DPP ignores mainland kindness, local cries for jabs
Ways to offer vaccines to island hard and risky, with uncertain outcome
Published: May 25, 2021 10:36 PM Updated: May 26, 2021 07:45 AM
Residents of the island of Taiwan take rapid test for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The island reported 281 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases and six deaths, bringing the death toll to 35, on Tuesday and local authorities decided to extend Level 3 Alert until June 14. Photo: IC

Residents of the island of Taiwan take rapid test for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The island reported 281 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases and six deaths, bringing the death toll to 35, on Tuesday and local authorities decided to extend Level 3 Alert until June 14. Photo: IC

The pro-secessionist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the island of Taiwan has retained its tight grip on importing vaccines from the Chinese mainland, ignoring voices from local officials and residents, as well as kindness from the mainland. Experts reached by the Global Times said on Tuesday that although there are some ways to export vaccines to the island, the DPP's pressure and the political atmosphere on the island may make it hard to achieve.

Kinmen and Lienchiang counties may be the only possible regions with a higher likelihood of obtaining mainland vaccines, they said.  

The island of Taiwan reported 283 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. With 3,718 infections recorded in the past 14 days, the island's health authority on Tuesday extended its level-3 emergency response alert to June 14, local media reported.  

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said on Monday that the Chinese mainland is willing to make a rapid arrangement to "enable compatriots in Taiwan to have access to mainland vaccines as soon as possible."  

"If necessary, we are also willing to send epidemic experts to Taiwan to share epidemic prevention experience with medical and health professionals in Taiwan," said Zhu. 

It was at least the third time that Zhu had expressed the mainland's willingness to help the island, with the DPP describing the mainland's kindness as a "Greek gift." 

There are voices from DPP-ruled regions calling to open the door to mainland vaccines. Lin Ming-chen, the head of Nantou county, disclosed on Monday that the Taiwan affairs-related authority in Zhejiang Province, East China, had expressed a willingness to offer vaccines. However, the county was stuck in the process as the DPP authorities have yet to give permission.     

The Shanghai Medical and Health Development Foundation also expressed its willingness to donate vaccines on Tuesday.

Yang Cheng-wu, leader of Kinmen county, said on Monday that he will once again apply to the Taiwan health authority to open the door to imports of mainland vaccines, after being snubbed a week ago.  

Analysts said that under the DPP's "pro-US, anti-mainland strategy," it is almost impossible for Taiwan people to receive mainland vaccines through "official channels." 

The DPP authority may relax its mainland taboo if the epidemic continues for another two months without US help in obtaining vaccines, which is very likely, they said. 

However, experts warned that it would be risky if the mainland offered vaccines to the island through non-official channels without the DPP authority's permission.

"Even if there is only one case of a post-vaccination adverse effect, perhaps unrelated to the vaccine, the DPP will miss no opportunity to attack the mainland," Zhang Wensheng, a deputy dean of the Taiwan Research Institute at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

Although DPP-controlled regions on the island are finding it almost impossible to import mainland vaccines, it does not mean that all the regions where the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) is in power are prepared to voice a need for mainland vaccines, like Kinmen and Nantou counties did.

Chang Ya-chung, a Taipei-based political scientist and member of the opposition party KMT, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the "2022 magistrate/mayor elections" on the island may also be a factor that is affecting some pro-mainland politicians. 

"For incumbent regional leaders running in the Taiwan 2022 local elections, they will consider whether importing mainland vaccines will help their reelection... With stable seats in most areas, the KMT is likely to be reluctant to take the political risks [of importing mainland vaccines] for fear of being attacked by the DPP," said Chang.

Therefore, even if the mainland provides the vaccines and the DPP authorities take an attitude of neither supporting nor opposing it, in the end, it may be only Kinmen and Lienchiang that will accept the vaccine, because of its low political weight in the island and proximity to the mainland, Chang said. 

Media reports said that the Foxconn Technology Group, the electronics contract giant of the island, was prepared to purchase BNT vaccines from Shanghai's Fosun Pharma, and it didn't rule out donating surplus vaccines, in addition to providing doses to its employees. However, the company said on Sunday that vaccine issues will be based on the announcement of the island's epidemic command center.     

Experts explained that it would also be difficult to provide mainland vaccines to Taiwan residents through companies.  

"Normally, local authorities need to contact pharmaceutical agencies to introduce mainland vaccines… but when the DPP authority has rejected mainland vaccines, agencies will consider whether its actions may offend the ruling party," Chang said.   

How to take care of people in Taiwan and promote cross-Straits relations without giving the DPP a handle to attack is not easy, but the mainland's continued kindness is the right way, Chang said. 

"The severer the epidemic gets on the island, the more Taiwan needs the mainland, and the voice of the DPP will become weaker and weaker," the expert said.