Why anti-infiltration law will help Taiwan's pan-green coalition

January 02, 2020 17:38
Tsai Ing-wen talks to the media on Dec 25 as Taiwan prepares for the Jan 11 presidential contest. For the pan-green coalition, the passage of an anti-infiltration bill on Tuesday was like a big gift for the New Year. Photo: Reuters

On the final day of 2019, an anti-infiltration bill proposed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed the third reading in Taiwan's legislature despite a sit-in protest staged by lawmakers of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

For the so-called pan-green coalition, the passage of the bill was like a big gift for the New Year.

In an address delivered on New Year’s Day, President Tsai Ing-wen said the passage of the law “won’t have any effect on freedom or violate human rights and won’t influence normal commercial exchanges. It will simply provide greater guarantees from Taiwan’s freedom and democracy.” 

Given China's moves abroad, a Taiwan failure to prevent interference could give the impression it is untroubled by Beijing’s actions, the Associated Press quoted Tsai as saying.

"Under Chinese pressure and with the constant Chinese infiltration and interference, we really needed this law to make Taiwan a safer place and to prevent social divisions arising from infiltration and interference,” Tsai said, according to the news agency.

Yet as far as the pan-blue coalition is concerned, as some of its members have put it, the new law could mark a regression to the martial law period.

The rationale behind the DPP’s swift and take-no-prisoners approach to pressing ahead with the bill is not difficult to understand: as the presidential election is less than two weeks away, Tsai was attempting to boost her odds of getting re-elected by delivering the new law.

Here's the logic: the anti-infiltration law is directed at Beijing and aimed to prevent any form of interference by the mainland in Taiwan’s elections.

And since both Tsai and the DPP have successfully portrayed themselves as the “guardian” of Taiwan’s democratic values, it was only natural that they embark on this legislative initiative.

While it remains to be seen whether the newly passed anti-infiltration law can truly combat Beijing’s infiltration and interference as the DPP has claimed, the result of its passage is instant and clear: the new law has proven a shot in the arm for the entire pan-green coalition, thereby substantially enhancing Tsai’s capacity to draw more votes on the election day on Jan. 11.

As a matter of fact, according to poll findings released by the Green Party Taiwan on Tuesday, 48.6 percent of the Taiwanese people were in favor of passing the anti-infiltration law, while only 19.7 percent were against it.

In other words, nearly half of the Taiwanese people believe that passing the new law was necessary, and hence the popular mandate for the DPP to do it.

Apparently, what has given rise to such prevailing sentiment is the widespread distrust of Beijing among the Taiwanese public.

And the stronger the fear of the mainland among Taiwan people, the more the shot in the arm for the electioneering of Tsai and the DPP.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 1

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal