The calls for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to return its stolen assets to the public have accelerated over the course of the nation's democratization. The KMT knows the party's position is indefensible, so former chairman Lien Chan (連戰) publicly promised to return the assets when he ran for the presidency in 2000, and Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised to do the same when he ran for the party's chairmanship last year.
However, six years have already passed, and while selling off a few pieces of real estate, the party has failed to return either the assets or money earned from the limited number of sales. This begs the question: Does the KMT really intend to return the fruits of 50 years of authoritarian rule?
In response to Premier Su Tseng-chang's (
This sounds pretty impressive but is actually irresponsible, as the division of assets into the three categories is based only on the party's own "conscience."
However, according to the KMT's own logic, most of its assets were obtained legally. The party can do whatever it likes and sell to whomever it wants, and everyone else should keep out of what is essentially "private" business. In other words, the KMT is already doing plenty by offering up a few crumbs from the vast banquet that is the party's holdings.
The problem is that what was "legal" during Taiwan's authoritarian era may be illegal under the standards of today's democracy. What people really want to see is the KMT actively dealing with the gray area in which the bulk of its assets fall and declaring war on its past.
Worse, it has accelerated the dispossession of its assets in recent years to make it harder for the government to repossess them. This highlights its dual strategy of calling for reform on the one hand, and working to make a profit for itself on the other.
In fact, the Taiwanese people have always been tolerant and lenient toward the KMT. It is widely known that the party's massive assets are questionable, but most of us do not ask for "a day of reckoning" and a final liquidation of assets because, to a certain degree, we all understand the historical background in which the assets were accumulated. Not to mention that taking a stand might intensify political confrontation, and the social cost of that would be large.
Still, the KMT should not take this as an excuse to remain passive. If the party does not clarify the facts about its party assets to the public, it will be like a thief who has to live forever with a guilty conscience. Political rivals will be able to make a big thing of the issue at any time. Does the KMT want to be haunted like this forever?
Few expect the KMT to return its ill-gotten assets to the government. Besides, a lot of the property has already been sold. But at the very least, the KMT should have returned its highly symbolic and controversial former headquarters to the government to show its determination to reform. Unfortunately, the building has already been sold.
After becoming an opposition party, the KMT likes to apply high moral standards to its examination of the Democratic Progressive Party, saying that legal doesn't necessarily mean reasonable. Shouldn't it use the same standards when examining its own assets? Most of all, the party should never repeat its shameless response: "Sue me."
Leou Chia-feng is a doctoral candidate in the department of politics and international studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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