Summary: Finally, the government announces a firm date for ARC number change. The future of CTiTV News, and a man sets himself on fire in protest. News coverage of Kao Chia-yu is ridiculous. President Tsai’s award-winning week. But up first, headlines.
According to Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), people in Taiwan may be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the second quarter of 2021, slightly earlier than previously anticipated.
A total of 22 migrant workers tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 716.
A landslide on the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) line in northeastern Taiwan has caused a massive service disruption effectively cutting off New Taipei from the east coast.
Service will not likely resume until Dec. 13, and more delays are possible if weather conditions are bad.
A train had been barrelling towards the landslide, but luckily a TRA spotter warned the oncoming train, which narrowly avoided crashing into it.
Extra intercity buses and flights are being laid on to cope.
More than 70 pork importers representing about 80 percent of the nation’s pork importing companies have announced that they would not import pork with traces of ractopamine.
A Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister said the importers’ statement was a “win-win-win scenario” for consumers, hog farmers and pork importers.
A Formosa poll shows that 55 percent of respondents would not vote for a candidate who supports ractopamine pork in local elections in 2022, while 27.1 percent would support the candidate.
This seems highly unlikely to be the case.
The pork will have hit the market for just shy of two years by that time, and unless people start dropping off dead or turn into zombies due to racto-pork, the issue will be largely forgotten–though it could still sway a few percentage points.
DPP legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), who is currently being held in custody as one of the suspects in the SOGO bribery scandal, has started a hunger strike.
He maintains his innocence and is hoping to force them to release him on bail.
His hearing is on the 21st.
KMT legislator Chen Chao-ming (陳超明), held as part of the same scandal, has just been released on bail of NT$5 million.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said the government will promote 50 social housing construction projects next year as part of an effort by the central and local governments to build 120,000 social housing units by 2024.
Home prices are skyrocketing right now off an already high base, as businesses return from China.
High home prices make buying a home for young people very difficult, which in turn depresses the birthrate.
The NT$ on Friday hit 28.521 to the US dollar, the highest its been since 1997.
Bloomberg said it was “a sign the central bank is loosening its grip on the currency.”
In spite of this, Taiwan’s foreign exchange reserves hit another record high of US$514 billion at the end of November as the central bank stepped into the local currency market to slow the Taiwan dollar’s appreciation against the U.S. dollar.
The Legislative Yuan has purchased more than 200 bottles of Australian wine to stand with Australia, following China’s move to increase tariffs up to 212 percent.
Beijing is trying to bully Australia into accepting a list of 14 demands, and is increasingly using trade as a weapon to try and force Australia into toeing their line.
A Republic of China (Taiwan)-Singapore Inter-Parliamentary Amity Association, which is to be chaired by KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), has been launched in the legislature.
The legislature has been setting up a lot of these groups recently, which is a good sign.
Interestingly, this group is entirely led by the KMT and TPP, though there are DPP members.
Finally, the government announces a firm date for ARC number change
The planned change in the numbering of Alien Resident Certificates (ARC) and Alien Permanent Resident Certificates (APRC) so they have the same format as the Taiwan national identification card will come into force on Jan. 2, 2021.
Finally! They’ve been talking about doing this, and pushing the date back for years.
The number on the ARC and APRC, which currently comprises two letters and eight digits, will be changed to one letter and nine digits, as is used on the Taiwan ID card.
The new measure in theory will enable foreign residents in Taiwan to make online purchases, book tickets, and register online, many of which are currently impossible due to the numbering differences.
The number of hassles this could solve is significant.
However there are concerns that the choice of numbers could be a problem.
On Taiwanese IDs the numbers 1 and 2 are used to designate men and women, while 8 and 9 are used for foreign nationals–so some systems may reject anything that doesn’t include 1 or 2 in that slot.
How many systems check this is unknown.
This is a small step forward for accepting foreigners into Taiwan society.
Taiwan generally improves things with a slow, drip-drip approach.
In the 1980s and early 1990s the old guard of the KMT was often anti-foreigner, based on memories of the treaty ports in China.
By the mid-1990s, the KMT started to become the more foreigner-friendly party.
There were elements in the DPP who were for opening up, but there was opposition within the party from navel-gazing nationalists.
Recently the Tsai administration has improved the situation, but is still moving at a similar pace as her KMT predecessor.
The future of CTiTV News, and a man sets himself on fire
CTiTV, whose broadcast license for their news channel expires on the 11th, has reached over 600,000 subscribers on Youtube.
Their general entertainment channel, whose license was renewed, has over 1.5 million subscribers.
Naturally, Want Want China Times, which shares a majority shareholder, touted that as a popular movement of support.
However, when I checked at 6 pm on Friday night less than 10,000 people were tuning in.
It will be interesting to see if they will try to continue to operate online after the 11th, and whether their viewership numbers jump as a result.
I haven’t seen any coverage suggesting they will go online-only, but their biggest shareholder has the cash to fund it.
Their deep-blue, pro-China stance is well out of the mainstream, but it is a large audience nonetheless.
Speaking of their loyal audience, after handing a red envelope for a program host to a security guard, a 70-year-old man self-immolated on the steps of CTiTV headquarters in Taipei.
The security guard quickly put the fire out with a fire extinguisher.
He was treated for third-degree burns to the face and upper body, but remained conscious.
Probably he chose self-immolation based on the model of Nylon Deng (鄭南榕), who died by self-immolation in protest of the KMT’s one-party state and lack of press freedom in 1989.
He did while the police were trying to kick down his door to arrest him.
The policeman in charge of that raid was none other than current New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih.
Deng is considered an icon of free speech, and the KMT has been attacking the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the Tsai government, saying rejecting CTiTV’s license renewal is an attack on free speech.
The ironies are thick on this, as CTiTV has been reported as having taken orders from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
Meanwhile KMT Chair Johnny Chiang took to Facebook to say he was distressed by the news and the ridicule he saw online.
“The antagonism in society is disheartening,” he said, urging people to pray for the man.
As for who should get their channel news 52 slot on cable, civic groups are calling for it to be given to the public Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS), saying viewers do not need another sensationalized corporate news station.
One civic group head cited in the Taipei Times said that many people are dissatisfied with news channels that prioritize gore, gossip and dashcam video, not to mention the political talk shows that contribute to the polarization of society.
News coverage of Kao Chia-yu is ridiculous
On a recent show I discussed Kao Chia-yu’s recent terrible, no good week.
I was asked why so much attention was focused on her.
The reason is she is a fixture on the talk shows, is photogenic and is in Taipei so gets more coverage.
Just today she made the news for singing badly, which she does often and the media always covers it.
She also cut her hair by 20 cm, which local media quoted netizens as saying she now looks like an innocent high school girl.
Is this all totally silly. Yes, it is totally ridiculous.
I also forgot to mention the biggest bombshell accusation against her during her bad week: she ate a cookie intended for a KMT city councillor’s kid that had fallen on the floor.
Sorry I forgot to mention that dramatic story.
President Tsai’s award-winning week
President Tsai Ing-wen has had a great week, at least in terms of international recognition.
Last Thursday she received the International Pioneer Award from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for her extraordinary international leadership and her strong commitment to free markets.
Here is how Focus Taiwan describes ALEC:
According to ALEC, which is the largest organization of state legislature members in the U.S., the International Pioneer Award is presented to leaders on the international stage whose careers exemplify a commitment to free markets, limited government principles, and to those that have exhibited a steadfast dedication to serving the causes of freedom both in their own countries and abroad.
According to an ALEC release on Thursday, Tsai is the second international leader to receive this honor, after former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2006.
They’re a conservative American non-profit.
On the same day, she was named as one of the 50 most influential people in the world in an unranked list by Bloomberg News.
Her introduction was entitled “Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s Covid Crusher” and the description lauded her pandemic response and Taiwan’s strong economy.
Commenting on this in the local media, she said the credit should be given to the people of Taiwan.
Then on Friday, the respected London-based Financial Times Magazine released a report showing she was voted one of the 12 most influential women in the world by readers, alongside the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and American Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
This list was also unranked.
CNA quoted from it this way:
In the section on Tsai, an unnamed reader wrote that the Taiwanese president had generated enthusiasm in the elections in January, “made an excellent decision to ban arrivals from mainland China early (in the pandemic) and made Taiwan one of the world’s strongest economies this year.”
Politically, according to the reader’s own opinion, Tsai had managed to resist “pressures from Beijing while not offending China, thereby avoiding further escalation in tensions.”
“She also supported same-sex marriage in Taiwan, which is now legal,” the FT cited the reader as writing.
Time magazine also honoured her earlier this year.
This is both good news for Taiwan, and of course for the president.
This raises the profile of, and the respect for, Taiwan overseas.
This is the sort of positive press that makes it more likely that people overseas would feel more inclined to come to Taiwan’s support.
Inside Taiwan, Taiwanese care about their standing in the world, so this is a political boost for the president while she’s spending precious political capital over the racto-pork issue.
Image courtesy of Kao Chia-yu’s Facebook page