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Wed, Jan 26, 2000 - Page 3 News List

James Soong gets support of former legislative speaker

By Oliver Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Independent presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) saw his image strengthened yesterday as former legislative speaker Liu Sung-fan (劉松藩) publicly endorsed the former provincial governor. At the same time, Soong made further efforts to clear himself from a continuing financial scandal by depositing NT$240 million at a Taipei court.

Liu, flanked by pro-Soong legislators, announced that he was throwing his support behind Soong.

"A while ago, when Soong led the race by a big margin, I was not interested in doing him an additional favor [by endorsing him]," said Liu, a legislator and long-time political faction leader in Taichung County. "Now that he is confronted with difficulty, I want to help him now as he did for me in the past."

Liu was apparently referring to support from Soong that helped him secure another term as speaker at the legislature in 1996.

The KMT said Liu's move was not unexpected, and the damage to the election campaign of its presidential candidate, Vice President Lien Chan (連戰), was limited.

"It is regrettable, but not something surprising," said KMT spokesperson Huang Hwei-chen (黃輝珍). "The movement of one or two people won't make much difference to the campaign."

But current legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) sounded more reserved. "The impact on the KMT's presidential bid has to be further assessed," he said.

Liu is expected to be expelled from the KMT, as were other KMT politicians who have already publicly endorsed Soong.

In Chiayi County yesterday afternoon, Soong said he was happy to hear the news.

Soong was there there to visit the parents of Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪), a former justice minister who declared his support for Soong on Monday. Soong also paid a visit to the parents of Wu Jung-ming (吳容明), a former minister-without-portfolio who resigned last year to join Soong's camp.

In addition to making a new allie, Soong yesterday also took a step to polish his image, tarnished by the recent financial scandal, by sending his lawyer, Huang Tung-hsiung (黃東熊), to the Taipei District Court yesterday to make a deposit of NT$240 million.

Soong has claimed the money belonged to the KMT and that it was entrusted to him by President and KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to take care of late President Chiang Ching-kuo's (蔣經國) family and to conduct "special operations" for the party.

Lee and the KMT have denied the claim.

In a statement issued yesterday by his lawyer, Soong said: "If the court refuses to accept the deposit, I will entrust the money to a supervisory committee made up of lawyers, accountants, scholars and other trustworthy people to decide what to do with the funds."

If the court accepts the money, it will notify the president to come and collect it. If that fails, the court will wait for the conclusion of legal action before disbursing it to what it considers to be the rightful owners.

If no one comes forward within 10 years, the money will be put into national coffers. The court also has the right to refuse the money.

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