Taiwan authorities hype Foxconn probe to save diving support
Published: Oct 23, 2023 10:11 PM
Foxconn Photo: VCG

Foxconn Photo: VCG

Hon Hai Technology Group (Foxconn) said on Monday that it will cooperate with the relevant departments on the related work and operations as "legal compliance is the basic principle for the group's operations around the world" through a website statement. 

The statement came after Chinese mainland authorities conducted tax audits and land use probe on key subsidiaries of Foxconn in mainland, which has sparked reactions on the island as the founder of Foxconn Terry Gou is running for the island leader election as an independent candidate. Some media outlets on the island speculated that the probe may be a way for the mainland to prevent Gou from running since his candidacy may divide the opposition camp, which will in the end favor the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

At present, the ruling secessionist DPP's candidate for the island leader election Lai Ching-te's advantage over the opposition party candidates is further narrowing. And once the two opposition parties negotiate successfully and forge a non-DPP coalition, the election will be very unfavorable to Lai. 

Shares of Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple's iPhones, closed down 2.9 percent on Monday, underperforming the broader market's 1.2% fall. Gou, who has shown a similar political stance with the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT), the main opposition party in the island, is at the bottom of current polls.

On the other hand, Foxconn has received backs from DPP's senior politicians, who have accused the mainland of "interfering in the election."  

Analysts said that the mainland's occasional tax probe on companies, including those from both Taiwan and the mainland, is a normal act in accordance with law. The DPP is trying to use Foxconn to hype anti-mainland sentiments to salvage its declining support with less than 90 days ahead of the election. 

DPP's calculation 

DPP's candidate Lai on Sunday told media that he felt "unexpected and regretful" about the mainland's probe on Foxconn, noting the mainland should cherish and take care of Taiwan companies, rather than force Taiwan business people to take a political stand when an election approaches. 

The DPP caucus in the island's "legislative body" claimed during a media briefing on Monday that the probe on Foxconn is a way that the mainland is using to interfere in Taiwan's election. "They want to force the Taiwan people to accept the choice that Beijing wants," according to a Taiwan-based media.

Chen Chien-jen, the head of an executive body on the island of Taiwan, said on Monday that relevant departments have been in contact with Foxconn and hope to provide any appropriate assistance.

Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University in Fujian Province, told the Global Times on Monday that the mainland's occasional tax investigations of Taiwan enterprises as well as mainland enterprises are a normal act. Since Foxconn has invested a lot in the mainland and has high visibility, any mainland action against Foxconn will attract a lot of attention.

It is expected that the DPP will seize the opportunity to make a big hype, Wang said, noting that the DPP has always made cross-Straits issues a priority in the election season to create anti-mainland sentiment. 

In 2019, Tsai Ing-wen used the Hong Kong riots to smear the "one country, two systems." This time they are planning to divide the opposition by "supporting" Gou and Foxconn again, said the expert. 

But at the moment, DPP's manipulation of cross-Straits issues will not bring a favorable result. Whether it is Chen Shui-bian or Tsai's period of ruling, the problems of DPP's governance and corruption are serious, which means Taiwan people are likely to make a more sensible choice this time, Wang said. 
Former Foxconn Founder Terry Gou gannounced that he will run for president of Taiwan as an independent candidate on August 28, 2023.Photo: AFP

Former Foxconn Founder Terry Gou gannounced that he will run for the regional leader of Taiwan as an independent candidate on August 28, 2023.Photo: AFP

Intensifying battle

Hou Yu-ih, candidate of the KMT for the Taiwan regional leader election in 2024, said during a campaign activity on Monday that the DPP's provocation against the mainland, Lai's support for Taiwan's secession, are acts that may trigger a war, which is truly irresponsible.

Chang San-cheng, the mayor of Taoyuan city from KMT, said on Monday that the opposition camp, which includes KMT and Taiwan People's Party led by former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je, should be integrated, and that's the only way to a 2024 victory. 

Taiwan people believe that it's time to change after 8 years of DPP ruling, if the opposition parties do not integrate, they will not be able to live up to the public's expectations, Chang said. 

With less than 90 days to go for the 2024 presidential election, the latest poll released by Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation on Monday shows that Lai's support has slipped by 3.7 percentage points, dropping below the 30 percent mark. Lai is leading with a 29.7 percent approval rating, Ko comes close with 25.6 percent, and Hou is at 21.1 percent, but with a clear upward momentum.

The poll also shows that if Foxconn's Gou officially joins the race after meeting the requirements, he will have only 12.4 percent of support, 55 percent of which will come from Hou and Ko supporters. Lai will win the race with only 26.5 percent support.

In early August, Ko said in an interview that if Gou finally enters the race, Lai would be "100 percent elected."

Gou's candidacy is his right, but it does objectively create a situation that favors the DPP, a Beijing-based expert on cross-Straits relations, told the Global Times, requesting anonymity.

Gou is running with a very slim chance of winning, either out of this billionaire's obsession to become a regional leader to honor his ancestors, or, most likely, because of the US or the DPP authorities who are likely coercing him to run as a card to damage the atmosphere of unity and integration in the non-DPP camp, the expert said. 

KMT Chairman Chu Li-luan and Ko have both confirmed on Friday that they had recently met to discuss the formation of an electoral alliance and the creation of a coalition after the election.

As a businessman, if Gou knows that he can't get elected but insists on doing so, it probably means that his interests are threatened, the expert said. "If the US cancels orders for his factories, and if the DPP fines him, it would be damaging.''

In May 2023, Gou, who was seeking the KMT's nomination to run for Taiwan's regional leader in 2024, met with former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu and expressed his heartfelt apologies to him due to their battle for the 2020 election nomination for Taiwan regional leadership, according to media reports. 

"Four years ago we missed an opportunity for unity, and now, we won't and can't miss it a second time," Gou was quoted as saying, noting that he will "exhaust all strength" to keep the promise of "uniting the greatest strength to bring down the corruption syndicate [DPP]."