March changing Taiwan election dynamic

Editorial | Mary Ma Jun 12, 2019
<p>Developments since more than one million people marched against the extradition bill have been worrisome.</p><p>An unprecedented call for a general strike here, and the US State Department&#39;s warning that swift passage of the bill would endanger the SAR&#39;s special status under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act mark a rapid deterioration of the situation that policymakers might have not anticipated when introducing the bill.</p><p>The government must handle the extremely delicate situation with great care - to prevent what&#39;s already a serious scenario from worsening - for it&#39;s never in the interests of the SAR to find itself squeezed into a tectonic fight between two giants.</p><p>Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen indicated yesterday that the second and third readings of the bill would be completed as early as June 20, a week sooner than revealed by pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun.</p><p>Nonetheless, while it&#39;s ill advised for the opposition to call a general strike, it&#39;s never too late for policymakers to close the Pandora&#39;s box.</p><p>Meanwhile, across the Taiwan Strait, it&#39;s increasingly clear the extradition bill fiasco is having an impact on Taiwan&#39;s presidential election, and may tilt the favorable balance away from the Kuomintang - the pro-China party that Beijing wants reinstated as the island&#39;s ruling party.</p><p>As in Hong Kong since the last Legco election, economic and livelihood issues have largely dominated Taiwan, edging democratic topics to secondary places.</p><p>That pattern could be changing, as the situation in Taiwan appears to be shifting in line with what recently unfolded in the SAR. If the trend continues, it&#39;s probable political issues would overtake other local concerns for the first time since Taiwan&#39;s county elections, in which a renewed focus on economy led to a major setback for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.</p><p>Taiwan&#39;s presidential election will be held in January. As incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen defends her post against the serious challenge by former premier William Lai Ching-te within the DPP, five candidates on the other side, the Kuomintang, are running in the primary. They include Foxconn founder Terry Gou, Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu Li-luan, former Taipei county magistrate Chou Hsi-wei and school principal Chang Ya-chung.</p><p>Since Sunday&#39;s enormous march in the SAR, nearly all candidates seeking Taiwan&#39;s presidency have taken their chances to voice opposition to Hong Kong&#39;s &quot;one country, two systems&quot; policy, and reiterate commitment to safeguarding democracy in Taiwan.</p><p>Han, a KMT front runner, ignored the march&#39;s ramifications at first, asserting &quot;I don&#39;t know. I don&#39;t understand&quot; in response to a question put by the media during an election rally. Then the next day, he issued a statement vowing that no matter how the &quot;one country, two systems&quot; policy was being implemented in Hong Kong, that arrangement wouldn&#39;t be suitable for Taiwan.</p><p>If Han&#39;s visit to Beijing&#39;s central liaison office during a recent trip to the SAR was regarded as a blessing to cross-strait economic ties after the election, it&#39;s now fast becoming an event that&#39;s more likely to haunt the KMT candidate.</p><p>The SAR administration may be unaware that they unwittingly opened Pandora&#39;s box - or in more modern terminology: a can of worms.</p>

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June 2019