Prediction on the recall, women in government and the TPP’s big get–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

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Coronavirus updates

One new imported case of COVID-19 was reported in Taiwan on Monday.
Taiwan’s health authorities have approved the potential new coronavirus medication remdesivir for treatment of the disease.
Though clinical testing is still being carried out, it is the drug that so far shows more promising results.
Two Taiwanese research institutes said Monday that they are likely to have a rapid diagnostic test for the coronavirus ready for the market by the end of the year.
The government plans to rank countries based on their COVID-19 risks to determine how to treat tourists and other travelers from those nations once Taiwan reopens its borders, but it is still working out the categories, a top health official told lawmakers.
And finally, face masks are now available in convenience stores and can now be ordered online.

Stimulus vouchers available to residents or not?

The first reports on the government’s stimulus vouchers only referenced them being given to ROC citizens.
Then on May 31, Focus Taiwan reported this: “A stimulus voucher program set to be rolled out in July to boost consumption will be available to not only Taiwanese citizens but also foreign nationals and Chinese spouses who hold residency permits in the country, a source familiar with the matter told CNA.”
Then on June 2 it was reported that Premier Su Tseng-chang specified “all 23 million Taiwanese citizens and 150,000 foreign and Chinese spouses who hold residency permits.”
That excludes all other ARC and APRC holders.
This is problematic because we are taxpayers, and in my case, I’m an employer.
It’s also odd that they singled out spouses from everyone else.

Business updates

Taiwan’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) slid to a new low of 44.8 in May.
That’s not good, as anything under 50 indicates contraction.
A total of 1,330 companies in Taiwan had put 26,323 employees on furlough as of Sunday.
Meanwhile, the demand for workers in Taiwan is expected to rise by 21,100 between July and September from the previous quarter, the lowest level for the same period in 11 years, according to the results of a survey published Tuesday by the Ministry of Labor (MOL).
Carrefour, the France-based hypermarket chain, announced on Tuesday that it is set to acquire Wellcome Taiwan Co. Ltd, which operates supermarket chains Wellcome and Jasons Market Place in Taiwan.
Carrefour said that it plans to switch out the signage at all Wellcome supermarkets in Taiwan within one year of the deal being finalized and that the Jasons Market Place stores will become “high-end Carrefour supermarkets.”
This is a shame, as Wellcome has been in Taiwan a long time, and this will likely reduce product choice.

Embarrassing, and potentially damaging data leak

The government has had an embarrassing and potentially damaging leak of a government database of more than 20 million Taiwanese citizens on the dark web.
The data is from the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Household Registration.
The 3.5 GB-database lists the names, addresses, genders, dates of birth, and other private information of more than 20 million citizens.
If it includes ID numbers, there are quite a few nefarious things that could be done with this data, including identity theft.

Chinese devices leaky

Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown.
A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing.
Both software and hardware devices from China showed problems, including smartphones, cameras, video cameras, routers, network switchers and drones.
Devices from other countries passed the tests.
If you own a Chinese-made device and want to get rid of it, don’t worry, you can donate them to the New Party or the Bamboo Union.

KMT member defects to the TPP

Former National Immigration Agency (NIA) Director-General and Keelung mayoral candidate Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功) has left the Kuomintang (KMT) to join the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).
Hsieh, a member of the KMT for 40 years, announced on May 31 that he was quitting the party to serve as TPP secretary-general at the invitation of TPP chair Ko Wen-je.
Explaining why he decided to leave the KMT, Hsieh said Taiwan needs a strong opposition to check and balance the ruling party, so that it will be more humble and devise policies that better meet the people’s needs.
He acknowledged that the 101-year-old KMT faces problems and said he chose to switch to the TPP because it has less baggage holding it back.
He went on to say “The opposition must be united and cooperating with the KMT is just one of the options,” though he said that was just his personal opinion.
Meanwhile, New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜), a prominent member of the KMT, expressed support for Hsieh Sunday.
Hou told reporters that Hsieh was a good friend and colleague of his, and that as long as he continues to work for Taiwan, he fully supports his endeavors.
There are a few very interesting things to unpack here.
First, this is a fairly high defection, though he did lose twice as KMT candidate for Keelung Mayor.
Note that he said “Taiwan needs a strong opposition to check and balance the ruling party.”
In other words, he doesn’t think KMT is capable of being that party.
Then he goes on to say “that the 101-year-old KMT faces problems” and “ the TPP…has less baggage holding it back.”
In other words, he’s saying the KMT is screwed and can’t reform itself, but the TPP doesn’t have all the baggage holding it back.
It’s not clear if he is referring to the KMT’s party culture, Leninist structure, their disastrous financial liabilities, or–more likely–all of those.
The TPP has gained members from DPP, but more have defected from the pan-blue People’s First Party and the KMT.
It has also positioned itself as more pro-Taiwan than the KMT, and essentially copied the mainstream positions on Taiwan’s sovereignty that the DPP currently espouses.
In short, the party seems to be turning into a light blue party, shorn of all the KMT’s China baggage.
Now that the TPP has the third largest party caucus in the legislature, and the mayorship of Taipei, they are a serious player.
But to really take off, they’ll need to get more experienced heavyweights and form a clear, coherent party ideology.
I’ll be watching closely to see if they get more defectors from other parties.
Hou’s comments are also interesting, and very much in character for him.
Note he put maintaining their relationship and friendship, and service to the country, above party.
That attitude is one of the reasons that Hou is so popular.
It also leaves his options open.

Local government cabinets ranked by female participation

Local newspaper UDN has produced a report showing the percentage of the cabinet, including vice mayors, that is female for the big six metropolises.
Mayor Hou Yu-ih’s New Taipei City scored tops, with 35.71%
Taoyuan was second at 25%, and Tainan was third with 19.23%.
Kaohsiung was fourth at 18.75% and Taipei fifth at 17.24%.
In spite of Mayor Lu Shiow-yen being a woman, her administration came last at 10.71%.
Interestingly, leaving out Kaohsiung, those rankings matched exactly the ranking given to each administration in a Global Views Magazine poll released the other day.
That poll had to leave out Kaohsiung due to the mandated blackout on polls in the runup to the recall vote.
I mentioned the other day that when running an organization that represented the Western community in Taichung, that having a board with a diverse background meant we had better outreach to various groups in the community, and made better decisions.
A government represents a much larger community, but I suspect that also holds true.
That these rankings match the Global Views poll exactly doesn’t prove anything of course, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is a factor.

Han’s fate hangs in the balance Saturday

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) will face the recall vote this Saturday on June 6, nearly 18 months after he began his four-year term at the end of December 2018.
Han chose not to show up for a televised briefing ahead of a June 6 vote to recall him, and instead spent his time visiting vegetable farms devastated by recent torrential rains.
In short, he threw away an opportunity to defend himself.
According to Han’s camp, they have a so-called “5 won’t dos” list, which sounds way better in Chinese.
First, Han will not publicly address the issue of the recall.
Second, they will not hold any anti-recall activities.
Third, they will not hold any anti-recall rallies.
Fourth, they will politely thank any friends from political circles that show up on June 6, and won’t try to block them from coming.
Fifth, on the day of the recall Han will not issue any statements regarding the result.
In related news, Han’s legal challenge to the recall has been rejected by the High Court.
The pro-recall side has been holding rallies, though from what I can see they haven’t been terribly well attended.
I spoke on the phone the other day at length with Eryk Michael Smith, ICRT’s Southern Taiwan correspondent and author of the excellent piece on Ketagalan Media I quoted from the other day.
It was a very interesting conversation.
We have come to basically the same prediction for the result, myself in part influenced by his reflections on the mood in Kaohsiung, and I think him in part by something I posted about the numbers in a recent poll.
For the recall to succeed, the percentage of people voting yes has to be in the majority, and in total the yes vote must exceed 25% of the electorate.
I strongly recommend reading Eryk’s article, but the upshot of it was that the passion and fervor to recall Han that existed a few months ago has died down, and more people feel it’s not worth the hassle and cost to go through another election when 2022 isn’t that far away, and they can vote him out then.
Of course there is still a strong block of people who will vote to remove him, mostly deep greens.
With this in mind, the Han camp’s “five won’t dos” list makes perfect sense–it’s all about avoiding drawing attention to himself or the recall.
Instead, like he did when he skipped the televised briefing, he’s concentrating on doing his job in an un-showy sort of way.
No climbing up trees or dramatic displays, but lots of pictures of him looking at vegetables and drainage ditches.
In short, they’re trying to tamp down enthusiasm for voting him out.
Both Eryk and I think the vote will be close, probably in the mid-twenties.
Perhaps a bit less than the 25% needed, perhaps a bit more.
I would be very surprised if the result was less than 20% or over 33%.

Image courtesy of Han Kuo-yu’s Facebook page

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