Taiwan Life in Brief – August 2019

THE START OF A PARTY — Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (center) and two associates at the launch event for the Taiwan People's Party. Photo: Martti Chen

Mayor Ko Establishes new Political Party

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je announced in late July the founding of a new political party. Named the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), a reference to a party of the same name founded by Japanese colonial era democracy activist Chen Wei-shui in the 1920s, the TPP will present an alternative to Taiwan’s two main parties, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Ko said.

Ko, a surgeon by background who was twice elected mayor as an independent, has for months avoided explicitly stating whether he will run for president in the 2020 national elections. However, the establishment of the TPP and Ko’s recent public appearance with KMT legislator Wang Jin-ping and Foxconn founder Terry Gou have raised speculation that the three might team up to disrupt the current race between DPP incumbent Tsai Ing-wen and KMT candidate Han Kuo-yu. Both Gou and Wang originally aimed to run on the KMT ticket, but Wang voluntarily pulled out of the race in June, while Gou lost the primary to Han in July.

The launch event for the TPP was held August 6 at the National Taiwan University Hospital, where Ko once headed the traumatology department. Ko was elected the party’s chairman and said the party would field a slate of candidates for the Legislative Yuan.

Han Moves Forward with Presidential Campaign

Kaohsiung mayor and KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu gave a highly publicized speech at a special luncheon hosted by AmCham Taipei on August 21. He highlighted the importance of energy sufficiency for Taiwan in attracting foreign investment and suggested keeping nuclear power as a viable option in accomplishing that goal. Speaking to the press after the event, Han stated his support for restarting operations at the mothballed No. 4 nuclear power plant in New Taipei City. However, the city’s mayor, Hou You-yi, described the proposal as unfeasible as fuel rods for the plant have already been shipped abroad and there is no current plan to ensure that the plant could operate safely.

Hou is one of a growing number of KMT insiders who have expressed concern about Han and his policy proposals, and some of them have faced consequences for speaking up. In August, the KMT expelled three party members for violating party discipline after their vocal criticism of the presidential hopeful’s private life and fitness to serve as president.

In addition, Han has attracted some negative attention regarding several incidents over the past month. On August 21, he told the media that he believed the government had installed a tracking device in his car, prompting the presidential office to issue a statement refuting the accusation. A day later, Han arrived almost half an hour late to a scheduled meeting with members of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, one of a number of events he has shown up late to.

In spite of the criticism and declining poll numbers, Han’s campaign has continued to make progress. In mid-August, Han nominated 100 people, mostly former KMT officials, to join his policy advisory team. He also recently said that he aims to travel to the U.S. in the fall.

Hsu Yung-ming Elected NPP Party Chair

New Power Party (NPP) caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming on August 21 was elected to serve as party chair, defeating the only other candidate in the chairperson by-election, Lin Liang-Chun. Hsu’s election follows the resignation of former chair Chiu Hsien-chih, as well a series of divisions and scandals that have rocked the minor party in recent months.

In July, the Green Party Taiwan alleged that Cheng Shih-chang, a former assistant to NPP Legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal, had secured NT$4 million in government subsidies, which were subsequently provided to two non-governmental organizations established by Cheng. Kawlo has been accused of influence peddling and abuse of power, leading the NPP to suspend her membership pending the results of an internal investigation.

The NPP has also experienced a split between members pushing to collaborate with the DPP in the 2020 presidential and legislative elections and those wishing to maintain the party’s status as a more politically progressive third option. Amid the growing factionalism and waning support for the party, two NPP legislators, Freddy Lim and Hung Tzu-yung, announced their departure from the NPP in early August. Lim plans to run for re-election as legislator from Taipei’s Wanhua District on an independent ticket.

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