Taiwan News: MoFA Threatens Airlines with Legal Action, Pension Vote Looms

Taiwan News: MoFA Threatens Airlines with Legal Action, Pension Vote Looms
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
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Your daily bulletin of Taiwan news, courtesy of ICRT.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the government is considering litigation to stop international airlines from changing Taiwan's designation on their websites and listing the island as being part of China.

According to foreign office spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章), legal action will only be taken after the government has exhausted all other avenues in talks with countries whose airlines have bowed to pressure from China to re-designate the island's status.

Lee also said his office is currently collecting evidence of wrongdoing by the airlines in order to ensure that any such lawsuit will be beneficial for Taiwan.

The statements come after Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways became the latest carriers to change the designation "Taiwan" to "China, Taiwan" on their Chinese-language websites.

The designation remains "Taiwan" on the airline's websites in Japanese and other languages.

The foreign ministry says it has lodged protests with the airlines and is calling on the Japanese government to deal with the matter. It also said that remarks made yesterday by Presidential Office Secretary-General David Lee (李大維) urging Taiwanese to make a call on whether they continued to fly with those airlines that have succumbed to Chinese pressure did not constitute a call for a boycott.

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
Protesters try to pull down the gates of the Legislative Yuan building during a rally against overhaul of the military and civil service pension funds in Taipei, Taiwan April 25, 2018.

Lawmakers are moving closer to voting on amendments to the government's military pension reform bill.

A vote on 15 disputed amendments is set for today related to pension reforms for retired military officers and non-commissioned officers.

Today's vote includes issues such as the proposed rescinding of an 18 percent preferential interest rate on military retirees' savings accounts, the eligibility of family members of dead officers and non-commissioned officers to receive benefits and a bill aimed at dividing pensions in the event of divorce.

Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chuan (蘇嘉全) says Kuomintang lawmakers will be allowed to voice their opinions on the controversial amendments prior to today's vote.

Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) is voicing concern about that, saying he hopes the opposition will not filibuster today's legislative session in an attempt to continue to delay a final vote on the military pension reform plan.

The government has previously said it aims to pass the bill, which is deemed critical to reducing the burden on the country's heavily strained overall pension liabilities, by July 1.

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The Presidential Office is thanking the U.S. Senate for its inclusion of Taiwan provisions in its latest defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed on June 18.

According to office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明), the Taiwan provisions show U.S. support for the island and the importance Washington attaches to its belief in Taiwan's national security apparatus.

Lin said the Tsai administration will continue to engage in talks with the U.S. as both sides look to strengthen security cooperation.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2019 NDAA by a vote of 85 to 10. The bill, which bases its Taiwan-focused provisions on the Taiwan Relations Act, includes recommendations that troops from Taiwan and the U.S. participate in each other's military exercises and calls for high-level exchanges between by Taiwanese and U.S. generals.

Some observers have suggested the wording opens the door for U.S. forces to participate in the recently completed Han Kuang military exercises in Taiwan next year.

The bill also says the U.S. should "strengthen defense and security cooperation with Taiwan" in order to to support the development of a modern defense force on the island.

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President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is thanking Belize and Saint Lucia for their support of Taiwan's efforts to expand its international participation.

Tsai thanked the two allies during meetings with a delegation of Belizean parliamentarians at the Presidential Office and while meeting with St. Lucia's newly appointed ambassador to Taiwan, Edwin Laurent.

According to Tsai, Belize's President Dean Barrow has been consistent in his support of Taiwan's bid to gain greater international participation and has maintained long-term bilateral exchanges with the island.

She touted Belize's speaking up in favor of Taiwan's inclusion in major international organizations and events, including the World Health Assembly and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

While the president also thanked the newly appointed ambassador from St. Lucia to Taiwan for the support of his country's prime minister for his speaking-up for Taiwan's international presence at the United Nations General Assembly.

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The Taipei City government has suspended activities at the Huashan Grassland as police continue to investigate the murder of a woman who is believed to have been dismembered there last week.

The 30-year-old woman was allegedly strangled to death by Chen Bo-qian – an archery instructor who taught classes at Huashan.

Police say has confessed to killing the woman on June 1 before cutting her body into seven parts and dumping them on Yangmingshan on June 3.

Chen has been detained and police say they are still looking into whether he had help in dismembering or moving the body.

The Taipei Urban Regeneration Office rented the land to the Unregulated Masses arts group and Chen's studio was part of the so-called 120 Grassroots artists' village located there.

The arts group says it conducted regular safety checks in the area, which is adjacent to the Huashan 1914 Creative Park.

However, the city government says it has received numerous complaints that some of the operators of the art studios have been living at the site, which includes a number of temporary structures, including tents and performance areas.

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Labor Protest March Taipei
Credit: Chao Ting-yu
Workers' rights groups protest for improvements to the minimum wage in Taipei.

The Minimum Wage Review Committee is set to meet in August to decide whether to raise minimum monthly and hourly wages.

Reports say the government is leaning towards hiking the minimum hourly wage by 7.1 percent and increasing the monthly minimum wage by 4.5 percent.

If those percentages are correct, then it will see the hourly wage raised from NT$140 (US$4.64) to NT$150 and the monthly wage from NT$22,000 to NT$23,000.

Although those figures have yet to be confirmed, labor rights groups say the unequal increases will hurt part-time workers and they are calling on the government to raise both minimum wages evenly.

Labor representatives argue that the uneven increases could result in some employers exploiting loopholes in the system by opting to pay part-time workers with a percentage of a full-time salary instead of the full hourly rate.

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Six Taiwan nationals have been detained in Vietnam for their involvement in online telecom fraud.

Reports from Vietnam say the six were among 12 people arrested by police during a raid in Quang Nam Province.

According to media reports, the fraud ring was brought to the attention of authorities by a victim who claims to have been conned out of about US$80,000.

Reports say the telecom fraud ring may have swindled other Vietnamese nationals out of a total of US$300,000 since May by posing as Vietnamese government officials.

Vietnamese police are still investigating the case.

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The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) says the production and import of personal care products containing plastic microbeads will be banned from July 1.

The ban follows similar measures carried out in a number of countries, including the United States, France and the UK, where a ban on rinse-off products containing microbeads came into effect yesterday.

And the EPA says it will be imposed on six major products, including shampoo, shower gel, soap, facial cleanser, scrubbing cream and toothpaste.

Officials say the ban is aimed at enhancing environmental protection, particularly the marine environment.

Retailers caught violating the new rule will be subject to a fine of up to NT$6,000.

Microbeads are widely seen as a major water pollutant, able to pass unfiltered through sewage treatment plants and make their way into rivers and canals to cause plastic particle pollution.

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
Travelers make their way past a TSA security officer and dog at Lindbergh Field airport in San Diego, California.

Passengers flying to the United States will be subject to additional security examinations from June 30.

The new rules follow the introduction of a new U.S. policy that regulates the amount of powdered products passengers can carry in their hand luggage.

According to Civil Aeronautics Administration, security personnel will review passengers' carry-on items at the boarding gates of U.S.-bound flights operated by China Airlines, EVA Airways and United Airlines.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration says passengers will not be able to transport powdered products larger than 350 ml in their hand luggage.

However, baby formula powder or human ashes under the scrutiny of airline companies are exempt from the regulation.

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The Ministry of Science and Technology said Taiwan's delegation to next year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas will be made up of representatives from 40 local start-up companies.

Ministry officials indicated they will be contacting interested start-ups until July 30 in the hopes of getting more sign-ups before the deadline

The ministry led led a delegation of 32 technology start-up representatives to CES 2018 in Las Vegas earlier this year where they organized a pavilion showcasing Taiwan's tech capabilities.

That was the first time Taiwan had a national pavilion at CES and officials say it proved hugely successful.

The list of start-ups set to join Taiwan's delegation to CES 2019 will be announced in late September.

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

TNL Editor: David Green