KMT leaders slam Lee’s welcome at Taipei airport

The China Post staff

The overwhelming sight of hundreds of Democratic Progressive Party and independence supporters welcoming former President Lee Teng-hui back home from his U.S. Tuesday has irked Kuomintang leaders. During their weekly meeting yesterday, some members of the KMT Central Standing Committee criticized that it was “irritating” to see DPP flags flying at the airport’s arrival lounge. KMT Chairman Lien Chan later told reporters that he agreed with the criticism. Upon his return from the U.S. Tuesday night, a cheerful Lee was apparently excited by the sight of a hall packed with hundreds of DPP and independence supporters. Widening his rift with the party he had led for over a decade, Lee has recently openly criticized the present KMT leadership for deviating from the localization course he had set for the party. He also blasted that”someone” — an apparent reference to Lien — has been unwilling to accept his defeat in last year’s presidential election, maneuvering to stall the Legislature, which Lee calls the source of political stability.

Lien yesterday said the KMT has been “unwilling” to see Taiwan plunging into economic chaos. During the standing committee meeting, many KMT heavyweights expressed their worries over the chances of an ethnic confrontation sparked by the “localization controversy.” Former Taipei Mayor Huang Ta-chou said in his report on localization presented to the committee that localization has already become an election tool. The manipulation of localization is also heralding a campaign to discriminate against mainlanders and to cut any Chinese links, said Huang, who used to be Lee’s protege. He added he despised those manipulative politicians. Committee member Hung Hsiu-chu said the fact that late President Chiang Ching-kuo had hand picked Lee, a native born Taiwanese, as his deputy was a proof of the KMT’s localization. Without Lee’s leadership, the KMT is still a localized party, she said. Another member Liu Chao-shiuan said the KMT undoubtedly has been a localized party ever since Chiang said “Taiwanese are also Chinese.” He urged the party to launch a publicity war, posing itself as “middle way localization” against “distorted localization.” Meanwhile, a source within the Lee camp said the zealous welcome Lee received at the airport Tuesday was “not good” for their side, according to the China Times Express.

The source said hereafter the Lee camp would be labelled as a pro-independence group, scaring away neutral voters. The KMT and the People First Party actually were glad to see the rise in the possibility of winning over anti-independence votes, the source was quoted as saying. New Party leader Hsieh Chi-ta said the airport episode already “proves what kind of man Lee Teng-hui is, and what he is doing.” “I don’t want to talk about him,” said Hsieh when pressed for further comment.