Following its landslide election defeats, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has repeatedly vowed to instigate reforms to regain public trust, but judging from the caucus’ performance in the new legislature, it might still have a long way to go before embracing genuine reform.
Both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) promised to address the issue of the KMT’s ill-gotten party assets when they were party chairmen, but when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus proposed a draft bill on illegitimate party assets, the KMT caucus refused to agree to refer the draft for review, with KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) saying that the term “illegitimate” was too provocative.
Lai added that, instead of passing a special law on “illegitimate party assets,” a section in the draft political party act dealing with party assets would suffice.
Lai’s remarks show that the KMT is still refusing to admit its mistakes, and without recognizing past wrongs, a political party can never genuinely reform.
The term “illegitimate assets” refers to KMT assets obtained through controversial means when it took control of Taiwan following Japan’s surrender after World War II.
When Japanese colonial government officials and settlers left Taiwan in 1945, they left large amounts of cash and property.
When the Republic of China (ROC) government took over, properties belonging to the former colonial government should have become ROC government assets, while private properties should have been handled according to the will of former owners — but, the KMT claimed many former Japanese government or private properties as party assets.
For instance, the majority of the KMT’s local chapter offices occupy buildings that were originally government buildings during the Japanese colonial period, saving the party millions — if not more — of NT dollars that would otherwise have been be spent to rent or purchase properties.
When real-estate prices increased or when the KMT was questioned over having illegitimately obtained the properties used as local chapter offices, the party sold off the properties.
One of the best-known examples was the former site of the KMT central headquarters in central Taipei, opposite the Presidential Office Building.
The site was formerly the headquarters of the Japanese Red Cross Society, and after Japan’s surrender, the KMT government took over the building as its headquarters.
Regardless of opposition, the KMT demolished the original historical building and erected a high-rise on the site; and when the public questioned the legitimacy of the KMT’s use of the property, then-KMT chairman Ma responded to criticism by selling the building to the Chang Jung-fa Foundation.
The originally KMT-run radio station Broadcasting Corp of China also took over a public radio building abandoned by Japanese.
Much of the KMT’s assets are illegitimate, not only because of how the party obtained former Japanese colonial government properties, but also because the ROC government once allocated funding to the KMT directly, and the ROC government also directly transferred aid from the US during the Cold War into the KMT’s accounts.
If the KMT is determined to carry out reforms, it should admit that it obtained party assets illegitimately and support the bill.
It is not really “provocative,” because the DPP bill targets only the KMT’s ill-gotten assets, not everything that the party owns, unless the KMT believes that it has nothing left except those ill-gotten assets.
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