Taiwan Voters Recall Pro-China Mayor of Kaohsiung

Han Kuo-yu is voted out of office after he made a bid for the presidency soon after winning the election.

Taiwan Voters Recall Pro-China Mayor of Kaohsiung

Residents of Taiwan's southern port city of Kaohsiung overwhelmingly voted to oust their pro-China mayor at the weekend, a first in the democratic island's history.

More than 97 percent of those who voted on Saturday in the southern port city of Kaohsiung opted to recall its mayor Han Kuo-yu, who was elected on a pro-China, pro-business platform for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

With turnout just over 42 percent, more than 939,000 votes were cast to recall Han, compared with the 892,545 votes that won him the job in the first place, the city's election commission said.

A recall in Taiwan law requires turnout to be more than 25 percent, with a simple majority in favor, but this is the first time a major city leader has been unseated in this way.

Aaron Yin, who founded the WeCare Kaohsiung group to campaign for Han's recall, welcomed the result.

"Today, the residents of Kaohsiung created history," Yin said. "We initiated the movement, not for ourselves or out of hate for anyone, but because we refused to be constantly conned."

"We rectified the problem. This is why the people of Kaohsiung are great," he said.

KMT chairman Chiang Chi-chen vowed that his party would work to earn back voters' trust, in Kaohsiung, a traditional stronghold of President Tsai Ing-wen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The recall came after Han lost the January 2020 presidential election to Tsai by a margin of two-and-a-half million votes after Tsai campaigned to lessen Chinese influence and attempts to undermine the island's democracy, citing Beijing's treatment of Hong Kong as an example.

A stepping stone

Many in Kaohsiung felt Han had used the city as a stepping stone to higher office, according to local media reports.

Kaohsiung must now hold an election for Han's replacement within three months to serve out the remainder of his term, which runs through 2022.

"More than 900,000 Kaohsiung residents made a collective decision and took Taiwan's democracy a step forward," Tsai said in a statement after the result was announced.

"The result should be a warning to all politicians that the people can bestow power and can take it back."

Han blamed a smear campaign by his political opponents.

"It is regrettable that my team had to deal with constant mud-slinging," he said. "The criticisms were unfounded. I hope our good friends will judge us fairly."

Victory for democracy

Meanwhile, Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong said the result was a victory for democracy.

"Han Kuo-yu, who's aligned himself with authoritarian China's interest, has been booted as mayor of #Kaohsiung by democratic vote," Wong wrote on his Twitter account. "A great victory for #democracy and a clear message from Taiwanese saying "no" to Xi Jinping and Beijing's influence on #Taiwan."

Tsai has been a vocal supporter of Hong Kong protesters' aspirations for full democracy, and against the use of police violence and political prosecutions to target protesters, and argued during a presidential election debate that China is the biggest threat to Taiwan's way of life.

Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was occupied by the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) as part of Tokyo's post-war reparation deal with the allies.

It has never been controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor formed part of the People's Republic of China, but Beijing insists it will reclaim the island, by force if necessary.

Public opinion polls have shown that the violent suppression of Hong Kong's anti-government protest movement last year fueled fears for Taiwan's national security and democracy, and that only around 4.5 percent of Taiwan's 23 million people welcome the idea of Chinese rule.

The island began a transition to democracy following the death of President Chiang Ching-kuo in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Unmasking India and Indonesia’s COVID-19 challenges

Author: Raina MacIntyre, UNSW COVID-19’s unprecedented health, economic, social and geopolitical impacts are still unfolding. It is often compared to the 1918 Spanish flu because both pandemics have similar fatality rates, but the world has become much more dependent on global supply chains, travel and trade. Tackling a highly infectious disease requires global disease control. […]

Unmasking India and Indonesia’s COVID-19 challenges

Author: Raina MacIntyre, UNSW

COVID-19’s unprecedented health, economic, social and geopolitical impacts are still unfolding. It is often compared to the 1918 Spanish flu because both pandemics have similar fatality rates, but the world has become much more dependent on global supply chains, travel and trade.

Tackling a highly infectious disease requires global disease control. Governments cannot neatly segregate populations and selectively apply epidemic control measures. Singapore learned this lesson with a resurgence of cases in migrant worker dormitories. Poor control of infection in any part of a society will affect all of society and poor control in any country will have global impacts. This is why Asia’s response to COVID-19 matters for the rest of the world.

The novel coronavirus is far more difficult to control than SARS. First, the disease is most infectious just before symptoms develop. It is also transmissible in people who never develop symptoms. In contrast, SARS was only infectious when infected people displayed symptoms. Second, there is growing evidence that the virus can be transmitted through fine, respiratory aerosols.

Without a vaccine, societies must rely on five measures to contain the spread: testing, contact tracing and quarantine, travel bans, social distancing and the use of face masks.

Low-income countries’ capacities for testing may be limited and of low quality, so their official case numbers are the tip of the iceberg. Indonesia became a focus of interest in February because it had not yet reported any cases of COVID-19. Yet modelling predicted that by 4 February, Indonesia should have had at least five cases.

Identifying cases of infectious diseases depends on public health infrastructure, routine disease surveillance systems, diagnostic testing capacity and reporting. Many low-income countries in Asia and the Pacific cannot comply with the WHO’s regulations of surveillance and reporting because they have weak health systems and poor diagnostic tools. Others fail to report cases because of fears that this may impact tourism, trade and the economy. This may be creating a silent epidemic in Southeast Asia.

The rate of testing per head is low in India and even lower in Indonesia. Indian data shows a steady rise in detected cases, suggesting poor compliance with social distancing despite being in lockdown.

Indonesia took a softer approach, with localised lockdowns in Jakarta but other centres remaining open. The epidemic curve shows a more constant rates of new cases, reflecting the limits of testing capacity, if only a fixed number of tests are administered each day.

Test kit availability is reportedly low and their price high in Indonesia. There are also concerns that Indonesia has used unreliable antibody tests, so the true scale of infection is unknown. Despite this, there are plans to reopen Bali to tourists by July.

Urban slums are another concern for amplified transmission and explosive outbreaks. India’s slums have been locked down, leaving people unable to work and living in conditions which make social distancing impossible. In these conditions, universal face mask use may be useful to mitigate spread.

Extensive testing and the ability to move sick people into isolation are also important to reduce transmission. The crowded, unsanitary conditions in urban slums are a public health concern as a source of epidemic spread — the virus is shed in faeces. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai has over 1800 confirmed cases and Mumbai is a hot spot for COVID-19 in India. This and the total current reported case numbers for India — over 200,000 — are likely to be a significant underestimate of the true burden.

In Indonesia, COVID-19 is spreading in kampungs (urban slums) but testing is limited and relies on antibody screening, which cannot identify active infections. A lack of assistance for people who are unable to work may further worsen epidemic control as people breach disease control mandates to work. If people are required to remain in lockdown in crowded slums, provisions for food, water and sanitation — as well as extensive testing and isolation facilities — are essential.

The strength of health systems is crucial to epidemic control. This includes physical resources, human resources and essential medical supplies. One state in India that stands out as having an excellent public health response is Kerala, which has the experience of Nipah virus. States and countries with low ratios of doctors and nurses per capita will not fare as well.

Countries with highly privatised health systems such as India will require public-private partnerships for epidemic control. The Australian example of ‘nationalising’ private hospitals in preparation for the pandemic may be a useful model.

Some have argued for allowing the widespread transmission of COVID-19 in India with the aim of acquiring ‘herd immunity’. They argue the death toll will be low due to India’s young population. But an Indian study estimated that an unmitigated epidemic would result in over 364 million cases of COVID-19 and 1.56 million deaths by mid-July in India. The hope of acquiring herd immunity through infection is a myth. It has never been achieved. Indeed, India was the last stronghold of smallpox in the world and it did not magically eradicate itself by unmitigated spread. Nor will COVID-19. Others, including the WHO, have argued for human challenge studies — where volunteers are vaccinated and then deliberately infected. These studies raise ethical questions, are most likely to be done in low-income countries such as India, and have the potential to exploit vulnerable people and cause harm, especially as no rescue proven therapy is available.

While we wait for a vaccine, it is likely that we will live with intermittent epidemic periods of COVID-19 for two to five years. This may require applying and releasing the brakes of epidemic control, with continued travel restrictions. A COVID-19 vaccine stamp may become a requirement for travel, much like that for Yellow Fever.

It is possible that in the medium term, countries with similar levels of epidemic control could open their borders to each other. This could be an incentive for countries to commit to common disease control approaches — including expanded testing capacity and reliably reported health data.

Dr Raina MacIntyre is National Health and Medical Research Council Principal Research Fellow and Professor of Global Biosecurity at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

Source : East Asia Forum More   

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