KMT heavyweights scramble as rumors fly

By Alan Fong,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Major figures in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) were navigating one of the party’s biggest political storms in a decade while rumors fly regarding the struggle between President Ma Ying-jeou and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. Both Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu yesterday reiterated their denial of the rumored conspiracy between the “four families,” of which Hua and Chu are two members, to pressure Ma to promise giving up his KMT chairmanship, with Wang as a potential replacement, should the party underperform in the 2014 mayoral elections.

Hau said the rumor is absolutely not true. Chu described the rumor as “meaningless” and damaging to the nation, adding that it is more important to find the persons responsible for spreading the rumor. KMT Honorary Chairmen Wu Po-hsiung and Lien Chen, the heads of the other two purported “families,” did not comment on the rumor. Wu left the opening ceremony of a franchise industry expo at Taipei without answering reporters’ questions on the issue. Lien earlier expressed his disagreement on Ma’s harsh handling of Wang’s alleged influence peddling, saying that Ma should not “humiliate” Wang in “such improper manner.”

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu also found himself in the middle of the storm yesterday. His characterizations of the events surrounding Wang’s KMT membership revocation as a “constitutional crisis” and a “misfortune for the nation” echo that of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, but for different reasons.

Hu said yesterday he stood by his initial judgment while pointing out that he did not think about whether the president has overacted in the handling of Wang. Describing Wang as an experienced politician and “extremely popular,” Hu said that it is normal the many people sympathize with Wang and that the KMT has many different voices.

The Taichung Mayor also said he did not believe in the existence of a “master plan to eliminate Wang,” an alternate explanation to the “four families” theory for Ma’s actions. Local media cited unnamed sources yesterday as saying that Ma had long planned to take Wang out because the Legislature had stalled the debate on the cross-trade service trade pact, which causes mainland China to block Taiwan’s trade agreement with Singapore.

As the legal battle continues over legitimacy of the KMT’s revocation of Wang’s membership, the media are reading the atmosphere of the party through public interactions between the major figures. Ma yesterday attended a National Disaster Prevention Day drill in Taichung with Mayor Jason Hu while Eric Chu tuned in from New Taipei via video-conferencing. The media were quick to point out that Ma did not exchange any words with Chu except thanking the mayor for his report. The interaction between Ma and Hu was also reported as muted.

Chu was also caught in a separate controversy after he failed to attend a banquet thrown by New Taipei City Council Speaker for the visiting Hu and Taichung City Council delegation in Tamsui on Thursday. Chu said he and Hu are good friends and the Taichung Mayor understands his no-show.