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Fri, Jun 16, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Lien's straying from localization signals rift with Lee

By Hung Chen-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

With Lien Chan (連戰) likely to be elected as KMT chairman at a provisional National Party Congress meeting this weekend, the leading question facing the party is to what extent he intends to continue the policies of his predecessor, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

One of the most divisive elements of Lee's party management was his push toward localization -- the promotion of ethnic Taiwanese within the party hierarchy -- in an attempt to make the party more reflective of the makeup of the electorate.

But localization is also regarded by many in the party as discriminatory toward some party activists and a contributing factor to the KMT's crushing defeat in the March presidential election and Lee's subsequent resignation as chairman after days of protests outside the KMT's Taipei headquarters.

Many protesters suspected Lee, by initiating the localization drive, of intentionally setting the stage for the gradual crumbling of the party's power base and its eventual defeat.

"Those who strongly support localization have strong feelings about the crisis [the KMT faces]," said KMT lawmaker Chen Hung-chi (陳鴻基), a Lee stalwart.

One of the main goals Lee tried to achieve as chairman was to shift the party's focus more toward Taiwan and attracting more ethnic Taiwanese members. Previously the KMT had been largely composed of mainlanders.

After the March election and the subsequent riots outside party headquarters, the party tried to put on a united front and stand behind Lien as Lee's replacement.

But the protests which forced Lee to step down from the top party post left the KMT divided. Some still question Lien's commitment to follow "Lee's path" of localization.

The KMT has since split into two factions, one pro-Lee and the other pro-Lien.

With Lee's faction losing ground to the pro-Lien forces, many of his once loyal followers have switched their allegiance.

To retain the support of defectors from the Lee camp, Lien's supporters have been insisting that localization would remain a key KMT tenet, but would be different from Lee's concept of the word.

"Lee promoted localization to give priority to ethnic Taiwanese only, but Lien has revised the term to include all Taiwanese, irrespective of place of origin or when they came to Taiwan," said KMT lawmaker Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖).

This is also one reason why the party's mainlander members support Lien and have urged him to exclude Lee in the wake of the party's election defeat.

Likewise, among KMT lawmakers, there are both pro-Lee and pro-Lien camps. Interestingly, both sides say there is no conflict between them.

"We support Lien and at same time we advocate Lee," said Chen Horng-chi (陳鴻基), who belongs to the pro-Lee E-Era faction.

That faction is a new group within the KMT established after the March election. It is made up of about 20 legislators, who hope to spearhead reform within the party.

Chen Shei-saint agreed with Chen Horng-chi, saying that his pro-Lien Reform Faction did not oppose Lee.

Chen admitted that Lee was still an influential figure and urged Lien not to alienate Lee and his supporters.

Lien won the party's presidential nomination contest by a landslide, with 97 percent of the vote.

However, in the light of his failure to win the presidential election, many doubt he can gain much support in his bid to become party chairman.

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