Sun, Dec 13, 2015 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A presidential property soap opera

While Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) has promised to make this year’s presidential campaign a positive and reasonable one, the series of accusations that politicians from his party have leveled at Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) over land acquisitions she made in the 1980s have made it more like a soap opera.

Following the controversy surrounding KMT vice-presidential candidate Jennifer Wang’s (王如玄) “personal financial investment” in military dependents’ housing units, KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) and former legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) accused Tsai of real-estate speculation in her land transactions in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖).

Although the DPP provided official property registration documents, saying that the KMT had made mistaken allegations, the KMT counterattacked, saying Tsai and the DPP were lying.

With different land plot numbers, sizes, values and estimations on how much the price of the land grew between the time when Tsai purchased it in 1988 and sold it in 1997, voters might wonder: Is this kind of soap opera dispute something they would expect of a presidential election? Or do they even care when a presidential candidate purchased a plot of land, when it was sold, and how much it was sold for?

Probably not. Besides those who also make real- estate investments or are in the business, most people might not even understand what these numbers are all about.

While KMT politicians have said that they are just trying to apply the same standard that the DPP used to judge Wang’s property transactions, they must understand that these two cases are different.

Wang’s “personal financial investment” is questionable not because it is illegal, but because the military dependents’ housing units that she bought and sold were not designed for investors — they were built for low-ranking veterans, soldiers and their families who might have difficulties purchasing a home.

In other words, military dependents’ housing units are more or less a type of public housing for the disadvantaged, and it is therefore questionable to buy and sell these units for personal gain, even if the transactions were legal, as Wang has said.

It is a different case for Tsai. The land that she bought and sold was private. The transactions that were made were between private individuals and the law protects citizens’ rights to purchase and sell real estate on a free market.

The KMT has also questioned how Tsai was able to purchase the land when she was only 33 years old.

First, at the time of her land purchases, Tsai was serving as an associate professor at National Chengchi University and could have accumulated some wealth.

Second, she never hid the fact that she was born into a wealthy family. She has even mentioned that, when attending university in the 1970s, she already owned a car and used it to commute between her home and school.

So it is not really surprising that Tsai was able to purchase land at the age of 33.

If it is neither legally nor morally wrong, then what is the problem?

In addition, when questioned about her investment arrangements, Wang repeatedly stressed that her transactions were all legal. If the KMT said that the same standard should be applied to both Wang and Tsai, then it should not question Tsai’s property transactions, since they were also legal, and there should be no problem according to the KMT’s standard.

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