Taiwan bars former top officials from Chinese political events

Officials from defense and foreign affairs ministries are going to be affected by the new law. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 July 2019

Taiwan bars former top officials from Chinese political events

  • The new law prohibits some officials from attending events hosted by or affiliated with the Chinese government
  • Violators may lose their monthly pensions or even pay a fine up to $320,000

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s parliament has voted to tighten a law governing links with China, effectively barring many of its former top ministers and retired generals from attending Chinese government ceremonies.
Ties between China and Taiwan are frosty, with the mainland cutting off communications with the island’s government after the election of Beijing-skeptic President Tsai Ing-wen three years ago.
“We should sternly forbid any actions (from our retired military generals) such as saluting the Chinese flag, singing the Chinese anthem or any actions which could damage Taiwan’s national interest and dignity,” the island’s premier Su Tseng-chang said in a statement on social media.
The amended law — passed on Wednesday — prohibits former generals, the heads and their deputies of certain ministries like defense and foreign affairs from attending events hosted by or affiliated with the Chinese government.
Violators risk losing their monthly pension or a maximum fine of $320,000.
Taiwan has been a self-ruled, de facto nation in charge of its own affairs and borders for the last 70 years.
But China maintains that it is a part of its territory to be retaken — by force if necessary.
Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party refuses to acknowledge that the island is part of “One China,” unlike the opposition Koumintang party which favors warmer ties with Beijing.
Taiwan goes to the polls in January, and the contest is likely to be dominated by relations with China. Critics and analysts say Beijing has stepped up its efforts to spread pro-China messages in Taiwanese media and also through opaque online sources in a bid to influence the outcome.
Previously, former top officials who have access to classified information were banned from visiting China for three years after leaving office. The amended law extends the travel ban to six years.
Alexander Huang, who teaches international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan and was once deputy minister at Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said he felt “humiliated” by the law, adding that the restrictions would deter academics from taking up government jobs.
“To a certain degree,” he said,“it shows the Taiwan current government’s lack of trust of its own elite.”


Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

Updated 21 November 2019

Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

  • Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky
  • Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he followed the president’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.
Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky for the investigation and that top officials in the White House and State Department knew about it.
The unexpectedly damning testimony drew a sharp backlash from Trump who tweeted: “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!.”
Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much, despite the senior diplomat having donated $1 million to his inauguration and testifying that he had spoken to the president some 20 times while ambassador.
Democrats said Sondland’s seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee had bolstered their case for Trump’s impeachment for what they have labeled “extortion.”
“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said committee chairman Adam Schiff.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”
A succession of Democrats hoping to win the nomination to take on Trump in next year’s election also said the testimony had strengthened the case for impeachment as the issue dominated the opening exchanges in their latest televised primary debate.
Sondland said Trump directed him and two other senior diplomats to work with Giuliani.
From early in the year, Giuliani mounted a pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government to investigate Biden over his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and to probe a conspiracy theory espoused by Trump that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016. Biden is one of the favorites to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland told the panel.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he said.
Like Trump a multimillionaire developer with a chain of high-end hotels, Sondland, who wore a $55,000 Breguet white gold watch to the hearing, fended off pressure from both Democrats and Republicans.
He had not implicated the president in earlier private testimony, when he answered scores of questions by saying he could “not remember.”
But subsequent testimony by other witnesses which had further implicated him in the Ukraine pressure scheme had jolted his memory, he said on Wednesday.
While he confirmed the linkage between the investigations and a White House meeting between Zelensky and Trump, he would not attest to allegations that Trump froze $391 million in aid as well to Ukraine to add pressure on Ukraine.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he said, contradicting testimony from two other diplomats.
In separate testimony, a Pentagon official appeared to undermine a key Republican defense in the impeachment battle, that Kiev did not even know until late August or even September about the July 18 aid freeze, rendering moot Democrats’ allegations that Trump had extorted Ukraine.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine affairs, said Kiev voiced concern over a holdup in aid on July 25.
That was the same day that Trump told Zelensky in a phone call that he wanted a favor, asking for investigations into Biden specifically and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
“The Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” she told the committee.
At the White House, Trump denied making the demand of Zelensky, citing Sondland’s own recall of their September 9 phone call on the Ukraine issue.
Reading from large-print notes, he said that he told Sonderland: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!” he said of the inquiry.
Speaking at the Democrats’ debate, Biden dodged a question on the role of his son but said the testimony had shown that “Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee.”
And Bernie Sanders, another of the frontrunners for the nomination, said Trump had been shown to be “not only a pathological liar” but also “the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.”