President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) first week in office saw a handful of quick, popular decisions by the new DPP-led government. Taiwan’s participation in international affairs continues, as did the anti-Tsai rhetoric from across the Taiwan Strait.
For the kids
One of the new administration’s first actions was to withdraw the former government’s criminal charges against 126 Sunflower Movement protesters. Activist leaders welcomed the decision and are now pushing for an investigation of police and officials involved in the alleged use of excessive force during the 2014 protests.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) decided schools in Taiwan are no longer allowed to punish students who choose not to wear uniforms. The move, which Tsai had backed during the election campaign, was seen as a victory for many high school protests groups around the island.
The new director of the Environment Protection Administration (EPA) moved to ban mining in Taiwan’s national parks. The decision means that Asia Cement will have to stop mining in Taroko Gorge National Park when its current permit expires next year. While the decision has pleased environmental groups, it has drawn criticism from the company, which argues that its operation was in place prior to the park’s creation in 1986 – the mine is understood to be the only mining operation in a national park.
New Economics Minister Lee Chih-kung (李世光) reaffirmed the government’s ambitious plans to make Taiwan nuclear free by 2025, CNA reports.
Saying sorry, pleasing workers
Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said Tsai will on August 1 apologize to Taiwan’s indigenous community on behalf of the government for past injustices. CNA also reports a truth and reconciliation commission will be set up to address transitional justice issues for indigenous peoples.
Labor Minister Kuo Fang-yu (郭芳煜) was reported as saying the Ministry of Labor will reverse plans, put forward under the KMT, that may have seen holidays and days off in Taiwan reduced in order to boost productivity. The government will guarantee a five-day work week, and keep the seven national holidays which had earlier been on the block.
World keeps spinning
After the furor in China – at least among state media – over Tsai’s handling of the cross-strait issue in her inauguration speech, commentators have been looking out signs of new restrictions imposed on Taiwan’s diplomatic or economic space.
However, this week Taiwan continued to participate, at least as fully as it can, in the international sphere.
Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦) is attending a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) tourism ministers in Lima, Peru, Focus Taiwan reports. Taiwan, attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva as an observer, kept up its protest over its controversial invitation to the event, which mentioned the “one-China” principle.
China Post quotes Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) President Peter Huang (黃文榮) as saying the trade organization’s activities in China are expected to continue under the new leadership – “the only change is that in other markets, we may do more in the future,” said Huang.
And, as Joseph A. Bosco notes in National Interest, Tsai’s administration has “defused a potential conflictual situation in the East China Sea” in leaving a dispute over the small – nine square-meter – but important Okinotori ‘island’ to international lawyers to resolve.
China gets personal
Meanwhile, the Twitter accounts of international media and China watchers lit up after, as New York Times reports, an article by a Chinese military official suggested that Tsai was ‘extreme’ and ‘emotional’ because she was unmarried. The article was reportedly widely criticized in China and removed from mainstream media sites there.
Still, a more influential figure has maintained the one-China rhetoric. Xinhua reports Minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun told a Taiwanese business delegation on Wednesday, “Taiwan independence is not an option for the future of Taiwan.”
Xinhua quotes Zhang saying: “The peaceful development of cross-Strait relations can only be maintained if the Taiwan authority completely discards ‘Taiwan independence’ and upholds the principle of both sides of the Taiwan Strait belonging to one China.”