by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Cheng Wen-tsan/Facebook

FORMER TAOYUAN MAYOR Cheng Wen-tsan of the DPP was questioned by prosecutors late last week over accused involvement in a corruption case. Cheng was later released on five million NT bail.

Specifically, Cheng was questioned by prosecutors over bribery accusations in connection to the rezoning of a plot in Guishan District. The case occurred seven years ago, when Cheng was mayor of Taoyuan.

Four other individuals have been detained in connection with the case, one of which was also released on bail. Cheng has been ordered to stay in the same residence and is barred from traveling from Taiwan.

Cheng, whose position was as head of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) under the Lai administration, later resigned from this position. Cheng, however, has maintained his innocence.

After being released on bail, Cheng’s bail was later overturned and he was detained again. He was then released on bail a second time.

The KMT caucus has called for an investigation into accusations of corruption on the part of Cheng. Unsurprisingly, Cheng’s defenders, however, have framed the corruption case as a form of political targeting from the current Taoyuan mayoral administration, which is controlled by the KMT.

This is not the first time that Cheng has come under fire over wrongdoing. Cheng’s Master’s degree from the Graduate Institute of National Development at National Taiwan University was revoked in 2022 over plagiarism allegations. This occurred during a series of plagiarism allegations that first affected DPP Taoyuan mayoral candidate Lin Chih-chien, then spread to other pan-Green and pan-Blue politicians.

Before the plagiarism scandal, Cheng was considered a possible frontrunner for the DPP’s 2024 presidential candidate. In this way, Cheng was a rival of current president Lai Ching-te, while also belonging to the New Tide faction that Lai historically did. A major factor in Lai challenging Tsai Ing-wen for the DPP’s 2020 nomination was that he feared strong competition from Cheng down the line and so sought to preempt his push for obtaining the DPP’s presidential nomination.

Cheng Wen-stan (center). Photo credit: Cheng Wen-tsan/Facebook

In spite of the scandal, Cheng continued to feature in DPP cabinets. Cheng is considered from the generation in the DPP as Lai, as well as other senior figures such as current Minister of Foreign Affairs Lin Chia-lung and Premier Cho Jung-tai.

It is to be seen whether the more recent charges faced by Cheng lead him to be dropped from future line-ups, with the DPP having convened its disciplinary committee to meet over the charges. But, for one, it was already unusual that as senior a figure as Cheng was only appointed to the comparatively minor position of SEF head, which either meant that Lai Ching-te attached significant importance to the institution, an officially non-governmental organization for the purposes of conducting exchanges with China, or that this was a demotion for Cheng.

The comparative lack of high-profile corruption cases facing DPP politicians, as compared to pan-Blue politicians, may lead the charges against Cheng to be magnified in importance. KMT politicians that have faced accusations of involvement in embezzlement, insider trading, money laundering, illegal construction, and similar charges ranged from Yilan county magistrate Lin Zi-miao, Keelung mayor George Hsieh, and Yunlin county commissioner Chang Li-shan. Current KMT caucus convener Fu Kun-chi has long had a reputation for political corruption, even within the KMT, along with his wife, Hualien county magistrate Hsu Chen-wei.

Other pan-Blue politicians from the TPP also came under fire, including Hsinchu mayoral candidate Ann Kao of the TPP, who was accused of pocketing fees illegally from assistants, and Miaoli county magistrate candidate Chung Tung-chin, who previously served jail time over being linked to a gang-related killing.

This did not prevent any of the candidates from winning, nor has it led to the KMT considering dropping such individuals, with the KMT largely leaning into the narrative that such cases were simply concocted by the DPP as a way of politically persecuting opponents. By contrast, particularly as the ruling party, it will be more difficult for the DPP to shrug off when corruption charges affect senior politicians.

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