One of the most unjust events in the history of the Republic of China is the process in which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) obtained its ill-gotten party assets.
Having retreated from China following their defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the KMT officials and the military were able to quickly amass wealth by taking over the assets of the Japanese colonial government and property from Taiwanese via the party’s autocratic rule.
Since then, the KMT, under the party-state system, has become the richest political party in the world, with a vast empire of banks, investment companies and media outlets, in addition to a variety of business monopolies and special privileges.
According to the Ministry of the Interior’s latest figures, the KMT last year registered total assets of NT$26.8 billion (US$855.7 million). Compare that to the Democratic Progressive Party, which reported revenue of NT$440 million last year.
Indeed, the KMT’s asset issue has long been a point of controversy and often the source of election contention.
Yet, despite pledges made by party officials, such as former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) in 2004, and his successor, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), in 2005, to return the assets the party “acquired” during the authoritarian era, what the nation has witnessed is not only the party’s failure to make good on its pledges, but a move to accelerate the liquidation of its assets, all the while ignoring the question of how they came to be in the party’s hands in the first place.
Now, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), the sole contender for the KMT’s chairperson election next month, has made a similar pledge to tackle the assets issue.
The party, under his leadership, “would return what was illegally gained and use legally gained assets to cultivate talents,” Chu said.
What Chu said is tantamount to saying nothing at all, because according to the KMT’s own twisted logic, most of its assets were obtained “legally,” despite public opinion being that what was legal during the KMT’s authoritarian rule and what is legal in a democracy is radically different.
As the saying goes: “Actions speak louder than words.” Only by taking concrete action can Chu prove that he is a man of his word.
If Chu truly wishes to dispel criticism suggesting he is merely a “Ma version 2.0,” and convince the public that “Ma and I are totally different, like night and day,” there are two things Chu could, if elected KMT chairman, do to show his determination to undertake party reform and tackle the assets issue that has long plagued the party.
First, Chu should publicize a timetable clearly stating his exact plan to handle the assets. He could easily choose not to honor the timetable as Ma repeatedly did, but at least it would be a first step in showing his determination to deal with the matter.
Second, if he is elected chairman, Chu could promptly instruct KMT lawmakers to endorse the draft political party act, which includes provisions stipulating punishments for misconduct among political parties, a bill KMT lawmakers have blocked more than 200 times.
The KMT’s crushing defeat in the Nov. 29 nine-in-one elections suggested that the public, particularly young people, are fed up with the unjust and widening wealth gap that people are constantly reminded about by the party’s obscene wealth.
If by the 2016 legislative and presidential elections the assets issue remains untackled, the KMT could well suffer another electoral defeat, and it would only have itself to blame.
So, is Chu man of his word, or just another “liar” like the previous KMT chairman? It is a case of wait and see.
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