Wed, Dec 18, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Chen family should put campaign funds to use

By Sophia Lee 李欣芬

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is the spiritual leader of the Taiwan Action Party Alliance, which was established in August, and he is No. 6 on the party’s legislator-at-large list.

This takes me back to 2009, when I dropped by a post office in Queens, New York, to mail a parcel to Taiwan, and came across a middle-aged man with Asian looks who asked me in Chinese if I was from Taiwan. When I nodded, he said that he was, too, and then started criticizing the political situation in Taiwan.

He believed that interference from Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), led to the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) failure at the time, saying: “How could the head of a company be allowed to bring his laptop to the president’s residence to brief Wu? And the most ridiculous thing is that Wu even stored NT$100 million [US$3.31 million at the current exchange rate] in cash in the basement of Yuanta Bank.”

When I said: “These are just rumors,” he surprised me by saying: “You stupid Chen fan! Even Chen himself admitted to having deposited NT$700 million overseas and still you defend the Chen family.”

He went on to criticize major DPP figures at the time — vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), as well as former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu Shyi-kun— saying that they fought over the party’s presidential nomination, but that none of them shouldered any blame when the party lost the 2008 presidential election.

He told me how a young woman with limited political experience — a reference to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — had needed to take over the DPP and how, as party chairperson, she had needed to cover the cost of the year-end dinner for party employees out of her own pocket, in addition to relying on small donations to repay its NT$170 million debt.

He was worried that it would be difficult for the DPP to make a comeback and left the post office still mumbling about the NT$700 million damaging the DPP. It made me understand how overseas Taiwanese worry about their home country.

I was also reminded of a news broadcast in which Chen’s daughter, Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), said that the overseas money was “excess campaign funds” to be used as “nation-building funds,” and asked rhetorically: “Is there anyone in the DPP who has not taken any money from my dad?”

When I joined the Taiwan Association of University Professors in 2000, then-chairman Huang Tsong-le (黃宗樂) told me that the association had run out of funds and could no longer pay the NT$40,000 monthly office rent. To raise money, Huang and top association members went to see independence advocate Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏).

Having stammered out the reason for their visit, they were surprised when he humbly and generously said: “No problem. The Koo family’s money is deposited with us by Taiwanese. If you need money, just take it.”

Koo then wrote a check. It was only when Huang left Koo’s house that he scrutinized the check — Koo had given them NT$500,000, eliminating the association’s financial crisis.

The Chen family did not run a business like the Koo family did. Nor did the Chen family sell their land like Taiwanese democracy pioneer Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介) did to finance the DPP in the elections.

Consequently, the campaign funds cannot be regarded as the Chen family’s money, but money deposited with the family by Taiwanese out of trust. The Chen family should, for example, put those political contributions into a corporate account or a foundation so that the funds can truly be used as “nation-building funds.”

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