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Profile of the KMT's `lonely bird'

MAKING WAVES Controversial KMT lawmaker Jao Yung-ching is rarely far from breaking news. Modeling himself as a `second-generation' party member, he has won the hearts of many, but drawn the wrath of others

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Before Typhoon Bilis made landfall in Taiwan late Tuesday afternoon, KMT legislator Jao Yung-ching's (趙永清) office was humming with activity. A TV reporter prodded Jao to accompany him to Taipei County where flooding was likely to take place.

"I am the head of the voluntary fire brigade in Taipei County, and I must fly now," Jao said after an interview with the Taipei Times.

Jao's family are long-standing members of the KMT and are known for their activity in Taipei County, so his position as head of the volunteer group came as no surprise.

Jao found himself in the media spotlight recently after defying his party's orders not to join a cross-party task force on cross-strait issues -- an advisory body to the president -- which is scheduled to convene next week.

KMT secretary-general Lin Feng-cheng (林豐正) lobbied Jao's father, Jao Chang-chiang (趙長江), a former National Assembly deputy as well as a veteran KMT member, to try to dissuade his son.

KMT deputy secretary-general Shao Yu-ming (邵玉銘) has warned that the KMT would take disciplinary action against members who violated the party's orders by joining the task force.

But neither pressure from his father nor the warning from his party has changed Jao's mind.

"I will confine discussions to the matter at hand. I consider it right to join the task force and I won't make compromises due to my party's interest," Jao said.

Jao explained why he insisted on joining the task force, which President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) hopes will facilitate the forging of public consensus on cross-strait policy.

"While the existing National Unification Council [NUC] is there only to assuage China's fear and to satisfy others' reveries about Taiwan's `reunification' with China, the new task force is where substantial discussion over cross-strait issues will take place," Jao said.

The task force -- composed of six scholars, four business leaders, six professionals, seven representatives from political parties, as well as two KMT members who joined in a personal capacity -- has as its mission to form a new consensus on cross-strait policies, Jao said.

A Daring KMT Lawmaker

But this is not the first time Jao has cast aside the shackles of his party.

"There have been at least 10 instances since I was elected into the Legislative Yuan in 1992 that I have opposed certain policies that the KMT supported," Jao admitted.

Jao's colleagues from other parties as well as his assistants agreed.

"He dares to challenge the status quo within the KMT. In some ways, he is like a DPP member within the KMT," said Fan Sun-lu (范巽綠), a former DPP legislator now working as deputy minister of education.

"A majority of the lawmakers that we've sought alliances with are from the DPP," said Shih Pei-pei (時蓓蓓), Jao's assistant.

In fact, Jao was the only legislator that voted against the KMT-proposed version of a bill that would reduce weekly working hours during the last legislative session.

Furthermore, Jao's long-standing opposition to the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Kungliao township, Taipei County, has also drawn severe criticism from his party, which has staunchly supported the project.

Jao's persistence in his opinions has yielded both positive and negative repercussions.

On the one hand, Jao has transformed himself successfully into a second-generation KMT political figure who dares to hold original views, thus winning popular support among his constituents as well as respect from his colleagues in the legislature, insiders say.

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