Claims regarding trade pact to allow Chinese workers into Taiwan’s blue-collar sector wrong, says legislator

Taiwan Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) has told Taiwan media that the Sunflower Movement’s claims of Taiwan facing the possibility of losing its service industry to Chinese mainlanders are flat out wrong.

Tsai was referring to recent debate that was sparked by the opposition Sunflower Movement over a trade agreement, which claimed the trade agreement would open up Taiwan’s doors for Chinese Mainlanders to come into Taiwan for work regardless of the business sector, including blue-collar jobs in the service industry.

Tsai, who is a supporter of the agreement, said such claims are “absurd” and that opposers of the agreement are not clear about the details.

Sunflower Movement leader Lin Fei-fan meanwhile said the claims have been no more absurd than the Taiwan government’s concealment of the agreement, which has yet to be revealed in detail to the Taiwan public, leading to protests and eventually an occupy in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.

In response to Lin’s claims that were broadcast nationally on Taiwan media, Tsai later went ahead and posted a blog that explained parts of the agreement and how it is only geared towards big investments in Taiwan. Tsai had attempted to outline details in the debate, but it appears that he perhaps felt there was still confusion, as the debate was intense and neither side seemed to be willing to talk with one another in a calm manner.

“Taiwan doesn’t have “immigrant investment” (programs).

Recently, there have been statements from people who oppose the newly issued trade pact with China, claiming that opening investments to Chinese Mainlanders is essentially opening overall immigration for Mainlanders to Taiwan.

However, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth!

For Chinese businesses to invest in Taiwan, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Invest NT$9 million (roughly US$300,000) for an initial manager or specialized personnel to be involved in the management of a company as a basis for coming to Taiwan.
  2. An addition NT$15 million in investments must be added for each specialized personnel or manager working in Taiwan.
  3. Each company is limited to no more than 7 specialized personnel or managers, of which each is required to have either a Master Degree or A Bachelor Degree with at least 2 years work experience, or a technical degree with at least 5 years work experience.
  4. Each personnel need to apply for a working visa once a year. If the company in which the personnel works at reports less than NT$10 million in revenues a year, the personnel will not be able to extend their visa.”

Tsai also went on to say that China-based Tong Ren Tang, a distributor of traditional Chinese medicine, was one example that didn’t meet requirements set by the Taiwan government and therefore the government cancelled all visas for Chinese personnel working in the company’s Taiwan-based operations.

“So there you have it. Now you know all the claims stating that Chinese will take over local jobs such in the cosmetology and laundry sectors etc. are complete nonsense!”

The debate over the trade agreement in Taiwan has drawn out for roughly 3 weeks, with supporters and opposers of it debating from polarized sides. KMT officials claim supporters of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement are confused over the details of the trade agreement while students have continued to respond that it is because the details were not revealed in the first place they stormed the Legislature back in March 2014 and have since occupied it for over 3 weeks.

Before Tsai’s remarks in his blog post, surprisingly there has been little talk in all the debates broadcast in Taiwan’s media that addressed the issue of whether the agreement would liberalize labor trade. This is a major issue for Taiwanese as they believe it would allow more Mainland Chinese to enter the island and later influence Taiwan’s economy to the point where the island could be pushed in the direction of Hong Kong-starting first through labor import, which would then translate into economic strength and then political strength.

“In Taiwan, there is tension between locals and Mainland Chinese that extend beyond simple trade. This agreement and further ones in the future with China are a question of human rights in Taiwan and not selling the island out underneath of the public. When lawmakers pass bills that are not reviewed extensively and most of all, not revealed to the public, something is wrong,” claimed protestors at a recent rally in Taiwan that attracted somewhere between 100,000-500,000 people.

Surprisingly, details regarding the agreement have seemed to been cleared up in a blog post that Tsai recently wrote more than any other outlet to date, which spread across social media platforms quickly.

Many bloggers who were concerned over the agreement have now responded they are “happy to see it will not affect the blue-collar sector in Taiwan and instead will be geared towards high-revenue white-collar jobs.”

Since the development of Tsai’s post, a change of heart seemed to have hit the protestors in that they feel more satisfied knowing the government came forth to provide an explanation, albeit short and indirect. How much it has actually influenced the movement is hard to say but it appears to have shaken ground with the Taiwan public one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Legislature speaker Wang Jin-pyng came forth to meet protestors on April 7 and said the government will take action to review the agreement further in depth. Other details at the time of this wiritng had yet to be revealed.

Since that move, protest leader Lin Fei-fan has reportedly decided the movement will therefore come to an end and that protestors will leave the Legislative Yuan. Lin has yet to say whether the move signifies victory or defeat, but since the government has agreed to further inspection of the agreement it would appear to be the former.

As for President Ma Ying-jeou, media analysts say he has been waiting the protests out in hope that speaker Wang would make the right move in initiating an agreement with the protestors. Many Taiwanese are split on his quiet approach throughout the protests, the media claims, but if you ask bystanders even supporters were shocked he did not take more action regardless of his stance.

Taiwan’s media has also reported that the damage done to the Legislative Yuan has reached roughly NT$10 million (US$330,000) and may take month’s to fix before resuming procedures at the downtown Taipei-based location.

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