Summary: Taiwan is standing in support of Australian “freedom wine”. Two airlines introduce boarding by facial recognition. Bureau of Labor Funds domestic investment division head arrested. The TPP accuses the government of spending big on “propaganda”.
Citing a recent surge in cases, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has removed Hong Kong from its list of countries and regions from which business travelers can apply for shorter quarantine periods upon arrival in Taiwan.
Taiwan will also temporarily suspend the entry of Indonesian migrant workers into Taiwan for two weeks starting Dec. 4 for the same reason.
It is expected to affect 1,350 workers, including 300 to 400 manufacturing jobs, with most of the rest being domestic caregivers.
The CECC also announced travelers who return to Taiwan within three days of their departure will be exempt from a new rule requiring international arrivals to present proof of a recent COVID-19 test.
Taiwan’s manufacturing activity expanded for the fifth consecutive month in November.
The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for November rose 1.9 from a month earlier to 61.2, the largest expansion since February 2017, while the non-manufacturing index (NMI) also rose 0.4 from a month earlier to 53.8, marking the sixth consecutive month of expansion.
A number above 50 indicates expansion.
The Executive Yuan has drafted an organizational reform plan under which the National Palace Museum could be downgraded from an independent “2nd-tier” Cabinet-level body to a “3rd-tier” body under the Ministry of Culture.
The proposal drew strong opposition from the KMT, which denounced the proposal as politically motivated for the purpose of “de-sinicization” by the DPP.
The government denied this.
Taiwan is set to start issuing its newly designed passport on January 11.
It will more prominently feature the word “Taiwan” in English.
The Republic of China is put in a tiny font in a circle around the national emblem.
One user on Facebook suggested the government go further, and get TSMC to etch the name on the passports using their latest technology.
Taiwan will restrict the importation of products containing mercury from January 1 next year as part of an international agreement which aims to reduce mercury pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has vowed to speed up the replacement of the government’s uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), after legislators raised concerns that more than 70 percent were made in China.
The National Communications Commission’s Telecom Technology Center has found evidence that Chinese UAVs could pose an information security risk.
Gun barrels purchased overseas to be mounted on prototypes of indigenous armored vehicles are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan in September next year, military officials told the Legislative Yuan.
According to a source cited in the Taipei Times, Taiwan is not capable of building the 105mm assault gun and therefore needs to rely on overseas purchases.
However, the barrel manufacturer has agreed to transfer key technology for the gun barrel so that the 105mm assault guns can be produced locally.
When Taiwan begins to mass produce the gun barrels, it should be able to reduce the recoil by 70 percent, the source said.
The country of origin wasn’t specified.
Taiwan has opened a technical mission in the East African state of Somaliland, launching bilateral cooperation in healthcare, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and agriculture.
Taiwan and Somaliland opened representative offices in each other’s countries in August and September.
Like Taiwan in most countries, Somaliland is represented by representative offices due to a lack of formal diplomatic recognition.
Taiwan and Brunei have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote the halal economy between the two sides.
The MOU aims to foster cooperation in the halal industry, reduce technical barriers to trade and facilitate bilateral relations.
Taiwan has recently been trying to position itself as a good destination for Muslim tourists.
Amid an ongoing dispute with Indonesia over fee payments, Taiwan is seeking to recruit migrant workers from a Southeast Asian nation that does not currently provide the country with foreign workers, according to Labor Minister–but she didn’t specify the country.
She added Taiwan hopes to sign a memorandum of understanding with the country next year and be able to recruit migrant workers by 2022.
The number of migrant workers in Taiwan was 701,240 in October, with 37.79 percent from Indonesia, 32.58 from Vietnam, 21.54 from the Philippines and 8.09 from Thailand, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Labor (MOL).
Taiwan is standing in support of Australian “freedom wine”
Officials, politicians and diplomats from President Tsai Ing-wen on down are expressing support for Australian wines after Beijing slapped tariffs of up to 212 percent as part of an effort to get Australia to toe China’s line.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Twitter “We stand in solidarity with Australia by serving freedom wine.”
The president said “Taiwan’s government and people empathize with the same feeling of tremendous pressure that Australia faces.
The government supports Australia and is mulling what measures are most appropriate to be taken to make the Australian people feel the warmth from Taiwan.”
I personally support buying Australian wine to stand up to bullying from Beijing.
The Australian Office Taipei posted a message on Facebook expressing its gratitude.
Two airlines introduce boarding by facial recognition
Taiwan’s two major airlines have unveiled a facial recognition system that enables touchless boarding.
EVA Air said it will expand the service to seating, checked-in luggage, security checks and use of VIP lounges in the future.
Under the program, passengers have the option of having their facial images taken at the boarding gates, which much match their boarding pass information and biometric profile stored at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
This is part of the U.S. Biometric Exit Program, which collects biometric information from travelers, which may limit it to US routes.
While undoubtedly convenient and helpful in controlling the spread of Covid-19, it does raise data security and privacy questions.
It also takes all the fun out of being on the run from the law.
Bureau of Labor Funds domestic investment division head arrested
The head of the domestic investment division of the ministry’s Bureau of Labor Funds, was on Friday detained on suspicion of accepting bribes to ask securities brokers contracted by the bureau to purchase certain stocks using ministry funds.
The bureau is the ministry’s unit in charge of the labor pension, labor insurance and employment insurance funds, as well as the funds related to occupational hazard protection and the disbursement of unpaid wages.
The KMT caucus called on the ministry to report to the Legislative Yuan on its holdings and trading activity as soon as possible for the sake of the nation’s workers.
The report should include the traders involved in handling the ministry’s three main funds, the external advisers it consults, the securities firms it works with, portfolio contents and trading activity, it said.
They are also asking for a full probe, and questioned whether other officials were involved.
KMT Legislator Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said that despite the arrest, major questions about the case remain.
The fund performed terribly in September, despite a stock market rally fueled by US monetary easing, she said.
“What kind of investment portfolio would lose NT$74.9 billion when the broader market performed so well?” she asked.
That’s an excellent question, the stock market has been booming in the last few months, breaking record after record.
The property market is also booming, and I’ve heard anecdotally that business people returning from China are buying up property in cash, which is something we haven’t seen since the 1990s.
The fund also performed well last year, under less booming conditions.
So Cheng’s questions are quite legitimate.
This is the kind of oversight an opposition party is supposed to do, rather than throwing around pig guts.
If this scandal does spread, it could be a pretty serious blow to the DPP’s claims of running a competent, clean government.
If it doesn’t spread and this is merely one relatively low ranking rogue actor, the political damage will likely be largely limited.
TPP accuses the government of spending big on “propaganda”
The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) legislative caucus has criticized the Executive Yuan for spending up to NT$103 million (US$3.57 million) since 2017 creating “propaganda” to influence public opinion and for recruiting nine people to create memes.
They also said some of the slogans and memes contain content that contravenes administrative neutrality, and they were actually smear campaigns against opposition parties, several of which were posted on Su’s Facebook page.
They also questioned the Executive Yuan’s procurement process, as the successful bidders were the same few companies.
To try and find some specific example of what they were referring to as “propaganda” that contravenes administrative neutrality I visited the TPP website and their Facebook page, but they provided no examples.
It is easy to imagine what they might be referring to, such as memes defending the safety of racto-pork, which could be construed by the opposition as an attack on their position–and internationally there are over a hundred countries that do ban it, and it’s not totally proven to be safe one way or the other, though hundreds of millions of Americans don’t appear to be suffering any ill effects.
There can be a fine line between promoting government policy to the public, and that policy is a partisan party-led effort.
On the few companies successfully bidding, they may have a legitimate point here–or not, depending on how much genuine competition there was in the bidding process.
Image courtesy of MOFA’s Twitter account