by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: WikiCommons

A BATTLE SEEMS to be ahead for the position of KMT party chairperson. Current chair Hung Hsiu-Chu aims to hold onto her position in upcoming chair elections, but may face resistance within the party. While Hung may please deep Blue ideological diehards bent on achieving the unification of Taiwan and China at all costs, Hung does not seem likely to turn the KMT around in its current moment of crisis because of her extreme pro-unification political stance.

Namely, Hung has taken the party in a too pro-China of a direction for even individuals such as former president Ma Ying-Jeou. It was Ma’s policies aimed at facilitating the economic integration of Taiwan and China which led to the public backlash against the KMT, resulting in its defeat in 2016 presidential and legislative elections. Before Hung’s meteoric rise from a political nobody to becoming presidential candidate of the KMT in 2016 presidential elections, Hung was previously thought of as a member of Ma’s “Mainlander” faction. Hung rose to prominence because she was willing to run as the KMT’s presidential candidate at a time in which party heavyweights backed away from doing so in the belief that they would not win such a race given the backlash against the KMT after the Sunflower Movement, or were hoping to be requested to run in order to avoid disrupting the factional balance within the KMT.

Hung Hsiu-Chu. Photo credit: VOA

But now, as chairperson of the KMT, Hung commands a great deal of clout within the KMT, and deep Blue diehards have organized in her defense against potential challengers within the party. Hung is oftentimes seen as advocating immediate unification between Taiwan and China, with her assertion that the “One China, two interpretations” formula of the so-called 1992 Consensus between the ROC and PRC should be replaced with something refers to as “One China, same interpretation.” Hung previously tried to advance this platform while she was presidential candidate of the KMT, but eventually backed away from it after criticism that this would damage her chances of winning the presidency.

Although eventually replaced by Eric Chu as presidential candidate of the KMT due to her unpopularity, she made a political comeback by winning the election for chairperson of the KMT in the absence of any other strong contenders. This was a situation not too dissimilar from how she rose from obscurity to become presidential candidate of the KMT. But Hung seems to have put renewed emphasis upon advancing this formula since taking the party chair, eventually continuing the precedent begun during Eric Chu’s tenure as chair of the KMT by meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijing for KMT-CCP intra-party talks conducted on the basis of the so-called, “special historical relationship” of the KMT and CCP. Hung may enjoy the support of the CCP, who may prefer her political stances over other potential contenders for party chair because of her advocacy for the immediate unification of Taiwan and China, even if Hung is less likely to win over the general Taiwanese public than other possible party chairs.

Current contention within the KMT is about recent reshufflings within the party, which are seen as moves by Hung intended to improve her chances in KMT party chair elections next year. This includes moving the date of chair elections forward by two months from when they are normally held as part of moves aimed at integrating the Fu Hsing chapter into the party as a whole. The Fu Hsing chapter of the KMT consists of former military personnel and their relatives, mostly waishengren, and politically slants deep Blue, but elections for it are conducted differently from local chapters.

Potential competitors for KMT chairperson, Wu Den-yih (left) and Hau Lung-Bin (right). Photo credit: Rico Chen/CC and Chen Su/VOA

The Fu Hsing chapter consist of 90,000 people, close to one-third of all KMT members, and is sometimes treated as though it were a city or municipality branch of the KMT. As a result, the Fu Hsing chapter is sometimes seen as behaving almost as though it were a separate party from the rest of the KMT, or as a party within a party, given that it votes separately from local branches for its own chapter representatives that are sent to the party congress. But this will change when the Fu Hsing chapters’ elections for chapter representatives will be merged with the vote for local KMT chapter representatives.

Apart from that potential challengers to Hung would have less time to prepare with earlier party elections, streamlining the Fu Hsing chapters with local chapters of the KMT might aid Hung by undercutting the Fu Hsing chapter’s ability to back candidates popular with military veterans, such as former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-Pin. Because he is the son of Hau Pei-Tsun, a former premier and high-ranking general within the ROC military, Hau commands the loyalty of the deep Blue “Old Soldier” faction of the KMT. Hau could be a strong threat to Hung in the run-up for party chair, as a KMT party heavyweight and an individual whose experience in high-ranking government positions surpasses that of Hung.

Thus, merging the Fu Hsing chapter into regular party branches could be aimed at curbing Hau as a potential threat by limiting the influence of the Fu Hsing chapter. But this move would also serve to limit the influence of the so-called “Taiwanese” faction within the KMT, by increasing the proportion of deep Blue voters who can vote within the party congress. In addition to impeding any efforts aimed at localizing the KMT, this may curb other potential challengers to Hung such as former vice president Wu Den-Yih. Wu is a skilled politician with a wide network, although the fact that Wu is benshengren has always been a strike against him within the KMT, as with other members of the “Taiwanese” faction. The possibility that Wu and Hau may team up against Hung has also been raised many times, however, and so Hung’s moves may be directed at both of them.

Hung’s apology video in which Hung appeared for the first time in public without a wig. This was a surprise to many, because before this, few suspected that Hung normally wears a wig. Film credit: Hung Hsiu-Chu

Hung’s moves have been protested as undemocratic within the KMT. Particularly controversial is that these motions were passed through a meeting of the KMT Central Standing Committee which only had ten members present, with twenty-six members of the Central Standing Committee boycotting the meeting. The members present, who passed the measure, were largely Hung loyalists. Nevertheless, they have cited their actions as streamlining the party to adjust the changing demographics of the Fu Hsing chapter, rather than aiming to keep Hung in power. Hung seems to have been forced to back down and apologize, issuing a bizarre apology video for her actions in which she revealed that she normally wears a wig.

The possibility of the KMT reforming or localizing under Hung is all but impossible, seeing as Hung has expelled rather than embraced potential youth reformers and formulates policy for the party based on deep Blue ideological aims instead of the current needs of the party. But the internecine internal conflict between pro-localization and pro-China factions of the KMT is only set to continue after Hung’s undemocratic actions, and this may tear the party apart. However, if it is not surprising that Hung aims to limit the power of the “Taiwanese” faction of the KMT, neither does Hung seem willing to relinquish power as chair and allow another waishengren member of the KMT as Hau Lung-Pin to take power. Still others suggest that Hung is being set up to remain as party chair in order to take the fall for the KMT’s loss of its party assets. Hung may be on the retreat, as her apology video indicates, and she may be potentially overthrown as chair of the KMT in upcoming elections. But, regardless, it seems that the KMT seems to set to continue to tear itself apart from the inside out.

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