Taipei will pick a new mayor on Saturday. Photo: Twitter
Taipei will pick a new mayor on Saturday. Photo: Twitter

Authorities in Taiwan expect as many as 100,000 businesspeople working across the strait in China to return home to cast their ballots during the island’s regional elections on November 24, when the new mayor of Taipei and heads of local governments in other cities and counties will be selected.

The island’s Mainland Affairs Council has warned against vote-rigging in light of Beijing’s attempts to interfere.

The council has joined forces with the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Investigation Bureau and National Police Agency to combat any irregularities and fraud. One focus will be on the security of polling stations and searches of voters.

Supporters of candidates making their last-ditch effort at a rally in Taipei. Photo: Twitter

Beijing has long had a tactic of instructing Taiwanese businessmen to vote for pro-Beijing candidates, like those with the Kuomintang. Some would take secret photos of ballots to show it to officials as proof when they returned to the mainland, in exchange for preferential treatment and other perks.

Beijing even charters cross-strait flights and offers honoraria to Taiwanese investors and factory owners for them to vote for “the right candidates.”

This has prompted the island’s Executive Yuan to issue a reminder that voters traveling on flights chartered by mainland agencies may risk losing their eligibility to vote and suggested they should consider transferring through Hong Kong or Macau and not disclose their itinerary to the mainland side.

To keep an eye on funds flowing into the island to allegedly buy votes and influence the elections, the Mainland Affairs Council also said that watchdogs would be prioritizing cases involving suspicious money transfers from China and other overseas sources.

The closely watched elections are seen as a referendum on President Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, two years into her term when cross-strait ties have plunged after Tsai refused to acknowledged the one-China principle.

Beijing’s fear is that if the KMT candidates suffer a crushing defeat as they did four years ago, Tsai can then claim she has more mandate from the voters to press ahead with her policies to separate the island from the sway of China.