A criminal group that allegedly collaborated with Chinese “snakeheads,” or human smugglers, has been busted, according to the National Immigration Agency’s Border Affairs Corps.
The sold Republic of China (ROC) passports to human traffickers in China, making a profit of about NT$20 million (US$674,309) over the past 12 months, Border Affairs Corps officials said.
The two leaders were arrested along with four other people, most of whom are officials at temples in southern and central Taiwan, they said.
International cooperation was key to cracking the case, agency officials said.
Canadian authorities found Chinese nationals attempting to enter their borders using altered ROC passports as part of a global human trafficking operation run by major Chinese smuggling gangs and passed along that intelligence to their counterparts in Taiwan.
That temple officials were involved is not surprising.
There has long been connections between local temples, gangs and local patronage faction politicians.
They are excellent for laundering money and in recent years some have built up connections in China.
The famous Dajia Jenn Lann Matsu temple, which is the source of the famous Dajia Matsu pilgrimage is headed by Yen Ching-piao, who was a Taichung Black faction politician and has been imprisoned multiple times for corruption and gun charges, among other things.
Ex-legislative aides arrested for spying for China
In similar news, two former legislative assistants were detained after being questioned by Taipei prosecutors about their alleged involvement collecting classified materials and meeting minutes from the Legislative Yuan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Mainland Affairs Council, and passing on lists of government personnel and reporters to Chinese intelligence officials.
The trio allegedly passed material to Chinese Ministry of State Security officials while working as aides to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers between 2014 and 2018.
Chinese sand thieves detained
Kaohsiung prosecutors indicted and detained 10 crew members of a Chinese ship allegedly caught dredging sand in Taiwan’s territorial waters earlier this month.
Prosecutors said a bail court judge approved detaining the crew on a charge of breaching the Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of the Republic of China.
Under Article 18 of the act, they face up to five years in prison and up to NT$50 million (US$1.69 million) in fines if found guilty.
Coast Guard Administration (CGA) vessels on June 3 boarded the 7,539-tonne Chinese sand dredger ship.
CGA patrols reported that there were more than 20 Chinese dredging vessels in the area known as “Taiwan Banks”.
Two CGA armed vessels and two naval frigates deployed water cannons and cornered a vessel with the designation No. 5679.
Seventeen coast guard personnel boarded the ship to detain and escort its crew to Kaohsiung.
The CGA estimated that the ship might have mined more than 500 tonnes of sea sand.
This is a big problem as the ecological damage is big.
China’s construction industry has a voracious need for sand.
Plan to allow recall campaigns to raise more money moves forward
A proposal to allow both sides in recall campaigns to accept political donations has moved one step forward as the interior ministry approved a proposed amendment to the Political Donations Act on Thursday.
Donations can only start after a recall campaign has entered its second stage with enough signatures in support collected.
The interior ministry now plans to send the proposed amendment to the legislature for review.
This is probably a bad plan.
Already following the successful recall of Kaoshiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu there are several revenge recalls being launched by his supporters against people at the other end of the political spectrum.
In short, recall votes are being weaponized.
The threshold to pass at the end of the day is 25% of the electorate voting yes.
That’s not a terribly high threshold, especially in a highly partisan environment.
The biggest obstacle in the current system is the hassle and expense.
Allowing them to raise money makes it much easier to pay volunteers and professional operators.
Some may even go so far as to use it to hire politically friendly companies as a form of patronage.
For more on this issue, check out Nathan Batto’s excellent comments in his piece on the Han recall on his Frozen Garlic blog.
Uncontroversial appointment to Washington, DC
Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), a former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator and National Security Council advisor, has been appointed Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States.
Born in 1971 in Kobe, Japan, to a Taiwanese father and American mother, Hsiao grew up in the southern city of Tainan and left Taiwan for the United States to study after graduating from junior high school.
Her first job was as chief executive of the DPP’s office in Washington D.C.
AIT responded very positively to her choice, and all the US State Department-connected people I know have praised her as an excellent choice.
Justin Huang withdraws from Control Yuan consideration
Former Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭) on Saturday declined President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nomination as deputy chief of the Control Yuan, one day after news of the cross-party appointment sparked criticism from across Taiwan’s political spectrum.
Many DPP lawmakers were opposed, and the KMT suspended his party membership rights.
The furor is curious because Presidents Lee Tung-hui, Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou all appointed people from across the political aisle.
Though he didn’t get the post, which he clearly wanted, Justin Huang may have come out ahead in all of this.
He was in heavy rotation in news coverage, which is good for raising his profile.
The KMT, however, came out looking partisan and petty.
Taiwan People’s Party to have big meeting
Local media is reporting that the Taiwan People’s Party plans to have a party conference on August 2.
This may be an opportunity for the party to come to some decisions and consensus on what the party stands for.
In spite of being the third largest party in the legislature, they are still something of an unformed political entity.
In short, they don’t have a clear identity or platform, though recently some clarity has appeared on some issues.
The report also mentioned the party has 12,000 members.
While that is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of members the KMT and DPP boast, it is still a fair number of people for such a new party.
KMT Reform: The backlash begins
On yesterday’s show I went into depth on the report issued by the KMT reform committee.
Overall, it showed self awareness, and their proposals on cross-strait ties would move the party from deep blue to much lighter blue.
The most dramatic element was killing off the 1992 consensus.
Now comes the hard part for KMT chair Johnny Chiang–he has to get the party to sign off on it.
The signs aren’t encouraging.
Today there was a report in local pan-blue media outlet United Daily News.
It reports that former party chairs Ma Ying-jeou and Wu Den-yih are very unhappy with the proposals, and both have pulled out a previously scheduled meeting with Chiang to discuss the Kaohsiung mayoral by-election.
Eric Chu reportedly hasn’t pulled out, at least not yet.
But the biggest sign of trouble and that Chiang is feeling the heat is what he himself had to say.
Described by UDN as “putting out fire”, they quoted him as saying “the reform committee’s cross strait policy is only a proposal, providing a discussion topic for those inside and outside the party and a basis for reaching a consensus, it’s not a final verdict.”
They also quoted one of the members of the cross-strait task force on the reform committee who helped draft that part of the reform proposal saying it was “just a first draft.”
These quotes strongly suggest that their phones have been ringing off the hook with angry opponents.
The reform proposal’s ink is barely dry and they’re already distancing themselves from it.
What they said during their presentation was correct, that actions by China and the DPP have essentially changed the 1992 consensus beyond repair.
China explicitly tied it to the “one country, two systems” formula that they are already undermining in Hong Kong, and the DPP’s refusal to accept the consensus is widely popular.
In short, the 1992 consensus is a deal-breaker for the KMT in national elections–they can’t win back the presidency if they support it, and it will hurt them significantly in the legislature.
Two landslide victories for the DPP in a row in national elections have woken up the reformers in the KMT to this fact.
I should note that in local elections it doesn’t hurt them so much, local issues are more important–but in national elections Taiwan’s sovereignty is by far the biggest issue.
The problem for Johnny Chiang and his clearly pragmatic reformers is that the KMT old guard has a strong ideological bent.
Former president and party chair Ma Ying-jeou and former vice president and also former party chair Lien Chan, for example, tied their careers to the consensus.
Many others–such as Han Kuo-yu–are deeply wedded to improving relations with China–but China has made it clear no 92 consensus, no talks.
Their followers, among others, will probably fight Chiang tooth-and-nail on this issue.
Johnny Chiang knows the party can’t win with the 92 consensus.
But the question is, can he beat the party itself.
Image courtesy of Ma Ying-jeou’s Facebook page