by Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Hou You-yi/Facebook
PRESIDENT TSAI ING-WEN, KMT presidential candidate Hou You-yi, and Foxconn founder Terry Gou all traveled to Kinmen over the last week. Though Gou has not formally announced a presidential run, he has strongly hinted at one. Gou would be likely running as an independent, having ruled out the possibility of collaboration with the KMT and this also being unlikely with Ko Wen-je’s TPP, seeing as neither he nor Ko would serve as the other’s deputy.
All three traveled to commemorations of the 823 shelling of Kinmen by the People’s Liberation Army. During official ceremonies, Tsai spoke with Hou, thanking him for his hard work. Strangely enough, an image of Hou mouth agape during his interactions with Tsai later went viral on the Taiwanese Internet, though this may have not had to do with anything that Tsai said to Hou, just that he was photographed mid-comment.
Hou did not meet with Gou, however, claiming that he would meet with him another time. This comes amidst media reports that Hou had sought to visit Gou’s home to talk with him several times, but was left waiting at the door, and that Gou did not meet him. Though the two did not meet, reportedly the vans they were traveling in crossed paths. KMT Kinmen legislator Chen Yu-chen attended events held in Kinmen by both candidates.
During his trip to Kinmen, in a speech to the Kinmen county council, Gou emphasized the “Kinmen peace declaration” that he has made the centerpiece of his cross-strait platform. Gou called for using Kinmen as a symbol of and base for cross-strait exchanges, suggesting that cross-strait talks could be held there, and promising to establish a foundation to conduct this. Gou would fund the foundation to the tune of 20 million USD, which he would bankroll himself, seeing as he is one of Taiwan’s richest men. Gou has generally framed the ideas as being similar to the DMZ between North and South Korea.
Hou made a similar proposal during his Kinmen trip. In particular, Hou suggested making Kinmen a pilot economic zone, so as to attract investment from China. Hou suggested that this would stimulate economic growth for Kinmen’s ports. Hou further suggested that Kinmen could become a center for Chinese medical tourism, which would also help alleviate Kinmen’s long standing issues regarding a lack of medical resources compared to the rest of Taiwan. To this extent, Hou expressed support of the notion of constructing a bridge between Kinmen and the Chinese mainland, an idea originally proposed by TPP candidate Ko Wen-je. Hou likewise expressed support for Kinmen relying on China for water and electricity, something that the pan-Green camp has suggested could be a security threat for Kinmen. Hou stated that he supported the views of Kinmen residents that wished to hold a referendum on the proposal to build a bridge between China and Kinmen.
In the meantime, the Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP) protested Gou’s remarks. TSP Kaohsiung chapter head Yang Pei-hua received minor injuries during scuffling, while being pushed away from the site of Gou’s speech, and reported being threatened afterward. DPP caucus director Liu Shyh-fang also criticized Hou’s support of the proposal to build a bridge between Kinmen and China, citing that matters of national security should not be put to a referendum.
Kinmen has come up variously during the campaign to date, with pan-Blue political figures specifically seeking to use political issues regarding Kinmen as an entry point into a broader discussion of cross-strait issues. Yet to this extent, there were previously political controversies when Hou You-yi was not invited to temple celebrations in Kinmen that Gou, Ko, and even William Lai of the DPP were invited to.
Taiwan’s outlying islands may have particular concerns in the upcoming elections, with China having stepped up military activity around Taiwan. There has been greater discussion in recent times of intermediate scenarios short of a full-scale invasion such as the Chinese government attacking an outlying island of Taiwan or conducting a blockade of Taiwan. Nevertheless, such an attack, even on an outlying island, could not occur without some advance warning, and China would be more likely to wait and see as to the outcome of elections. As there is more discussion of such intermediate scenarios, it is not impossible that some residents of Taiwan’s outlying islands will believe that this is a scenario that could take place, and this might shape their voting behavior. This is to be seen.