Taiwan News: Typhoon Maria Set to Strike, Land Warnings in Effect

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Both land and sea warnings are now in effect for Super Typhoon Maria as the storm continues to move towards northern Taiwan.

The Category 5 storm is currently located 520km east of Yilan and is moving in a west-northwesterly direction at 28km/h. Maria has a radius of 280km and is packing maximum sustained winds of 191km/h, with gusts of up to 234km/h.

The land warning covers Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Nantou, Yilan, and Hualien.

The storm is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain to the Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung and Yilan areas from later today through tomorrow. Reports say Maria could bring between 40cm and 55cm of rain to the greater Taipei area over that period. Heavy to extremely heavy rainfall is also forecast for mountainous areas in central Taiwan.

According to the weather bureau, Maria is currently projected to pass through the waters near the Pengjia Islet, after the typhoon's path moved northwards from previous forecasts. However, forecasters are warning the storm could still shift, depending on the development of a Pacific high-pressure system. The weather bureau says if a high-pressure system picks up strength, Maria could have a major impact on northern parts of the island.

Offices and schools remain open as usual, but the Taipei City, New Taipei, Keelung and Yilan governments are expected to announce possible half-day typhoon closures within the coming hours.

The Taiwan Railways Administration and the High-Speed Rail Corporation have not yet announced any suspension of services. Most domestic flights will be cancelled from this afternoon. Some international flights are affected, and airlines are advising passengers to check with their carriers before heading to the airport.

The Ministry of National Defense says 34,000 personnel are on standby to respond to Super Typhoon Maria and to carry out emergency rescue and relief operations if needed. The troops are being supported by 4,000 vehicles.

About 4,000 tourists have been evacuated from Orchid and Green islands, as ferry services to and from Taitung have now been suspended.

Super Typhoon Maria is the first storm of this year's Pacific typhoon season to affect Taiwan.

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President Tsai Ing-wen has sworn in incoming government officials and international envoys at the Presidential Office in a ceremony attended by Vice President Chen Chien-jen and Vice Premier Shi Jun-ji.

17 new government officials and envoys, headed by the new minister of the Mainland Affairs Council Chen Ming-tong, took their oaths of office at the ceremony.

In addition to the new government officials, Transitional Justice Commission Chairperson Huang Huang-xiong, Vice Chairperson Chang Tien-qin, and full-time members Yang Tsui, Yeh Hong-lin and Peng Ren-yu were also sworn in.

Incoming diplomatic officials who swore their oaths of office included envoy to France Francois Wu, envoy to Italy Andrea Lee, envoy to Ireland Pierre Yang, envoy to Malaysia Ann Hong, envoy to Brazil Ho Jian-gong, and envoy to Latvia Andy Jin.

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The Mainland Affairs Council is once again calling on Beijing to release Taiwanese democracy advocate Lee Ming-che and other detained Chinese dissidents.

The statement comes on the third Anniversary of the 709 Crackdown, which saw hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers and activists detained nationwide on July 9, 2015.

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
Supporters in Taipei form the words "China! Free Li!" to urge for the release of Taiwan human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (also known as Li Ming-che) after Chinese authorities claimed he confessed to subversion in September 2017.

Read Next: Lee Ming-che’s Sentence Chills Taiwan NGOs

According to the council, Beijing needs to recognize increasing calls for freedom, democracy, human rights and political by its people and squarely face up to new developments.

The council also says Beijing should start by releasing Lee, who has been detained since March 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of "subversion of state power" in November of last year.

Lee's family and colleagues have insisted he was only sharing Taiwan's democratic experiences with Chinese people and should not have been sentenced to prison.

Read Next: China’s New Torture Methods

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the government has pledged US$181,000 to Japan for flood relief following days of heavy rain that has caused massive flooding in the southwest of the country.

The floods have claimed at least 122 lives, and at least 27 people remain missing.

The ministry says the government decided to make the donation to assist Japan in rebuilding flooded areas to show concern for the disaster on behalf of the people of Taiwan.

President Tsai Ing-wen, Premier William Lai, and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu have all sent condolences through various channels to Japan.

Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu and Taiwan's top envoy to Japan, Frank Hsieh, expressed their concern to 323 Japanese councilmen while attending the fourth summit on Taiwan-Japan exchanges in Kaohsiung this past weekend.

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Search teams have found the crash survivable memory unit from the flight data recorder of the F-16 jet fighter that crashed last month in New Taipei.

Defense officials say they hope the memory unit will shed light on the cause of the accident which resulted in the death of the pilot, Major Wu Yan-ting. According to the Air Force, it will now be sent to the US for further analysis.

The crash occurred on June 4 when the single-seat F-16 fighter plane disappeared from radar screens half an hour after it took off from Hualien Air Base to participate in the Han Kuang military exercise.

The Air Force has attributed the cause of the crash to "a combination of factors, including poor weather conditions and human error," but it has yet to come up with an exact cause of the incident.

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The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) says all three people onboard a training aircraft that went missing over waters some 11 nautical miles southwest of Kaohsiung International Airport have been rescued.

Two flight trainees and an instructor were on board the Diamond Aircraft DA 40 NG aircraft belonging to the Apex Flight Academy.

According to the CAA’s Flight Standards Division, the aircraft had taken off from Taitung Airport en route to Kaohsiung for a cross-country training flight and went missing from radar at 5:07 PM. About an hour later, a joint search and rescue operation by the National Airborne Service Corps and the Coast Guard Administration found the three in waters about 8 nautical miles off Kaohsiung.

Wreckage of the plane has yet to be found and the cause of the crash is still being investigated.

The Apex Flight Academy trains pilots from local airlines such as Tigerair and Mandarin Airlines.

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The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office has summoned 19 people for questioning as part of an investigation into the alleged selling of fuel used to make gunpowder to North Korea.

Law enforcement authorities has searched the offices of several customs brokerages and shipping companies after receiving a tip-off that a customs brokerage owner used several Chinese ships last year to smuggle products to North Korea.

According to prosecutors, the Chinese ships were used as a cover to smuggle a special sugar that can be processed into gunpowder along with grains from Southeast Asia to North Korea through Japan and South Korea. The chief suspect has reportedly made up to NT$100 million (US$3.29 million) in illegal gains through the sales.

Prosecutors say the main suspect is believed to have hired other companies to help him. The questioning focuses on whether any of those companies assisted North Korea to develop nuclear weapons or other military equipment.

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Six members of the Taiwan Civil Government have been indicted for fraud and illegal fundraising.

The Taoyuan District Prosecutors' Office says all six have been charged with violating the Organized Crime Prevention Act and the Money Laundering Control Act.

According to prosecutors, the group's founder and secretary-general Roger Lin his wife Julian Lin and four others defrauded 315 people of about NT$770 million (US$25.35 million) through the organization.

The indictments come after prosecutors raided the group's headquarters and members' residences in May, when they seized large amounts of cash and discovered Lin owned four pieces of land and four buildings. Prosecutors have filed a separate motion seeking the seizure of all of Lin's property.

The Taiwan Civil Government was founded in 2008 and seeks to normalize Taiwan's legal status in the global community and to allow the Taiwanese people to determine their own nationality through a referendum.

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Defense officials are being quoted as saying the military is seeking to earmark a budget of NT$30 billion (US$987.5 million) to purchase 108 M1A2 Abrams battle tanks and precision ammunition from the US.

Sources say the funding will come from next year's defense budget. If the sale goes ahead, the M1A2s will replace some of the military's aging M60A3 and CM-11 tanks and they will all be assigned to the Sixth Army Corps, which is responsible for the security of Northern Taiwan.

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
A US M182 Abrams tank in a 2016 military exercise. Taiwan hopes to purchase 108 Abrams tanks from the US.

According to defense officials, Taiwan is also seeking to purchase anti-tank guided missiles, self-propelled air defense systems, mortars and 155mm howitzers, infantry fighting vehicles and tracked field recovery vehicles.

However, it remains unclear if the US government will approve the procurement requests.

Read Next: Taiwan's Place in Global Order Shifts as US Turns Inwards

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Fish farmers are calling on the government to help safeguard their livelihood amid its push for green energy development.

Aquaculture farmers from Tainan's Cigu District says land developers are snatching up land and driving up rents while making available plots of rural land less accessible.

According to groups supporting the calls, fish farmers in the Tainan area are the only aquaculture operators on the west coast who do not pump groundwater into ponds where the fish are cultivated. This ensures the sustainable use of water resources while minimizing soil salinization and land subsidence.

However, developers have being buying-up up empty plots of farmland to put up solar panels, paying 10 times the normal rent and squeezing out fish farmers.

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China's Zhejiang Province is seeking to attract professionals from Taiwan by announcing 76 measures to appeal to young people.

Authorities in the province announced the measures at the first cross-strait youth development forum in Hangzhou.

Over 500 young people, including 200 led by former Kuomintang (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu from Taiwan, are attending the event. Hung was invited to the event in her capacity as chairperson of the China Qing-Yan Peace Education Foundation. According to Hung, she hopes the event will serve as a platform for Taiwan's young people searching for more opportunities and as a channel to enhance communication between youth in Taiwan and China.

Zhejiang's 76 measures cover investment and trade cooperation, technological renovation, startup businesses, cultural exchanges and living conditions.

Several local authorities in China have published their own measures to attract young people from Taiwan since Beijing announced 31 measures to attract Taiwanese in February.

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The Tourism Bureau says a travel promotional video featuring popular Malaysian actress and TV host, Mira Filzah, will begin airing in late August. The bureau says the aim is to attract more Muslim visitors to Taiwan.

According to the bureau, Filzah is a celebrity in the Muslim world with more than 3 million fans on Instagram and it chose her to be the spokesperson for its campaign to promote tourism in Taiwan to Muslims in 2018.

Filzah and three other Malaysian social media stars specializing in fashion and cosmetics recently visited Taiwan to produce the promotional film "Salam Taiwan - Taiwan welcomes you."

Read Next: OPINION: Taiwan’s Tourism Strategy Overlooks the Age of Influence

The film shows the four visiting a number of tourist attractions, including Taipei 101, Yangmingshan National Park, Ximending, and Shilin Night Market, as well as Halal certified restaurants.

The Tourism Bureau is set to hold a press conference for the premiere of the film in Malaysia in late August.

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

TNL Editor: Nick Aspinwall

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