Divided Women’s League faces deadline

FACTIONS::Former KMT legislator Pan Wei-kang has compared the government’s probe into the women’s league to the abuses discussed in the MeToo movement

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jan 31, 2018 - Page 3

Infighting within the National Women’s League surfaced yesterday as members of the league’s so-called “hawkish” faction urged league members to vote against signing an administrative contract with the government, which would see the organization’s dissolution, at a members’ meeting today.

Speaking at a news conference in Taipei, league Standing Committee member Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) drew a parallel between the online movement against sexual harassment MeToo and a joint investigation by the Ministry of the Interior and the Cabinet’s Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee over the league’s alleged link to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

“At a time when the world is paying attention women’s rights issues, it is heart-wrenching to see a government led by a female president persecute the nation’s first women’s political group,” said Pan, a former KMT lawmaker.

The league was neither a KMT affiliate, nor was it funded by illegitimately obtained party assets, Pan said, urging the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration to refrain from labeling the league as such simply because it was established in 1950 by former president Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) wife Soong Mayling (宋美齡), who led the league for decades.

According to the contract, the league is required to apply for its dissolution within four months and donate 90 percent of its total assets, or about NT$34.3 billion (US$1.17 billion), to the state coffers, Pan said.

“Would inking the unclear, unfair and unjust contract really protect the league from further persecution?” Pan asked, adding that the league should defend its rights in court rather than giving them up without a fight.

According to a memorandum of understanding signed by the league’s new chairwoman Joanna Lei (雷倩), the ministry and the assets committee on Dec. 29 last year, the league has until today to sign the contract.

Failure to do so would result in a renewed government probe into the league’s alleged links with the KMT and its use of the Military Benefit Tax — a tariff levied on the US dollar value of all imported goods from 1955 to 1989 — that provided most of the funding for the league’s charity work.

The contract has divided league members into a “hawkish” faction, allegedly led by former league chairwoman Cecilia Koo (辜嚴倬雲), and a “pacifist” faction headed by Lei, who succeeded Koo last month after the latter was removed by the ministry for refusing to sign the contract and failing to provide detailed information regarding the league’s use of the tax.

Lei on Monday called for unity and expressed pessimism over the league’s future amid allegations that the hawkish faction plans today to smother the contract by asking as many league members as possible to sign a power of attorney to obtain their voting rights.

Koo’s attorney, Chi Pei-ching (稽珮晶), yesterday said Koo has maintained her opposition to signing the make-or-break contract, as doing so would not answer questions of whether the league was affiliated with the KMT or if it was funded by ill-gotten party assets.

“It would only damage the league’s legacy,” Chi said.