Taiwan seeks visa reciprocity from Manila

Taiwan will continue talks with the Philippines on granting visa-free status to Taiwanese nationals, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said yesterday, a day after the government announced plans to give Filipinos visa-free privileges.

Speaking on the sidelines of a legislative hearing, Lee said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hoped that Taiwan and the Philippines would develop a reciprocal arrangement on the visa issue.

The lack of reciprocity from the Philippines after Taiwan announced its policy sparked concerns of an unequal relationship between Taipei and Manila.

The Cabinet on Thursday said that Premier William Lai (賴清德) had approved a plan on a trial basis to allow Filipino citizens to enter Taiwan for 14 days without a visa, as part of government efforts to promote its New Southbound Policy.

Although the government has not said when the new program will begin and Lee would not comment on the issue, sources said it could start next month at the earliest.

Asked whether Taiwan was confident it could secure reciprocal treatment from the Philippines, Lee said it would depend on how future talks proceed.

In response to Taiwan’s announcement, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei on Thursday said that the Philippines is looking to provide a reciprocal loosening of travel regulations for Taiwanese visitors.

To promote its New Southbound Policy, the government first relaxed visa rules last year for ASEAN member states and India.

Taiwan also included the Philippines in its electronic visa program on Oct. 7 last year.

In related news, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫) yesterday said that Taipei and Manila are expected to renew a bilateral investment agreement signed 20 years ago by the end of the year.

Yang, who was attending a trade fair in the Philippines, said he received positive feedback from Philippine authorities on the possible renewal of the agreement at a bilateral industry conference on Thursday.

There was also progress made on a bilateral free-trade agreement, Yang said.

The New Southbound Policy, launched in May last year, is aimed at enhancing the nation’s relations with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

The government hopes that the policy will forge closer ties with these countries in a bid to reduce Taiwan’s economic dependence on China.

 

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2017/09/30/2003679429

KMRT light rail to start charging

The Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (KMRT) system’s light rail line is to begin charging fares in November, the KMRT Bureau said yesterday.

Travel on the light rail line, the first of its kind in Taiwan, has been free since it opened in October 2015, but with the extension of the line this year a sharp increase in the number of passengers, a fare schedule will be established, bureau Director Wu Yi-long (吳義隆) said.

The line, which opened with four stops, was extended in June to the popular Pier-2 Art Center in Kaohsiung Port and has 14 stations.

Trams run from Lizihnei Station (C1) to Dayi Pier-2 Station (C12), with the section to Hamasen Station (C14) to open on Sept. 30.

Although fares are to be introduced in November, they will be half-price for the first two months, he said.

The 8.7km waterfront rail is part of the Kaohsiung Circular Line that was designed to complete the city’s metro service network.

There are about 13,000 passengers per day on work days and nearly 20,000 on weekends and holidays, Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp said.

In related news, the city is to open an electric car rental station on Oct. 1 as part the its electric car-sharing system, the city’s Transportation Bureau said.

The station is to be at the No. 2 exit of the KMRT’s Sizihwan Station (西子灣), the bureau said, adding that five electric cars will be available for free during the month.

The city government in May signed a contract with the electric car rental company Unicar, it said.

Over the next two years, 50 electric car rental stations are to open, offering a total of 84 vehicles at a tentative rate of NT$150 per 30 minutes, it said.

The first 10 stations are to be set up by May next year near the high-speed rail system’s Zuoying Station (左營), railway stations, MRT stations, department stores and hospitals in the city.

 http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2017/09/11/2003678238

Court acquits Ma over classified data leak

The Taipei District Court yesterday found former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) not guilty of abetting a leak of classified information related to an investigation of a then-opposition lawmaker while the probe was in progress in 2013.

Prosecutors said they would appeal the verdict.

In September 2013, it was uncovered that then-prosecutor-general Huang Shyh-ming (黃世銘) had shown Ma a transcript of wiretapped conversations collected in an investigation of an alleged breach of trust by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘).

Prosecutors contended that Ma encouraged Huang to leak the contents of the wiretaps, Ker’s personal information and other data related to the investigation to then-premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and then-Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強).

Huang was convicted in February 2015 for breaches of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法) and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, commutable to a fine of NT$457,000, which he has since paid.

Ma was president at the time, giving him immunity from criminal prosecution.

However, after leaving office in May last year, he was summoned as a potential defendant in the case on Dec. 1.

On March 14, Ma was indicted on charges of violating the Criminal Code, the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).

During the trial, Ma placed heavy emphasis on “special presidential executive powers,” which he said granted him the right to inquire about ongoing criminal investigations to prepare for potential crises that could destabilize the government.

However, prosecutors contended that Ma, as a former minister of justice, should know well the need to keep such information confidential.

“There should be other methods through which a president could handle such matters, and no incident created the necessity nor urgency to break such confidentiality,” prosecutors said.

The judge yesterday said that while Ma’s conveyance of the information to Jiang and Lo breached confidentiality, it was “in accordance with the law.”

Ma office spokesman Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) quoted the former president as saying that he was gratified by the result and that the ruling was not only about his personal rights, but also establishing the rightful extent of a president’s executive powers under the Constitution.

Lo called on the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office not to appeal the ruling and save what dignity Taiwan’s judiciary might still have, as well as the office some face.

DPP spokesperson Ruan Jhao-syong (阮昭雄) said that the party regretted the ruling, but would respect the results.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiao-kuang and Su Fang-ho

 

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2017/08/26/2003677187

Taiwan attends Thai fair, seeks increase in travelers

Taiwan is participating in an international travel exhibition in Bangkok to attract more visitors from Thailand, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.

The bureau has teamed up with the Taiwan Visitors Association, hotel operators, farm resort operators and souvenir vendors to set up a Taiwan pavilion at the Thai International Travel Fair, which runs from today to Sunday at the Queen Sirikit Convention Center.

The fair is held twice a year: in February and August.

The bureau said Taiwan regards Thailand as one of the fastest-growing markets at a time when the government is pushing its New Southbound Policy.

The policy is aimed at boosting ties with Southeast Asian and South Asian nations in a bid to lessen Taiwan’s economic dependence on China.

To attract more travelers from Thailand, the government has granted visa-free privileges to Thais since Aug. 1 last year, which has boosted the number of Thai visitors to Taiwan.

Statistics compiled by the bureau showed that arrivals from Thailand from August to December last year rose 81 percent from a year earlier.

In December alone, the figure grew about 90 percent year-on-year.

For the whole of last year, the number of Thai visitors rose almost 60 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

Participation in the fair is expected to further boost Taiwan’s visibility among Thais, it said.

The Taiwanese exhibitors will highlight the nation as a romantic destination for visitors, as well as travelers in search of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, and shopping, the bureau said.

Visitors to the Taiwan pavilion can expect discounts and travel information that can be used when they come to Taiwan, it added.

Taipei show remembers top ‘dangwai’ magazines

An exhibition of once banned dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) movement magazines published between the 1970s and 1980s has opened in Taipei as part of the nation’s commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law.

Featuring more than 20 different covers from Formosa (美麗島), 1980s (八十年代), Freedom Era Weekly (自由時代周刊) and other magazines, the exhibition covers several walls of To-uat Books x Cafe Philo (左轉有書x慕哲咖啡), a prominent bookstore and coffee shop operated by several labor and human-rights advocacy groups.

“Our own group was established in 1984 during the Martial Law era, so we also had to deal with the effects of government repression,” Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (孫友聯) said. “The resistance of dangwai magazines played a crucial role in Taiwan’s democratization, so we hope to use this exhibition to help more people understand the sheer number of people involved in pushing for the end of martial law and Taiwan’s eventual democratization.”

The most notable exhibits are two editions of Freedom Era Weekly from the week before and week after the lifting of martial law on July 15, 1987, he said.

Published in numerous incarnations by democracy activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) from 1984 to 1989, the magazine repeatedly evaded attempted government bans, only ending publication after Deng immolated himself in the magazine’s offices to resist arrest for publishing a draft constitution of a proposed “Republic of Taiwan,” that challenged a ban on advocating Taiwanese independence.

Beginning this year, the April 7 anniversary of his death is to be celebrated nationally as “Freedom of Speech Day.”

National Chengchi University history professor Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元) said that Deng was also notable for his ability to take advantage of loopholes in magazine publication regulations to keep Freedom Era Weekly alive in the face of repeated government bans on the publication of sensitive articles.

“There were different requirements you had to meet, including having a ‘proper’ stated purpose — but you could re-register the same magazine if you changed the name and found someone who was willing to attach their name to it and Deng was able to find a lot of willing people,” he said.

According to the Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation (whose name incorporates Deng’s English nickname) figures, the magazine was published under 23 different titles, with commemorative issues for the lifting of martial law published during a brief period in which it resumed its original title.

While alternative title issues of Freedom Era Weekly are not on display, viewers can still see the “title switch” tactic up close by examining covers of the magazines 1980s and Asian Monthly (亞洲人), a later incarnation.

It also features covers from the short-lived 1979 magazine Formosa, which had a huge impact on the nation’s after numerous staff members were arrested for organizing a pro-democracy rally in Kaohsiung.

Many staff members — including now Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) — went on to become prominent figures in the Democratic Progressive Party, as did their defense lawyers.

“At the time, you had to use magazines, because only magazines could be registered,” said Hsueh, referring to a ban on new newspaper registrations during the Martial Law era.

The exhibition runs through Sunday at 3 Hao Shaoxing N Rd in Taipei’s Zhongzheng (中正) district near Shandao Temple MRT station.

 

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2017/07/25/2003675256

Lin defends Cabinet’s budget requests

Premier Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday defended the Cabinet’s drafting of the budget for the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, saying it was neither illegal nor different from how previous administrations had drawn up their budgets.

Lin held a news conference yesterday afternoon at the Executive Yuan to explain the Cabinet’s budget requests for the program after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers blocked him from briefing the legislature earlier in the day.

Responding to KMT accusations that the budget proposals were illegal, Lin said he was at “a complete loss” as to which act the Executive Yuan had breached.

Lin said the KMT has been boycotting the budget because it believes the Cabinet has broken the law by making budget requests that lack long-term planning, as they only cover the early stages of projects under the program, whose overall budget and time frame are set at NT$420 billion (US$13.8 billion) and four years respectively.

The KMT also believes that since the program’s budget has been cut from NT$882.49 billion to NT$420 billion, along with the time frame, following the passage of the Special Act on the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program (前瞻基礎建設特別條例) last week, the Cabinet should have updated its budget proposals before sending them to the Executive Yuan for approval, he said.

Lin said the Executive Yuan drafted and approved the special budget proposals to show the legislature that it bears full responsibility for their content — unlike special budget requests made by former administrations, which were often not capped and were criticized as “blank checks.”

As such, even though those special budget requests had been approved, they could be subject to change and became only a reference for legislators, Lin added.

The special act stipulates that the projects should be divided into several stages, so the Executive Yuan budgeted funds for the first 16 months of the projects, he said.

“The budget proposals were made in exactly the same way previous special budgets had been planned. There is nothing illegal about them,” he said.

Setting fixed budgets for each stage of the program at this point is impractical and not feasible, because the budgets could be slashed during upcoming legislative reviews, in which case the Executive Yuan would have to adjust the distribution of funds, he said.

Lin said he did not see why the proposals should be redone as the KMT had demanded.

In related news, the Presidential Office yesterday denied rumors that Lin would soon be replaced by Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德).

The Presidential Office urged the public not to take the “fabrications” seriously.

Lai said the rumor stemmed from misleading news reports, adding that he fully supports Lin and his team.

Tsai highlights targets for judicial reform

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2017/07/11/2003674315

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday outlined the key areas of focus for judicial reform, including increasing courtroom transparency, improving the selection and discipline of judges and prosecutors, bolstering judicial neutrality and professionalism, and establishing “trials with civic participation.”

Tsai made the comments at the sixth general meeting of the preparatory committee for the National Congress on Judicial Reform held at the Presidential Office, calling the items necessary to meet the public’s expectations.

“The courtroom must become more transparent by various means, including issuing verdicts that are comprehensible to the average person. The process for selecting competent judges and prosecutors and for weeding out incompetent ones must be improved. The professionalism and political neutrality of the judiciary must be bolstered. A system for civic participation in trials must be instituted,” Tsai said.

She also instructed agencies to make detailed proposals and set a clear timetable for their implementation.

The committee has worked hard over 40 sessions since November last year to create an agenda that comprises the most important items, Tsai said.

As legal reform must be based on popular support, the proposals must be described in comprehensible language, she said.

The reforms would be unsuccessful if they are not communicated to the public, regardless of their professional merits, Tsai said.

Civic participation in trials — which is largely supported by the public — is a priority, committee deputy executive secretary Lin Feng-jeng (林?正) told a news conference after the meeting.

The Judicial Yuan is drafting a trial system that is suitable for the nation and would make “citizen judges” a reality as soon as possible, he said.

Courtroom transparency is also to be improved by, for example, writing legal documents and reference books in modern, accessible Chinese, he said.

The training and selection of judges, prosecutors and lawyers would be streamlined by implementing a single bar examination instead of holding separate certification exams for each, Lin said.

Practical knowledge is to be emphasized in the education of judges and prosecutors, he added.

Other focuses include opening prosecutorial appointments and administrations to democratic oversight, making the court structure less top-heavy, establishing specialized courts for cases that require professional knowledge and procedural changes for the Council of Grand Justices, he said.

A stronger oversight system and ridding subpar officers is needed to restore public confidence, and review procedures should be made more effective, he said.

The committee is determined to protect the rights of the disadvantaged and has established several directives to do so, such as improving evidentiary laws, making recourse better available to the wrongfully convicted, creating protections for minors’ privacy and the rights of the disadvantaged, and implementing restorative justice, Lin said.

The committee is scheduled to hold a live-streamed general meeting at the Presidential Office on Aug. 12 to summarize its conclusions, and is to publish documents beforehand, he said.

 http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2017/07/11/2003674315