Mainland’s Taiwan office deputy head under investigation

By Christopher Bodeen ,AP

BEIJING — A deputy head of the Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office has been placed under investigation for apparent corruption amid renewed scrutiny of Beijing’s policies toward the island following its election of a new independence-leaning president.

The ruling Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a brief statement that Gong Qinggai (龔清概) is suspected of “serious violations of discipline,” which is usually a euphemism for graft. No other details were given.

The announcement dated Tuesday came three days after Taiwanese voters elected Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party as president, although there was no indication of any connection between the two events.

Multiple online reports speculated that Gong’s problems were related to the hiding of personnel assets, feuding within his family and his relationship with disgraced officials from Fujian province where he previously worked.

In a statement on its website, the Taiwan Affairs Office said it “resolutely embraced” the investigation of Gong and would continue policing itself for discipline violations.

Whatever triggered Gong’s investigation, Chinese President Xi Jinping is believed to be highly dissatisfied with the Taiwan Affairs Office’s failure to win over Taiwan’s 23 million people to China’s goal of political unification.

Although China largely held back in commenting on the election, it has since restated its opposition to Taiwan’s formal independence and said it welcomes contacts only with those who accept Beijing’s “one-China principle” that casts the island and the mainland as part of a single Chinese nation.

Tsai has refused to endorse that view, although she has promised to make no change in the status quo of de facto independence and said neither side should provoke the other. She has also pledged to utilize all existing channels of communication, although whether she can do so without explicitly endorsing China’s stance, also known as the “’92 consensus,” remains unknown.

“It looks as if China would demand Tsai come out and endorse the ’92 consensus, but there is room for negotiation,” said Huang Jing, a China expert at Singapore National University’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Tsai defeated Eric Chu of Taiwan’s China-friendly Nationalist Party, who had hoped to succeed outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou after eight years of Nationalist rule.

Skepticism over Ma’s push for closer economic ties with China was a major factor in the result, with young voters in particular fearful of an erosion of the island’s competitiveness and their future earning potential. Anti-China sentiment also helped the Democratic Progressive Party gain a majority in the national legislature for the first time.

The loss may prompt Xi to exert greater personal control over Taiwan policy, as he has done with the economy and foreign affairs.