President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) sought to have Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) membership revoked due to alleged improper lobbying by Wang. The case exposed the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division’s (SID) allegedly illegal use of surveillance.
As a result, Taiwan is facing a constitutional crisis, the KMT’s image is seriously hurt and the party might even split apart. For the sake of his historical status, Ma is gambling with the nation and the KMT, and his intentions are truly despicable.
Ma has reached his hands into the legislature, judiciary and media while his approval ratings have fallen to a new low. However, Ma has not engaged in any self-reflection and insists on doing as he sees fit. This shows Ma is not stupid, but rather indifferent and evil.
In the past, the KMT heavily relied on Ma, but now that the president’s approval rating is at 9 percent, he needs to rely on the KMT. In order to resolve Taiwan’s crisis, the party needs to resolve its own crisis first. In other words, it needs to get rid of its chairman to save itself. If it does not show its determination to do so, the KMT is likely to be abandoned by the public.
Former president and former KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) led the party to the path of localization and helped the KMT continue its rule. Today, the party is facing another critical transformation. Will it turn itself into Beijing’s mouthpiece or will it take root in this land by building Taiwan’s democratic politics through regular power transfers?
Ma has a deep understanding of the Chinese culture of power struggles. He knows that he needs to dismantle the faction of the KMT that opposes him. So he has oppressed Wang with one hand and called allies to his side with the other.
When Ma was indicted in 2007 for his handling of his special mayoral allowance during his two terms as Taipei mayor, Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) took over the KMT chairmanship from him and amended the party constitution to allow Ma to run for the presidency in 2008. Wu campaigned strongly for Ma and deserves credit for his election victory that year. However, after coming to power, Ma took over the KMT chairmanship from Wu in 2009. It seems like only a matter of time before Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) loses his post as well.
Are Ma supporters KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) and Legislator Chang Ching-chung’s (張慶忠) merits greater than those of the two Wus? Do they think they are not being wiretapped? What will they do? Will they be Ma’s pawns? Or will they make a contribution to Taiwan? It all depends on their decisions.
Can Taiwan really find a way out if it leans toward the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)? Despite the benefits that may come from a robust relationship with China, recent history shows that these gains tend to be fragile.
Take HTC Corp chairwoman Cher Wang (王雪紅) for example. She did a favor for Ma and the CCP by showing support for the president on the eve of last year’s presidential election. However, several high-level HTC officials were allegedly paid by a Chinese company to leak confidential information.
Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) also supports the president. His department stores in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, have been forced to temporarily close down by his Chinese landlord.
Even business tycoon Li Kai-shing (李嘉誠), the richest man in Hong Kong, has sensed a difference since the 1997 handover of his nation. As a consequence, he is selling properties in Hong Kong and China and investing in Britain. There must be political considerations behind his decisions, as China expands its control over Hong Kong.
Since the KMT’s local factions are connected to grassroots forces, they care more about local interests. If the nation is eventually ruined by Ma, perhaps he can move to China or even the US, but most Taiwanese have no choice but to remain here and endure the fallout.
After Ma was indicted, in order to maintain his “clean” image, he expelled certain KMT members due to their alleged involvement in illegal conduct. However, almost all of the expelled members were Taiwan-born. Did KMT members from China have an exemption?
Even if the expelled members were involved in illegal conduct, the party should have punished them without harming Taiwan’s sovereignty; it should not have tried to replace them with businesspeople and money from China.
If the KMT’s local factions fail to unite against Ma now, they might suffer later if he regains his popularity. If that happens, they can not say they were not warned.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang