As the legislature discusses regulations regarding illicit party assets, each party has been proposing its own version of how such a bill should be worded. Even the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has seemingly accepted its fate and proposed its own version, while a few days ago, the KMT’s legislative caucus suggested that the party give up its assets, after deducting retirement funds for party workers.
At a glance, this looks good, but it is neither reasonable nor just; it is just another attempt to fudge the issue. A party that for so long has made huge profits by not distinguishing between itself and the government — using its power to amass funds and using that money to further increase its power — should not be let off the hook so easily.
Transitional justice means holding public hearings to scrutinize the source of every party asset and how it was obtained since the party came to Taiwan, through the 228 Incident, the White Terror era and up to this day. Only with a factual basis will it be possible to ascertain how much wealth the party has stolen.
The Palace luxury complex in Taipei, for example, is on the site occupied by Taiwan Broadcasting Corp’s headquarters during the Japanese colonial era. When Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) came to Taiwan, he ordered that the Central Broadcasting Affairs Management Office, the predecessor of the Broadcasting Corp of China (BCC), take over that plot of land, thus turning public property into a KMT asset. The party sold the land for NT$9 billion (US$273 million at today’s exchange rates) — raising funds for election expenses — to Hung Sheng Construction Ltd (宏盛建設), which built The Palace.
This plot of land should belong to the Republic of China (ROC) government and all Taiwanese. This was not an isolated case of turning public property into party property, and this was generally how the KMT gained its assets.
The manner in which almost every asset of local party branches was acquired — the National Women’s League, the China Youth Corps and other organizations in the KMT periphery — is equally problematic.
In the past, the net value of the KMT’s assets was frequently estimated to be about NT$100 billion, but the party has recently been saying that it is no more than NT$16 billion. Most of the KMT’s assets were stolen or seized from the public during the early years of its one-party rule. If NT$16 billion is all that remains, surely an investigation must be launched to find out who has been emptying the coffers and who profited from it.
The talk about deducting pension funds for party workers is even more absurd. The party assets were stolen; who has ever heard of thieves saying that they must be allowed to share the loot with their gang members before they can return whatever is left?
During their stints as KMT chairmen, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said that they would handle the party assets issue, but nothing ever came of it. They insist that the party’s current assets are legal, but many of them were made legal by passing whatever legislation or administrative regulations were required to make them so.
Appropriate investigations and reviews will be required to determine whether the assets are truly legal and legitimate.
The KMT has lost the opportunity to handle the issue by itself. The party no longer decides matters on its own and it can no longer distribute its remaining assets as it sees fit.