A few hours short of a whole week after the Accounting Act (會計法) was amended by the legislature, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) apologized for errors in the legislation. This was a rare admission of a misstep from Ma and his administration.
But the apology created some confusion coming as it did a day after Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) rejected a request for the Cabinet to veto the measure, which came from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌). That day, an Executive Yuan spokesperson said Jiang had reiterated the Cabinet had no plan to veto the bill.
What a difference a day makes.
The abrupt about-face begs the question as to just what triggered it. It comes after a week-long display of passing the buck between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the DPP, lawmakers and the Executive Yuan, all eager to distance themselves from what appeared to be a stunning combination of oversight and political conniving.
Ostensibly the amendment aimed to exempt several hundred professors from having their government research grants audited, after the discovery of accounting errors that left them open to civil, administrative and criminal liability. Given the conflicting rules and timeframes governing such grants, the idea seemed to be a good one.
However, the proposal was then expanded to cover elected officials who had misused their special allowances — though former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was pointedly not included. Grouping such disparate groups together and claiming their mistakes were equal was quite a stretch. It looked more like a case of combining an idea popular with the public with one to aid political parties ahead of next year’s seven-in-one local elections. It is hard to equate buying equipment for research teams with officials dipping into public money for entertainment.
Such was the rush to get the amendment passed before the legislature adjourned, neither the Executive Yuan, which had vetted the proposal, nor lawmakers noticed that the word “teaching [faculty]” was missing, which meant academics remained open to prosecution.
It appeared as if the only winner would be former Non-Partisan Solidarity Union legislator and Taichung County Council speaker Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), who began a three-and-a-half-year prison term in February for using almost NT$20 million (US$668,500) to visit hostess bars and KTVs when he was council speaker more than a decade ago.
It is clear why the KMT is eager to get Yen out of jail. Though he was an independent lawmaker, his son, Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恆), ran in and won January’s by-election to replace him as a KMT candidate. The Ministry of Economic Affairs had also picked Yen in 2010 to be one of its “ambassadors” to promote the yet-to-be-signed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. Despite his years of legal woes, he remains a powerful force in Greater Taichung politics, and could help the KMT next year.
The other major problem with the amendment was that its passage was a deal worked out by just a handful of lawmakers — Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and other senior members of the KMT, DPP, Taiwan Solidarity Union and People First Party caucuses. It was then rushed through a vote.
Unfortunately, it has become the norm in recent years for political grandstanding to delay passage of most bills before the legislature. Consequently, during the last few days of each session, lawmakers are in a frenzied rush to pass a handful of amendments. A “special” session (or two) is then held in the summer to pass a few more bills.
Shoddy writing, questionable politicking and rushed legislation do disservice to voters and the nation. Ma apologized yesterday and Su on Thursday, but it is unlikely those expressions of remorse will change the way lawmaking is done in this nation.
China took advantage of the vacuum left behind when US carriers stayed out of the western Pacific Ocean due to COVID-19 outbreaks on several US Navy warships. The Chinese government is solidifying its hold on artificial islands in the South China Sea by moving in missiles and surveillance equipment, and formalizing its occupation by creating two municipal districts in the region under Hainan Island’s Sansha — Xisha District on Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) to administer the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and Nansha District on Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島) to administer the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) —
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) yesterday wrapped up its annual party conference-cum-national decision-making forums in Beijing: the National People’s Congress (NPC) and National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), known colloquially as the “two meetings.” They are normally tightly choreographed affairs, designed to project an image of stability and unassailable strength, but several events leading up this month’s sessions provided strong indications that all is not well in the state of Denmark. The first sign of major discontent came in March, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in China, when an article by real-estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang
As last year drew to a close, Taiwan lost several of its dwindling set of diplomatic allies, and China all but claimed victory in the long quest for universal recognition of the Peoples Republic of China. While Taiwan remained marginalized from traditional international institutions, intensifying protests in Hong Kong raised the specter of military repression in the territories still coveted by Beijing. At celebrations marking 70 years of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) also reasserted China’s ultimate goal of reunifying Taiwan with the mainland. Then COVID-19 hit. The pandemic has opened deep wounds in the increasingly
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a