Taiwan Life in Brief – October 2021

Former New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu won the most recent KMT chair election on September 25, beating out incumbent Johnny Chiang and conservative hardliner Chang Ya-chung. Photo: Martti Chen

Chu Wins KMT Chair Election

Former New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu won the Chinese Nationalist (KMT) party chairperson election, held on September 25, with 45.78% of the vote. Chu’s major rivals were party-affiliated NGO Sun Yat-sen School President Chang Ya-chung, who received 32.59%, and incumbent Johnny Chiang, a legislator and self-styled reformer who came away with a mere 8.86%. Turnout among the KMT’s approximately 400,000 eligible voters reached 50.71% this year, a marked increase from the 35% turnout in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Chang Ya-chung, a conservative hardliner who ran on a platform of unification with China and emphasized Chinese identity, had made a surprise rise in the polls in the weeks before the election. Chu responded by attacking Chang’s stance on China, criticizing it as going against the mainstream of Taiwanese society.

Chu’s arguments are backed up by polling. In a 2019 survey of adults in Taiwan conducted by the Pew Research Center, 79% favored closer political ties with the U.S., while only 36% preferred China. A total of 60% opposed closer political relations with Beijing.

Nevertheless, as Chu moves to implement reforms and win back legislative seats for the KMT in Taiwan’s upcoming elections, observers say he will need to accommodate the views of Chang’s base.

Chiang Statue To Be Removed

On September 8, the Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) announced its plan to remove the island’s most prominent statue of former leader Chiang Kai-shek, situated inside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei’s Liberty Square. The 6.3-meter-tall sculpture was completed in 1980, five years after the leader’s death.

The Tsai Ing-wen administration established the TJC in 2018 as part of its goal of rectifying injustices committed during Taiwan’s nearly four decades of martial law and authoritarian rule. The commission has already removed 70% of the island’s Chiang Kai-shek statues. However, it argues that the statue and architectural style of the Memorial Hall resemble a temple honoring Chiang, whom it says was an autocratic leader. Furthermore, it called the monument a painful symbol for victims of suppression under Chiang’s rule that is unbefitting of Taiwan’s now democratic system.

The KMT argues that the DPP is using transitional justice as part of a broader campaign to weaken the KMT’s political and financial power. It is particularly aggrieved by the DPP’s confiscation of KMT finances that the DPP regards as “ill-gotten gains” acquired during the period of martial law.