Taiwan presidential challenger Han Kuo-yu's wife skips Singapore after being told no campaigning

Ms Lee Chia-fen, the wife of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, had been due in Singapore this week to stump for support from Taiwanese electors in the island state for her husband. PHOTO: HAN KUO-YU/FACEBOOK

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - The wife of Taiwan's main opposition candidate in the January presidential election has cancelled a campaigning trip to Singapore after the government said it did not permit "foreign political activities".

Ms Lee Chia-fen, the wife of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu from Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT), had been due in Singapore this week to stump for support from Taiwanese electors in the island state for her husband.

Media in Singapore estimate there are around 50,000 Taiwanese living in Singapore.

The KMT said on Tuesday (Nov 26) that her trip had been called off altogether, having already said on Monday that it had cancelled what would have been a rare high-profile overseas election event after Singapore's government had expressed concern about security.

A spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), in response to media queries regarding reports on the cancellation of a visit to Singapore by the spouse of a politician from Taiwan, said: "The Government does not permit the conduct of foreign political activities, including campaigning and fund raising, in Singapore."

"We have consistently maintained the same policy for all parties," the spokesman said.

"We expect all residents and visitors to respect and abide by our laws," the spokesman added.

Singapore has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and simply a province with no right to foreign relations.

But Singapore does have informal ties with Taiwan, and was the site in 2015 for a landmark meeting between China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwan's then President Ma Ying-jeou.

A few other countries in the region which also have large Taiwanese business communities have, however, welcomed Ms Lee, including Cambodia, a close Chinese ally that does not even permit Taiwan to have a representative office there.

Ms Lee has also been to Vietnam and Japan to drum up support, and is now in Malaysia.

Her husband is lagging behind in opinion polls.

According to a latest survey, for the first time in the election campaign, the combination of President Tsai Ing-wen and former premier William Lai has reached a support level of 50 per cent.

The Cross-Strait Policy Association in Taiwan released a survey showing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket for the Jan 11, 2020 election at exactly 50 per cent of the vote, China-friendly KMT's Han and Simon Chang at 28.3 per cent, and China-friendly People First Party chairman James Soong and Ms Sandra Yu at 7.8 per cent, the United Daily News reported on Tuesday.

The KMT, which used to rule China until it was forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, says it wants to improve relations with Beijing.

Mr Han this month called for a return to a consensus with Beijing that there is only "one China", but rejected China's formula for Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" unification.

China has also previously allowed the KMT to conduct low-key campaigning among the large Taiwanese business community in China, hoping they will go home to vote and usher in a government more well disposed towards Beijing.

China is deeply suspicious of President Tsai and her pro-independence DPP, fearing it will push for the island's formal independence, crossing a red line for Beijing.

Earlier this month, a Hong Kong restaurant owner who organised an illegal public gathering on Oct 11 in Singapore to discuss the ongoing Hong Kong protests was given a stern warning by the police, and was repatriated.

Mr Alex Yeung will not be allowed to enter Singapore again without prior permission from the Controller of Immigration, said the police in response to queries from The Straits Times.

A police spokesman said: "Singapore has always been clear that foreigners should not advocate their political causes in Singapore, through public assemblies, and other prohibited means."

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