Taiwan's Kuomintang hopefuls clash on assets transparency

Taiwan's Kuomintang hopefuls clash on assets transparency
Supporters of Eric Chu, presidential candidate from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), chant slogans in a show of support outside the party headquarters in Taipei on January 16, 2016.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - All four candidates aspiring to become the Kuomintang's (KMT) next chairman vowed to put the party's wealth under public scrutiny, but could not agree on the best way to do so yesterday.

The candidates, speaking at a party-organised session to share their platforms on TV, agreed that the KMT must make its assets transparent, but Hung Hsiu-chu stopped short of pledging to return the portions that may have been obtained illegitimately.

She was joined by fellow contestant Lee Hsin in dismissing some KMT legislators' proposal that all party assets be donated to the government or charities after portions are set aside for retirement payments for party workers.

The lawmakers' proposal skips the step of determining whether any of the wealth was acquired illegally.

But Hung said the party must consider the historical factors behind its assets, and it is not a matter that can be settled in one go by donating all of them.

She said the matter cannot be dictated by any individual group, and it must be decided by all party members.

The KMT's decision-making Central Standing Committee should issue proposals for outlining the final fate of the assets, and let the party congress vote on the proposals next year, she said.

She also suggested that the party should no longer use its wealth to fund election campaigns, which in the future should rely on government funding.

The KMT last week said its wealth amounted to NT$16.6 billion, but critics have questioned the figure, arguing that it is far below the actual sum and that much of it was obtained illegally.

Lee maintained that all legitimate assets belong to all party members, and any illegitimate portions should be returned to the nation.

But he said no individual party members should be allowed to determine the fate of the legal portions of the wealth. He said he opposed the KMT legislators' proposal.

Another candidate, Huang Min-hui, said the party assets must be closely examined to determine their legality.

Huang, acting chairwoman of the party, said the KMT would not keep anything that was illegal but that any legal portions belonged to all party members.

She said all current and retired party workers' rights must be protected, but the rest of the wealth should be donated to charities.

Huang said the party cannot avoid facing the issues arising from its wealth, but it must not be forced to hand over its wealth in an "unjust" way, or the action would constitute a purge rather than transitional justice.

Huang also said that if she were elected chairwoman, she would serve as an unpaid volunteer.

Another candidate, Chen Shei-saint, said the KMT should get rid of its assets as soon as possible to enable a fresh start. He said each asset item must be clearly listed and the information made available to the public. Any illegally obtained items must be returned to their rightful owners, he said.

The KMT is looking for a new chairman and ways to pick itself up again after suffering heavy losses in the January presidential and legislative elections.

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