by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Fu Kun-chi/Facebook

THE DPP HAS stated that it will seek a constitutional interpretation against infrastructure bills that the KMT intends to push through with. The bills are primarily advanced under the auspices of KMT legislative caucus convener Fu Kun-chi, who has framed the bills as to benefit his home constituency of Hualien and areas of Taiwan’s east coast that have historically lacked resources compared to urban areas. This takes place in the same timeframe as the Executive Yuan calling for the Legislative Yuan to reconsider the legislative powers that the KMT is hoping to obtain, with the Executive Yuan framing them as unconstitutional, and the DPP also suggesting that it will seek constitutional interpretation.

The combined cost for the three bills would be more than 2 trillion NT. The bills are to extend the high-speed rail along Taiwan’s east coast, at a cost of 1 trillion NT, to extend Freeway No. 6 between Taichung, Puli, and Hualien through the Central Mountain Range at for 800 billion NT, and to connect Hualien and Taitung with the national highway system at 250 billion NT.

The DPP, however, has criticized the bills on several fronts. Apart from the exorbitant cost of the bills, which the DPP has termed a “money pit,” the DPP has framed the KMT as pushing through the bills without any environmental impact assessment or consultation with engineering experts, and that they lack financial accountability.

The suggestion, then, is that the infrastructure projects could serve to allow for a great deal of corruption and political kickbacks, particularly given the long history of corruption in infrastructure development projects in Taiwan. Otherwise, some views of extending the high-speed rail around Taiwan are that this is unfeasible.

Likewise, the infrastructure projects called for by the bill pass through eleven Indigenous villages, agricultural areas, and geologically sensitive areas such as the East Rift Valley and Dulan mountain. In its criticisms of the proposal, the DPP legislative caucus has cited that consent from the Indigenous villages affected by the freeway construction is necessary for there to be construction. Likewise, farmers could be among those displaced by the proposal.

Indeed, the DPP legislative caucus has cited that consent from the Indigenous villages affected by the freeway construction is necessary for there to be construction, according to the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act. However, such consent has not yet been sought or secured. The DPP has also cited that the bills seem to violate Article 70 of the Constitution, which states that the legislature should not make proposals to increase expenditures of the Executive Yuan.

To this extent, after the series of earthquakes that have hit Taiwan since April, this has raised further questions about the feasibility of infrastructure construction proposals that stand to be damaged by seismic activity. The Circular Line in New Taipei, for example, which was quite far from the epicenter of the earthquakes to date in Hualien, will need over one year of repairs.

KMT caucus convener Fu Kun-chi. Photo credit: Fu Kun-chi/Facebook

As some fatalities and damage to vehicles took place from falling rocks, in tunnels, or in mountainous areas on Taiwan’s east coast, the places that the infrastructure proposals are slated for are among the areas that stand most to be affected by seismic activity.

The KMT pushed for the infrastructure bill during contention over new legislative powers it hoped to obtain in the series of events that led to the rise of the Bluebird Movement. But the KMT seems increasingly split over the infrastructure bill. Views from KMT legislators and members of KMT-affiliated think tanks are divided on it, as a result of which discussion over the bills will be postponed.

The source of such splits may be Fu Kun-chi’s contentious reputation in the KMT. That is, the infrastructure bill is wide-ranging and, as it touches on Fu’s home constituencies, could be an effort by him to expand his clientelist and patronage networks, so as to massively expand his political power in Taiwan. Or the issue at hand may be powerful local interests backing Fu.

Issues of corruption are particularly sensitive when it comes to Fu Kun-chi. Fu is one of the most notoriously corrupt politicians in the KMT. In particular, allegations of corruption and insider trading have dogged Fu for over fifteen years. Insider trading charges against Fu date back to 2005, with Fu accused of manipulating the stock prices of Hold-Key Electric Wire & Cable Company Limited after being offered 20 million shares by Hold-Key’s general manager, Yang Kai-ti, and deputy general manager, Yu Su-yuan.

Another major scandal broke out regarding Fu in December 2018, with the revelation that Fu spent 5.46 million NT to bribe journalists for positive political coverage. Fu was accused of misappropriating county funds and rewarding them to reporters from media outlets for positive press. This took the form of what was ostensibly a bid awarded to develop a media database for promoting county policies, with payment amounts in the hundreds of thousands of NTD. 25 reporters from 14 news outlets were involved, including major newspapers and television networks, both pan-Blue and pan-Green, as well as both privately and publicly funded. These include the United Daily News, Formosa TV, Sanlih Television, Next TV, CTiTV, Taiwan Indigenous TV, and Hakka TV.

Most infamously, when Fu was to be jailed on corruption charges as Hualien county commissioner, he divorced his wife, Hsu Chen-wei, and named her deputy county commissioner. This way, she could continue ruling Hualien in his stead while he was in jail. More recently, Fu faced allegations of vote buying in the KMT central standing committee elections.

Consequently, the KMT was long divided on the issue of whether to associate with Fu or not. Fu was allowed back into the party as an initiative of Eric Chu’s aimed at bringing former members of the party back into the fold, particularly as this took place during a period when the KMT was struggling electorally and Fu was able to win elections. Nevertheless, young people in the party were critical of that Fu being welcomed back into the party would further the KMT’s reputation for “black gold” political corruption, despite efforts to change the party’s image. Even as Chu and other KMT heavyweights sought to emphasize that they backed Fu during the recent legislative controversy, divides in the KMT may indicate that internal controversy over Fu has not gone away, especially seeing as Fu’s star seems to be ascendant in the party and he appears to be more influential than ever.

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