Taiwan confirmed no new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus Monday, the 43rd consecutive day with no domestically transmitted infections.
Taiwan has relaxed its rules on self-paid tests for the coronavirus at a time when infections have shown signs of easing in the country, leaving its testing capacity adequate, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday.
They also said on Monday that they were loosening restrictions on visits to psychiatric wards, with some conditions.
The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) held its first concert before a live audience since March at the National Concert Hall in Taipei Sunday, but the audience was capped at 500.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was in Kenting (墾丁) this weekend, and promoted a “new disease prevention lifestyle” for the nation.
As Sunday was the 42nd consecutive day with no new domestic cases, and experts consider 28 consecutive days with no domestic case — the span of two incubation periods — a sign that a community is relatively safe, Taiwan is safe, said Chen.
“However, we must guard against the unexpected by managing our personal health and habits,” he said. “I can say the local situation is safe now, but loopholes can occur if anyone is not careful.”
It does seem as if things are slowly returning to normal.
This Saturday I attended a birthday party with about 60 or 70 people.
No one wore face masks, and there was plenty of hugging and handshakes.
In business news, according to a CommonWealth Magazine survey, Hon Hai is Taiwan’s biggest company by revenue, while TSMC is Taiwan’s most profitable company.
Meanwhile, the number of workers on unpaid leave in Taiwan as of May 22 was 22,500, including more than 10,000 in the manufacturing sector.
In other news, Taiwan’s FSC (Financial Supervisory Commission) is reportedly exploring potential ways to make it easier for SMEs to raise funds from public markets.
According to FSC chairman Huang Tien-mu, currently under discussion is a proposal to establish a separate and independent platform with easier requirements for SMEs seeking to raise funds.
If the government moves ahead with the proposal, only professional investors (those with net assets over NT$30 million) would be allowed to buy or sell shares on the new platform.
This could be very useful for smaller firms looking to expand.
Speculation mounts on who will challenge Taichung’s Lu
Speculation is mounting as to who will challenge Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen of the KMT in the 2022 mayoral election.
Former mayor and current Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung has been reported in local media as saying he “won’t totally rule out” running again to regain the post he lost in 2018.
He has kept his residence in Taichung, and after losing the election he said his heart would remain in the city.
The other possible candidate is current deputy speaker of the legislature Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), who said he will continue to listen to public opinion.
In the respected Commonwealth Magazine polling on local leaders and administrations, Mayor Lu and her administration have consistently ranked near the bottom.
Another poll taken in the spring of 2019 showed if the election were re-held, she would have lost against Lin.
Lin had been widely expected to keep his position as mayor in 2018, including by me.
There was considerable surprise at the result.
There is a small recall campaign trying to recall Lu called “removing rust”, which is a play on her name.
It hasn’t gained much traction, however.
Lu isn’t terribly popular, but she’s not hated or reviled to the degree that motivates supporters of the Han recall in Kaohsiung.
Han recall updates
The “Wecare Kaohsiung” coalition of civic groups behind the recall campaign against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has kicked off a series of rallies.
They have also been distributing yellow ribbons printed with “June 6, Free Kaohsiung. 2020, Kaohsiung people will make history” and “We care. We vote. June 6, God Bless Taiwan” at major intersections in the city.
Meanwhile, Kaohsiung prosecutors on Friday said they would deploy prosecutors at all local police precincts on voting day to assist investigations into allegations of interference or other illegal efforts to hinder voting.
The announcement came after a recall campaign initiator and lawyer, visited the Kaohsiung Qiaotou District Prosecutors’ Office to request prosecutors oversee the whole process from the casting of ballots to the final tallying.
There have been reports that Bamboo Union gang members may try to interfere in the voting by filming people showing up to vote as a form of intimidation, and to try and slow the lines by, for example, refusing to show ID.
These reports should be taken with a grain of salt at this point.
While almost certainly some gangsters will show up, it would be highly risky to show up in large numbers.
More oversight of Chinese visitors
Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) has strengthened its screening of entry permit applications by Chinese nationals affiliated with the Communist Party of China (CPC) over the past year to make sure they do not visit for the purposes of political propaganda, the agency said Sunday.
The NIA in 2019 denied a total of 3,742 entry applications made by Chinese nationals who were found to be associated either with the CPC, its military, administrative, or political bodies.
The number represents a 7.18 percent in denial rate among 52,144 applications in 2019, which represents a 72 percent increase in rejection rate compared with 2018.
Taiwan responds to proposed PRC security law for HK
China’s planned national security law for Hong Kong is provoking reactions in Taiwan.
Over the weekend, a rally in support of allowing people to sit inside Taipei Main Station and in support of foreign workers also turned partly into a rally in support of Hong Kong.
Writing on her Facebook page late on Sunday, President Tsai Ing-wen said the proposed legislation was a serious threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms and judicial independence and that Taiwan would provide the people of Hong Kong with “necessary assistance”.
Taiwan deals with Hong Kong and neighbouring Macau under rules that, for example, allow residents of the two Chinese cities to visit and invest in Taiwan much more easily than mainland Chinese.
Tsai said if there were a “change in the situation” in Hong Kong, the act laying out those rules could be revoked.
“We hope the situation in Hong Kong does not get to this stage, and will pay close attention to developments, and take necessary corresponding measures in a timely way,” she added.
A few things to unpack from this.
First, yes “mainland” is appropriate geographically and politically in the context of Hong Kong and Macau.
Neither of those are true in the context of Taiwan.
“Necessary assistance” needs to be clarified.
Currently, Taiwan doesn’t have an asylum law, though workarounds have been found in some cases.
The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) has released a detailed asylum draft to address the issue, as reported in the Taipei Times:
“The TPP proposal says that people can apply for asylum if they leave Hong Kong or Macau due to war or for reasons related to race, religion, sexual orientation or political opinion, and cannot seek protection in Hong Kong or Macau, or do not want to return there for fear of persecution.
After receiving an application, authorities would convene a review meeting with experts, academics and unbiased members of the public, the TPP draft says.
At least one-third of the committee members should be members of a civic group who have experience promoting human rights, it says.”
The New Power Party (NPP) meanwhile, has called for the Legislative Yuan should review a refugee bill to complete the nation’s support for Hong Kong democracy advocates and prepare a response for refugee issues.
Last year, President Tsai said that it was unnecessary to enact a refugee law, as the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau is adequate.
She is now saying this act may be revoked.
Revoking the act could have serious repercussions, which could actually cause more harm than good, because it would mean that those seeking freedom in Taiwan would presumably be treated as other PRC nationals.
It is hoped that an appropriate asylum law is in place before she makes such a rash move.
It could also have serious economic repercussions.
If the situation in Hong Kong worsens, Taiwan could have opportunities to host businesses that are currently based there.
Hong Kong is a major business and financial hub, and–as depressing as it is to think of the loss to Hong Kong–Taiwan could be a major beneficiary.
Recently the numbers of people from Hong Kong moving to Taiwan and buying property has seen a sharp spike, a trend that will likely accelerate.
Taiwan has suffered from a shrinking labour force for several years now, while at the same time attracting considerable returning investments from Taiwanese firms based in China.
The young, educated and brave people in Hong Kong who have led the protest movements in recent years will be at serious risk if the new law is passed.
Taiwan should provide a safe, helpful refuge for them.
It makes both moral and economic sense.
Ideally, such a move wouldn’t be limited to just people from Hong Kong, but should be open to people worldwide–Hong Kong is not the only place in the world under threat from tyranny.
Photo courtesy of President Tsai’s Twitter account