What you need to know
A daily breakdown of Taiwan's top stories and why they matter.
Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), the wife of jailed Taiwanese democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), urged Beijing on Tuesday to allow Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and international rights groups to visit her husband on her behalf, CNA reports.
The Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TACHR) said on Monday Lee Ching-yu had been barred from visiting her husband for at least three months after being accused of Chishan Prison in Hunan province of distorting facts after her previous visit on Dec. 18.
Lee Ching-yu, at a news conference at Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, urged Beijing to release videos recorded during her visit should they believe her account of prison conditions is incorrect.
She said at a Dec. 24 news conference that her husband’s bank account had been frozen, leaving him unable to buy clothes and food, and said the food at the prison was mostly rotten.
On Tuesday, Lee said she was asking China to allow visits from international human rights organizations and the MAC on her behalf as prisoners are entitled to humanitarian visits. She emphasized that she did not want Taiwanese businesspeople to represent her as “they are under China’s roof, which makes their situation difficult,” CNA reports.
TACHR secretary-general Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎) called China’s decision to bar Lee from visiting her husband “shameful conduct” as the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 5, is a time for people to spend time with their families.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) also spoke at Tuesday’s press conference, saying China was extending its restrictions on freedom of speech to Lee Ming-che’s family, according to CNA.
In November 2017, a Chinese court sentenced Lee Ming-che to five years in prison for “subverting state power,” a decision which led to harsh international criticism. He pled guilty two months earlier in what many considered a televised sham trial.
Tsai urges defense ministry to prioritize surface-to-air missiles
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has urged Taiwan’s defense ministry to prioritize the development of surface-to-air missile systems to counter a changing military threat against Taiwan, the Taipei Times reports.
On a Tuesday visit to Chenggong Ling military camp in Taichung, Tsai said she had recently instructed the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology to accelerate the production of Tien Kung III air defense weapons systems. The missiles were developed by the institute after the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996.
Ministry of Defense officials say the defense budget is expected to increase faster than anticipated over the next four years to comply with Tsai’s instructions to speed up production of the Tien Kung III.
The Taipei Times reports the Tien Kung III missiles and U.S.-made MIM-104F Patriot missiles are set to serve as the backbone to Taiwan’s air defense arsenal, quoting a defense official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Taiwan’s plan to upgrade naval missile launchers was criticized in a Monday article in The National Interest which heavily cited U.S. Naval War College professor James Holmes, who believes the increased spending is a poor investment for the ROC navy.
Tsai also inspected indigenous defense fighter jets at Taichung’s Ching Chuan Kang Air Base and said an advanced training jet should be making its first flight soon.
Other news from Taiwan:
► An EVA Airways flight attendant said airline officials grilled her for over three hours over a false rumor that she had appeared in a pornographic video. The woman said at a Tuesday news conference that the airline forced her to write a statement in which she pledged never to do anything to “hurt the company’s reputation.” (Taipei Times)
► If, bless your heart, you are unfamiliar with the story of the male passenger who insisted a female flight attendant assist him to wipe his bottom – and EVA Air’s subsequent failure to protect its flight attendants from workplace sexism and mistreatment – we recommend this summary by Jenna Cody. (Lao Ren Cha)
► Representatives from the United States and Japan, along with allies Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Solomon Islands, spoke in support of Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Assembly (WHA) on Monday. (CNA)
► Taiwan fell two spots to 31st worldwide in the latest global corruption index, which said Taiwan must improve in helping enterprises align their anti-bribery management systems with international standards. (CNA)
► A glowing profile of the recently opened National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, which is proving to be popular among Kaohsiung residents – although it has been far from immune from criticism. (New York Times)
► A visiting professor at the U.S. Army War College recounts Taiwan’s 20th century flirtation with developing a nuclear weapons program. (The Diplomat)
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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