The looming 2020 U.S. presidential election will no doubt spark debate about the electoral college yet again, and the delayed and contested results from the Iowa caucus, the first test in the Democratic primary process, have already brought outrage. With that background in mind, the United States could learn a valuable lesson about improving democratic participation and voting processes from Taiwan. At 4:30 p.m. on January 11, 2020, a polling station in a first-floor classroom of Longan Elementary School in Da’an District of Taipei transformed into a paragon of democracy and civic engagement. An audience of 15 Taiwanese adults and children watched quietly as a man, on stage right in the theater of democracy, reached into a ballot box, pulled out a messy stack of pink papers and passed them one by one to a female announcer. The announcer held the first ballot high above her head and called “Number 3 Tsai Ing-wen Ticket” in a strikingly clear voice, breaking the silence of the room. A woman behind her etched a tally in Tsai’s column on the official tracking sheet, marking the beginning of the election count.
Taiwan: How China, and the Law, Jumped in as Taiwan’s Presidential Campaign Shifted to Social Media | Ralph Jennings/VoA News
About 97% of internet users in Taiwan use Facebook. The island also has Asia’s second highest smartphone penetration after South Korea. Given these statistics, the first announced by Facebook in 2018 and the other by a market research firm, it made sense that a lot of campaigning for tomorrow’s presidential election would jump from the streets to the internet. But the rise of internet campaigning has challenged voters to know what’s true or false, and to follow a growing suite of anti-fake news laws, as politicians allege that mountains of online campaign information are untrue, illegally posted and often planted by Taiwan’s political rival China. “Beginning from last year we saw that China is using modern technology, in short it’s the social media platforms, to try to interrupt in our discussions on the internet, either through Facebook or through Twitter or even a popular online chat mechanism called Line,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a news conference Thursday. “The fake news situation seems to be quite serious.” Last year officials passed laws that ban the spread of that information and local media say police are already investigating several cases.
Taiwan: Why the world must pay attention to the fight against disinformation and fake news in Taiwan | Catherine Shu/TechCrunch
On Saturday, Taiwan will hold its presidential election. This year, the outcome is even more important than usual because it will signal what direction the country’s people want its relationship with China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, to move in. Also crucial are efforts against fake news. Taiwan has one of the worst disinformation problems in the world and how it is handled is an important case study for other countries. Yesterday, Twitter said in a blog post that it has held trainings for the two main political parties in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), and Taiwan’s Central Election Commission, in addition to setting up a portal for feedback during the election. Late last month, the state-owned Central News Agency reported that Facebook will set up a “war room” to counteract disinformation before the election, echoing its efforts in other countries (the company previously established a regional elections center at its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore).
Taiwan: China uses Taiwan for AI target practice to influence elections | Philip Sherwell/The Sunday Times
China has already deployed its expertise in artificial intelligence to erect a surveillance state, power its economy and develop its military. Now Taiwan’s cyber-security chiefs have identified signs that Beijing is using AI to interfere in an overseas election for the first time. In the run-up to its general and presidential elections on Saturday, Taiwan has detected what appear to be experiments with AI-generated messaging amid disinformation unleashed by Beijing and its proxies. This could presage China’s export of its Orwellian tools for manipulation and control to influence other democracies. If Chinese programmers can teach intelligent machines to mimic the language of voters — learning idioms, slang and mindsets via elaborate algorithms — it will be a game-changer, spreading fake news and disinformation through anonymous social media accounts at viral speeds. “We believe we are seeing China testing the use of artificial intelligence for the first time in their influence operations in this election,” said Tzeng Yi-suo, director of the cyber-warfare division at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defence and Security Research.
Taiwan: Chinese ‘rumors’ and ‘cyber armies’ – Taiwan fights election ‘fake news’ | Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard/Reuters
Taiwan is ramping up efforts ahead of a Jan. 11 election to combat fake news and disinformation that the government says China is bombarding the island with to undermine its democracy. But Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which favors close ties with China, is crying foul, accusing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of running its own disinformation campaign, saying the threat is closer to home. Taiwan’s rambunctious democracy has long been deeply polarized and partisan. Accusations of dirty-doings, denials and counter-denials are part and parcel of political life on the island, played out on its many cable news channels and online, mostly on Facebook, messaging app Line and the Taiwan-focused bulletin board PTT. Fake news and disinformation campaigns are a problem governments around the world are trying to tackle. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted U.S. media for what he says is its “fake news” about him and his administration.
According to the latest survey by Taiwan United Daily News, 53% of Taiwanese voters think that hiring cyber-warriors is a severe issue during the current presidential election campaign. President Tsai Ing-wen said last week that during this period, most of the smearing and fake stories came from her Kuomintang (KMT) opponent Han Kuo-yu’s camp, adding that the government spent a lot of efforts to clarify fake news every day. A spokesman for Han’s campaign headquarters said, “At this moment there are so many cyber-warriors. How many people like Slow Yang (楊蕙如) are there exactly? Which attacks are self-motivated and which are organized? These all need to be further investigated by the police.” The general public has for long heard about Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cyber-warriors, whose roars and rampages on the Internet are in direct proportion to their crude and brusque rhetoric. Yang was indicted for allegedly hiring and instructing cyber-warriors to exercise spin control by manipulating fake public opinions, resulting in the suicide of diplomat Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), director of the Taipei Economic and Culture Office (TECO) in Osaka. Through the suicide case, Yang was charged with directing the cyber-warriors in guiding public opinion and her downstream subordinates. And the outside circles were wondering where Yang’s money to pay the cyber-warriors came from.
Taiwan: U.S. helping to protect Taiwan against Chinese election meddling | Chiang Chin-yeh and Evelyn Kao/Focus Taiwan
In anticipation that China will try to meddle with Taiwan’s presidential election next year, the United States has started dialogue with Taiwan to help strengthen its ability to deal with the issue, a U.S. official said Wednesday. “It’s a very important issue for us,” Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said during the conclusion of a forum on Asian policies that touched on Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election. “There’s no question in our minds that China will try to meddle, as it has done in every previous election,” Schriver said. In 1996, it came in the form of missile exercises. In 2000, then-Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) threatened the people of Taiwan, he noted. Schriver was referring to the incident in the lead up to Taiwan’s 1996 presidential election when China fired missiles into waters near Taiwan in an apparent move to dissuade people from voting for then-President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
Taiwan: Beijing likely meddled in Taiwan elections, US cybersecurity firm says | Nikkei Asian Review
Beijing probably targeted Taiwan with cyber operations to help the pro-China opposition Kuomintang win a swathe of midterm elections across the island, according to a leading U.S. cybersecurity company. Fred Plan, senior analyst at FireEye, told the Nikkei Asian Review that while his firm is still investigating possible attacks that occurred ahead of last Saturday’s vote, experience shows that China conducts cyber espionage in Taiwan, especially ahead of major political events. “Elections are typically preceded by an increase in cyber operations targeting Taiwan and we expect this to be the case again,” Plan said. “Taiwan has always been a primary target of malicious cyber operations, especially from actors aligned with the People’s Republic of China.” “I’d be very surprised if China wasn’t doing that” in the recent elections, he added.
The ruling party in Taiwan received a message this weekend to show more achievements, including engagement with the island’s old nemesis China, as the opposition camp swept midterm elections. The Democratic Progressive Party of President Tsai Ing-wen lost all but six mayoral and county magistrate seats Saturday, the first electoral test of its two years in the presidency. Fifteen seats went to the opposition Nationalist Party, which wants closer ties with China. The ruling party advocates for more distance. China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, causing decades of friction between the two sides. “I think if this year, in 2018, if the Nationalists smoothly win Taiwan’s city and county elections, that has some warning effects on the party in power, to let them know they’ve made mistakes in the past two years,” said Taipei voter Hong Wei-chi, 40, a marketing specialist. Tsai stepped down Saturday night as party chief, though retaining the presidency, to take what she described as “full responsibility” for the election losses. Her premier also offered to resign, and the Central Election Commission head quit over the slow processing of ballots.
Taiwanese voters participating in islandwide local elections on Nov. 24 will need to wrestle with 10 referendums, including some that may affect relations with mainland China and Japan. The flurry of ballot questions owes to legislative changes enacted by President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to carve out a larger role for the public in politics. But these pro-democratic reforms may end up hindering the government’s efforts to make policy. Revisions to the Referendum Act approved by lawmakers last December cut the number of signatures needed to put a question on the ballot to 1.5% of eligible voters from 5%. Referendums can now pass if they are supported by at least 25% of eligible voters — down from 50% — in addition to outnumbering those who oppose the proposals. One referendum asks whether Taiwan should maintain a ban on imports of food from five Japanese prefectures around the site of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Within the next 24 hours, anti-LGBTQ groups in Taiwan are expected to make a major announcement: They have reportedly collected enough signatures to put a referendum banning marriage equality on the ballot in November. Last year the Council of Grand Justices ruled that sections of the Taiwan Civil Code limiting marriage to one man and one woman violate the constitution. But unlike the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, the landmark ruling did not serve to legalize marriage equality in the self-governing Chinese territory. The court merely offered its legal opinion. Instead judges gave the legislature two years to either amend the civil code or draft a separate law allowing LGBTQ couples to wed. If the government did not act before that time, marriage equality would automatically become the law of the land.
Taiwan is preparing for a drastic increase in Chinese cyber-attacks in a bid to influence the result of Taiwan’s municipal and local elections on November 24, 2018 and 2020 presidential election. “We anticipate in the run-up to elections at the end of this year and continuing until the 2020 presidential elections Taiwan will become a global hotspot for cyber attacks and fake news,” said a spokesperson for President Tsai-ing wen (蔡英文), reported the Financial Times of London. Recent months have seen an increase in Chinese-led cyber-attacks against Taiwan, with the most public example being the hacking of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) website on July 3. According to a Taiwanese cyber security official, the majority of cyber attacks against Taiwan originate in China, and that China instigates up to 40 million cyber attacks against Taiwan per month.
The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) official website was attacked by Chinese hackers early Tuesday morning, and the website was replaced with pictures and words reading “Chinese netizens are supporting Tsai Ing-wen to run for re-election” in simplified Chinese characters. DPP spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said on Tuesday noon that the cyber attack took place between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. July 3, and the party will heighten its cybersecurity after the hack. A screenshot image showed that the title of the website was changed into a long sentence, which read “We don’t touch your confidential information, it’s not worth it; our next target will be the Kuomintang.”
A coalition of labor groups and migrant workers’ unions yesterday urged the government to improve the working conditions of migrant workers and allow them to vote on referendums related to labor issues. About 70 migrant workers and labor rights advocates yesterday held banners and shouted “live together, decide together” in a demonstration in front of the Central Election Commission office on Xuzhou Road in Taipei. Amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) have greatly affected migrant workers, because they have the toughest work conditions, said Hsu Wei-dong (許惟棟), a member of the Hope Workers’ Center in Hsinchu.
As part of newly passed amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), Taiwan’s voting age for referendums has officially been lowered to 18 years of age. The new law includes a provision that states, unless otherwise indicated in the constitution, Taiwanese citizens that have reached the age of 18 and are not under the care of a legal guardian, have the right to vote in referendums. One of the justifications listed for lowering the voting age in the amendment was the fact that over 90 percent of countries provide their citizens over the age 18 the right to vote in general elections. It also mentioned that neighboring Japan had lowered its voting age for general elections to 18 in 2014.
The resounding landslide win of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen has not only successfully swept her into the presidential office, but also promised change as well. However, Ms Tsai and the newly elected legislature must address a solution to the political limbo that awaits them on the other side. A political limbo could occur as this is the first political party transition of the DPP holding both the presidency and legislative majority since the combined presidential-legislative elections began in 2012, resulting in a gridlocked government. This is due to how the new president is sworn into office on May 20, four months after Election Day. In the meantime, President Ma Ying-jeou and the Kuomintang (KMT) would continue to rule, opposed to the newly elected president and legislature. The question is whether or not Mr Ma goes back on his previous promises to support a system where the Cabinet would be determined by the majority party.
Taiwan: Nationalists suffer historic defeat with election of first female president | Los Angeles Times
Taiwan’s voters handed the long-ruling Nationalists a historic defeat on Saturday, kicking the party of Chiang Kai-shek out of the presidential palace and stripping it and its allies of a parliamentary majority for the first time since the island’s modern political period began in 1949. But even as President-elect Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party proclaimed that a “new era” was dawning on the island of 23 million, the biggest question mark hanging over the incoming administration and legislature was how it would deal with the sensitive subject of relations with mainland China. Tsai, a 59-year-old lawyer-turned-politician with advanced degrees from U.S. and British universities, was elected with 56% of the vote, becoming Taiwan’s first female president and trouncing the Nationalist Party’s Eric Chu, who got just 31%.
Chen Erdong, a 28-year-old telecommunications engineer from mainland China, has visited Taiwan twice in the last two months, but it’s not the usual tourist sites such as the National Palace Museum or Sun Moon Lake that have him so intrigued. Instead, he’s been checking out novelties such as street parades packed with flag-waving partisans, noisy political debate shows on TV and campaign swag stamped with the photos and cartoon likenesses of candidates vying to become Taiwan’s next leaders. On Saturday, Taiwanese voters will pick a new president and parliament, something people in communist-run mainland China cannot do. “For me, it’s most important to know what the Taiwan public is feeling,” said Chen, who added he has taken every opportunity to broach politics with salespeople, travel guides and hotel owners. “If you understand the election results, you can figure out people’s attitude toward the mainland.” Taiwan’s elections, he added circumspectly, might be able to “open the eyes” of mainland Chinese.
Voters in Taiwan are expected to make history again when they go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president and legislature. China’s authoritarian government claims Taiwan as part of its territory, so any time the self-governing island holds an election, the world tends to pay attention. Taiwan held its first direct presidential election only 20 years ago. China’s president, by contrast, is selected by the governing Communist Party, not elected by the public. Tsai Ing-wen, the chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, is widely expected to become Taiwan’s first female president. Her party has traditionally favored formal independence for the island, so Beijing will not be pleased if she wins. Ms. Tsai, however, has pledged to maintain the cross-strait status quo. A victory for Ms. Tsai would be only the second time the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, has lost the presidency since Chiang Kai-shek’s forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
The onlookers are greying professors and teenaged students, a publisher of banned books, a sportswear salesman and more than a few people intent on undermining the Chinese Communist Party. They have flown to Taiwan on the eve of an election set to dethrone a party that has cultivated warmer ties with Beijing, and elevate instead a party with a history of seeking independence from China – led by a woman who, if polls are to be believed, will become the first female leader of a Chinese nation in modern history. For the Hong Kong activists and Canadian Taiwanese amid the foreign spectators, Taiwan’s Saturday ballot marks a chance to witness history and get swept up in the boisterousness of a campaign, but also to draw inspiration. Taiwan is the only mature democracy in the Chinese world, and for those seeking the same elsewhere, it offers as vision of what is possible.
With just days to Taiwan’s elections, the presidential race is heating up online. All three parties are putting everything they have into the battle to win young voters, with Facebook, Line and Instagram as the three key theatres of engagement. Eric Chu from the Kuomintang (KMT) and James Soong from the People First Party (PFP) are both using social media to get their message out to the electorate. Chu’s Facebook page not only carries his campaign commercials, it also features short videos and cartoons to illustrate his policies. And his latest video has roused the curiosity of many netizens. “The video has no sound, but you can see a ray of light moving across the chairman’s forehead over and over,” said Hsu Chiao-Hsin, spokeswoman for KMT’s presidential campaign. “It quickly got many netizens talking, asking why is his forehead shining with light? What does it mean? Many people are curious.”
Undeterred by the rain, the crowd leaps to its feet shouting “We’re going to win” in Taiwanese as their presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, begins her stump speech. Some rattle piggy banks to show that their party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), relies on, and serves, the little guy—as opposed to the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), backed by businesses and fat cats and one of the world’s richest political institutions. Taiwan’s voters go to the polls on January 16th in what is likely to prove a momentous election both for the domestic politics on the island and for its relations with the Communist government in China that claims sovereignty over it. Eight years of uneasy truce across the Taiwan Strait are coming to an end. Since taking office in 2008, the outgoing president, Ma Ying-jeou, has engineered the deepest rapprochement between Taiwan and China ever seen, signing an unprecedented 23 pacts with the mainland, including a partial free-trade agreement. It culminated in an unprecedented meeting in November between Mr Ma and Xi Jinping, China’s president, in Singapore. But if the rapprochement under Mr Ma was a test of whether closer ties would help China’s long-term goal of peaceful unification, it failed.
A candidate in Taiwan’s imminent parliamentary elections has had his Hong Kong visa application denied for a second time after being invited to join a news programme at CNN’s regional headquarters in the city. Huang Kuo-chang, a New Power Party candidate running in next week’s Legislative Yuan polls, posted a message on his Facebook page on Tuesday saying that he was invited by join a CNN programme hosted by anchor Kristie Lu Stout. “I admire this famous CNN anchor, and the theme was meaningful, so I was going to agree to that,” Huang said. “However, the programme would be produced in Hong Kong, and my visa application was denied […] in 2014; I just tried to apply once again, and I was still denied entry.”
Taiwan police have arrested 45 people involved in a betting ring worth more than US$40 million a year including wagers on the upcoming elections, officials said Monday (Jan 4), adding the racket could have influenced voting. Police launched weekend raids on 31 venues across the island and made the arrests on charges of gambling and obstructing votes, prosecutors said. “As the ring had so many posts islandwide and so many gamblers were involved, we fear that the gambling could influence the outcome of the election,” said Wang Yi-wen, spokesman for the Taoyuan Prosecutors’ Office.
China on Thursday warned of a serious disruption of ties with Taiwan as the island’s voters appear set to elect a new president with a far more skeptical view of dealings with Beijing. The year ahead is bringing “complex changes” and the sides face “new challenges,” the director of the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun said in a News Year’s greeting to Taiwan’s 23 million people. Recalling the progress in relations made over the past seven-plus years under Taiwan’s China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, Zhang said he hoped Taiwanese realized those gains could evaporate if the island defied China’s insistence that it remained a part of the Chinese nation. “We don’t want to wait until the street light goes out to appreciate the illumination it has brought, or to wait until the fruits of peaceful development are lost to appreciate their value,” Zhang said.
A group of Chinese hackers have targeted a Taiwanese news organizations and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in order to get the information on upcoming presidential and legislative election like the policies and speeches from the leaders participating in the elections. This report is the second part of the one revealed by FireEye last week which exposed China spying on the Japanese government using Dropbox. China was also blamed for spying on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong with an Android spyware disguised as an OccupyCentral app to keep an eye on the protesters. FireEye in August 2015 caught Chinese hackers spying on Tibetan activists and as well as dozens of organizations in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The hackers attacked their targets through phishing emails; one of the emails had this subject line: “DPP’s Contact Information Update,” which indicated this to be a state-sponsored attack from a group known as “APT16” according to the security research team “FireEye”.
Tsai Ing-wen, the front-running opposition candidate in Taiwan’s presidential election in January, said on Wednesday that trolls from China attacking the republic’s democratic politics on her Facebook page were welcome to a taste of democracy and freedom. As chair of the main opposition pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Tsai, 59, commands a comfortable lead in the polls, and if elected has promised to uphold Taiwanese democratic values while maintaining exchanges with China. “There were a lot of ‘netizens’ from the other side of the Taiwan Strait visiting my Facebook page last night and I welcome them to do so,” Tsai said on her Facebook profile on Wednesday morning.
In an emergency congress convened on Friday, Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) ousted Hung Hsiu-chu from its presidential ticket and formally endorsed Party Chairman Eric Chu for January’s presidential election. Ms. Hung, vice president of the legislature, suffered from low opinion polls and an ever-widening gap with the opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was ahead by nearly 30 percentage points in September. Ms. Hung’s strongly China-leaning policy turned off voters and risked undermining the KMT effort to retain control of the legislature, which the party has held for more than a decade. Mr. Chu, a popular centrist figure, should improve the fortunes of the KMT’s legislative candidates. At 54 he is relatively young, with a reputation for clean government and focusing on economic development. He is currently the mayor of New Taipei City, which he was re-elected to last year in a tight race.
Taiwan’s governing party has called a special congress to consider the drastic step of dropping its unpopular presidential candidate just three months before an election that will set the tone for all-important relations with Beijing. In a rare race between two female leading contenders, Hung Hsiu-chu, a straight-talking legislator from the ruling Kuomintang or Nationalist party, has fallen more than 20 percentage points behind the frontrunner, opposition politician Tsai Ing-wen. The KMT, which has ruled Taiwan for much of the period since it fled mainland China after losing the civil war with the Communists in 1949, decided on Wednesday it would hold the extraordinary meeting to “gather consensus and unite for victory”.
Taiwan has the kind of democracy that gives you goose bumps. Throughout its history the little island has been squashed and shaped by the closest super-power, China. Beijing continues to claim sovereignty over Taiwan and seems to view it as a renegade sibling that will inevitably be subsumed. If Taiwan should at some point officially declare independence, China has refused to rule out military intervention. Despite that, since 1996 the plucky Taiwanese have been electing their own leaders. Election turnout is consistently around 75 per cent. Here, democracy really matters. This year the Taiwanese are preparing to use their votes to do something extraordinary. No matter who wins, the next president is almost certain to be a woman. The election is a two horse race between the ruling Kuomintang party (KMT) and the opposition Democratic Progression Party (DPP). Both have nominated women candidates.