by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Hsu Chiao-hsin/Facebook
A SPAT HAS broken out between Hsu Chiao-hsin, the KMT city councilor from Taipei, and senior members of the party. Hsu, known as something of a political firebrand and for being social media-savvy if often controversial, is one of the KMT’s most prominent younger politicians at age 33–if not the KMT’s most prominent young politician.
In particular, Hsu has lashed out at a number of senior figures in the party, but a particular target of her ire has been legislator Alex Fai. This is due to Fai accusing her of being a pan-Green turncoat within the party. Hsu’s response to Fai’s accusations has often been humorous, such as changing her profile photo to an image from the Rise of the Planet of the Apes and suggesting that her rebellion against senior KMT members is analogous to Caesar’s rebellion against the humans in the film franchise.
Some reports suggested that the spat had become significant enough that FoxConn founder Terry Gou, who is currently seeking the KMT’s presidential nomination, had stated that he would be willing to intercede between the two. Gou has denied this. In turn, Hsu has committed to a wide-ranging critique of the KMT party establishment, recommending that young people not join the party.
Notably, Hsu was the whistleblower that made allegations of vote buying in the KMT’s central standing committee election. What led to suspicions was that Hualien legislator Fu Kun-chi finished first in the voting. Previous polling had Fu fourth and his wife, Hualien county magistrate Hsu Cheng-wei, at first.
However, Fu is one of the KMT’s most notorious politicians. Apart from past jail stints faced by Fu over charges ranging from corruption, paying off the media, and graft, the way that Hsu originally became county magistrate was by divorcing Hsu and naming her his deputy county magistrate so that when jailed, she would become county magistrate and could continue ruling Hualien in his stead.
Despite this, Fu remains powerful in Hualien politics, as a result of which it was an initiative of current chair Eric Chu to bring him back into the party, so as to consolidate the pan-Blue camp’s forces before elections. Controversially, Chu openly named Hsu as the whistleblower, which has been speculated to be political retaliation over her informing on the central standing committee election, an act that led to criticism of him from deputy secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang. During the scandal over Fu and Chen’s suspiciously high vote count for the KMT central committee elections, Chu was criticized by party heavyweights ranging from Chiang Wan-an to Johnny Chiang and Hou You-yi.
More recently, Hsu has come into conflict with the KMT over criticizing the party’s election strategy committee, which would play a role in selecting the party’s candidates for 2024 elections. Once again, controversy broke out over that Fu was named to the election strategy committee. The resulting scandal was large enough that the KMT eventually announced that it would be suspending the election strategy committee and returning to its previous means of nominating candidates.
At the time, Hsu was critical of how those named to the committee were children of powerful politicians or from families that constituted political dynasties in the KMT, something that likely played a part in why she herself was not named to the committee. In spite of that Hsu has rapidly become one of the KMT’s most popular politicians, she is not thought to be being groomed for power due to her lack of family background, as evidenced in that she was not awarded scholarship positions internal to the party traditionally seen as a sign that an individual is being groomed for senior power.
Indeed, Hsu originally came to public prominence because she was the leading figure of the Grassroots Alliance, which emerged in 2016 in the wake of the youth-led 2014 Sunflower Movement and after the disastrous loss by the KMT in 2016 presidential and legislative elections. The Grassroots Alliance consisted of young KMT members who called for reform in the party to change its pro-China image and win back the support of young people. But instead, they were accused of being pan-Green turncoats by the party establishment.
The KMT remains unable to recruit younger talent or change its image partly because of its existential fear of another Lee Teng-hui rising through the party ranks while concealing a pro-Taiwan political ideology. This has proved an obstacle for young people rising to power in the party unless they come from prominent family backgrounds, as well as for candidates more moderate on cross-strait issues such as New Taipei mayor Hou You-yi. Two years ago, the party had less than 9,000 members under forty, even if it claims that recruitment is up 40% since.
Such accusations against Hsu are ironic given her evident loyalty to the party, with Hsu known for comparisons between the DPP and the Taliban, using the term 塔綠班 to describe the DPP. Still, there is the extent to which her criticisms of the party reflect factional jockeying, in that she seeks to gain ground for herself and other young city councilors in the KMT that she is aligned with who are seeking legislative seats in the next election.