by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Hsieh Kuo-liang/Facebook

KMT LEGISLATOR HSU YU-ZHEN, as well as other pan-Blue legislators, called for changes to recall laws in Taiwan last month in order to protect Keelung mayor Hsieh Kuo-liang. Hsieh is currently facing a recall campaign, which has now acquired the number of signatures necessary to hold a recall vote.

To be recalled, Hsieh will need to have more than 1/4th of eligible voters in Keelung participate in the recall vote, and there would need to be more yes votes than no votes. But the amendments proposed by Hsieh would necessitate that recalls cannot take place within one year of the election of a public official, as well as that the number of participants in the recall surpass the original number of votes that the official facing recall was voted into office with. This has been framed as giving public officials more time to prove their records. The latter, however, would make it relatively unlikely for recall campaigns to succeed in the future.

Hsu has argued that this is necessary as a measure against “revenge recalls”, organized by members of opposing political camps. This proves an interesting move, when the KMT has also engaged in “revenge recalls” against DPP politicians. One notes that Hsieh and the Keelung KMT reacted to recall plans against them by pushing for the recall of the three DPP city councilors that have called for Hsieh’s recall.

The DPP city council caucus was calling for Hsieh’s recall in light of several scandals, framed as abuse of power. This mostly pertained to Keelung’s E-Plaza shopping center, the largest mall in Keelung. While under Hsieh’s direction the mall is to become EAST COAST by BREEZE, as acquired by the Breeze Center chain of shopping malls, NET has pushed back against this.

NET became a part-owner of the E-Plaza shopping center in 2016, investing in the renovation and construction of its mall. Yet the Hsieh administration has taken the view that there was a breach of contract due to a fraud scandal that NET’s parent company became involved in.

KMT Keelung mayor Hsieh Kuo-liang. Photo credit: Hsieh Kuo-liang/Facebook

NET has framed this as violating previous agreements, in changing an Operate and Transfer agreement to a Renovate, Operate and Transfer agreement without any legal basis. To this extent, NET took out newspaper ads accusing the Keelung city government of wrongdoing.

Especially controversial has been a raid conducted at night by police on NET. This was criticized as a case of the Hsieh administration attempting to strong-arm the company. Likewise, Hsieh has been accused of failing to be transparent about his mayoral administration’s negotiations with Breeze, with relevant documents having gone missing, and online comments by netizens in support of NET deleted.

Indeed, the DPP has criticized Hsieh for corruption in the past. During the 2022 local elections, DPP candidate Tsai Shih-ying, accused Hsieh of money laundering. Specifically, Tsai accused Hsieh of establishing shell companies overseas for money laundering purposes, so as to hide his wealth. Tsai has also alleged Hsieh of assisting in money laundering, due to links with individuals who later faced such charges, such as former Reliance Securities Company chair Lin Kuan-pai.

Hsieh hails from a political family that has long dominated local politics in Keelung. George Hsieh’s father, Hsieh Hsiu-ping, served roles in the Keelung city councilor, National Assembly, and Taiwan Provincial Assembly. Hsiu Hsiu-ping had, in turn, succeeded his father Hsieh Qingyun, who served on the Keelung city council and in the National Assembly.

The Hsieh family is seen as constituting a local KMT faction in Keelung. To this extent, while Keelung’s Second Credit Cooperative had been originally founded in 1922, with the dominant shareholders being the Yen family of Keelung, it came under the control of the Hsieh family in the 1960s and 1970s during a time of restructuring.

It is to be seen if the KMT’s push for changing such recall laws is a sign that the KMT is tired of “revenge recall” campaigns, even if it has found this an effective tactic in the past. Interestingly, while the pan-Green camp called for the lowering of benchmarks on recall votes and referendum votes in past years, it has sometimes been the pan-Blue camp that leveraged on such legal measures more heavily, in pushing for referendum votes to attack the Tsai administration on certain issues or calling for recalls against vocal pan-Green politicians.

Still, outrage against the KMT is especially likely to be high in the wake of the Bluebird Movement, following which there were a number of calls to recall KMT legislators. Outraging of the public further was the fact after anger over the KMT skipping committee review over its efforts to expand legislative powers, the KMT later pushed the bill to raise the benchmarks needed to recall politicians to its second reading by skipping committee review. While this was shelved with the public becoming aware of the issue, actions by the KMT may still lead to backlash in the future.

No more articles