Taiwan Vote Lures Back Expatriates in China

The New York Times reports on the estimated 200,000 thousand Taiwanese living abroad who are returning home to vote in Saturday’s election. In China, Taiwanese business people who have benefited from closer ties with China under the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou are flying home to vote for Ma and against his competitor, Tsai Ing-wen, who is expected to take a less conciliatory approach toward the mainland:

Mr. Ma, of the Kuomintang, is facing a vigorous challenge from Tsai Ing-wen, a low-key academic whose Democratic Progressive Party has long advocated formal independence, a position that in the past inspired Beijing to lob missiles into the Taiwan Strait. Polls suggest that the race is too close to call, with a third candidate expected to draw around 10 percent of the vote, largely from Mr. Ma.

The growing political heft of the Taishang, the name given to the million or so Taiwanese in China who have staked their livelihoods on its expansive economy, has become a point of contention in a race that has raised existential questions about a Taiwan increasingly ensconced in Beijing’s embrace.

Because Taiwan does not allow absentee balloting, Taishang executives have been urging their compatriots to return home to vote, warning that a victory for Ms. Tsai could anger Beijing and prompt it to yank back the welcome mat. But Taishang business leaders have done more than exhort. They have arranged for discounted plane tickets, pressed Chinese airlines and those from Taiwan to add 200 flights and have offered their employees paid holidays that coincide with Election Day, which falls just more than a week before the start of the Chinese New Year.

When seats on regularly scheduled flights to Taiwan sold out, business groups in and around Shanghai and Guangzhou organized charter flights. Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn, an electronics manufacturing giant based in Taiwan, is reportedly flying home 5,000 of his employees.

The Voice of America reports that Tsai is catching up to Ma in opinion polls.

See also a report from Al Jazeera:

Meanwhile the Mercury News reports on Taiwanese living in Silicon Valley who are keeping a close eye on the election and also flying home to vote.

January 12, 2012 2:54 PM
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