Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 3 News List

KMT's experiment in diversity ends with resignation

TARNISHED TERM The party's spokeswoman gave up her job last week. Was it her behavior that did her in -- or her colleagues' unhappiness with her pan-green past?

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) resigned last week amid a controversy over her behavior and infighting targeting her.

Cheng submitted her resignation to KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the wake of criticism from the pan-green camp that Ma had turned a blind eye to Cheng living in an apartment provided by business tycoon Chou Hsin-yi (周信義), rent free, for the past two years.

Media interest in Cheng escalated after the Chinese-language Next Magazine carried a story that questioned Cheng's integrity for accepting Chou's patronage and accused her of often playing hooky from work to go shopping.

Denying that she had ever done favors for Chou in return for his patronage, in her resignation letter Cheng said that the accusations against her were politically motivated. She said she was determined to resign to "shoulder the responsibility," despite Ma's efforts to keep her in the job.

Ma accepted her resignation, although he offered her a position on the KMT's Policy Committee.

The controversies that led to her resignation highlighted Cheng's problematic relationship with the KMT. Some party members have said that her behavior had damaged the party's reputation.

"I've heard complaints [about her] from some communication and culture committee members," KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said.

Describing Cheng as "arrogant," Wu, a former commissioner of the Taipei city information department and member of the so-called "Ma troop," wasn't shy about hiding his dislike of Cheng. He said that if the party continued to tolerate her controversial behavior, then "the KMT won't need to reform."

A former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member of the so-called "student movement generation," the 37-year-old Cheng served as DPP deputy caucus leader at the National Assembly until her membership was canceled in 2002 after she openly criticized the former acting head of the Department of Health, Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), on a talk show that she hosted.

Cheng then began to side with the KMT. She formally joined the party in January last year at the invitation of former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to serve as the party spokeswoman and deputy chief of the Communication and Culture Committee.

Ma made Cheng the committee chief to take advantage of her knowledge of the DPP and her connections with the pan-green camp.

Although Cheng is now a fierce critic of the DPP, her political background and the recent controversies have upset some top KMT officials such as Chan Chuen-pao (詹春柏) as well as close aides of Ma, including Wu and Taipei Deputy Mayor King Pu-tsung (金溥聰).

Cheng came under fire from the Government Information Office at the end of last December when its former head, Pasuya Yao (姚文智), accused her of being a "political and media amphibian" for flaunting new regulations designed to separate politics and the media by continuing to host a radio show.

Although Ma repeatedly came to Cheng's defense and said that he "respected her decision" on the issue, both Chan and Wu urged Cheng to choose between her jobs as KMT spokeswoman and radio host.

"She cannot continue to have her cake and eat it too," Wu said.

Cheng quit the radio show this past January.

Cheng offered her resignation to Ma last Thursday night, but neither she nor Ma said anything to the media about it, because Ma was hoping to keep her on. However, the letter was leaked to the Chinese-language media, including the United Daily News and the China Times, which carried reports on it last Friday. The reports said the letter had been leaked by KMT members who were trying to ensure that she did resign.

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