Rumors and allegations concerning former Taipei EasyCard Corp chairman Sean Lien (連勝文) have emerged in the past few weeks, even though Lien has yet to say whether he will run in the Taipei mayoral election in November. Whether there is a smear campaign against him or not, he needs to offer explanations and clarification, and showing contempt for the accusations will only accentuate his arrogance. As the eldest son of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰), the 43-year-old Lien is seen as the most competitive potential pan-blue camp candidate for the Taipei mayoral election.
However, his political connections and wealthy background put him under scrutiny. The latest string of rumors about his reportedly lavish lifestyle during his college years at Columbia University in the US, reported by political critic Clara Chou (周玉蔻), a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member, was apparently orchestrated by the KMT as part of the power struggle within the camp.
Chu said that the young Lien had lived in the Trump Tower in New York when studying law at Columbia University and had attended a party at the Playboy Mansion in Las Vegas. Chu refused to confirm the source of her accusations, but it is believed that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) defense counsel Song Yao-ming (宋耀明), who had represented Ma in his Taipei mayoral corruption case, provided the information. Rifts and power struggles in the KMT are nothing new, and given the long-term problematic relationship between Ma and the party’s “old force,” including Lien Chan, a KMT smear campaign against Sean Lien was predictable.
Sean Lien’s great popularity among pan-blue supporters and extensive political connections made him seem like a perfect candidate for the Taipei mayoral election. However, the rising popularity of independent Taipei mayoral aspirant Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), a physician at National Taiwan University Hospital, caused concerns in the pan-blue camp about Sean Lien’s long-term support ratings and the KMT’s performance in the election.
Recent disputes over Sean Lien’s luxurious residence at The Palace, one of the most expensive apartment complexes in Taipei, reflected the KMT’s concerns about the negative impact of the Lien family’s wealth on his performance in the Taipei mayoral race. Sean Lien’s open criticism of the Ma administration’s performance also made him an unpopular candidate in the KMT. He and his aides have shrugged off the allegations and said they were part of a smear campaign ahead of the election. Ko said he opposed making allegations against a candidate’s “personal behavior,” and that the public should focus on candidates’ policy platforms.
However, Sean Lien must respond to the accusations if he decides to run. As part of the power transition plan, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) appointed former KMT Taipei City councilor Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) to head the city’s Department of Education so that Sean Lien could arrange for his aide, William Hsu (徐弘庭), to run for Taipei City councilor election in the competitive Daan (大安) and Wenshan (文山) electoral district.
It is time for the young Lien to take the Taipei mayoral election seriously and stop dodging accusations. He should present his campaign platform and visions for the city if he considers himself a solid Taipei mayoral candidate. Lien and the KMT should also recognize that Taipei may be a traditional stronghold for the pan-blue camp, but the election will not be easy because of the growing public discontent with the Ma administration. The old election tactics of smear campaigns and blame game will only hurt the party’s performance in the election.