Summary: The Citizen Judge law passes over united opposition. The passport and China Airlines legislation passes, but is just a suggestion. Jane Lee’s campaign is under pressure as she tearfully rejects her master’s degree. Foreign Minister warns to the media that the Chinese military threat is on the rise. The US Democratic Party draft party platform is more pro-Taiwan.
Final year foreign students who have been stranded abroad due to Taiwan’s border restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be permitted to return, with immediate effect, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said Wednesday.
Starting Aug. 1, foreign visitors seeking medical care will also be allowed to enter Taiwan, once they meet certain requirements, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.
The opening will apply to foreign patients seeking treatment in all areas of healthcare, except physical health checks and cosmetic surgery.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications is temporarily suspending its funding to promote tours to Yilan, Hualien and Taitung counties, as well as outlying islands, and would instead focus on promoting tours to the west coast.
Over 1.35 million people in Taiwan had signed up to receive NT$500 (US$16.98) vouchers toward sports-related spending as of Tuesday morning, just one day after their launch online according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Some 2.1 million people in Taiwan have won “Arts FUN Go” electronic cultural vouchers, each worth NT$600 (US$20.37), that were issued by the Ministry of Culture (MOC) on Tuesday.
The Taiwan government will allocate NT$18.7 billion (US$635.6 million) for the development or procurement of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.
Of that amount, NT$13.5 billion will be spent on research and development in Taiwan or procurement of a vaccine from an overseas source, while NT$5.2 billion will be held as a reserve fund.
It’s smart they’re preparing for both eventualities.
Taiwan produced 258.72 million metric tons of carbon emissions from burning fuel in 2019, down 3.15 percent compared to a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
It is the second consecutive year of reduction since the country’s total emissions reached an all-time high of 269.46 million metric tons in 2017.
DGBAS data showed that the jobless rate in June was 3.96 percent, down 0.11 percentage points from a month earlier, as domestic business activities picked up after months of slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER) has raised its forecast for Taiwan’s economic growth in 2020 to 1.77 percent because of a pickup in economic activity as COVID-19 fears ease and spending vouchers are issued to consumers.
Taiwan was listed in 13th place on the 2020 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI), which is published by KPMG and covers one of the most advanced areas of transport technology.
Steven Chen (陳文正), head of renewable, infrastructure, government and healthcare at KPMG Taiwan, said that while Taiwan lags behind some Western countries in terms of relevant legislation and infrastructure, it was the highlight of this year’s AVRI Index because it ranked 13th, ahead of Germany, Australia and France.
That is significant, as both Germany and France are leaders in automobile manufacturing.
Out of 49 countries ranked for their handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Taiwan came in first, a Japanese survey concluded Wednesday.
Speaking of being a world leader, Taiwan’s leading convenience store chain 7-Eleven has announced the opening of the world’s first Hello Kitty-themed store in downtown Taipei’s Ximending area.
Taiwan is among the first 22 countries listed by the Kingdom of Jordan in its announcement of the reopening of its borders in August.
Hong Kong and Australia have been removed from a list of COVID-19 low risk countries and regions due to a recent spike in new cases.
Two staff members of the Taipei-based Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office (HKETCO) have returned home after their residence permits were rejected, Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said.
The Mainland Affairs Council hasn’t confirmed this, but if true, this is likely in response to Hong Kong denying visas to Taiwan representatives for refusing to sign a “one China” pledge.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday during a speech given to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS):
“The PLA’s (China’s People’s Liberation Army’s) large scale exercise to simulate the seizure of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Island is a destabilizing activity that significantly increases the risk of miscalculation.”
With regard to Taiwan, “we will continue to conduct arms sales.
We will continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations, and that includes in the Taiwan Strait.”
Citizen judge law passes over united opposition
As expected, the DPP used its majority in the Legislative Yuan to pass the Citizen Judges Act in spite of all other party caucuses united against it.
Under the act, criminal trials at district courts that involve offences subject to a minimum of 10 years in prison, will involve a panel of judges made up of three professional judges and six citizen judges.
Citizen judges have to be at least 23-years-old, have graduated from high school, or the equivalent, and have lived in the area under the jurisdiction of the district court for a minimum of four months.
This is odd, as they’re pushing to lower the voting age to 18.
Under the Citizen Judges Act, at least two-thirds of the nine judges, including at least one professional judge, must find the defendant guilty for a guilty verdict to be handed down, and the same two-thirds majority including a professional judge is needed to hand down the death penalty.
President Tsai wrote on Facebook that this “kicks off a new era of people’s participation in the ‘joint trial, joint verdict’ judiciary.”
All other parties in the legislature support a jury system, something that the DPP used to advocate for.
Passport and China Airlines legislation passes, but is just a suggestion
The Legislature unanimously passed two resolutions that ask the executive branch of government to highlight “Taiwan” on both the country’s passports and aircraft used by flagship carrier China Airlines (CAL).
The resolutions, put forth by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won support from all 64 legislators attending the extraordinary session, which included representatives of all party caucuses except for the main opposition KMT.
KMT caucus whip Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) criticized the vote as a show and said his party did not wish to join.
Legislative resolutions are considered to be suggestions and not enforceable, however it is likely that the government will take some kind of action on it.
On the CAL issue, the DPP said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) should take a phased approach to change the carrier’s name, starting with showing more distinctive symbols of Taiwan on its planes.
Such a change should be carried out without hurting Taiwan’s freedoms of the air privileges, the DPP argued.
A Cabinet spokesman said the MOTC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will review symbols of Taiwan to be used on CAL aircraft, passports and MOFA business cards.
Jane Lee’s campaign under pressure as she tearfully rejects her master’s degree
A report in Mirror Media exploded yesterday with the allegation that 96% of KMT Kaoshiung mayoral candidate Jane Lee’s (李眉蓁) thesis at the National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) Institute of Mainland China Studies was plagiarized.
Things then moved fast.
Initially Lee fought back with a 57-second press conference, calling the allegations a political trick and said she would respond using the standard of President Tsai Ing-wen regarding her thesis.
That was in reference to a conspiracy theory that for some reason the prestigious London School of Economics, the president’s alma mater, conspired with her to award her a degree without a thesis, or conspired to hide it.
It had indeed gone missing for awhile, which someone I know personally confirmed, but it had been misplaced and eventually was found.
The core of the conspiracy theory requires us to believe that either LSE was conspiring with an unknown young student nobody from an unimportant family from a little country on the other side of the planet…or time travel.
There is a long history of political attacks using a politician’s thesis in Taiwan, and is bi-partisan.
There were a lot of lies spread about former KMT President Ma Ying-jeou as well.
Jane Lee was trying to turn this story into just another political smear and distract with the Tsai thesis conspiracy theory.
It started to fall apart quickly as the details appeared to pan out that she’d copied extensively from two authors, including ironically one from the DPP camp.
The university said that if Lee violated academic ethics, as alleged, her master’s degree would be revoked.
Then today she held another press conference, apologized and tearfully said she was renouncing her degree.
This has left the KMT and party chair Johnny Chiang scrambling, trying to keep up with the twists and turns.
Chiang has come out in support for Lee’s renouncement, saying he was glad she was facing the issue.
There are already calls for the party to replace her as a candidate, but so far the party has refused.
This comes as the KMT is at its lowest point in its modern history, hitting record lows in the polls, having been crushed for the second time in a row in national elections and their Kaohsiung mayor dumped in a recall.
Their reputation is in tatters, and now this.
The party has been concerned they could drop below the Taiwan People’s Party in the polls, putting them in third place.
Now, it’s possible this scandal could put them behind the TPP candidate in the August 15 mayoral by-election.
That would further the impression they are falling behind.
For Johnny Chiang personally, it is also a disaster.
There are already calls for him to shoulder the blame, and there were already calls for him to step down if the result in the by-election was embarrassingly bad.
That looks very likely to happen now.
Chiang has been working hard on trying to get reform plans passed in the party congress in September.
This makes his plans that much harder, and even if he doesn’t step down to take responsibility his authority will have been weakened.
Foreign Minister says Chinese military threat on the rise
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Wednesday “Looking on the long-term trend, China appears to be gradually stepping up its military preparedness, especially in air or on the waters near Taiwan.”
“What China is doing now is continuing to ramp up preparedness to solve the Taiwan issue,” he said.
“The threat is on the rise.”
Interestingly, this the “Taiwan issue” part was translated by the Associated Press as “Taiwan problem,” which is unlikely to be accurate.
Wu said such intrusions “happened almost every day” in June and were “much more frequent” than what the government had disclosed to the public.
He said China has also made several “simulated” military attacks on Taiwan.
He added “These behaviours worry us,” and said that Taiwan was deepening its security ties with allies, including the United States.
US Democratic Party draft platform is more pro-Taiwan
Speaking of the United States, a draft copy of the Democratic Party platform has been circulating on Twitter, and it has some welcome wording.
“Democrats are committed to the Taiwan Relations Act and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.”
As the awesome Yeh Chieh-ting, editor at Ketagalan Media commented, that’s a lot better than “to be decided by the Chinese on either side of the Strait,” which is typical of the kinds of language used in the past in the US.
Traditionally in the US the Republicans have been more openly supportive of Taiwan, but recently there have been signs of a shift in the Democratic party towards Taiwan.
Hopefully, the Taiwan part of the draft will make it into the final version.
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Image courtesy of Jane Lee’s Facebook page