Taiwan faces Hong Kong challenge

China dropped a bombshell last Thursday when it announced a national security law for Hong Kong that would in essence criminalize any form of criticism of the authorities. This would also destroy Hong Kong’s autonomy under “One Country, Two Systems” by overriding its local laws and ending its supposed freedom of speech.

As Hong Kong protesters came out on Sunday and again on Wednesday, a debate has broken out over how Taiwan can help. As there are some Hong Kong protesters who have fled to Taiwan but are unable to formally apply for refugee status, some are urging President Tsai Ing-wen to rectify this. This is a complex issue for the government, not least because it calls into question constitutional and cross-strait issues.

President Tsai initially responded that Taiwan would provide “necessary assistance,” however this has led to questions about specifics. Taiwan would have to balance changing its ties with Hong Kong’s authorities, while still trying not to adversely affect how it treats Hong Kong people including those already here. The new law might threaten Taiwan’s NGOs and businesspeople in Hong Kong. Indeed, I think it would affect everybody in Hong Kong as I can’t imagine foreigners being allowed to criticize the authorities while locals aren’t.

Taiwan’s coronavirus cases are 441 while deaths total seven as of Wednesday, May 27. Taiwan has seen no locally transmitted cases for 45 straight days or zero cases for six straight days.

Japan called Taiwan an “extremely important partner” in its foreign policy report for this year, which is a step up from last year.

The US intends to sell 18 torpedoes to Taiwan, which would be used for its indigenous-built submarines. If approved, the torpedoes, including parts and training, would cost US$180 million. A Taiwanese general also participated in a 27-nation US-led Indo-Pacific military forum by videoconferencing.

Taiwan’s exports rose again in April to US$38.53 billion, driven by demand for information and communications technology (ICT) and electronics.

However, manufacturing is expected to suffer a 5-percent fall in production value for 2020.

Hon Hai and TSMC are Taiwan’s best-performing companies, according to a Commonwealth Magazine ranking of Taiwan’s 50 largest companies in 2019. Hon Hai was a revenue leader while TSMC was the most profitable firm.

Taiwan intends to have a more robust industrial policy, such as setting up a strategic materials manufacturing industry that would bring vital supply chains onshore. This is no doubt influenced by the coronavirus pandemic and the vulnerabilities of depending on China for vital supplies. President Tsai Ing-wen specifically mentioned this as a major issue in her inauguration speech last week, demonstrating again a pragmatic and strategic approach towards ensuring Taiwan’s security.

The number of people from Hong Kong and Macau registering residency in Taiwan rose by 15 percent in 2019. The pro-democracy protests that began last year played a big part in this increase, as well as Taiwan’s cheaper home prices and national health system.

Here’s a farewell interview with former Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun, who just stepped down from position this month.

A mall intended to be demolished was turned into an open-air water park in Tainan. Cool architecture, especially public parks, is the sort of thing Taiwan needs more of and is making progress in (see Tainan Art Museum and Weiwuying).

And speaking of progress, here’s the story behind automated temperature-taking stations, which were the brainchild of a NTU professor. I’ve had my temperature taken by one of these in a library; you just walk up to it and put your forehead close to the temperature “gun.” It eliminates the need for staff to be close to people when they walk in, which is good social distancing.

A darkly amusing article about Taiwan’s “professional informers” and their clashes with the people they report on. On the one hand, they seem like busybodies (like the one who made 3,705 complaints last year) but in reality, some of them have compelling reasons and their complaints are genuine.