Rallies, threats to the President, and who will run in Kaohsiung?–Taiwan Report News Brief transcript

Business updates

Taiwan’s largest IT trade exhibition, COMPUTEX, has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers plan to hold an online version of the show instead.

Average monthly take-home wages decreased 0.41 percent month-on-month to NT$42,132 in April due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the fourth consecutive monthly decline.

The average number of people employed in Taiwan as of the end of April stood at 7.927 million, down 35,000 from a month earlier

Worse, a human resources company survey found that Taiwan’s net hiring outlook index for the July-September period was 3 percent, down 20 percentage points from a quarter earlier and also down 18 percentage points from a year earlier.

However, the amount invested in fixed assets by Taiwan’s manufacturers in the first quarter rose 6.4 percent from a year earlier on strong demand for emerging technology devices, government figures showed.

Finally, the Executive Yuan on Thursday approved a plan to invest NT$17.7 billion (US$597.5 million) over five years to develop display technologies and their practical applications in retail, transportation, medicine and entertainment.

UMC loses industrial spy case to Micron

United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), Taiwan’s second largest pure wafer foundry operator, has been ordered to pay a fine of NT$100 million (US$3.36 million) by a district court in Taichung City which found the company and three of its employees guilty in a trade secret theft case brought by U.S.-based memory chipmaker Micron Technology Inc.
UMC plans to appeal.
The employees in question have received jail sentences and fines in a separate case.
Though Micron said the ruling showed justice has been served, this fine seems like a slap on the wrist.
UMC has annual revenue of around US$150 billion.
US$3.36 million isn’t even a rounding error.

President vows to bring in more foreign professionals

Speaking at Taipei AmCham, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Friday stressed the importance of strengthening Taiwan’s talent pool and bringing in foreign professionals in order for the country to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic and globalization.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, so we need these solutions now more than ever.”
“We are going to strengthen Taiwan’s talent pool in two major areas: bilingual capabilities and digital skills,” she said.
The European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT) weighed in on the current situation.
The government should grant “national treatment” for foreigners living in Taiwan and revise outdated labor regulations if it wants to attract and retain international talent, a high-ranking ECCT official said.
“In terms of treatment for foreign nationals, now we have seen situations where there is different treatment of foreign nationals versus Taiwanese citizens,” ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo said.
Citing a stimulus voucher program as an example, which is part of a government move to boost spending and improve the economy, Izzo expressed disbelief that foreign nationals in Taiwan are excluded.
“That is unbelievable. People who live, work and pay taxes in Taiwan should be treated as citizens, at least from this point of view,” Izzo said.
On historical precedent, here’s how this will go:
The government will make all kinds of statements that sound very positive.
Bureaucrats will craft something confusing, hard to navigate and only moves the ball forward a bit.
Then, political interference will water that down.
For example, one big barrier to attracting younger workers–for example foreign students graduating in Taiwan–is the minimum salary requirement of NT$47,800 (at least that was what it was last time I checked, I know it hasn’t been lowered).
The Ma administration had planned to remove that, but after President Tsai was elected in 2016 they left it to her incoming administration.
Her administration had initially planned to follow through, but backed down after opposition from the New Power Party.
Another example is the government has for years now said they were going to assign foreigners with residency ID numbers compatible with national ID numbers.
The difference in number format causes enormous headaches.
However, the implementation date keeps getting pushed back…and back…and back.
All of this is harmful to Taiwan, which has been suffering from a contracting work force since 2017.

Han out, but not before holding a party

In the waning hours of his mayorship, Dan Han Kuo-yu and his outgoing administration held a rally on government land.
The legal grounds for the rally have been questioned by city DPP lawmakers, claiming the grounds can’t legally be rented to an NGO.
The KMT emphasised no government funds were used.
It was well-attended, with the grounds totally packed out.
Police estimated the crowd at 18,000, organizers said 10,000 by my eyeball estimate was mid thousands.
That’s a pretty good turnout no matter how you count it considering how quickly the rally was organized and the size of the venue.
Han was his defiant self, and it came across much like a political rally.
I had a quote prepared for you from the KMT website, but the site is now down.
From memory the quote was roughly “do we have rule by democracy or by ferocious beasts?”
The crowd chanted “ferocious beasts.”
Interestingly, he and his Han army are clearly trying to turn Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Hsu Kun-yuan (許崑源), who committed suicide after the recall result was released, into a martyr.
I also had a quote from the KMT site on what UDN reported Hsu told his wife before his suicide, but with the site down from memory it was basically “what is the point of living if there is no justice.”
There is much speculation as to what caused Hsu to jump.
One DPP city councillor in Taoyuan posted on Facebook something that suggested Hsu had lost big gambling on the recall result.
He quickly took it down and apologized, but that didn’t stop a crowd of about 200 Han fans protesting outside.
He’s also received death threats.
There is, so far, no proof that that allegation is true.
At the rally Han bizarrely tried to draw a comparison between Hsu and free speech and democracy advocate Nylon Deng.
Nylon Deng is widely considered a martyr for self-immolating rather than fall into the hands of the police in 1989.
The police captain in charge of the raid on Deng was none other than current New Taipei Mayor and popular KMT superstar Hou You-yi.
Another historical sidenote, martial law was officially ended in 1987, and many people today tend to think that is when the country became democratic.
As the Deng case reminds us, that was not the case: Taiwan at the national level was still effectively a one-party state.
Also, security laws were passed before the lifting of martial law that were quite strict–basically ”martial law-lite”.
If you recall the other day I mentioned that almost certainly a recall campaign against New Power Party Kaohsiung City Councillor Huang Jie would be launched.
At the rally people were collecting signatures for just such a recall.

Anti-recall and memorial rally in Taipei

Interestingly, the anti-recall rally and Hsu memorial rally on Saturday in Taipei got almost no coverage in the press at all, suggesting it was pretty small.
The Taipei Times reported what might be the reason:
Han’s supporters are quarreling among themselves over tomorrow’s planned rally in Taipei, after allegations that groups supporting unification with China organized the event as “united front” work for Beijing.
A well-known figure among Han’s supporters, Kaohsiung vendor Wu Yu-chuan (吳育全), yesterday said that he would not attend the rally, and urged his friends not to go.
Many in Han’s camp had backed holding a rally, but over the past few days, the organizers’ motives and political agenda have been called into question.
“The rally’s organizers have a different political agenda,” Wu said, after media reports alleged that tomorrow’s event has been backed by pro-unification groups, possibly with financial support from China.
The rally was not organized by Han’s supporters, Wu said, adding that Han has distanced himself from it, so it would be an issue for him to participate.
The media quoted the online political forum TaiwanHandout as saying that the main rally organizers are three self-described heads of small political groups: the Median Voters Party, the Third Force 333 Party and the Economy Party.
Observers have said that the three organizations, which are registered as political parties to nominate their own candidates in elections, have as their charters unifying with China and pushing back against the Taiwan independence movement.
In what little coverage I could find on the rally was one article reporting that Taipei police have issued summons to some of the participants for some of the things they said.
Among other things, they called for President Tsai to be executed by firing squad.

Acting Kaohsiung Mayor named, takes office

Yang Ming-chou (楊明州), chosen by the Executive Yuan to take over as interim mayor, has taken office.
He was Kaohsiung City Government secretary-general under Han Kuo-yu, and previously served as vice mayor under Chen Chu, the previous DPP mayor.
The Taipei Times referred to him as a political independent, while NEXT TV News called his “political colour unknown.”
Yang is one of those bureaucrats who are known for competence and appointed by elected politicians of both parties–but who usually lack the charisma to run for office themselves.
That makes him an excellent choice as a caretaker.
This choice comes across as impartial and apolitical.
Considering the tensions in the city over the recall and very intense feelings on the part of Han fans, that is a wise move.
In his first interviews since the appointment, he’s repeated like a mantra that he’s going to focus on flood control as well as preparations for typhoons and dengue fever.

Mayoral by-election date set, but who will run?

The mayoral by-election in Kaohsiung is to be held on Aug. 15.
This prompted some grumbling on the KMT side saying that 64 days is too short.
The DPP responded by releasing a graphic showing that under their President Ma Ying-jeou, it was usually shorter.
So who’s going to run?
So far it looks like all indications are that the DPP will run Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai, who lost to Han Kuo-yu in 2018.
Though he’s about as exciting as a telephone poll on the stump, he’s actually not a bad choice.
Polling showed only five months after losing to Han, if the election were re-held he would have won.
He’s a well-known wonk, and no one doubts his passion for Kaohsiung.
And right now, in the aftermath of the pandemic, wonks are popular right now.
As an aside, polling put Health Minister Chen Shi-chung at over 90%.
Speculation has been rising that he will run for mayor of Taipei or New Taipei.
He hasn’t ruled it out, using the typical “not thinking about that right now” and “that is something for the future” formulations–which means he’s seriously considering it.
Watch this space!
Back to the topic at hand, who will the KMT run?
According to a local news report, one KMT City Councillor is now in the running, 李雅靜, who is 42 years old.
The Taipei Times reported that: “The opposition Kuomintang (KMT), meanwhile, has encouraged Wu I-ding (吳怡玎), a 40-year-old Kaohsiung native who was elected as an at-large legislator earlier this year, to jump into the race, though other candidates are also being considered.”
At the KMT’s Central Standing Committee meeting in Kaohsiung on Wednesday, KMT Chair Johnny Chiang said that the party had failed to foster talent in the area.
Focusing on northern Taiwan has led the KMT to overlook Kaohsiung and the resource distribution gap following the 2010 merger of Kaohsiung city and county, he said.
He has previously said they’re hoping to nurture a younger, up-and-comer for the role.
Once again, it does appear that Chiang is far more aware of the party’s difficulties and far more politically savvy than his most recent predecessors.
Whether the party gives him much leeway is a different matter.
The New Power Party has said they will support the DPP candidate, as long as he resigns his current post.
The Taiwan People’s Party, meanwhile, has pushed for both an independent candidate, and floated the possibility of cooperating with the KMT.

Image courtesy of Chen Chi-mai’s Facebook page

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