Former Taipei EasyCard Corp (悠遊卡公司) chairman Sean Lien (連勝文) yesterday declared his candidacy for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) primary for the Taipei mayoral election, pledging he would donate his entire mayoral salary to charity if elected.
Lien, the eldest son of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰), made the announcement during a press conference at Jiancheng Circle (建成圓環), a market in the city’s once bustling Datong District (大同), which critics often cite as an example of the KMT’s failure in governing the capital.
“[We will] get back on our feet from where [we] fell down,” Sean Lien said as he elaborated on why he chose to announce his candidacy at a venue in a district that is a traditional stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The market’s modernization was initiated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2001 while he was Taipei mayor. The old Jiancheng Circle building was torn down, but Ma’s Taipei administration then did nothing to revamp the area, a feat that the government of Ma’s successor, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), has also failed to achieve.
Aside from the need for development, another reason Sean Lien said he chose to state his bid at the market is that that was where the Lien family was based in the days of his great-grandfather, Lien Heng (連橫), a historian and author of A General History of Taiwan.
“Reviving the western part of Taipei,” of which Datong is the center, is one of the visions that Sean Lien laid out for the city’s future yesterday.
“Only when we revitalize economic activity across the whole city can we create better job opportunities to resolve the predicament of low wages facing salaried workers in Taiwan, especially among the youth,” Sean Lien said.
He also said that if elected, he would prioritize policies pertaining to emergency medical care, education for disadvantaged children, social housing, elderly care, supporting young entrepreneurs and the development of small and medium-sized businesses.
Sean Lien’s emphasis on the importance of emergency medical care appeared to be a response to the view held by some that he received preferential medical treatment after suffering a gunshot wound in November 2010 because of his background.
The Taipei mayoral hopeful was shot in the face at close range at an election rally.
National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), an independent Taipei mayoral aspirant who enjoys wide support within the pan-green camp, has said that it was unusual that a medical team was set up before Sean Lien was taken to the hospital and that his surgery began less than 30 minutes after he arrived.
The former Taipei EasyCard boss yesterday said that the incident, in which the “distance [between life and death] was just 0.5cm,” had motivated him to run for public office.
Sean Lien said that he has spent the past three years thinking about why he survived the shooting and realized that God was giving him a message, which was that: “He wants me to help those in need across the world with my acts.”
He said that he decided to donate his wages if elected because he sees becoming Taipei mayor as an opportunity to help people — not as means to accruing and exercising power — and because he demands charity of himself.
A municipal mayor earns an annual salary of NT$2.94 million (US$96,700), in addition to a special allowance fund of NT$2.4 million.
Sean Lien said his biggest wish is not to pursue high political office, but to see Taiwan regain its status as an economic power in Asia.
However, his pledge to donate his mayor’s salary drew criticism from KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), who has also declared his candidacy for the party primary.
“We are not in the Qing Dynasty anymore, people do not have to pay for a position or a title. It’s reasonable for a mayor to be paid if they are competent. What’s the point of having an unsalaried, but incompetent, mayor?” Ting said.
Other KMT mayoral aspirants include Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) and Taipei City councilors Chung Hsiao-ping (鐘小平), Yang Shi-chiu (楊實秋) and Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠).