Beijing seeks to influence Taiwanese elections next year with Chinese airlines promoting round-trip tickets from China to Taiwan during the the run-up to the January vote, Taiwan Democracy Watch chairman Sung Cheng-en (宋承恩) said.
The Beijing-based Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland last month called on airlines to offer discount fares for China-based Taiwanese businesspeople. The association proposed the discount for the two-week interval from Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11 to the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25.
Since a meeting between the association and China-based airlines, Shenzhen Airlines has offered a round-trip ticket for 1,500 yuan (US$210), sources said, adding that people that opt to make the trip twice — once for the elections and again for the Lunar New Year — would be eligible for a package price of 3,300 yuan.
The airline’s offer is lower than the association’s suggested price of 1,800 yuan for a round-trip ticket, the sources added.
Purchasers of the discounted ticket must complete their first round trip before embarking on a second, the sources said, meaning that people who buy the discount tickets must return to Taiwan for the election or the package deal would be annulled.
South China Airlines might make matching promotions, sources said, adding that only China-based airlines are looking to make the offer, while Taiwan-based airlines have thus far declined to do so.
Beijing’s intentions are obvious, Sung said on Friday at the ticket promotion.
Any similar act in Taiwan could be considered a breach of the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act (總統副總統選舉罷免法), Sung said.
Sung cited the promotions as a reason for Taiwan to pass amendments, commonly called the “Chinese agent clause,” to the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例).
When reached for comment on Friday, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said that if the move was purely a commercial operation, it would not break Taiwanese laws.
It is the Taiwanese government’s responsibility to facilitate travel for its citizens to exercise their right to vote, but “we must warn China not to influence Taiwan’s democratic elections,” Chiu said.
The council would keep close tabs on discounts offered by Chinese airlines, he added.
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