Election results reflect deep concerns of Taiwan’s citizens: Bruce Jacobs

The following commentary by Bruce Jacobs, Emeritus Professor of Asian Languages and Studies at Monash University, was originally published on The Conversation.

Voters assert themselves as Taiwanese in a warning to KMT

By Bruce Jacobs, Monash University

Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won an unprecedented landslide victory in the country’s local elections. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) won only one of Taiwan’s six largest “special municipalities” in voting on Saturday and this by a very narrow margin. Elsewhere, the DPP won unexpected victories in many counties and municipalities.

The best explanations for this unexpected DPP victory relate to the losing party. Like Australians, Taiwanese want their ruling parties to be able to govern themselves. The divisions between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have resonances in the KMT between Taiwan’s president (and KMT party chairman) Ma Ying-jeou, former vice-president and premier Lien Chan and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who have been quite open in their three-way mutual detestation.

In addition, parties that cannot govern themselves usually perform badly in policy and administrative terms. Recently, major food companies in Taiwan have used industrial oil rather than food oil in the preparation of foods. This has raised huge questions over the government’s ability to provide safe food for its citizens.

Ma’s government, which should be aligning with South Korea as a fellow Asian democratic state, became hysterical about the “certain” damage to the Taiwan economy when the South Koreans signed a free trade agreement with China. It turned out that the Taiwan government had not seen the text of the FTA nor had it done any research. Continue reading

The battle for Taichung on social media

screenshot of Lin Chia-lun's Facebook page

Taichung is a key battleground in Taiwan’s local elections. Overall victory or defeat in the elections is likely to be judged on who wins the mayoral race in Taichung. Both major parties have a realistic chance of winning what is likely to be a close contest. Hence, they will be investing a great deal in their campaigns.

The closeness of the contest in Taichung makes it an ideal site for analysing and comparing the campaign strategies of the two major parties. In this post I have done some basic analysis of how the two mayoral candidates are using social media to get their message out to voters.

The battle for Taichung sees incumbent mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) competing against Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). These two candidates also contested the election for Taichung Mayor in 2005 with Hu the victor on that occasion.

Jason Hu has been Mayor of Taichung for thirteen years now, nine as Mayor of Taichung City and the past four as the Mayor of Taichung Municipality. Hu is also a Vice-Chairman of the KMT and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lin Chia-lung was the Legislator for Taichung No. 6 District until he resigned shortly before the election. He has previously served as  Director of the Government Information Office and Secretary-General of the DPP. Continue reading

RSF concerned about Chunghwa Telecom cutting NTDTV’s signal

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has written to Premier Wu Den-yih expressing concern about Chunghwa Telecom’s decision to stop relaying signals from New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV). Chunghwa Telecom advised NTDTV in April that they would not renew the contract to relay NTDTV’s signal.  NTDTV uses a Chunghwa Telecom satellite to broadcast Mandarin-language programming into Taiwan and China. RSF wrote:

In an 11 April letter, Chunghwa Telecom told NTD-AP that it would not be able to renew their relay contract when it expires on 9 August because of “insufficient bandwidth” on its new satellite, ST-2, which is about to replace the existing one, ST-1.

“The contradictions in the reasons given by Chunghwa Telecom for not renewing the contract and the supposed limitations of the new satellite’s technical capacity suggest that the real reasons lie elsewhere,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The similarities of this dispute and the dispute between NTD-AP’s parent station, NTD-TV, and the French satellite operator Eutelsat, make us fear the worst. Continue reading

Time to speak out against injustice

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
— Elie Wiesel

Taiwan’s courts have handed down not guilty verdicts in two notable cases this week. Former president Chen Shui-bian was found not guilty in the Supreme Court in the special diplomatic funds case. The verdict was only briefly reported by most media, however its significance should not be ignored.

The verdict further vindicates A-bian’s claims that he is innocent and a victim of political persecution. In November last year A-bian and his co-defendants were all found not guilty in the financial mergers case. However, just one week later the Supreme Court ruled that A-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen were guilty in the Longtan land deal case. Continue reading

Possible DPP & KMT vice presidential candidates

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is set to be confirmed as the DPP’s presidential candidate in 2012. Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be the KMT’s candidate. Both parties are yet to select their vice presidential candidates. I have listed the likely contenders from both parties below with some brief analysis.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) – Su narrowly lost the primary and declared he had no interest in being the vice presidential candidate. However, he may still be persuaded to take the position.

Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) – the DPP’s presidential candidate in 2008 is still a key player in the party.

Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) – Su almost won the mayoral election in Taichung last year and is currently the DPP’s secretary-general. He is a strong campaigner and would be a good choice. Continue reading

Combined elections might not be a good idea

An opinion piece by Hawang Shiow-duan (黃秀端) in the Taipei Times today points out some problems with the idea of combining the presidential and legislative elections. It begins by pointing out that combined elections are not the norm for country with semi-presidential systems of government.

Taiwan’s system of government is a semi-presidential one. Of the 55 countries with a similar system, Romania, Namibia and Peru are the only ones that have combined their parliamentary and presidential elections. The other 52 countries, including France, hold the elections on separate dates. One has to wonder whether the minority of countries that combine their elections have reached this situation without having given the issue deep thought. In Taiwan’s case, the attempt to combine the elections is certain to encounter several problems that will have to be resolved. Continue reading

Falun Gong protests arrival of ‘CCP villain’ in Taichung

Falun Gong protesters in Taichung

Several dozen members of Falun Gong (aka Falun Dafa) protested the arrival of Chen Zhenggao (陳政高), the governor of Liaoning Province, in Taichung this afternoon. The protesters shouted, “Chen Zhenggao, you’ve been accused, stop persecuting Falun Gong” (陳政高,你被告了,停止迫害法輪功). According to a Falun Gong website 409 Falun Gong practitioners have died as a result of persecution in Liaoning Province. Continue reading

Why Taiwan must abolish the death penalty

The death penalty has once again been in the spotlight in Taiwan over the past few days. The issue was brought to the fore after a man confessed* to a crime for which another man was executed in 1997. The wrongful conviction and execution of Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) was uncovered by a Control Yuan investigation in May last year. At that time the Control Yuan censured the Ministry of Defense over the case and said there were seven major flaws in the trial.

Since new developments in the case that resulted in the wrongful execution resurfaced there have been apologies issued by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and President Ma Ying-jeou. About 30 officials involved in the arrest, trial and execution of Chiang are now facing administrative and criminal investigation. Those being questioned include two former defense ministers. However, a statute of limitations may prevent those involved from being punished. Continue reading