Taiwan confirmed no new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus for the second consecutive day on Saturday, keeping the total at 440.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) noted that Taiwan has not reported a local infection for 26 days, showing that the nation’s disease situation has stabilized.
The CECC announced that local governments can decide whether shuttered businesses can resume operations as long as they apply measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, Taiwan’s Vice President Chen Chien-jen, an epidemiologist by training, was asked about the origin of the coronavirus.
He said “The origin of the virus has to be examined scientifically and so far we can see that the virus originated from Wuhan.
Whether it is from a laboratory or from the natural infection sources needs further confirmation,” he said, adding that the laboratory theory was “one of the possibilities”.
Facebook to get Taiwanese oversight director
National Chengchi University Professor Katherine Chen (陳憶寧) was one of 20 people named to Facebook’s newly-established Oversight Board, which will be tasked with deciding what types of content the social media giant allows on its platforms.
In a statement, the independent board said it will hear appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and questions from Facebook itself, and will issue public and binding decisions based on the company’s policies, international human rights norms and the impact on users and society.
Definition of “police weapons” may change
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has given the green light to proposed amendments to the Act Governing the Use of Police Weapons (警械使用條例), which seek to broaden the definition of police weapons, as well as to form an investigative panel that would probe cases involving possible excessive use of force.
Asked if the draft amendments would be retroactively applied — for example, to officers who were tasked with evicting Sunflower movement protesters — if passed by the Legislative Yuan, the Deputy Minister of the Interior said they would not.
However, a case can be opened to review past incidents involving possible excessive use of force if a judicial institute filed the request, he said.
Whether police use of force in the protest was proportionate has become an issue of heated debate, with many officers caught on film beating protesters with truncheons, and one slashing a protester’s legs with a shield after they had fallen to the ground.
Government steps up on cyberattacks
The government is stepping up measures against Chinese cyberattacks across eight core industries, data archives and medical facility Web sites, ahead of the May 20 presidential inauguration, the Executive Yuan said yesterday.
The Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday warned that the attacks might increase in frequency and intensity as the inauguration draws closer.
Such attacks were not out of the ordinary, Executive Yuan spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said yesterday.
Sports make a comeback
The second stage of the first ever Taipei T10 Super League cricket tournament started this weekend and and is being live streamed with English commentary for viewers around the world amid the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
It is hoped that cricket fans the world over will tune in.
Local baseball, which also has been broadcast in English, is now allowing up to 1000 fans per game into the stadium.
Finally some support from Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday thanked Taiwan for donating medical masks to Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic, one day after his foreign minister dodged repeated requests to do the same.
During a daily briefing, Trudeau was asked about Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne refusing to specifically name and thank Taiwan for its donation of 500,000 masks despite publicly thanking China for its separate donation.
“Your foreign minister wouldn’t thank the country by name. Will you?” asked a journalist.
“I’m happy to thank Taiwan for its generous donation,” Trudeau responded.
In related news, forty members of the Canadian Conservative Party signed a letter delivered to Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne on May 6, calling on the government to support Taiwan and strengthen exchanges.
Indictments in alleged Han Kuo-yu vote buying case
Taipei prosecutors yesterday indicted seven suspects on suspicion of using money from Chinese agencies to buy votes for Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in the run-up to his presidential bid in January.
They allegedly acted on instructions from Huang Daonian (黃道年), director of the Economic Bureau at Changsha City’s Taiwan Affairs Office in China’s Hunan Province intended to mobilize China-based Taiwanese in support of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential and legislative candidates, prosecutors said.
On Huang’s written orders, Chinese officials from Hunan Province and its Changsha City Government organized banquets to fund airfare and accommodation for China-based Taiwanese — businesspeople and students — so that they could return to their home districts to vote in the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections, the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday.
Huang formulated the scheme, along with other government officials who dealt with Taiwanese investors and businesspeople, prosecutors said.
The suspects are the Taipei-based Chinese Women’s Federation chairwoman, the Chinese Women’s Federation deputy secretary, the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises in Changsha chairman, the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises in Changsha deputy chairman, the China New Family Association chairwoman, the Hunan Shaoyang City Association in Taiwan director, a Changsha City-based Taiwanese businessman and another member of the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises in Changsha.
The KMT in a statement said that attendance at the banquets and other events was the participants’ private affair, but that the party opposes any interference in Taiwanese elections on the part of the other side of the Taiwan Strait or other foreign entities.
The allegations, if proven true, would be huge.
It would also show a significant step forward in Taiwan’s efforts to reduce election meddling from China, which has been long known to exist (the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department is hardly subtle about their intentions), but it’s been hard to prosecute.
That this is occurring in the run up to the vote on whether to recall Han as Kaohsiung mayor adds to the mayor’s woes.
Could this get worse for the Han and the KMT?
Yes, very much so.
If it is proven that people in the Han campaign or KMT were involved, or even knew about these efforts, that would be a serious blow to the party’s image.
It is already known that many Taiwanese companies with operations in China donate to the KMT.
Many of those companies get lucrative contracts or subsidies from the government there.
However, there is no direct proof of any formal connection between the two, but there is considerable speculation.
Want Want China Times, the deep blue media group, is known to get large subsidies from the Chinese government.
It was reported in the Financial Times that they take direct orders on some of the content they run from China, which is highly suggestive of a correlation.
Some temples, local radio stations, and pro-unification parties like the China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP) are all known to receive money from China, and all tow the Chinese Communist Party line.
Will “unification” be struck from a key law?
A legislator closely associated with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wants to remove the mention of unification with China as the country’s sole national aim from the text of the “Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area,” reports said Friday.
The text of the act opens with the phrase “before the unification of the nation,” which DPP legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) wants to replace with “in response to national development.”
Lawmaker Tsai said the current wording of the act describing “national unification” as the only aim no longer reflects the political reality and should therefore be removed from the text.
He also went on to say Taiwan acknowledges the existence of the People’s Republic of China and its sovereignty over the areas it controls.
This is potentially a bombshell.
Some reactions to it will be obvious, the PRC will oppose it while the New Power Party and the Taiwan Statebuilding Party will probably support it.
The first big question mark is what will the DPP do with this?
President Tsai’s inauguration is on May 20.
She has so far taken a slowly, softly approach to issues like this.
That has produced one very positive result, the onus for worsening relations with China have been shown to the world to be as a result of their aggression.
It has, however, caused frustration among those who want to move faster on ridding the nation of its imposed ROC rule.
The more vocally aggressive President Chen Shui-bian, on the other hand, was often blamed for worsening relations–often, or even usually, when the fault really lied with the government in Beijing.
President Tsai is very aware of all of this, and is well aware that the law as stands is totally at odds with reality.
How the DPP jumps on this will be very interesting and instructive.
They have three choices: Fully support it as a caucus, slowly strangle it or let their members vote as they please–which is the least likely option.
If it does gain momentum, this will also put the Taiwan People’s Party in an interesting situation.
They have adopted a line that very closely resembles the current DPP line on local sovereignty.
This could test how close they are to that line.
Finally, this is potentially explosive for the KMT and their chairman Johnny Chiang.
He has pledged to try and move the party closer to the mainstream on issues like this.
However, many in his party will vehemently oppose this.
So Chiang will have to choose between taking a line that might bring more of the public back to the party and risk an internal revolt, or defending the party as it currently is.
This is very worth watching.
Image courtesy of Han Kuo-yu’s Facebook page