Taiwan News: Ministry to 'Reluctantly' Appoint Kuan as NTU President

Taiwan News: Ministry to 'Reluctantly' Appoint Kuan as NTU President
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Education Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said his decision to finally approve the appointment of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as president of the National Taiwan University (NTU) after nearly a year is aimed at protecting students' rights and for the development of higher education.

Yeh announced Monday that the ministry had "reluctantly" agreed to support Kuan's appointment and he says that it will now be up to the university to decide when he takes office.

According to the education minister, his office decided to approve Kuan's appointment despite ongoing differences of opinion on the issue between the government and the university and despite major flaws in the selection process.

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Credit: neverbutterfly / CC BY 2.0
National Taiwan University's main campus in Taipei's Da'an district.

Yeh said he has asked the university to conduct a complete review within three months of the flaws and disputes that surfaced during the election process and provide a report to the ministry.

NTU said that it's happy to see the ministry show respect for university autonomy and bring the controversy surrounding Kuan's appointment to an end.

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The Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee has passed a non-binding resolution asking Taiwan's top envoy to Japan to brief lawmakers on the death Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠) the island's former top diplomat to Osaka.

Su committed suicide in September is believed to have taken his own life due to controversy over his office's handling of Taiwanese nationals stranded at Kansai International Airport during flooding after Typhoon Jebi.

The foreign ministry has said Su committed suicide mainly due to an online rumor, which claimed Taiwan nationals had been left stranded at the airport, while the Chinese embassy sent 15 tour buses to evacuate its citizens. The rumor was proven to be false.

Su's family released a statement last week saying there was no indication in a suicide note to support the claim that Su killed himself because of the online rumor or the subsequent criticisms of him and his office.

Reports say Su and the staff at the Osaka office were facing demerits due to the airport incident.

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The Hong Kong Immigration Department said it turned down the work visa application of New Power Party (NPP) legislator and lead singer of Chthonic Freddy Lim (林昶佐) because he lacks a "special skill, knowledge or experience of value."

Lim's band, one of Asia's best-known black metal groups, said Sunday it had been forced to cancel a show in Hong Kong due to being unable to get visas in time.

The pro-independence legislator and his band had been invited to perform by Denise Ho (何韻詩), a pro-democracy Cantopop star. Ho posted the letter from Hong Kong's immigration agency on her Facebook.

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Credit: Denise Ho / Facebook

"Foreigners better start practicing special abilities like invisibility, shadow cloning and teleportation before they apply for a work visa," Ho wrote in her Facebook post.

Ho added that the explanation pertained only to Lim, and it is not known what caused the delay in visa processing for his bandmates.

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The wife of Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲), who is imprisoned in China, says her husband has been forced to work for long hours and eat spoiled food and cannot withdraw money from his account to buy warm clothing.

The statement comes after Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜) was allowed to visit her husband in Chishan Prison in Hunan province on Dec. 18.

According to Lee, the account has been frozen for several months and she is concerned about her husband's health because the average temperature where the prison is located is now as low as five degrees.

Lee said her husband has suffered severe weight loss and is angry about the way he is being treated in prison.

Lee is also accusing Chinese authorities of depriving her husband of the right to communicate with his family by phone or letters, saying most of the books she has sent to him and all of the postcards and letters sent by other people were not getting through.

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Approval ratings for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Premier William Lai (賴清德) have hit a new low, according to a poll carried out by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.

The poll showed that Tsai's approval ratings dropped from 28.5 percent last month to 24.3 percent this month, while Lai's approval fell from 38.9 percent to 37.1 percent.

65.7 percent of respondents said they did not approve of Tsai's handling of cross-Strait relations with China, compared to 25.3 of respondents who said they approved.

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Credit: Taiwan Presidential Office
Public approval of President Tsai Ing-wen has slipped, according to a new poll.

The poll also showed that respondents felt 'warmer' towards Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), according to the Taipei Times.

The approval ratings for Tsai and Lai are the lowest since they took their respective offices, according to foundation chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆).

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Officials said most of the fines levied on foreign travelers caught bringing meat products into Taiwan amid the ongoing African swine fever scare have so far been paid.

According to the government, around 80 percent of the fines have been settled.

The statement comes after New Power Party lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) expressed concern that foreign visitors penalized for violating regulations on the illegal import of meat products could leave the country without settling their fines.

He says foreign nationals who fail to pay the fines should be banned from ever re-entering Taiwan.

Officials said foreign travelers have 30 days to settle their payments, and Taiwan's overseas representative offices and embassies will assist authorities in pursuing any unpaid fines after the travelers leave the country.

Figures show that as of Sunday, 28 people had been fined for bringing meat products into the country, 17 of whom received fines of NT$50,000 (US$1,620) fine prior to Dec. 18. The other 11 people have been fined NT$200,000 (US$6,490).

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The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said it is obtaining information about the African swine fever outbreak in China through China's Ministry of Agriculture and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

According to officials, the information has mainly come from the agriculture ministry's website because China has failed to make any information about the outbreak public and transparent.

Officials said countries such as Japan have also been getting their information about the outbreak from the same sources.

Figures from China show that as of Monday, African swine fever had spread to 23 provinces, regions and cities, with 100 cases had been reported.

However, animal health officials in Taiwan claim the actual number of swine fever outbreaks in China is likely much higher than has been reported by authorities there.

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The government has suspended a planned US$1 million (NT$30.82 million) donation to the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the Ebola virus, citing "political factors."

President Tsai Ing-wen originally announced the donation in May, despite Taiwan being excluded from the World Health Assembly for a second consecutive year.

Officials said the decision to suspend the payment was made last week.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the donation was suspended after seven months of negotiations with the WHO, as the global health body failed to reach consensus on how Taiwan could make the donation while upholding its national dignity.

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The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said Beijing is pushing its policy of adherence to the "1992 Consensus" in an attempt to wipe out the Republic of China.

According to the council, contrary to claims, the policy does not acknowledge that the two sides can interpret the meaning of "one China" based on their own definition.

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Credit: Reuters / TPG
The Mainland Affairs Council is warning Taiwanese of China's motives in wielding the '1992 Consensus' as a political tool.

The statement comes after the China Times claimed that a recent poll found that over 60 percent of people in Taiwan agreed to developing relations with China under the "1992 Consensus."

However, the council is questioning the validity of the poll due to problems with the way it designed and says 30 to 50 percent of respondents misunderstood the "1992 Consensus" as acknowledging different countries on each side of the Taiwan Strait.

Council officials said the so-called "One China Principle" maintained by China does not allow the existence of the Republic of China in the "1992 Consensus" and is solely meant to degrade Taiwan.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said another imported case of measles has been confirmed in Taipei after an EVA Airways ground staff employee tested positive for the virus.

According to health officials, he man was infected while traveling in Cambodia between late November and early December and developed symptoms after returning to Taiwan.

The man sought medical attention on Dec. 16 and was admitted to hospital two days later.

He confirmed on Monday as having contracted the measles, and he is set to be discharged from the hospital later today.

Prior to being hospitalized, the patient worked at Taipei's Songshan Airport and used city buses and the MRT.

Health authorities have identified 166 people who came in contact with him.

A total of 38 measles cases have been reported in Taiwan so far this year, 11 of which were contracted abroad.

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Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said he is unaware of plans to transfer him back to his former post as head of the National Security Council (NSC).

Reports have claimed that Wu is due to leave his post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and return to the NSC as secretary-general sometime early next year.

The Presidential Official also says it has no information about Wu's pending transfer.

Wu was appointed foreign minister on Feb. 26, 2018.

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The Ministry of Labor is urging employers to help migrant workers from areas in Indonesia hit by this past weekend's tsunami.

Labor Minister Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) said companies should provide assistance to Indonesian employees who need to return home to check on their families.

The tsunami devastated coastal areas throughout the Sunda Strait late Saturday.

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Credit: Reuters / Adi Kurniawan
At least 373 people have been killed by Saturday's tsunami, according to Indonesian government officials.

There are 266,000 Indonesian migrants working in Taiwan, many in care-giving jobs.

However, the government has not provided an estimate of how many might come from tsunami-affected areas.

The labor ministry is pledging its full support to help Indonesian workers whose families are in affected and says they can get information on how to apply for leave from work from its "1955" hotline.

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The Ministry of Finance has adjusted a basic allowance that taxpayers can deduct from their income when filing their taxes, a measure it says will benefit some 1.77 million households islandwide.

The basic allowance per person for fiscal year 2018 for income taxes to be filed in 2019 has been raised from a provisional NT$166,000 to NT$171,000 (US$5,385 to US$5,550).

Under the new individual income tax filing system to take effect in May next year for income earned in 2018, taxpayers will have two options when they claim deductions.

One option will be to use the old system and claim a personal exemption, standard deduction, and special deduction for salary or wages.

The other option will be to claim the basic allowance of NT$171,000 for each taxpayer and dependent instead of the personal exemption, standard deduction and special salary deduction.

The ministry says the main beneficiaries of the new system will be households with only one source of income but many dependents.

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Acting Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said the operators of freeway buses have agreed not to raise ticket prices until the Lunar New Year holiday.

According to Wang, bus companies have held emergency talks with his office and while they do eventually plan to hike fare prices, the proposed increases are below price caps that have been approved by the Directorate-General of Highways.

Bus operators are seeking to hike prices due to increased fuel and operating costs.

Several bus companies have said fares could increase by between NT$5 and NT$40 depending on the routes.

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Read More: CONFESSION: How I Became Complicit in Overworking Taiwan's Bus Drivers

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President Tsai has approved the promotion of 26 senior military officers, including a woman who will become the country's third serving female general.

The Ministry of National Defense said eight officers will be promoted to the rank of two-star general or lieutenant-general, while 18 will be moved up to one-star general, major-general or vice admiral.

Among the 18 officers is Ku Li-tu (辜麗都), the head of the Matsu Defense Command's Political Warfare section, who will be promoted to major general.

She will become Taiwan's third incumbent female general and the first woman to gain the rank since Tsai assumed office in 2016.

Tsai will attend the promotion ceremony for all 26 officers later today in Taipei.

The promotions will take effect next month.

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The Taipei City government said it plans to phase out free scooter parking in the capital.

According to city hall, the policy will be implemented in stages.

The first stage will see parking charges introduced at seven commercial districts in addition to the current nine such areas where scooter parking is no longer free.

The second stage will see parking fees introduced in areas adjacent to MRT stations and on all main thoroughfares.

And the final phase will mean that all scooter owners will have to pay on-street parking in the city's lanes and alleyways.

Scooter owners will eventually be charged for parking everywhere in Taipei and parking fees will be set at NT$10 an hour and capped at NT$20 per day.

Read Next: ANALYSIS: Taiwan's 'Blue Wave' Election & Referendum Results in a Global Context

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

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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