Sun, Feb 19, 2006 - Page 3 News List

KMT prepares to leave its home of five decades

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)'s old party headquarters, which was demolished in April 1994, is shown in this file photo.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) headquarters in Taipei has long faced the Presidential Office down Ketagelan Boulevard, as the party's spiritual fort.

But after more than five decades at its present site, the party is due to sell its ostentatious 12-story headquarters, valued at about NT$2 billion (US$62.4 million). In April, whether that building is sold or not, the party will move to a smaller headquarters on Bade Road. The downsizing comes as part of KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) attempt to shake off the party's corrupt image by shedding some of its assets.

The current site, located in Taipei at the intersection of the Zhongshan S Road and Renai Road, belonged to a Japanese organization during Japan's 50-year colonization of Taiwan. In 1949, after Japan had ceded Taiwan at the end of World War II and the KMT government had arrived to take its place, the site became the party's headquarters. The KMT hasn't moved since.

"The KMT bought the land from the National Property Bureau of the Finance Ministry with more than NT$300 million, and the first KMT central standing committee was held there in 1950," said the KMT's Organization and Development Committee head Liao Feng-teh (廖風德).

The current 12-story building was built in 1995 with an exhibition room on the first floor, offices on the second to tenth floors, the chairman and vice chairmen's office on the 11th floor, and meeting and banquet rooms on the 12th floor.

The design of the building, Liao told the Taipei Times, was based on the concept of "democracy," incorporating modernity and a down-to-earth and expansive style.

Built with granite and shielded by a four-story tall arc wall, the headquarters look from above like the Chinese character da "" (big), and the square-shaped offices symbolize "consolidation," headquarters designer Lee Tzu-yuan (李祖源) said.

Rumor has it that the arc wall was designed in accordance with feng shui principles, but Lee denied that.

"We did discuss the use of feng shui in the design, but at the end feng shui did not determine the look of the building," he said.

The KMT finished the construction of the current headquarters under former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who then also served as the party chairman.

During the 51 years when the party governed Taiwan, the headquarters once housed as many as 600 full-time party workers. After the KMT lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000, the party began to downsize. There will only be 120 party workers left when the KMT moves to its new building on Bade Road.

In the 2004 presidential election, when former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and the People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) lost again to the DPP, pan-blue supporters held a protest along Ketagelan Boulevard, and the KMT headquarters turned into a place for protesters' to take shelter to sleep or bathe.

After Lien visited China last April, the KMT headquarters became a new attraction for Chinese tourists. According to the party, the exhibition room on the first floor and the party history room on the seventh floor are the two most visited spots in the building.

A NT$40 million maintenance fee per year for the headquarters, however, has become a heavy burden for the cash-strapped KMT. Furthermore, the luxurious building is not consistent with the clean, modest image that Ma is trying to create for the party.

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