Taiwan on Saturday voted in presidential and parliamentary elections that will be closely watched by Beijing, which claims the democratic island as its own, in the shadow of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
China and the Hong Kong unrest have become major elements in the election as Beijing has ramped up efforts to get Taiwan to accept its rule, both through military intimidation and an offer of the “one country, two systems” model.
Speaking in Taipei, the capital, first-time voter Stacey Lin, 20, said she had voted for President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.
“I saw what’s happening in Hong Kong and it’s horrible, I just want to make sure I have the freedom to vote in the future.
“She is the best among all the candidates to protect our democracy,” Lin added.
Both Tsai and main rival Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang, which favours close ties with China, have rejected the “one country, two systems” model, which provides for a high degree of autonomy, much as Beijing uses in Hong Kong.
Tsai, voting in Taipei, spoke briefly to newsmen after casting her ballot, saying she hoped everyone exercised their right to vote and the process would be smooth.
“Only Taiwan’s people have the right to decide its future.
“Taiwan has denounced China for seeking to sway the election with misinformation and gestures such as sailing its newest aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait just before the vote,’’ the president noted.
However, China denied interfering.
The current Mayor of Kaohsiung City Government, Han Kuo-yu said that he would reset ties with China to boost Taiwan’s economy, however would not compromise on defending its democracy.
Han did not speak to newsmen after voting in his city.
The polls closed at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT) and results are expected by evening.
Tsai is due to hold a news conference at 8 p.m. (1200 GMT).
Earlier in the day, people queued in long but orderly lines at many polling stations to cast their votes, with good weather likely to boost turnout.
Sam Chan, 30, who immigrated to Taiwan from Hong Kong in 2014 over fears of China’s growing control of the Asian financial hub, said Tsai was the best to protect Taiwan.
“I immigrated to Taiwan to escape from the Communist Party, so I won’t vote for pro-China political parties.”
A 67-year-old Chu Yu-min said she had voted for the Kuomintang, noting that Taiwan needs good relations with China.
“Taiwan’s economy depends on that. The economy has been bad for the past four years, this needs to change,” Chu added.
The idea of “one country, two systems” never popular in Taiwan, is even less so now, after months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
The protesters have broad sympathy in Taiwan, and both the DPP and Kuomintang have pledged to help protesters in the former British colony who flee to the island.
Taiwan has been a democratic success story since its first direct presidential election in 1996.
It has been the culmination of decades of struggle against authoritarian rule and martial law under the Kuomintang, which ruled China until it was forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949, after losing a civil war with the Communists.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Muhammad Suleiman Tola
Voters in Taiwan began heading to the polls on Saturday in an election widely expected to grant a second and final four-year term to incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, a result that is bound to irk the government in Beijing which claims the island as its territory.
On a sunny day, long queues were seen outside polling stations.
President Tsai was spotted in a long line at an elementary school in Taipei where she cast her vote, Formosa Television reported.
Premier Su Tsang-chang waited for 40 minutes before casting his ballot.
He said that the process went well, encouraging people to go vote, state-run Central News Agency reported.
Tsai, 63, a staunch democrat critical of the authoritarian regime in China, has been boosted by anti-Beijing sentiment among the population of the self-governing democratic island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to put Taiwan under the same system applied to former British colony Hong Kong, which was returned to Chinese control in 1997, riled the Taiwan population last year.
The anti-China mood further increased due to Beijing’s hard-line stance on the protests in Hong Kong that started in June.
Tsai’s centrist and independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is currently in government and is seeking to consolidate its position in Saturday’s polls.
Tsai’s main challenger is Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, 62, of the right-wing pro-China Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
With an everyman image, Han has vowed to revive the local economy.
The third presidential challenger, 77-year-old former KMT secretary-general James Soong, presidential candidate of the conservative People First Party, has largely been marginalized in the battle between Tsai and Han.
More than 17,000 polling stations around the island open for eight hours from 8 am to 4 pm (0000-0800 GMT). About 19.3 million voters above the age of 20 – including, critically, 1.18 million young first-time voters – are eligible to elect their president and 113 legislators.
In January 2016, Tsai became Taiwan’s first female leader and her DPP also formed an unprecedented parliamentary majority.
Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
Taiwan’s top military official is among eight people killed when a military helicopter made an emergency landing in mountainous terrain, officials say.
General Shen Yi-ming and 12 others were on the Black Hawk helicopter when it was forced to land in poor weather near the capital, Taipei.
Earlier reports said some people had been found alive, with others “trapped under fragments of the helicopter”.
The general was flying to an army base in the north-east of Taiwan.
Several other top military officials were also on the helicopter, reports said.
Taiwan’s air force sent two more Black Hawk helicopters and about 80 soldiers to the scene near Tonghou Creek in Wulai, the official Central News Agency reported.
The helicopter took off from Songshan air base in Taipei at 07:54 local time (23:54 GMT), bound for a military base at Dong’ao in Yilan county for an inspection, Focus Taiwan said.
It made the emergency landing after aviation authorities lost contact with it at 08:22, the defence ministry said.
A search and rescue team tried to get to the scene as quickly as possible but efforts were complicated by the terrain, an official told the BBC.
The US sold 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters in 2010. It was not immediately clear whether the helicopter in Thursday’s incident was one of them.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who hopes to be returned to power in elections on 11 January, cancelled campaigning on Thursday.
Ms Tsai from the Democratic Progressive party is running against Han Kuo-Yu of the Kuomintang party, which wants closer engagement with China.
Taiwan has been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
But Beijing sees the island as a province to be reunified with China one day – by force if necessary.
Taiwan’s parliament passed an anti-infiltration law on Tuesday to combat perceived threats from China as the island gears up for a presidential vote on Jan. 11 amid heightened tension with Beijing.
The legislation is part of years-long effort to combat what many in Taiwan see as Chinese efforts to influence politics and the democratic process through illicit funding of politicians and the media and other methods.
The move further strains ties between Taiwan and Beijing, which suspects Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of pushing for the island’s formal independence and has ramped up pressure on her since she took office in 2016.
Chen Ou-po of the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) told parliament after the bill was passed that the rise of China has posed a threat to all countries, and Taiwan is facing the biggest threat.
“Taiwan is on the frontline of Chinese infiltration and urgently needs the anti-infiltration law to protect people’s rights.”
Lawmakers of Tsai’s DPP backed the bill, which passed 67 to zero, in spite of opposition criticism of it as a “political tool” to gain votes before the election.
Lawmakers of the main opposition Kuomintang, which favours close ties with China, did not participate in the vote.
China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, in a statement carried by state media, said the DPP was seeking electoral gain from the move and creating enmity across the Taiwan Strait.
“We sternly warn the DPP, blood is thicker than water for the compatriots from both sides of the strait, who protect and help each other: this is something no force can change,” it said.
The law gives legal teeth to efforts by stopping China of funding activities on the island such as lobbying or election campaigns.
It carried a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and will take effect after Tsai signs it into law in January.
China claimed Taiwan as its territory to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary.
Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.
The Kuomintang has said it supports efforts to protect Taiwan from infiltration, but accused the DPP of rushing through the legislation for electoral gain, calling it a threat to Taiwan’s democracy.
Several Kuomintang lawmakers staged a sit-in protest in front of the speaker’s podium during the parliamentary session, holding signs that read “Objecting to bad law” and “Damaging human rights” while wearing black masks that read “Objection”.
A handful of supporters from pro-China political parties protested outside parliament, calling lawmakers to withdraw what they see as legislation that “ruins” cross-Strait exchanges.
Recently, China said the DPP was trying to “blatantly reverse over” democracy with the bill.
Tsai, in response said it was hypocritical of an autocratic China that lacks democracy, human rights or freedom of speech to use the language of democracy to criticise the proposal.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Ese E. Ekama
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday stressed the importance of the Taiwan-U.S. relationship in a video conference arranged to mark the 40th anniversary of the U.S.’ Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).Tsai said the TRA, set up by the U.S. to define its relations with Taiwan, had led to a strong partnership and was crucial to maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“In today’s world of increasing complexity and challenge, this has been more necessary than ever before,’’ Tsai said.
She added that she hoped the relationship would continue to evolve, forming a collective response to “coercion’’ from Beijing.
The event also featured speeches from U.S. political figures and scholars.
It was jointly organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Brookings Institution and the Wilson Centre to address the TRA, enacted by the U.S. Congress in April 1979.
Tsai said the TRA had supported Taiwan’s development of defence capabilities needed “in order to resist any form of coercion.’’
“Given the traditional and non-traditional challenges facing us today, the need for a collective response has never been clearer,’’ she said.
Tsai, responding to a question, said Taiwan would also be prepared to team up with Japan to jointly maintain regional peace and stability.
Tsai also said Taiwan would be willing to engage in a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.
Taiwan has had its own government since 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists fled there after losing a civil war to the Communists.
Report says Beijing considers the democracy part of its territory.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Donald Ugwu
The United States on Monday criticised China for attempting to undermine the status quo of the Taiwan Strait, stressing that Beijing should resume talks with the Taiwanese government.
Comments of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de-facto U.S. embassy, came one day after two Chinese fighter jets provocatively crossed the so-called median line of the Taiwan Strait, separating mainland China and Taiwan.
“Beijing should stop its coercive efforts and resume dialogue with the democratically elected administration on Taiwan,’’ AIT spokesperson Amanda Mansour, said in a statement.
”Beijing’s efforts to unilaterally alter the status quo were harmful and did not contribute to regional stability. Rather, they undermine the framework that has enabled peace, stability, and development for decades,’’ she added.
China cut off all official communication with Taiwan in June 2016, one month after President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office.
On Sunday, Taiwan’s Air Force intercepted the Chinese fighter jets and chased them away after a 12-minute stand-off, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said.
Tsai said on Monday that such a provocative action taken by China was internationally unacceptable.
Relations with China have become tense since President Xi Jinping in January called for Taiwan’s “reunification’’ with China, if necessary by force.
Taiwan has had its own government since 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists fled to the Island after losing a civil war to the Communists.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory.
Edited by: Abigael Joshua/Ismail Abdulaziz
Taiwan Premier Lai Ching-te on Thursday said he will resign on Friday, following his party’s setback in local elections in November.
Lai, however, expressed his appreciation to the legislature, which completed the review of his budget proposal.
“The budget proposal has been approved. The time is up.
“I will hold meeting tomorrow before my Cabinet members resigns en masse,’’ Lai told newsmen before he officially expressed his appreciation to lawmakers at the parliament building.
He said President Tsai Ing-wen has agreed to his plan to leave and would announce the successor.
According to local media, Lai’s possible successor could be former premier Su Tseng-chang of the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Lai’s move is regarded as a political move to shoulder responsibilities in the wake of the ruling party’s setback in local elections in November.
Tsai, two months ago, immediately resigned as chair of the DPP after it won just six out of 22 local authorities while the China-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took 15 cities and counties.
Lai took office on Sept. 8, 2017, unveiling a reshuffled cabinet designed to boost Tsai’s declining popularity.
Edited by: AbiodunOluleye/Felix Ajide
The United States rejects the threat or use of force by China against Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy, said on Thursday.
The U.S. comments came in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s claim recently that China will unify Taiwan, by force if necessary.
“The United States has made clear to Beijing that it should stop its coercion and resume dialogue with the democratically-elected administration on Taiwan,’’ AIT spokeswoman Amanda Mansour said.
Mansour reiterated what Garrett Marquis, spokesman of the U.S. National Security Council, said in a tweet on Monday.
Report says Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island off the south-east coast of China that Beijing considers part of its territory.
According to AIT, the U.S. and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic ties, while the U.S. has a deep and abiding interest in peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.
“Any resolution of cross-Strait differences must be peaceful and based on the will of the people on both sides,’’ Mansour said.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen rejected Xi’s claim hours after it was made on Jan. 2.
Tsai, three days later, again warned China not to misjudge the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy and called for international support.
“As we have said many times before, Taiwan is a democratic success story, a reliable partner, and a force for good in the world,’’ Mansour said.
“Taiwan will continue to collaborate with the U.S. government, jointly defend democratic values shared by the two sides, and strengthen partnership in all aspects,’’ Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told newsmen.
Taiwan has had its own government since 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists fled there after losing a civil war to the Communists.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Felix Ajide
Taipei, Dec. 18, 2018 Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday urged Beijing to be transparent about outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) in 22 Chinese provinces.
“We want to seriously tell the Chinese Government that the situation should not be concealed at all and immediate notifications are necessary,’’ Tsai told reporters at the office of the President in Taipei.
China did not respond to three separate requests for information regarding the ASF outbreaks, which started in early August, Chen Ming-tong, the Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council said.
China’s failure to bring ASF under control could threaten Taiwan’s pork industry, the state-run Central News Agency reported Chen as saying.
Since the Chinese outbreak started in August, Taiwan has adopted prevention measures to protect 5.4 million hogs on the island and related industries worth up to $1.6 billion, the Central News Agency said.
Quarantine operations at airports and seaports have been tightened and Taiwan’s Government earlier sent mobile text alerts nationwide warning people not to bring overseas meat products into the country.
The alert was issued after customs officers reported cases of meat products smuggled in from China, which tested positive to ASF, a disease harmless to humans but deadly to pigs.
In 1997, strains of foot and mouth disease found their way into Taiwan from China, causing severe outbreaks in pigs.
The disaster resulted in a financial loss of 170 billion Taiwan dollars.
Edited by: Abigael Joshua/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Chinese state media heaped pressure on Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday after her ruling pro-independence party suffered heavy defeats at local elections at the weekend.
State media, however, noted that Beijing would seek cooperation with newly elected officials.
It said Tsai resigned on Saturday as chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after losing key battleground cities in mayoral polls to the China-friendly Kuomintang.
The DPP now only controls six cities and counties to the Kuomintang’s 15.
Han Kuo-yu, the Kuomintang’s mayor-elect in the southern port city of Kaohsiung and the most high profile of the party’s winners, said he would open the door to contacts with China.
Beijing has refused to deal with Tsai’s administration since she took office in 2016, accusing her of pushing for the island’s formal independence.
Report says it is a red line for China, which considers the proudly democratic island sacred Chinese territory.
Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo with China however will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.
The official China Daily said in an editorial that Tsai had ignored Beijing’s cooperative stance and forced relations into a deadlock, and that her separatist stance had lost her the support of the people on the island.
“Cross-Straits communication and cooperation between local governments are expected to be strengthened as a result of the election, which will bring more opportunities and help deepen mutual understanding,” it wrote.
The Kuomintang has sent delegations to China since Tsai took office, where they have been warmly received, and that contact is now likely to increase.
Another state-run Chinese paper, the widely read tabloid the Global Times, said in its editorial that the DPP’s “radical thinking” had led them astray.
“The party needs to reflect on this failure and make an about-face on its stance in the cross-Straits ties,” it said.
Taiwan’s government has warned China not to interfere in its elections and reacted swiftly on Sunday to denounce China’s welcoming of the DPP’s poor showing as being a reflection of people’s desire for better ties across the Taiwan Strait.
“Communications and exchanges that do not have political preconditions are the only correct way to resolve disputes and increase the well-being of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said.
The council, however, warned China not to try to contact newly elected local officials.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Julius Toba Jegede