|49th Premier of the Republic of China|
8 September 2017 – 14 January 2019
|Vice Premier||Shih Jun-ji|
|Preceded by||Lin Chuan|
|Succeeded by||Su Tseng-chang|
|Mayor of Tainan|
25 December 2010 – 7 September 2017
|Preceded by||Hsu Tain-tsair|
|Succeeded by||Li Meng-yen (acting)|
|Member of the Legislative Yuan|
15 April 1999 – 7 December 2010
|Constituency||Tainan City, 2nd ward|
|Born||6 October 1959|
Wanli, Taipei County, Taiwan
|Political party||Democratic Progressive Party|
|Education||National Taiwan University (BS)|
National Cheng Kung University (MD)
Harvard School of Public Health (MPH)
Lai Ching‑te (born 6 October 1959), also known by his English name William Lai, is a Taiwanese politician. He served as a legislator in the Legislative Yuan from 1999 to 2010, and as Mayor of Tainan from 2010 to 2017, prior to taking office as Premier of the Republic of China.
On 24 November 2018, he announced his intention to resign from the premiership after the Democratic Progressive Party suffered a major defeat in local elections, and left office on 14 January 2019 after the swearing-in of his successor Su Tseng-chang.
Born in Wanli, a rural coastal town in northern Taipei County (now New Taipei City) on October 6, 1959, Lai underwent schooling in Taipei City and studied at both National Cheng Kung University in Tainan and National Taiwan University in Taipei, where he specialized in rehabilitation. Lai then studied at the Harvard School of Public Health for a Masters degree in Public Health, followed by an internship at National Cheng Kung University Hospital. He became an expert on spinal cord damage and served as a national consultant for such injuries.
After serving as part of the support team for Chen Ding-nan's unsuccessful electoral bid for Governor of Taiwan Province in 1994, Lai decided to enter politics himself. The next opportunity for election to a national body was the 1996 National Assembly, with Lai winning a seat representing Tainan City. Lai then joined the New Tide faction and stood as a candidate in the 1998 Legislative Yuan election, representing the Democratic Progressive Party in the second ward of Tainan City. He was successful in this election, and subsequently was reelected three times in 2001, 2004, and 2008. In total he served 11 years as a legislator, and was selected as Taiwan's "Best Legislator" four times in a row by Taipei-based NGO Citizen Congress Watch.
Mayor of Tainan (2010–2017)
2010 municipal election
With the 2010 reorganization of the municipalities in Taiwan, Tainan City and Tainan County were amalgamated into a single municipality, called Tainan. After successfully being selected in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) primaries in January 2010, Lai stood as the DPP candidate for the mayoral election on 27 November 2010, gaining 60.41% to defeat Kuomintang candidate Kuo Tien-tsai. He took office on 25 December 2010.
|2010 Tainan City Mayoral Election Result|
|Kuomintang||1||Kuo Tien-tsai (郭添財)||406,196||39.59%|
|Democratic Progressive Party||2||William Lai||619,897||60.41%|| |
As a result of his strong showing in the mayoral election coupled with his relative youth and his control of the DPP heartland city of Tainan, Lai was considered to be a potential candidate for a presidential run in 2016. In 2013 an opinion poll ranked Lai as the most popular of the 22 city and county heads in Taiwan, with an approval rating of 87%.
2014 municipal election
Lai stood for reelection on 29 November 2014 against Huang Hsiu-shuang of the Kuomintang. His opponent was considered to have such an uphill task in the DPP stronghold that she rode a black horse through the streets of Tainan as an election stunt; a hopeful allusion to her status as a "dark horse". Lai, on the other hand, did not plan many campaign activities, choosing to focus on mayoral duties. He eventually won the election by 45 percentage points, the largest margin of victory in any of the municipal races in the election.
|2014 Tainan City Mayoral Election Result|
|2||Huang Hsiu-shuang (黃秀霜)||KMT||264,536||27.10%|
Lai stepped down as Mayor on September 7, after being appointed to the Premiership. He was succeeded in acting capacity by Lee Meng-yen.
On September 3, Premier Lin Chuan tendered his resignation to President Tsai Ing-wen, which was reluctantly accepted. A recent poll showed Lin's approve rating to be a mere 28.7%, with 6 in 10 respondents dissatisfied with the performance of his cabinet. On September 5, President Tsai announced at a press conference that Lai would become the country's next head of the Executive Yuan, with the Premier-designate saying that running the government is like running in a relay race, and he vowed to take the baton from Lin and complete his unfinished major policies.
Lai took office on September 8 as the 49th Premier of the Republic of China. On September 17, following Lai's appointment as premier, Tsai's approval ratings reached 46%, rebounding by more than 16 points since August. Lai made his first appearance as premier at the Legislative Yuan on September 26, where he stated "I am a political worker who advocates Taiwan independence" but that "We are already an independent sovereign nation called the Republic of China. We don't need a separate declaration of independence". Lai has appeared to have moderated his position on Taiwanese independence particularly when he proposed the idea of "being close to China while loving Taiwan" in June 2017. He also expressed no desire to run against Tsai Ing-wen in the 2020 presidential election. On September 28, the New Party called on the KMT to join it in filing a formal complaint against the Premier for sedition.
On October 2, Lai visited former President Chen Shui-bian and former Premier Chang Chun-hsiung. During Lai’s visit, Chen’s hands were shaking involuntarily, and a urine bag was visible outside his pants, indicating that the former president has been ill. Chen and Lai reportedly discussed their daily lives, with Lai wishing Chen good health. At Chang's Kaoshiung residence, the former premier told him that drugs have increasingly become a pressing problem in Taiwan, with the Philippines claiming the origin of their drug problem is from Taiwan. Following this, Lai said that laws would be revised to toughen the penalties for drug-related crimes, while authorities must redouble their efforts to investigate and seize illicit substances.
On October 6, Lai requested that government agencies review the nation’s information security after the Far Eastern International Bank (遠東商銀) reported that its system was hacked earlier in the week. The premier was fully briefed on the incident and instructed the government to learn from the case and tighten information security by closing vulnerabilities.
On October 7, Lai said the central government would invest a total of NT$45 billion (US$1.48 billion) by 2025 to make Penghu a “green”, energy-powered county. Lai reiterated the commitment of Tsai Ing-wen’s administration to implement environmentally friendly measures, such as the use of alternative energy sources in Penghu, during his visit to check on its promotion of electric scooters.
On October 11, Lai said that the government is not giving up its effort to present a proposal before the end of the year to legalize same-sex marriage, after concern that the issue was not moving forward. Lai dismayed gay rights groups by saying earlier in the week that the passage of any proposal would be difficult as the current legislative session was devoting all of its attention to the central government budget.
On October 17, it was reported that Lai had garnered the approval of 68.8 percent of respondents in a survey, while 23 percent expressed dissatisfaction. However, critics say that his popularity may not last, due to his rapid reversal of his position on the issue of Taiwanese independence. However, on October 20, Lai in response to General Secretary Xi Jinping's comments on the one China policy and the 1992 consensus at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Lai said that the Taiwanese government, following the directives of Tsai Ing-wen, would fulfill its promise of not changing the status quo between the two neighbors and not ceding before pressure from Beijing, which comes in the form of military intimidation and an international blockade.
On October 29, it was announced that the cabinet would announce a draft amendment to change several amendments that were made in 2016 to the Labor Standards Act, which would be reviewed by Lai. The controversial five-day workweek policy, promulgated in December 2016, stipulates a fixed day off and a flexible rest day, while employees, if asked to work on rest days, are to be given four hours of pay for between one and four hours of work, and eight hours of pay for between five and eight hours of work.
On October 30, railroad incidents that had occurred one after another over the previous two weeks, such as overhead electric cables breaking, caused Lai and Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan, to consider raising ticket prices.
On November 10, Lai called on all businesses, listed companies and multinational companies based in Taiwan to establish a better way of profit sharing to keep the economy growing and maintain a stable living standard by increasing the starting wage offered to employees. Lai, focusing on the problem of shortage of manpower and skilled workers, urged corporations to build better profit sharing arrangements. Lai also stressed the importance of immigrants in addressing the nation’s shortage of workers, as the Cabinet revealed its plan for the immigration of workers from nations targeted by the government’s New Southbound Policy. The tentative plan is to implement a labor immigration program to attract talented workers from the 18 nations targeted by the New Southbound Policy — the 10 ASEAN nations, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, New Zealand and Australia. While delivering a speech at the two-day annual conference of the Formosan Medical Association, Lai said that he hopes the healthcare sector could cooperate with the government to enhance the nation’s long-term care services and the biotechnology industry, and to introduce more information technology to medical administration. In his speech, Lai briefly introduced the two main topics of this year’s conference: National Health Insurance (NHI) payment principles for cancer medication and food safety. “Cancer has ranked No. 1 among the 10 leading causes of death in Taiwan for 35 consecutive years and approximately 650,000 people receive cancer treatment each year,” Lai said. NHI expenditure on cancer treatments has increased from NT$60.7 billion (US$2.01 billion) in 2011 to NT$84.5 billion last year, while expenditure on cancer medication alone increased from NT$25.7 billion in 2012 to NT$32.2 billion last year — accounting for about 38 percent of the total cost of treatment. Lai said that this was not a small percentage and that he hoped to hear suggestions on the issue from the conference. In addition, he said the government is encouraging the healthcare sector to cooperate to achieve improvements in three areas: the Long-term Care Services Program 2.0, the biotechnology industry and medical administration informatization.
On November 20, it was announced that Lai would lead a public pledge declaring the government’s determination to fight money laundering, increase financial transparency, and pass the third round of mutual evaluations by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) in November next year. Nearly 20 government agencies, 50 government officials and numerous civic groups would attend Lai’s pledge, sources said. On November 24, Lai said that the Executive Yuan did not have a fixed timetable for the passage of the draft amendment to the Labor Standards Act. Speaking on the sidelines of a long-term care event in Taipei, Lai called for a rational review of the draft amendment to bring it more in line with the needs of society. Despite Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers’ failed attempt to complete committee review of the bill on Thursday due to stalling tactics by their KMT counterparts, Lai said the fact the draft amendment was able to survive a plenary vote last week and be forwarded to the committee for review was progress. Labor groups have protested against the proposed revisions, which would raise the ceiling on the number of consecutive working days from six to 12 days. The amendment would also allow companies to cut the minimum rest time between shifts from 11 hours to eight hours if they reached an agreement with employees during labor-management negotiations. On November 25, in an event that marked the establishment of an association for promoting mobile payment, Lai said the government has been trying to push for the development of mobile payment solutions, hoping that with the help from the private sector, the use of mobile payment platforms in the country would reach 90 percent by 2025. Lai said in order to increase the popularity of mobile payment, the Executive Yuan revised and implemented policies that would help better develop such payment solutions throughout the country. Lai emphasized the government's determination to create a "smart country" where not only mobile payment but also artificial intelligence, big data, virtual and augmented reality would prosper.
On December 7, Lai announces that the Executive Yuan was to establish an ad hoc commission for the promotion of transitional justice to disclose historical data and remove authoritarian symbols. “The establishment has to be completed in the shortest time possible to meet public expectations for transitional justice and reconciliation,” Lai said. Lai instructed Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng to establish such a committee by nominating a list of members, drafting the organizational regulations and planning a budget. The committee would be responsible for making political archives available, removing authoritarian symbols, redressing judicial injustice and investigating political persecution.
On December 10, a source at the Executive Yuan said Lai was likely to distribute more revenue from the air pollution tax to local governments, adding that a decision might be reached after Lai meets with mayors and county commissioners on December 11. There are disagreements over the regulations governing pollutants emitted by Taiwan Power Co’s power plants. While the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) wants to impose regulations on Taipower’s coal-fired power plants through the draft amendment, the Ministry of Economic Affairs aims to prioritize stabilizing the nation’s power supply, saying that some of Taipower’s facilities should not be covered by the draft amendment. The distribution of the fund is also a contentious subject, as there have been demands that the government take more effective measures to improve air quality in the nation’s central and southern regions.
On 18 March 2019, William Lai registered to run in the Democratic Progressive Party presidential primary, saying that he could shoulder the responsibility of leading Taiwan in defending itself from being annexed by China. This is the first time in history where a serious primary challenge has been mounted against a sitting president.
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| Mayor of Tainan
| Premier of the Republic of China