Taiwan News: Govt to Resolve Train Staff Shortages, Lee Ming-che Transferred

Taiwan News: Govt to Resolve Train Staff Shortages, Lee Ming-che Transferred
Credit: Reuters / TPG

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Your daily bulletin of Taiwan news, courtesy of ICRT.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) said Thursday that the government will take measures to tackle the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA)'s longstanding manpower shortage problems.

According to Lai, the government will continue to increase the number of train drivers, mechanical engineers as well as maintenance and other professionals.

The statement comes after problems of staff shortages were highlighted in the wake of Sunday's derailment in Yilan that left 18 people dead and over 200 injured.

Although the cause of the derailment is still under investigation, officials said the accident exposed the railway administration's staffing shortages, as the Puyuma Express train was operated by just one driver.

The government approved a three-year plan in January aimed at helping the railway administration recruit 2,818 employees, including 385 train drivers, mechanical engineers and track maintenance personnel.

Premier Lai on Wednesday personally rode a Puyama Express to demonstrate confidence in the safety of the service. Addressing a conference in Taipei yesterday, Lai said that the TRA must embrace reform if it is to learn from its previous mistakes and regain the faith of the public.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Wu Hung-mo (吳宏謀) approved the resignation of TRA Director-General Jason Lu (鹿潔身), who tended his resignation following Sunday's derailment in Yilan.

Lu's resignation was accepted before he walked out of a Cabinet press conference Thursday, at which he was expected to answer questions about the accident and the ongoing investigation into the cause of the derailment.

The TRA head has been under pressure to explain allegations the company tried to cover-up communications between the driver of the Puyuma Express and dispatchers prior to the accident relating to whether or not the train's Automatic Train Protection system had been engaged.

The transport minister issued a public apology for the accident at that press conference and said he would leave the issue of whether he should resign over the tragedy to his superiors.

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The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) is requesting China explain why jailed Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) has been transferred to another prison in Hebei Province.

Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said his office was informed of Lee's transfer by a Taiwanese business association in Hunan, which said it was notified by the Chinese government on Oct. 19 that Lee had been taken to Yancheng Prison in Hebei.

Lee had been serving his five year sentence on charges of "subversion of state power" at Chisan Prison in Hunan Province.

The business association said Chinese authorities have not provide any further as to why Lee was transferred.

The MAC said Lee's family members were also unaware of his transfer.

According to officials, both the council and the Straits Exchange Foundation have asked China's Taiwan Affairs Office and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits to provide information about Lee's sudden transfer.

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Read More: Lee Ming-che's Sentence Chills Taiwan NGOs

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it's happy to see improving relations between China and Japan.

The statement comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing today.

The visit comes as the two countries mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship and analysts have said the visit is expected to shore-up Sino-Japanese ties.

According to the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, the government will be paying close attention to developments.

Association deputy secretary-general Hsieh Bor-huei (謝柏輝) said both his office and the foreign ministry are in close contact with Tokyo over Abe's visit and the Japanese side will brief Taiwanese officials on the results of the summit.

Hsieh said the Tsai administration has been assured by officials in Tokyo that any improvements in Sino-Japanese ties will not come at the expense of Tokyo's relations with Taipei.

安倍去背大頭
AP / TPG
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Oct. 26.

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Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said Thursday that his office is expected to receive the blueprints for Taiwan's indigenous submarine program by early next year.

Speaking at a meeting of the legislative defense committee, Yen said the program is on schedule and Gibraltar-based contractor Gavron has assured the government that a March 1 deadline for submission of the blueprints for the program's first phase will be met.

The government hopes the first of eight domestically manufactured diesel-electric submarines will be completed by 2025.

However, the defense ministry's decision to task contractor Gavron with providing the initial design blueprints for the submarine program is being questioned.

Government officials signed an agreement with the company last month,

However, Gavron needs to obtain export licenses from the British government to ensure it can legally export military technology to Taiwan before the project can move forward, leading to concerns Beijing could take action to stop the company from providing assistance to Taiwan.

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The Food and Drug Administration has said it is working to trace over 70,000 hairy crabs imported from China that are likely contaminated with dioxins.

Food safety officials say the move comes after two companies ignored import regulations and sold the crabs to vendors before safety tests on the shipments had been verified.

The crabs were imported from China to Keelung.

And officials say samples tested last week were found to have failed safety standards for residual dioxins.

However, most of the crabs were removed from storage and entered the local market before those test results were released.

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The Ministry of Labor has said a ban on onsite factory dormitories will not be imposed any time soon because it will require amendments to relevant regulations, which must be preceded by inter-ministerial discussions.

According to the ministry's Workforce Development Agency, it is coordinating with the Ministry of Economic Affairs to ensure the amendments do eventually come into affect.

The labor ministry said it's working on regulations to implement the ban on onsite factory dorms and also on a proposal to penalize businesses that do not implement proper safety measures for migrant workers.

If approved, the amendment to the Employment Service Act will also lower the quota of foreign hires by five for every migrant worker death resulting from negligence by the company.

The move comes after non-governmental groups called for new guidelines and better housing safety laws following the deaths of a dozen migrant workers in two separate fires at factory dormitories.

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Credit:綠黨

Read More: Taiwan Protests Ignite Calls for Centralized Labor, Fire Safety Regulations

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it is still seeking confirmation of the identities of 25 foreign nationals arrested in the Philippines earlier this week on charges of telecom fraud.

Initial reports had claimed that 13 of the suspects hold ROC passports.

The others are all believed to come from China.

However, Taiwanese diplomats in the Philippines are still meeting with the suspects believed to be ROC nationals to confirm their identities.

The fraud suspects were arrested by police during a raid on property in a small town in northern of Luzon and Philippine authorities say they were involved in telecom fraud ring, which targeted people in China.

All of the suspects are likely to be deported to China to face charges.

Read More: Taiwan, Telecoms and Our Outlaws of the Marsh

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Thai authorities say some 21 kilograms of heroin has been found in a package that was returned to Chiang Mai from Taiwan after it was stamped undeliverable.

According to the Office of the Narcotics Control Board of Thailand, the parcel contained 30 packets labeled as powdered seasoning.

The heroin was found during an inspection at a post office in Chiang Mai.

Officials from Taiwan's Investigation Bureau stationed in Thailand say they are working with Thai authorities to trace the sauce of the drugs.

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The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has said its will be hosting an event in December aimed at helping ROC passport holders enroll in the United States' Global Entry program.

It will be the second such event to have been co-organized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and AIT and it will be held at AIT's Taipei office on Dec. 3 through Dec. 6.

AIT said ROC passport holders can take advantage of the event to interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Taiwan and join the Global Entry program at that the same time.

ROC passport holders looking to be included in the program must provide a police report from Taiwan issued within the past 12 months and a current ESTA approval or a U.S. visa.

Taiwan gained admission to the Global Entry program in November of last year, becoming the 12th partner worldwide and third in East Asia.

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This news bulletin was provided courtesy of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), Taiwan’s leading English-language broadcaster.

Editor: David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)

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