Fri, Sep 02, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Critics say KMT in no-win situation over `stolen' assets

ILL-GOTTEN GAINS The KMT's recent sale of a piece of land in Muzha has renewed demands that its `stolen' assets be returned to the government

BY MO YAN-CHIH  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chair-man Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) first step toward cleaning up the party's asset problem by 2008 in a "fair and just" way is under fire from many sides after the recent sale of the building housing the party-affiliated Institute on Policy Research and Development.

Critics argued that the pricetag of NT$4.3 billion (US$133 million) -- far lower than the property's estimated value of NT$5.3 billion -- was the result of the KMT rushing to solve its financial difficulties and get rid of "stolen" assets.

"Only stolen goods would be sold at such a discounted price. It is clear that the KMT is badly in need of money, and so they want to get rid of the dirty assets in exchange for hard cash," said Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

Chin said the facts hidden behind the land sale are that the party's assets -- acquired during the martial law era -- were ill-gotten gains. When the KMT lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000 and the state's money was no longer seen as the party's wealth, the KMT could not do anything to address its financial problems except sell those assets, he said.

According to Chin, when the KMT found it difficult to get rid of its assets, Ma took advantage of his authority as Taipei mayor to sell the Muzha building -- in the name of making a land donation to expand the cramped campus of the Taipei Municipal Yungchien Elementary School.

"There are a lot of ways to solve the school's land problem. It is just an excuse for Mayor Ma to profit as KMT Chairman Ma," Chin said.

Chin's criticism echoed that of the DPP and the central government, which have both denounced Ma for using Taipei resources to solve the KMT's problem. They have demanded that the KMT return its stolen assets to the state.

DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) said that having the Taipei City's Urban Planning Commission change the zoning status of the Muzha block from "administrative" to "residential" showed Ma's plan was to allow the KMT to sell off the land without any legal obstructions.

Cabinet spokesman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), on the other hand, said that Ma and KMT lawmakers should institute a law on party assets so that "everyone has rules to follow."

Emile Sheng (盛治仁), a political analyst at Soochow University, agrees that the building was part of assets that the KMT "stole," and that it was necessary to pass a law on party assets, but he said that the KMT should be given some room to deal with the problem.

"The sale price may be too low, but the buyer had to assume both political and financial risks in buying the property, and so it may be reasonable for the party to accept a lower price," he said.

Stressing that cleaning up the party's assets is the "necessary road" Ma must walk, Sheng said that if the government really wants the KMT to address its party-asset problem, it would be better to stop criticizing the recent sale and try to pass a law to regulate party-asset issues in the future.

"If you really want the KMT to address the question of its party assets, then criticizing it when it starts solving the problem by selling off land will just politicize the whole thing. That's not helpful," he said.

It is believed that much of the KMT's portfolio of "stolen" assets was laundered through the stock market during the 1990s. A Control Yuan report in 2002 said the party still had more than 400 properties it had acquired illegally.

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