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Thu, Jun 15, 2000 - Page 3 News List

The history of the man they call `stone pumpkin'

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Before 41-year-old Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) was elected chairman of the board of Chen Lan Temple (鎮瀾宮) in Taichung County in January 1999, he had already made a name for himself as an influential figure in central Taiwan.

Yen, who got married at age 17, was nicknamed "Piao the stone pumpkin" by his grandfather for his short and stout figure.

After a government crackdown on organized crime in 1986, Yen spent three-and-a-half years in Green Island's maximum-security prison, convicted under martial law. His participation in local politics began soon after he was released.

As a member of the KMT's "black faction (黑派)" in Taichung County, Yen worked as a borough warden (里長) for over three years before becoming a county councilor. By 35, he became the youngest ever member of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly.

He became a grandfather the same year when his 18-year-old son Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆) presented him with his first grandson.

Seen as holding sway among local factions and being associated with gangsters, Yen engaged in various businesses, including gravel plants, cement factories and restaurants.

It is unclear whether his investments reach as far afield as China, although he has fought strongly for the opening of direct links with China for the past two years -- ostensibly for for religious purposes, said DPP legislator Chiu Tai-san (邱太三).

Yen was expelled from the KMT in April, after openly expressing support for independent candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) in the run-up to the presidential election in March.

Long courted by both Soong and the KMT's presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰), Yen said he decided to throw his support behind Soong because during his tenure as Taiwan Provincial Governor, Soong had visited his constituency more than 200 times and provided ample funds for local infrastructure projects. Yen has also received strong support from the PFP.

Analysts have said Yen's move to back Soong garnered the independent candidate crucial votes during the election in Taichung County.

Although Yen has vowed not to break the law while engineering an upcoming pilgrimage trip to the mainland, his controversial background has left many in doubt about his future intentions.

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