The Cabinet approved a bill for handling parties' "ill-gotten" assets at a meeting yesterday.
The proposed statute on the disposition of assets improperly obtained by political parties (
Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said the Cabinet decided to speed up the process of reviewing the statute after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said in his Double Ten National Day speech that returning improperly obtained party assets is a priority for the government.
Under the Cabinet's draft law, all party assets except membership dues, campaign funds donated by the public and businesses, and government election subsidies, will be defined as "ill-gotten" assets that must be returned to the national coffers or local governments.
One provision states that any property given away or sold at unreasonable prices by political parties and their affiliated groups after April 6, 2001 will also be defined as ill-gotten assets. The provision is aimed at stopping parties, especially the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), from selling their assets before the bill becomes law.
The bill says all parties must report their assets within six months of the law taking effect, including those listed by the Control Yuan in its April 6, 2001 report to the Executive Yuan, as well as those entrusted to third parties.
Violators will be subject to fines of between NT$500,000 (US$15,000) and NT$2.5 million. Those who refuse to conform will be fined every 10 days and after five fines, their assets will be defined as ill-gotten.
Yesterday was the first time KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) attended the weekly Cabinet meeting since taking over the party chairmanship in August.
The premier said he was glad to see the Taipei mayor back at the Cabinet meeting, and that he was very happy to see Ma having a chitchat with acting Kaohsiung Mayor Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭).
"It has been a long time since both the Taipei and Kaohsiung mayors have both shown up for a meeting. It seems to me that it is a great day for a reunion and I am rather glad," Hsieh said.
Cabinet Secretary-General and Spokesman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) told the press conference after the meeting that Ma did not comment on the proposed statute.
"He [Ma] was reading his documents very carefully. But when this issue was brought up, he looked up to the premier and began to listen to the conversation carefully," Cho said. "But he did not make any comments on the issue at all."
Cho said Ma left the meeting before the Cabinet approved the proposed statute.
Taipei City Government Deputy Secretary-General Liu Pao-kuei (劉寶貴) stayed for the rest of the meeting, but Liu did not comment on the proposal either.
"I can say that this proposal was approved by `every one' of the Cabinet members during the discussion," Cho said.
When approached by reporters later in the day, Ma denounced the proposed statute, saying it was against "the rule of law" and the Constitution.
"Not all of a party's assets are obtained improperly. For example, the KMT bought the National Development and Research Institute with its own money, and there is nothing improper about it," Ma said.
In other news, Hsieh told the Cabinet meeting that the government won't abandon a plan to develop the Chunxiao oil and gas field in the East China Sea, which is in an area also claimed by Japan and China.