Tue, Dec 30, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Enough KMT 'black gold' politics

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the pan-blue camp have each launched propaganda campaigns over the family assets of the other's leader.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) recently released a TV commercial titled "Do you like it? Papa can't afford it." The ad centers on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), who drives a Jaguar, and on a father agonizing about the fact that he can't afford such a car for his son. The commercial even portrays Chen's "golden grandson," Chao Yi-an (趙翊安), as a child glittering with gold.

Chen hails from a poor farmer's family. He relied on his own hard work to overcome the circumstances of his birth and become a head of state. His life story is material for an inspirational book.

Chen's family assets have increased in recent years, but only by a small amount -- a far cry from the wealth amassed by certain individuals and conglomerates by means of financial privilege and insider trading.

The first family's every move is subject to public scrutiny, and people expect the first family to be role models, especially in the education of its children. Unfortunately the first couple violated a big taboo by buying a Jaguar for their son, who had just graduated from college, as a graduation gift.

The commercial's use of Chao Yi-an is the sort of thing that will make most Taiwanese very uncomfortable. First of all, involving an infant in a political struggle seems very low. Second, the ad misrepresents a phrase from Hoklo, more commonly known as Taiwanese. The Taiwanese phrase simply means "precious grandson" and has nothing to do with the precious metal. Many Taiwanese use "golden grandson" to describe their grandsons. Chen's family is no exception.

The DPP quickly responded with a TV commercial titled "Do you like it? Papa will `a' it for you." [Note: "a" is Taiwanese slang word meaning "steal."] The ad describes how the family of KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) amassed great wealth. Lien's grandfather, Lien Heng (連橫) was a poor writer, but the family's fortunes increased as Lien's father, Lien Chen-tung (連震東), took up a string of government posts. The media estimates that the Lien family's wealth amounts to NT$20 billion.

Yesterday, the DPP also released 500,000 copies of a booklet describing how Lien Chen-tung collaborated with businesspeople to strike it rich when he was a civil servant. The booklet shows solid attention to detail based on painstaking research and investigation. It should make good material for future study of corrupt politics in the KMT era.

Under the KMT's rule, there was no differentiation between party coffers and government coffers, and party assets were treated almost like family assets. There have been reports about high-ranking KMT government officials buying real estate in the US.

For example, Allen Soong (宋鎮遠), son of PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), owns five houses in the US, two of which he bought after just having left university, without ever having had a job. Where did he get the money? The answer is simple: "Do you like it? Papa will `a' it for you."

Any veteran journalist will remember how Lien Chan's wife, Lien Fang-yu (連方瑀), was suspected of insider trading on the TAIEX in the years when Lien held important government positions. The government's prosecutorial and investigative units were under KMT control at the time, and the matter was eventually forgotten.

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