Education ministry rejects NTU President pick

In a stunning violation of university autonomy yesterday, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education refused to appoint Kuan Chung-ming as the new National Taiwan University (NTU) President, citing flaws in the selection process, after the university’s search committee made its decision from eight candidates in January this year. NTU protested the decision.

The controversy stemmed from Kuan serving as an independent board member for mobile phone operator Taiwan Mobile during the selection process, while one of the search committee members is deputy chair of Taiwan Mobile’s board of directors, creating a potential conflict of interest. Legislators from the governing DPP further accused Kuan of scholastic dishonesty (NTU response) and illegal teaching in China. Continue reading “Education ministry rejects NTU President pick”

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Taiwan President visits Swaziland

President Tsai Ing-wen is leading a delegation to visit the Kingdom of Swaziland in celebration of King Mswati III’s 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The delegation departs Taipei today and flies directly to the southern African kingdom. President Tsai is expected to return on April 21. China Airlines is selected to handle the delegation this time.

President Tsai will meet with King Mswati III before attending a state dinner today. She is expected to attend the king’s birthday celebration and a celebration of the relationship between Taiwan and Swaziland. Taiwanese citizens living in southern Africa have been invited to meet with the delegation, while President Tsai will visit the Hlane Royal National Park on the last day in Swaziland. The ROC first established diplomatic relations with Swaziland in 1968, on the day of the latter’s independence. Burkina Faso is Taiwan’s only other African ally.

Cabinet reshuffles ahead of midterm elections

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan today announced a reshuffle of top officials in diplomacy, security, and defense. Presidential Office Secretary-General Joseph Wu will replace Foreign Minister David Lee, who will replace National Security Council Secretary-General Yen Teh-fa. Yen will replace Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan, who will head a think tank to be established by the defense ministry. Mainland Affairs Minister Katherine Chang will be replaced by National Taiwan University Professor Chen Min-tong, who was a former minister in 2007-2008 and served as President Tsai Ing-wen’s deputy when she was mainland affairs minister. Labor minister and veteran affairs ministers are also both being replaced. Continue reading “Cabinet reshuffles ahead of midterm elections”

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.