Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) yesterday announced he is to run as an independent candidate in the presidential election in January next year, ending months of speculation.
“I have decided to join the 2024 presidential race,” Gou said at a news conference in Taipei. “I implore the people of Taiwan to give me four years. I promise that I will bring peace to the Taiwan Strait for the next 50 years and lay the deepest foundation of mutual trust between the two sides.”
The tycoon said he has watched Taiwan’s political and economic situation gradually shift from prosperity to “the edge of a cliff” resulting from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s incompetence, adding its policies have “brought Taiwan into the risk of war” with China.
Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP
“I will not allow Taiwan to become the next Ukraine,” he said, drawing parallels between the security environment facing Taiwan and the war-torn east European nation.
Gou said he felt he has something to contribute on the issues that matter to Taiwanese, adding that he would work for unity because it is critical to Taiwan’s future.
Addressing national security, Gou described the state of affairs in the Taiwan Strait and the dynamics between the US and China as “precarious.”
Gou has amassed the bulk of his about US$7 billion fortune from his company, which has made various gadgets for the likes of Apple Inc and Sony Group Corp since the late 1980s.
When asked about the issue of a conflict of interest with him being a major shareholder of Hon Hai, Gou dismissed concerns that the company’s large footprint in China would make him susceptible to pressure from Beijing.
“I have never been under the control of [the Chinese Communist Party]... I will not be threatened,” he said.
“If the Chinese Communist regime threatens to confiscate the company’s property in China, I will say: ‘Yes! Please do it!’” he said. “I can sacrifice my personal wealth in exchange for peace for Taiwan.”
Hon Hai in a statement yesterday said that Gou was no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the company, having “handed over the baton” four years ago.
Gou stepped down in 2019 and made a presidential bid that year, but dropped out after he failed to win the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) nomination.
He made a second bid earlier this year to be the KMT’s candidate for the presidential election, but the party instead chose New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜).
Gou had said he would support whomever the KMT nominated, but has since changed his mind. He has spent the past few weeks touring Taiwan and holding election campaign-like rallies, fueling speculation he was planning to run as an independent.
Gou’s announcement yesterday puts him in direct competition with Vice President and DPP Chairman William Lai (賴清德), the KMT’s Hou and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲).
Among all the presidential candidates, “I am the only entrepreneur with the practical management skills. I am an entrepreneur with nearly five decades of practical experience — who else is better suited to lead Taiwan’s political sphere [than I]?” Gou said yesterday.
Highlighting his expertise in finance and economics, Gou said that under his leadership he would guarantee an economic growth rate that is more than double the current rate, starting in the next fiscal year.
The 72-year-old must obtain the signatures of at least 1.5 percent of the electorate in the most recent legislative election — about 290,000 signatures — by Nov. 2 to qualify to run as an independent candidate. The Central Election Commission is to review the signatures and announce the results by Nov. 14.
In a statement released hours after Gou threw his hat into the ring as an independent, the KMT said it was “deeply regrettable” that he had reneged on his earlier promise to help Hou win the election.
The KMT also said that any of its members who publicly support Gou in his presidential bid would be subject to disciplinary measures.
However, the party said it still hopes that Gou would return to the KMT fold one day and join mainstream efforts to unseat the DPP.
DPP spokesman Chang Chih-hao (張志豪) yesterday said that in a democratic nation, every citizen has the right to run for the presidency, as long as they meet the requirements.
“The DPP fully respects Gou’s decision to run,” he said, adding that the Gou camp should refrain from playing the “fear of war” card to divide society.
The TPP yesterday said that Ko was leading in the polls among the opposition contenders.
The TPP would continue to build on that momentum, while seeking close cooperation with the other opposition parties in the election campaign, TPP spokesman Lee Ting-li (李頂立) said.
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