As Hung Secures Grip on Presidential Bid, KMT Sacks MembersIn one fell swoop, the KMT has rid itself of five vocal critics of the direction the party has taken in recent weeks
We won’t know until the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) congress this coming Sunday whether Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), the prospective presidential candidate who has scared the bejeezus out of most of us—and out of many a KMT member—with her out-of-touch views on China, but already the party is taking measures to quiet the internal grumbling.
Following President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Orwellian take on Hung’s “one China, common interpretation,” the party announced today that it had sacked five of its members for being too critical of the KMT. Thus, rather than accept that Hung’s views are out of sync with the wishes of the majority of Taiwanese and will likely cost it both the presidency and its majority in the Legislative Yuan, the KMT is choosing to clamp down on internal dissent.
This latest move occurs as a petition has been circulating at the KMT demanding that Hung retract her “one China, common interpretation” vision. In recent weeks, a number of KMT members have expressed fears that Hung’s China policy will “destroy” the KMT and undermining their chances of being elected on January 16, 2016. A few of them have been regulars on TV talk shows. Hung, whose poll numbers to date clearly indicate that she is heading for defeat, has said that she isn’t running to win, but instead that she aims to “reset” the KMT, which in her view has stagnated in its efforts to foster closer ties with Beijing.
Following today’s Central Standing Committee meeting, the KMT announced that legislator Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟), former legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文), former Taipei City councilor Yang Shih-chiu (楊實秋), Central Committee member Lee Po-jung (李柏融) and Taipei City Councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) were to be expelled from the party. Chang had already quit the party and joined James Soong’s (宋楚瑜) People First Party, which given recent developments has quickly turned into a natural “light blue” alternative to an increasingly “deep blue” KMT.
Hung, who attended today’s meeting, complained that a number of party members were trying to force her to change her policies and threatened that they would not support her if she refused to meet their demands. According to reports, after the meeting KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) also vented his discontent with Hung.
It is very likely that other members of the KMT will leave the party if and when Hung is confirmed as the party’s presidential candidate on July 19. Several members of the KMT’s “Taiwanese” faction in southern parts of the country have taken a wait-and-see attitude on the Hung controversy but are expected to walk out if the unpalatable candidate isn’t replaced.
Whatever the implications are for the future of the KMT, this clampdown on internal dissent and freedom of expression is hardly in line with public expectations. Apparently the trouncing it received in the November 29 elections last year wasn’t enough. In the meantime, we can only commend the efforts of the KMT members who have been brave enough to speak their mind, and hope that more of them will continue to do so.
J. Michael Cole is editor in chief of Thinking Taiwan, a senior non-resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, and an Associate researcher at the French Center for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) in Taipei.