Han was effectively campaigning for president, and formally so by early summer.
Hou at the time had little to say on the matter, keeping out of the primary.
After Han won the primary, he began to campaign, holding rallies and events–but Hou refused to show up to show support, even when it was right near Hou’s office in Banqiao.
Hou said “I’m too busy doing my job as mayor.”
Ouch, that’s a serious slap in the face.
The real reason is almost certainly he saw the writing on the wall, and didn’t want to associate himself with Han because he reckoned Han was going to lose, and badly.
Only near the very end of the campaign did Hou finally relent and appear on stage with Han, wearing a fixed, uncomfortable grin.
The reason he finally did that, and the reason he is now showing some tepid support for Han is likely the same.
If Hou is going to run for KMT chair or president in the future, and right now he’s the only truly viable choice in the KMT, he’s going to need the support of Han’s army of fans.
Tomorrow is the Han recall and I’ve put up some handy reference links up on Report.tw for you, including a live results tracker.
Image courtesy of Wang Jin-pyng’s Facebook page