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Sun, Dec 05, 1999 - Page 2 News List

Legislator warns against gangsterism in politics

MONEY POLITICS Recently released police statistics point out once again the extent of criminal involvement in Taiwan's political process; some observers believe this is in part a result of Taiwan's democratization

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Warning that organized crime and money politics (黑金) are worsening despite Taiwan's democratic development, DPP legislator Chien Hsi-chieh cited documents claiming that at least 100 elected politicians in Taiwan have an organized crime background.

Chien said the data had been compiled from a National Police Administration report on the involvement of gangsters in construction project bid-rigging.

The elected representatives, he said, include 88 deputies sitting on county or city councils, five legislators, and seven National Assembly deputies -- who he claimed were either involved in fraud, extortion or intimidation.

Chien blamed the problem on what he termed the "conniving attitude" of the KMT, which he said has used economic interests to win over local political factions to strengthen its power base.

"Gangsters share prosperity with the KMT," Chien said.

Chien said traditionally, the party offered special favors to local political factions by allowing them to run underground businesses -- such as night clubs and gambling dens -- in exchange for their support in elections.

While gangsters were usually involved in the running of such clandestine businesses, they were also used by political factions in vote-buying operations, Chien said.

Moreover, gangsters themselves have begun running for public offices, making their way into the political system, usually making use of intimidation and vote-buying to gain victory.

The influence of organized crime in Taiwan politics has long been a target of criticism by Taiwan's opposition parties. Former Justice Minister Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪) once revealed that approximately one-third of the some 800 elected officials in Taiwan had criminal histories. Statistics released by the Judicial Yuan recently showed that 204 politicians are involved in legal disputes, in both civil and criminal cases.

Yan Jiann-fa (顏建發), an associate professor at Tamkang University and acting director of the DPP's Policy Research and Coordinating Committee, said although the KMT no longer monopolizes political power in Taiwan, thanks to Taiwan's democratization, the problem of "gangster-money" politics has worsened because the KMT faces keener competition from other political parties.

"Under the system of party politics, the KMT has seen a more urgent need to consolidate its power through firmer collaboration with local factions and gangsters," Yan said.

Yan predicted that in the upcoming presidential election, local gangsters and business conglomerates will closely hook up with the KMT, because they will also need to stand up for the status quo to protect their interests.

Kenneth Lin (林向愷), a professor of economics at the National Taiwan University, said that in national elections such as the presidential race, the issue of gangsterism and money politics is usually outshone by the issue of cross-strait relations

"Once cross-strait relations become tense, people become tolerant of problems like gangster-money politics," Lin said.

The problem should be high-lighted in this election, he added, and can only be resolved after a different political party takes power.

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