Ko launches ‘Taiwan people’s party’

GUIDING PRINCIPLES::The Taipei mayor said governance and holding office are not hard, ‘you just need to face your conscience’ and ‘remember your original intentions’

By Chen Ching-min and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Aug 02, 2019 - Page 1

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday announced that he has registered a new political party that would “use ‘Taiwan’ as its name and the people as its foundation.”

With the forming of the new party — whose Chinese-language name (台灣民眾黨) roughly translates to “Taiwan people’s party,” an official English name is to be announced on Tuesday next week — Ko said that he hoped to give Taiwanese a choice other than the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

The new party would prioritize professionalism and respect for the will of the people in its policymaking, he said, adding that it would work diligently and free of corruption.

Ko was joined by Taipei City Government deputy spokeswoman Huang Ching-ying and Taipei City councilors Chung Hsiao-ping (鍾小平) and Hsu Li-hsin (徐立信) when making the announcement in the morning at Taipei City Hall.

Ko, who political pundits have speculated might run in next year’s presidential election, said that when he first ran for mayor in 2014 as an independent, he argued that changing the nation’s political culture must start with the capital.

Since then, he has maintained that an administration should focus seriously only on what needs to be done, he added.

Ko said that before he had resolved to run for mayor, he first joined a study group at the Hsin Kang Foundation of Culture and Education to engage the public at a cultural level.

In the five years since, as mayor he has participated in the annual Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage and joined a study group at the foundation again, he said, adding that the experiences reminded him of his original aspirations.

“Governance is not difficult, you just need to face your conscience. Holding office is not difficult if you always remember your original intentions,” Ko said. “People need to see the practical effects of politics in their everyday lives.”

Responding to criticism that he lacks a core ideology, Ko said that his political philosophy was aimed at “what benefits Taiwan as a whole, and what provides the greatest well-being for Taiwanese.”

Seeking either Taiwanese independence or unification with China, or advocating the so-called “1992 consensus,” does not constitute a core ideology, he said.

The “1992 consensus” — a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000 — refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

Taiwan’s political system has been damaged since 2000, before which the KMT’s firm grip on government meant that it could focus on economic development, Ko said.

In the past, the KMT had talented officials like former minister of finance Lee Kuo-ting (李國鼎) and former premier Sun Yun-suan (孫運璿) to handle economic policies, he said.

“However, in the past few years things such as the new Shenao Power Plant, a project worth more than NT$10 billion [US$320.7 million], have been axed overnight,” Ko said. “They say Taiwan’s power supply is adequate. What a joke!”

Ko said that he visited a coal-fired power plant in Yokohama, Japan, and saw no noise or pollution from the facility.

“It is not about coal being clean or dirty, it is about people being clean or dirty,” he said.

Ko expressed hope to see universal values such as the rule of law, human rights protections, freedom and democracy continue to flourish in Taiwan, saying that freedom was based on tolerance.

Taiwan has never been a nation that follows the rule of law, because the law is only consulted here, not respected, he said.

Ko said that while he did not see himself as a leader or influencer, he has worked hard and loved the people, adding that he felt that he has had a good track record in office.

Later yesterday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that parties that are “independence-leaning and Republic of China-leaning have a shared responsibility to protect Taiwan’s democracy.”

Democracy is the biggest difference between Taiwan and China, she said, adding that healthy political competition could better address public needs and diversify the nation’s democracy.

The Democratic Progressive Party and the KMT separately said that they respected people’s constitutional right to establish parties.

Ko’s new party shares its Chinese name with one founded on July 10, 1927, during the Japanese colonial era by physician and social activist Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), who Ko has called his hero.

The Chiang Wei-shui Cultural Foundation called on Ko to reconsider the name of his party, saying that the Taiwan People’s Party is a part of the nation’s cultural heritage, as it was Taiwan’s first political party.

Chiang’s party was dissolved in August 1931.

The foundation said that it hoped anyone invoking Chiang’s name “truly stands for political freedom, economic liberation and social equality, just as he did.”

Additional reporting by Su Yung-yao, Yang Chun-hui, Shih Hsiao-kuang and Ling Mei-hsueh