Taiwan experienced its worse train accident in decades on April 2, when a Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) express train hit a crane truck on the track near the entrance to the Qingshui Tunnel in Hualien County.
The first five carriages of the Taroko Express derailed and piled up inside the narrow, single-track tunnel, killing 50 people and injuring more than 200.
The driver of the crane truck has expressed “deep remorse”, but is being held after having his bail rejected due to flight risk.
Calls have come from the KMT for both Premier Su Tseng-chang and transport minister Lin Chia-lung to step down to take responsibility.
Lin has reportedly given a verbal resignation, but both the premier and President Tsai Ing-wen have said the most important thing right now is deal with the current situation, and are not currently thinking about resignations.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has set up a system to start accepting donations for the people who were injured in the crash and for the families of those who died.
The water supply to large parts of Taichung as well as parts of Miaoli, Changhua and Hsinchu counties is to be cut on a rotational basis for two days a week starting this week.
I will be one of the roughly one million customers impacted.
It is the most stringent water rationing measure introduced in central Taiwan in nearly 50 years.
Meanwhile, more than 500 military personnel with dredging equipment have been mobilized to increase the capacity of five reservoirs.
According to the Financial Supervisory Commission’s (FSC) latest life table, the average mortality rate fell 30 percent since 2002.
While of course a good thing, it could lead to cuts in premiums of traditional life insurance policies.
The legislature’s Finance Committee has approved bills that would raise property taxes.
This will subject houses sold within two years of purchase to combined property taxes of 45 percent, while the taxes would be 35 percent on houses sold within five years of purchase.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) laid out goals for the Transitional Justice Commission during a ceremony in Taipei for 100 victims of political persecution who have received pardons.
The president said she hoped the commission could speed up investigations into political persecutions, uncover facts surrounding the events of the White Terror era, compensate victims or their families, eliminate symbols of authoritarianism and care for surviving victims.
She added the commission has removed or relocated more than 400 symbols of authoritarianism, and is establishing a legal framework for the conservation of historic relics deemed symbols of injustice.
Two questions come to mind:
Will the commission be renewed in May for another year, and will they tackle more controversial issues such as the Chiang Kai-shek memorial and the images on the currency?
In business news, the consumer confidence index this March reached its highest since March last year.
Manufacturing activity in Taiwan expanded in March for the ninth consecutive month.
However, after experiencing fast growth for the first time in a decade in January, Taiwan’s manufacturing sector returned to stable growth in February.
Meanwhile, Taiwan ranked 15th in the world by export value last year at US$345.21 billion, gaining two places from a year earlier amid its strongest performance in 16 years.
Taiwan accounted for 2 percent of the world’s overall exports and 1.6 percent of its imports–but Taiwan’s crucial role in tech production and semiconductor dominance means that 2 percent is far more influential than the low number suggests.
With that in mind, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (aka TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, announced that it expects to pour US$100 billion into advanced chips over the next three years to keep up with rising demand.
That amount dwarfs what Taiwan will spend on the military during the same period.
Twenty Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Friday, March 27, in the largest incursion yet.
Earlier on the same, Taiwan and the United States signed their first agreement under the administration of new president Joe Biden, establishing a Coast Guard Working Group to coordinate policy, after China’s passing of a law that allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.
A presidential office spokesperson said “Taiwanese will not support Beijing’s military provocation.”
Good thing that was cleared up.
Meanwhile, the US Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs wrote on Twitter that “our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid.
We urge Beijing to cease its provocative behavior and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan.”
Signals from Taiwan’s radar stations were jammed for as long as 20 minutes multiple times in March according to a report in Hong Kong’s Apple Daily.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan is to donate US$250,000 to help combat Ebola in Africa, after Taiwanese representatives joined US, WHO and African officials in a virtual meeting on responding to the virus.
Allowing Taiwan representation is something the WHO is blocking, but apparently they’ll show up for meetings offering free money.
Image courtesy of Lin Chia-lung’s FB page