Taipei mayoral election campaigns have been clouded by issues concerning Taiwan’s COVID-19 response and vaccine procurement over the past two years.
As Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei mayoral candidate Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) for more than 900 days during the COVID-19 pandemic, his political opponents have been attacking him for what they called “poor COVID-19 responses.”
The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Legislator and Taipei mayoral candidate Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) and independent Taipei mayoral candidate Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), a former Taipei deputy mayor, have aggressively and negatively campaigned against Chen.
Since Chen announced his bid for mayor in July, he has been called a “runaway CECC head,” criticized for cutting quarantine time and causing local COVID-19 outbreaks, branded incapable of securing enough vaccines last year, and accused of blocking vaccine purchases, concealing vaccine prices and wasting taxpayer money by disposing of expired vaccines.
Huang said that Chen was “murdering for money,” as she claimed the government had blocked the purchase of imported vaccines to profit from Taiwan’s homegrown Medigen COVID-19 vaccine.
Chiang also said Chen showed “disregard for human lives” and “had no empathy for the victims’ families,” while the KMT legislative caucus last week filed a complaint against him for alleged dereliction of duty in purchasing COVID-19 vaccines.
When the local outbreak of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 began in April, the KMT consistently called for Chen to step down as CECC head due to his “poor COVID-19 response,” but it criticized him for “running away” when he resigned in July after the infections stabilized. Daily local caseloads dropped to about 20,000 from the peak of about 90,000, while antiviral drug prescriptions and COVID-19 hospital bed vacancy rates were high.
The KMT legislative caucus in July 2020 urged the government to allocate more funding for domestic COVID-19 vaccine development and ease clinical trial requirements due to fears that the nation would not gain access to vaccine supplies as fast as other countries. After the government purchased vaccines, the KMT later labeled the AstraZeneca vaccine “unwanted” and dangerous, saying it could cause blood clots. It called receivers of the Medigen vaccine “lab rats,” demanded a greater supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and questioned whether vaccines had been purchased at inflated prices.
The KMT’s demands — buying vaccines before other countries at low cost, providing vaccine brand variety, revealing non-disclosure agreements, not wasting taxpayers’ money by purchasing too many doses, while also funding research for domestically made vaccines — are basically impossible.
In January last year, Israel was ahead of many bigger countries in COVID-19 vaccination rates. It paid a premium to get early Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, agreeing to provide the vaccine company with efficacy data among those vaccinated. Although its contract with Pfizer was made public shortly after it was signed, the specifics around the cost were redacted.
Pfizer-BioNTech had stated that it uses “a tiered pricing formula based on volume and delivery dates,” and the CECC has clarified that a non-disclosure agreement was signed with the vaccine manufacturers, yet the KMT continues to obscure the facts.
While many countries have reported destroying millions of expired COVID-19 vaccines, including the US, which discarded 82.1 million doses from December 2020 to mid-May, the KMT continues to attack Chen for the disposal of Taiwan’s expired vaccines.
Negative campaigning focused on previous COVID-19 policies does not improve the well-being of Taipei residents. Debates on policies for better municipal governance would be more constructive.
Reports that Taiwan’s semiconductor industry could be considering leaving the country amid rising geopolitical tensions, and in light of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC) plans to build factories in the US and Japan, were dismissed last week by Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花). Wang said that Taiwan has an important chip manufacturing cluster, its capabilities are second to none and no other country could displace Taiwan’s dominance in semiconductors. Wang also downplayed concerns that a number of TSMC engineers relocating to the US for the company’s new plant in Phoenix, Arizona, would lead to talent shortages or a loss
Over the past few decades, only judges have been the triers of fact and law in Taiwan’s judiciary. Nevertheless, ordinary people are from next year to have the opportunity to be take on that role in criminal cases, a milestone in Taiwan’s history. The Citizen Judges Act (國民法官法) was passed by the Legislative Yuan on July 22, promulgated by the president on Aug. 12 and is to be implemented on Jan. 1 next year. Under the act, lay people are to be randomly selected as citizen judges who would participate in trial proceedings and adjudicate cases alongside professional judges in
As all are aware by now, United States policy toward Taiwan is guided by three canonical texts: the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. But the State Department now seems to be working with a fourth document which goes by the bland name of “state telegram number 87604” of June 26, 2007, regarding “UN references to Taiwan.” Long dormant, “07 State 87604” seems to have been rediscovered at State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom. I doubt it will ever be enshrined with the three holy texts, but it now seems to influence American diplomacy toward
India-Taiwan relations are at their strongest in history. The growing bonhomie between New Delhi and Taipei is a testimony to India’s increasing interests and stakes in Taiwan. Its keenness to engage Taiwan is noticeable. Early last month, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chyi (陳正祺) visited India, achieving several tangible outcomes. He was in India to participate in the annual deputy ministerial dialogue. He also addressed the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s India-Taiwan Industrial Collaboration Summit. His visit was well-received by the Indian government as well as by industry leaders. “India can be the best production place for us.