Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Republic of Corruption

Like Father like Daughter 

The city of Kaoshiung straddles the Love River and is over 350 years old. According to the Kaoshiung city web page the Chenghe people first settled the area in 1405. The Chinese didn't arrive until Cheng Cheng-kung (Koxinga) expelled the Dutch in 1661. With the world's fourth largest harbour, companies like Formosa Plastics have been using Kaoshiung to supply the world with all the vinyl acetate and styrene it can handle. Some may argue that companies like Formosa Plastics have caused irreparable environmental damage to the city. Yet the government has declared that the Love River is now 'clean,' and can be best described as the 'Taiwanese Riviera,' so I guess all is forgiven

After being named the host city for the 2009 World Games the citizens of Kaoshiung were eager to elect 18 new members for the 44-seat city council in a by-election. Kaoshiung was also trying to shed its image as the 'black gold,' capital of Taiwan. According to the Fact Index 'black gold' (黑金), refers to political corruption. The "black" here refers to the obtaining of the money (the "gold") through a dark, secretive, and therefore corrupted method. According to this web page Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (KMT) was noted for his 'zealous,' fight against black gold politics. I am not sure about this dubious claim but the by-election shows that his compatriots in Kaoshiung certainly weren't up to the task.
Many potential voters may have been turned off by the on going vote buying scandals in Kaoshiung. With 32% voter turnout, almost anybody with a pocket full of cash and a name could become a legislator. According to the Taipei Times "Six of nine candidates with family ties to councilors forced off the the council because of the (vote buying) scandal didn't win." Who are the three 'lucky' winners? Two independent candidates Tsai Wu-nan, Chu Ting-shan and Chen Li-na of the KMT. It is interesting to note that Chu is the daughter of fugitive ex-speaker Chu An-hsiung. Chu An-hsiung allegedly paid $3-$10 million NT per vote for the Kaoshiung speaker position in 2002. According to the Taiwan News he was able to secure all of the KMT and PFP support. Many DPP legislators were also interested in the kick back scam but were prohibited from doing so by DPP Chairperson President Chen Shui-bian. According to Lawrence Eyton Lien Chan also forbade KMT legislators from voting for Chu. Unfortunately for the citizens of Kaoshiung, not even KMT chairperson Lien Chan could prevent city legislators from taking the large bribes. Apparently, PFP chairperson James Soong didn't even bother trying to reign in his greedy Kaoshiung lackeys.
The citizens of Kaoshiung must now be ecstatic that a political dynasty is developing. Generational 'black gold,' politics is here to stay in Southern Taiwan. Hopefully, Chu Ting-shan can get on the Urban Planning board like her father and keep all of their partners in the Kaoshiung construction industry happy. Try to picture the scene in the Chu house after her victory. Construction bosses smiling ear to ear awaiting the promise of 100s of millions of dollars in contracts for World Games construction. Chu said "I am so happy for the connections my parents have given me." She only needs to become the house speaker to make this dream come true. Allegedly Lien Chan is also happy with the results in Kaoshiung. Gaining seats for the KMT made him happy but knowing that 'black gold,' will remain in Taiwan should keep his heart warm even if his wallet becomes lighter. He may be experiencing a bit of nostalgia remembering how his father taught him these very same political lessons all those years ago in Taipei County.

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