Taiwan seeks help finding, deporting celebrity blogger

VANCOUVER — Officials in Taipei are asking Ottawa to help find and deport from Canada a celebrity blogger accused of fleeing Taiwan with millions in stolen funds from a high-end cosmetic surgery clinic.

Su Chen Tuan, better known as Lady Nai Nai, built a following in Taiwan for her beauty and lifestyle tips.

She is alleged to have been part of defrauding clients and investors of more than $42 million, declaring her business bankrupt, getting on a plane to the U.S. and ending up somewhere in Eastern Canada, starting first on Prince Edward Island. The accusations have not been proven in court.

The story has captured the interest of some Taiwanese-Canadians in B.C. who have been talking about the case online among themselves.

Their Facebook page was recently discovered by reporters in Taiwan.

The Taiwanese-Canadians see themselves as part of a bigger effort to share information and, maybe, expose the whereabouts of Su, her husband Huang Po Chien and father-in-law Huang Li Hsiung.

All are named as being wanted by Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice.

“We cannot actually do anything, of course, but I was just thinking we could help put some pressure on the situation by spreading the details and making it harder for them to hide,” said Sophie Lin, a Richmond resident.

She keeps up with current events in Taiwan even though she has lived in B.C. for more than 20 years, and said she and “most Taiwanese feel some shame.”

Alleged victims in Taiwan claim they were duped out of millions of dollars when a cosmetic surgery clinic in Taipei run by Su and her husband abruptly closed.

Some said they paid in advance for various services and others were highly leveraged investors in the business.

Canada does not have diplomatic ties or an extradition treaty with Taiwan. Canada officially recognizes mainland China, which does not consider Taiwan a sovereign nation, but rather as a part of its territory. This means countries that diplomatically recognize mainland China and Beijing cannot have official government relations with Taiwan.

Despite this, it is still possible for agreements to be made on a case-by-case basis, according to lawyers.

Alice Wang, senior assistant director of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, which serves as a de facto representative group, said Canada and Taiwan have a close relationship, with each actively promoting tourism and economic trade.

“We respect the procedures within Canada and we hope Canada can help deport these three people,” said Wang.


Experts urge action against age discrimination at work

Experts are calling for protection against age discrimination in the workplace ahead of the Ministry of Labor’s introduction of a draft act for the employment of middle-aged and elderly workers, which is to be released before the end of this month.

The nation’s working-age population — those aged 15 to 64 — began to decrease in 2016, the National Development Council’s population estimate report said.

As the overall population ages, the labor force would also age and affect the labor supply, the report said, recommending expanding labor sources by making better use of elderly workers.

The draft act is to focus on five main areas: prohibiting age discrimination, helping employees secure stable employment, helping unemployed workers find jobs, helping retired people re-enter the workforce and creating job opportunities, Workforce Development Agency Director-General Huang Chiu-kuei (黃秋桂) said on Sunday.

When people with similar experience and levels of education apply for the same job, 42.2 percent of companies are unwilling to hire a middle-aged or elderly worker, yes123 spokesperson Yang Tsung-pin (楊宗斌) said, citing a survey the company conducted on members of its online job board who are older than 45.

When filling “regular staff” positions, 75 percent of companies said they would consider age, he said.

Even though companies are not allowed to set limits on age or gender when hiring, “invisible” discrimination still exists, he added.

While government efforts to address gender discrimination have yielded considerable results, the government has yet to propose any policies or regulations on age discrimination, National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of National Development associate professor Hsin Ping-lung (辛炳隆) said.

As the population ages, more jobseekers will be middle-aged or elderly, and by then, companies will have no choice, he said.

Before then, the government could push for policies that encourage companies to hire more older applicants, he said.

This does not mean that the government has to create policies with the mindset that older workers are disadvantaged and offer different types of incentives, he said, adding that instead, it should solve the problem of age discrimination through promotional campaigns.

Digitalization is a common trend in the development of different industries, Yang said, adding that older workers who want to continue working should develop their social media skills and read about online trends to maintain their competitiveness.

The ministry has provided flexible job opportunities, personalized career consultation, training and other services through more than 300 public employment service centers, a ministry official said.



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.



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.


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



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.



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


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.


Cabinet unveils infrastructure budget

The Cabinet yesterday proposed a NT$108.9 billion (US$3.56 billion) budget for the first part of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

The budget is to fund eight categories of projects over four years.

The Cabinet has allocated NT$35.4 billion for urban and rural development projects.

This includes NT$12.2 billion to improve road quality, NT$6.15 billion to develop industrial parks, NT$4.38 billion to build long-term care facilities and repair unsafe public buildings, NT$3.6 billion to build sports and recreational facilities and NT$1.45 billion to develop Hakka and Aboriginal communities.

In addition, NT$25.67 billion has been earmarked for water infrastructure: NT$14.37 billion for the construction of an artificial lake, catchment area conservation, reservoir dredging and water supply system upgrade; NT$5.3 billion for regional river management; and NT$6 billion for water resource management and conservation.

Railway projects, which account for nearly half of the total budget, have received NT$17.06 billion at this stage, as many projects have yet to undergo feasibility assessments and planning, but the railway budget would increase significantly when most projects enter construction phase, the Executive Yuan said.

About NT$6.9 billion would be spent on the electrification of railways connecting Taitung and Pingtung counties and NT$2.97 billion on the construction of an underground railway in Tainan, while a budget of NT$569 million is proposed to improve connectivity between regular and high-speed railways.

The Cabinet has allocated NT$8.12 billion to develop “green” energy infrastructure and a science park in Tainan, and NT$16.17 billion to build cloud servers and improve Internet facilities in schools and remote areas.

To recognize the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) suggestions, NT$2 billion, NT$300 million and NT$4.2 billion have been earmarked to address the issues of low birth rate, food safety and talent cultivation respectively.

Projects with smaller budgets can be supplemented with funds from regular annual budgets, Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said.

For example, although the Cabinet has proposed NT$2 billion to address low fertility rates, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has already allocated NT$6.85 billion to improve childcare services and the Ministry of Education has budgeted NT$6 billion to increase the number of public kindergartens by 1,000, Hsu said.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has allocated a three-year budget of NT$11.43 billion to cultivate talent from last year to next year, Hsu added.

The Cabinet is to officially present the budget to the legislature today.

KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said the caucus would plan its review strategy after the Cabinet submits its proposal, adding that the party would prioritize the review of railway projects.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) urged the KMT to exercise restraint during the review, as the budget allocations do not favor DPP-ruled cities and counties as the KMT has claimed, but focus on the development of railroads in eastern Taiwan.

“The KMT would need to justify itself if it tries to boycott the budget review. Must the party insist on the previous KMT administration’s policies that ignored the development of eastern Taiwan?” Wu said.



Majority of people do not understand the Forward-looking program: survey

More than 60 percent of the public does not understand what the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program is and a majority do not believe it would improve the economy, a recent poll said.

The poll was conducted by Hsing Wu University for the Grassroots Influence Foundation from June 12 to Tuesday last week, with 1,155 valid samples and a 3 percent margin of error.

According to the survey, 60.86 percent of respondents said they are mostly uninformed or completely uninformed about the government’s infrastructure plan, and 51 percent said it would not improve the economy.

Another 44.07 percent said they do not believe the infrastructure program would help balance the nation’s rural and urban economies, and 47.18 percent said the plan was “not forward-looking enough.”

The poll found 48.31 percent of respondents are opposed to using half of its budget to build light railways, with 58.52 percent saying light rail projects are wasteful.

Although 40.43 percent said they believe the distribution of infrastructure funds is non-partisan, 48.74 percent said the plan rewards Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) loyalists.

Demographic analysis of the poll showed that older respondents were more likely to understand the infrastructure plan and were also more likely to have negative views of it.

Better-educated respondents were more likely to be concerned about the plan being wasteful or a reward for DPP loyalists, the poll said.

Taichung, and Changhua and Nantou county residents were most likely to have negative views of the light rail plans or the infrastructure plan as a whole, while Kaohsiung, and Pingtung County residents are most likely to have a favorable view, it said.

“The poll suggests that instead of trying to expedite its passage through the legislature, the government should withdraw its NT$882.49 billion (US$28.9 billion) infrastructure plan for revision. It needs to improve its planning and communication so the public can understand it. The government needs to re-evaluate plan’s goals to avoid waste,” the foundation said.


Teacher retirement age reform bill passes reading

The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed a second reading of draft legislation proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to push back the age at which public-school teachers can begin receiving pensions from 50 to 58.

The DPP caucus had initially proposed a draft seeking to defer the threshold to 60, but on Tuesday announced that it would adopt a motion to set the age at 58 based on an agreement reached with the National Federation of Teachers’ Unions.

Before a vote, DPP Legislator Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤) touted the revised draft as a “middle ground” and moderate.

As the average retirement age of elementary and junior-high school teachers is 53.8, pushing back the threshold by about one year to 55 would be a half-hearted reform, she said.

Public-school teachers hired after Dec. 31, 2010, qualify for retirement when a combination of their age and years of service equals 75. For example, a teacher who began working at 25 could retire after turning 50.

However, if teachers want to convert their pensions into monthly payments — as opposed to a one-time lump sum — they must be at least 60 or have turned 55 after 30 years of work.

Teachers hired before 2011 can have their pensions converted into monthly payments without condition, as long as they have worked for at least 25 years and are at least 50 years old.

The DPP draft seeks to tighten teachers’ retirement rules by raising the combined minimum age and seniority from 75 to 85 over 10 years after the bill’s passage.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, which proposed setting the age at 55, decried the agreement between the DPP and the federation, which KMT Legislator Yosi Takun (孔文吉) described as “opaque dealmaking.”

“Closed-door negotiations are the most widely criticized component of the legislative process. The DPP caucus should sit down with us and handle the issue according to public opinion,” KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said.

She criticized the DPP caucus, saying it blatantly dealt with the draft through a negotiation and reached a decision to “perform half a good deed” while causing the education system to suffer.

“The DPP should explain the reasoning behind setting the age at 58, rather than 57 or 55,” Huang said.

KMT Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) cited a 2013 survey by the federation, in which most people aged 20 or older said that elementary and junior-high school teachers should retire before 55.

Having teachers retire after 55 would be counterproductive, driving up unemployment among certified teachers, as younger teachers would have to wait longer before positions would open at public schools, Ko said.

However, the DPP caucus, which has a legislative majority, pushed the draft through the second reading after a vote, despite the KMT’s strong objections.

KMT lawmakers also panned a DPP proposal to adjust the basis for calculating public-school teachers’ pensions from their salary upon retirement to their average salary over the final 15 years of their careers.

The conditional period is to be extended by one year each year from the second year to the 11th year, ultimately resulting in a 15-year average.

The 15-year period is too long and would put subscribers of the labor insurance system at a disadvantage, Ko said.

The Presidential Office’s Pension Reform Committee drafted a bill seeking to extend the calculation basis for workers’ pensions from the average labor insurance premium — a fixed proportion of their salaries — over the final five years of their careers to a 15-year average in a bid to attain consistency across the pension systems.



KMT disruption on pension bills likely

Pension reform proposals are in the final stage of legislative review, but the process is expected to be lengthy if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) stalls proceedings with lengthy speeches as the legislature’s extraordinary session continues this week.

A cross-caucus understanding has been reached that KMT lawmakers would be given full opportunity to put forward their opinions during reviews, KMT caucus convener Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) said on Saturday.

However, KMT lawmakers have often made bogus or irrelevant comments during review proceedings, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said, adding that he would negotiate with KMT lawmakers to preempt lengthy and unnecessary speeches since the remaining clauses to be reviewed are mostly over technical issues that are not seen as controversial.

The draft act on civil servant pensions has 92 clauses, while a bill on public-school teacher retirement benefits has 96, and another on political appointees has 37.

However, the legislature on Thursday and Friday last week only managed to review 43 clauses of the civil servant pension bill.

The passage of all the remaining provisions would not be completed without a full week of lengthy reviewing if the KMT insists on initiating clause-by-clause debates.

Under the terms of the bills, the pension system for teachers would be identical to that of civil servants except for a difference in the stipulated retirement age.

In 2010, during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) tenure, a draft act was submitted to amend the Statute Governing the Retirement of School Faculty and Staff (學校教職員退休條例) and raise the retirement eligibility from the “75 system” — which allows teachers to retire when their age plus years of service equal 75 — to an “85 system.”

However, it did not pass and the 75 system is still in effect.

The average retirement age of public-school teachers is 53.67, lower than the 55.89 for civil servants and 61.1 for private-sector workers.

According to the bill — formulated following the recommendations of the Presidential Office’s pension reform committee, the 75 system would be gradually changed to the 85 system by 2027, with an annual increment of one year in retirement eligibility to extend the retirement age of public-school teachers to 60.

For university professors, the retirement age would be extended to 65 by 2033.

The KMT caucus has proposed keeping the retirement age of elementary-school teachers at 55.

However, since 2011, the average age of teachers beginning service is 29, and their retirement age would be about 60 after working for 30 years, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said.

Another point of contention is the “retirement reward” of minister-level officials, as political appointees assuming office prior to 2003 and having served for more than two years can combine their years of service in government with their years as civil servants to qualify for a monthly pension, but for officials assuming office after 2003, only a lump-sum payment is given.

The maximum basic pay of a civil servant is NT$53,075 per month, while the basic pay of ministers is NT$95,250 per month.

However, ministers who held office prior to 2003 can receive a pension based on the basic pay of ministers even though they worked as lower-level civil servants for the majority of their careers, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said, criticizing the system as unfair.



Aboriginal land rules break law: advocates

Government guidelines to delineate traditional Aboriginal areas violate the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law (原住民族基本法) and would rule out the inclusion of private land, Aboriginal rights advocates said yesterday, calling for a revision to leave the door open for the inclusion of private land.

“We do not understand the stance of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, which says we should settle for current guidelines and fight for improvements later,” Yapasuyongu Akuyanam, a Tsou and president of the Association for Taiwan Indigenous People’s Policy, said at a news conference, adding that the council could begin to delineate traditional areas on public land while considering revisions to include private land.

Aboriginal rights advocates have protested for months against the failure to include private land in the guidelines since they were announced earlier this year, including a nearly uninterrupted sit-in near the Presidential Office Building in Taipei.

“The current guidelines risk shaking the core of Aboriginal rights by poking holes in our traditional territories [by excluding private land],” Atayal People’s Council speaker Lbak Utuk Wuduk said, demanding that legislative caucuses outline a clear stance on whether traditional areas should include private land, as well as on allowing Aboriginal communities input and control over the delineation process.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sra Kacaw (鄭天財), an Amis, said that legislative consideration of the council’s guidelines have stalled since cross-caucus negotiations in the International Administration Committee broke down last month, adding that “traditional areas” in the law should be interpreted as including private land.

“The current guidelines benefit Taiwan Sugar Corp and development firms. Why are they being excluded, even as privately owned Aboriginal ‘reserved land’ is included?” he said.

“The reality is that there can still be differentiation in executing Aboriginal communities’ rights to know and approve development on different types of land, and there will differing amounts of influence for different types of development,” Paiwan People’s Council preparation group member Ljegay Rupeljengan said. “Our concern is that if you exclude private land from traditional areas at the start, there will not be a way to win them back in the future.”

New Power Party Legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal also attended the news conference, while DPP Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩) sent a representative.

Groups call for public Hoklo TV

A coalition of civic groups yesterday urged the government to establish a Hoklo-language (also known as Taiwanese) public television station to promote local culture and native language instruction.

Thirty-four groups led by the Taiwan Citizen Participation Association and the Taiwan Society called on the government not to ignore repeated calls for a station dedicated to Hoklo language and culture.

Although Hoklo is spoken by the majority of Taiwanese, the dominant media language is Mandarin, which hinders the development of Hoklo, Hakka and Aboriginal languages, the groups said.

While it is legitimate to prioritize the preservation of Hakka and Aboriginal languages with specialized media, the nation is gradually losing its Hoklo heritage and the language should also be protected, they said.

Although Hoklo is spoken by 81.9 percent of Taiwanese, there are no laws, independent government agency or television station dedicated to the language’s development, association chairman Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) said.

Taiwanese who speak Aboriginal languages account for 1.4 percent of the total population, and their languages are protected by the Aboriginal Language Development Act (原住民族語言發展法), the Council of Indigenous Peoples and Taiwan Indigenous TV, Ho said.

Hakka-speaking Taiwanese account for 6.6 percent of the population, and their culture is promoted by the Hakka Basic Act (客家基本法), the Hakka Affairs Council and Hakka TV, he added.

“Former minister of culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) under the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] administration expressed a vision for a Hoklo-language station. Why does the Democratic Progressive Party government not dare to say the same?” singer Chen Ming-chang (陳明章) said.

“Laws or budgets are not the problem — the problem is a [lack of] resolve,” Chen said.

Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) had announced that a Hoklo-language radio station would be established.

However, she has not made any clear statement responding to calls for the establishment of a Hoklo TV station, Chen said, criticizing the government’s passivity over the issue.

Taiwan Society vice president Tiunn Hok-chu (張復聚), who is also a physician, said many patients can only speak Hoklo, and doctors should speak to patients in their native languages to ensure high-quality communication and treatment.

Taiwanese below the age of 40 can usually understand Hoklo, but do not speak the language, and it is feared that later generations would not even be able to understand it, he said.

“We are all culpable if our native language disappears after 30 years,” Tiunn said.


CGA drill features drug inspection, anti-terrorism action

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) conducted a drill off Keelung, northern Taiwan on Saturday, including a simulated anti-terrorism exercise at sea.

The CGA said the drill is conducted every two years and this year the focus was on inspecting for drugs, anti-terrorism, recovering hijacked vessels and sea rescue.

The highlight of the drill was special forces abseiling from helicopters onto a ship to rescue hostages.

The CGA drill was held in conjunction with the Navy, Air Force and National Airborne Service Corps, in a joint air and sea operation that involved 1,672 personnel, 16 ships and five helicopters.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) presided over the drill. Before boarding a CGA ship, she praised coast guard officials at a ceremony held at Keelung Harbor for their role in the recent seizure of 689kg of heroin, the largest drugs seizure in years.



Government aims to end all 2G services by August

The government is hoping to completely terminate 2G telecom services by the end of August, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said, adding that none of the nation’s telecoms have indicated they plan to take up Asia-Pacific Telecom’s offer to provide a 2G voice network, after the license expires on June 30.

The nation still has about 1.46 million people using 2G mobile phones, commission spokesperson Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said.

About 940,000 of them are accessing 2G services with 3G SIM cards installed on their handsets, while about 390,000 are using 4G SIM cards to access 2G services, he said

The remaining 133,000 are using 2G SIM cards on 2G handsets, he said.

Mobile phone users accessing 2G services with 3G or 4G SIM cards would be able to swiftly migrate to new services after the government ends the 2G service, Wong said, adding that the biggest problem lies in the 133,000 remaining 2G users.

The 2G license is to expire on June 30, Wong said.

Although telecoms would be able to offer 2G services using their 4G networks until Aug. 31, Wong said that the commission hopes that the service will be removed from the market without any setbacks.

Wong added that the commission had asked Chunghwa Telecom, Far Eastone Telecommunications and Taiwan Mobile if they intended to have a shared voice communication service network to serve their remaining 2G users, which Asia Pacific-Telecom has volunteered to provide.

According to Wong, none of them had indicated that they had intentions to do so.

The three major telecom companies are using the 32.45 megahertz frequency band to provide 2G services.

After the discontinuation of 2G, that frequency is to be used to enhance the speed of 4G services, Wong said, adding that telecoms estimated that they could save more than 300 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year if they shut down the 2G network.



Self-sufficiency is key to Taiwan’s defense, Feng says

Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday reiterated the need for the nation to build up its self-sufficiency to minimize its dependence on foreign arms sales, saying the nation’s defense industry has fallen more than a decade behind the rest of the world in key technologies.

“We have fallen more than 10 years behind. Our achievements would have been greater had we done all we could to develop the defense industry when former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) told the nation to learn to support itself after its removal from the UN,” Feng said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the Science and Technology Exhibition Center of the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, the military’s main research and development body.

Difficulties in acquiring foreign weapons systems highlight the need to achieve self-sufficiency in defense, as it took more than a decade for Taiwan to obtain F-16 jets from the US and it has yet to receive US assistance in developing submarines, he said.

“Do you know how difficult it will be for us to push ahead with the submarine building program?” Feng said. “Do you know how long we have been asking the US for help to build submarines? More than 15 years.”

When he served as military attache in Washington, the US government denied his request for Taiwan to purchase F-16s, telling him that it was “the 12th year in a row that Taiwan sought to buy the jets,” and that his request would be shelved, as past proposals had.

However, the US later approved the sale of 150 F-16s to Taiwan in 1992, while Feng was still attache.

The institute’s predecessor, the air force’s research center, developed the first prototype of the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching Kuo, or Indigenous Defense Fighter, a milestone for the nation’s defense industry, and the institute has since then been responsible for maintenance and upgrades of the aircraft’s combat systems, Feng said.

The exhibition center, which displays locally developed missile systems, radar systems, 5G communication technologies, aerospace technologies and combat simulation systems, is aimed at inspiring students to contribute to the nation’s defense industry, he said.

The exhibition center also features active electronically scanned array radar systems, models of the Hsiung Feng III supersonic anti-ship missile, a combat control system and a range of other military equipment.

“The institute designed all of the core technologies of the radar system, which was completely manufactured locally,” institute vice president Gao Chung-hsing (杲中興) said. “We no longer have to import radar components, as we have the ability to produce all of the advanced radar system’s parts, which is a great leap in electronics.”

The exhibition center also houses a control center that monitors the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle physics experiment module mounted on the International Space Station, as the institute is a supplier of electronics systems for the device.

Following the institute’s reorganization into an public entity, it has provided technological solutions to a number of industries, Gao said.



DPP legislator urges bill to deter ‘foreign aggression’


A draft bill aimed at reducing unlawful aggression by local organizations with known ties to China would treat certain public disturbances as “foreign aggression,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) said.

Wang’s remarks come following the alleged attempted assault of Hong Kong democracy advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) in January by a group said to be led by Chang Wei (張瑋), the son of China Unification Promotion Party founder and former gang leader Chang An-le (張安樂).

Prosecutors on Friday indicted members of the group on charges of interfering with public functions.

Since the DPP took office in May last year, Chinese-influenced forces have repeatedly caused disturbances in Taiwan under the guise of legitimate demonstrations, Wang said.

There are two types of protest taking place in the nation, one represents the voice of the people and the other is under the direction of forces outside the nation’s borders, Wang said.

Wang cited the presence of a particular group at recent protests against pension reform, food imports from four Japanese prefectures, the publication of new books discussing the 228 Incident, the relocation or removal of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) statues and the visit to Taiwan by Wong in January.

“It seems the group’s interests are really all-encompassing, but actually its goal is to provoke social disturbances,” Wang said.

Wang cited investigations by a US media organization that showed that the fourth division of the Chinese Ministry of State Security is tasked with security affairs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.

The head of that ministry has met with Taiwanese known to have gang affiliations, he said.

Wang said the Chinese ministry makes annual payments of between 5 million yuan and 30 million yuan (US$724,375.25 and US$4.35 million) to certain groups in Taiwan to help them provoke social disturbances in the nation.

Wang called on the National Security Bureau and the Investigation Bureau to publish their findings on the issue to let the public “understand China’s intent to undermine social stability.”

The bill would amend acts covering foreign aggression to include “enemies” of the state, with “enemies” defined as “countries or organizations that wage war against, or confront with military force, the Republic of China,” Wang said.

Aside from the threat of using weapons, China regularly engages in espionage and aggressive activities against Taiwan from inside the nation’s borders, Wang said.

China is the nation’s only enemy, Wang said, adding that current laws have limited effect, as they refer to China as the “mainland area” and not a foreign country.

DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said that public disturbances are regularly connected with the pro-unification Concentric Patriotism Association (愛國同心會) and the China Unification Promotion Party, adding that the government can trace the groups’ funding to China.

Lee said other groups such as the Blue Sky Action Alliance (藍天行動聯盟) can also be traced to the same origins, adding that the groups’ activities are organized, systematic criminal behavior, and the government must take action.

China side holding back cross-strait ties, sources say



Chinese officials have been stalling meetings on cross-strait cooperation with their Taiwanese counterparts since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed office in May last year, hindering collaboration, officials familiar with the issue said yesterday.

During former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) term, Taipei and Beijing signed 23 agreements to promote collaboration in the areas of travel, air and sea freight, postal services, economy and finance, food safety, nuclear energy and curbing criminal activities, of which 21 took effect before Tsai took office.

Despite Tsai’s pledge to retain the agreements and China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun’s (張志軍) statement that no changes would be made, Chinese officials have been delaying meetings that were mandated by the agreements, citing an “unpleasant atmosphere,” said the officials, who declined to be named.

At present, the only agreement that is proceeding normally is the postal service agreement, with the lack of progress a blow for Tsai’s policy of maintaining the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, the officials said.

As Chinese officials have delayed a majority of meetings with their Taiwanese counterparts, the only viable channels for cross-strait communication have become the telephone and the fax, they said.

As a result, they said that officials on both sides have worked out an alternative to addressing issues concerning people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait: Talking to one another on the sidelines of international seminars.

Since Tsai took office, China has been sending lower-level officials to attend meetings held in Taiwan, while the levels of officials tasked by Tsai’s administration with meeting Chinese officials have remained the same as in the Ma administration, sources said.

However, due to a restriction imposed by Beijing, high-ranking officials, such as ministers, deputy ministers and secretary-generals for the central government, are barred from attending meetings in China, sources said, adding that the Mainland Affairs Council bears the brunt of the restriction, as only division heads or lower-ranked officials are allowed to visit China.