US Senate committee passes Taiwan Travel Act

The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed H. R. 535 Taiwan Travel Act without amendment today. The bill, which encourages official visits between Taiwan and the United States, passed the US House of Representatives on January 9.

SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS; STATEMENT OF POLICY.

(a) Sense Of Congress.—It is the sense of Congress that the United States Government should encourage visits between officials from the United States and Taiwan at all levels.

(b) Statement Of Policy.—It should be the policy of the United States to—

(1) allow officials at all levels of the United States Government, including Cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts;

(2) allow high-level officials of Taiwan to enter the United States, under conditions which demonstrate appropriate respect for the dignity of such officials, and to meet with officials of the United States, including officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense and other Cabinet agencies; and

(3) encourage the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and any other instrumentality established by Taiwan, to conduct business in the United States, including activities which involve participation by Members of Congress, officials of Federal, State, or local governments of the United States, or any high-level official of Taiwan.

Continue reading “US Senate committee passes Taiwan Travel Act”

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Lunar new year flights cancelled amid air route row

China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines announced today the cancellation of 176 round-trip flights added during the lunar new year in February to meet increased passenger demand during the holidays. Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration have not approved the added flights in retaliation of the companies flying the northbound M503 and connecting W121, W122, and W123 routes off China’s southeastern coast, citing national security and aviation safety concerns.

M503 RouteWhile Taiwan and China agreed on using the southbound M503 route following negotiation in 2015, using the route northbound and the three W connecting routes are only supposed to start with consultation of aviation authorities on the two sides. M503 is close to the median line between Taiwan and China’s air-defense identification zones. China unilaterally opened the four routes on January 4. Continue reading “Lunar new year flights cancelled amid air route row”

On Happiness Road

On Happiness Road 幸福路上 is an animated film following Chi, a Taiwanese woman born in 1975, as she grew up during Taiwan’s transition to a democracy, moved to the US, but returned to attend her grandmother’s funeral. A touching tear jerker highly relatable to Taiwanese in their 30s and 40s, the film manages to “condense four decades of Taiwanese politics, economics, traditional and pop culture as well as everyday life into 109 minutes without mucking up the narrative.” The story mirrors that of the film’s director, Sung Hsin-ying, who is making her debut through support of the Golden Horse Film Project, as well as countless others who grew up in Taiwan with grand aspirations but had to come to terms with reality.

See the trailer

Labor law change sparks protests and police action scrutiny

As the Tsai administration and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) prepares to pass amendments to the Labor Standards Act, the law that governs employer-employee relationship and workers’ rights in Taiwan, protests and demonstrations have followed over remarks from officials and the proposed changes, seen as catering to business demands. Low wages and long working hours have long been the norm for the Taiwanese work force, but expectations from the younger generations seem to make the status quo untenable.

This culminated to yesterday, where over 10,000 demonstrators protested the changes at various places in Taipei. New Bloom’s detailed account is worth a read. While police declared parts of the protests illegal due to an unapproved route change, the Taipei Bar Association and rights groups have accused the police of illegally detaining and transporting several demonstrators and volunteer lawyers at the scenes of protest and demanded apologies from the government.

Prosecutors searched and questioned pro-unification party officials

Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau and police searched the homes of four New Party officials early Tuesday morning. Investigators entered New Party spokesperson Wang Bingzhong’s home with a search warrant after a 40-minute standoff, streamed lived on Wang’s Facebook page. Three other party members, all considered the upcoming new blood of the party, were searched and questioned before being released past midnight on Wednesday. Investigation Bureau did not provide additional details, but it is speculated that the searches are connected with Zhou Hongxu, a Chinese citizen serving a 14-month sentence for attempting to bribe a Taiwanese diplomat and recruit spies for China.

New Party was originally a faction within Kuomintang, but splintered off in 1993. It is a conservative party supporting Chinese unification (Group E on the spectrum). The party was once the third largest political party in Taiwan after the KMT and DPP, winning 21 and 11 seats in the Legislative Yuan in 1995 and 1998. It has since failed to garner support for electoral success, currently occupying no seats in the legislature and two seats in the Taipei City Council. New Party Chairman Yu Muming denounced the searches as politically-motivated, citing the party’s lack of governing status and lack of access to any classified information. Yu and a New Party delegation including Wang had just returned from a trip meeting Communist Party of China officials last week.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office condemned the moves “oppressing pro-unification forces”, while Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council countered the importance of judicial independence and expressed disapproval over “external intervention and commenting… [and] misunderstanding of democracy and rule of law.”

Parliament passes transitional justice legislation

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passes the Act Promoting Transitional Justice in a late-evening session today. The 21-article act mainly aims for truth-seeking and reparations from Taiwan’s authoritarian era. The law specified the authoritarian era as between August 15, 1945, when Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan ended, and November 6, 1992, when martial law on Kinmen and Matsu was lifted (martial law lifted in Taiwan proper in July 1987).

The law establishes the Promotion of Transitional Justice Committee as an independent agency under the Executive Yuan, with nine committee members nominated by the premier and confirmed by the Legislative Yuan. The committee will be in charge of acquiring Kuomintang historical archives to clarify the history of repression during rule of Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.

Establishment of the committee follows the establishment of the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee, responsible for investigating and returning ill-gotten political party assets during the same authoritarian era, mainly targeting the KMT and its affiliated organizations. The Promotion of Transitional Justice Committee is tasked with utilizing the returned assets.