New generation aspiring to Taiwan's leadership

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 February, 2011, 12:00am

Of all the younger members of prominent political families in Taiwan, Eric Chu Li-luan may have the brightest future.

The new mayor of Xinbei is seen as one of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's potential successors, and he has a political heritage to support him.

A former vice-premier and son-in-law of former provincial assembly speaker Kao Yu-jen, Chu hasn't had time to take a break since Ma handed him the important mission of conquering Xinbei.

'I can't afford to take a break, and in the next four years, every day is a workday for me and the city government,' Chu said.

Xinbei is Taiwan's largest municipality with close to 4 million people, and was administered as Taipei county until December 25, when it was upgraded and renamed.

With a PhD in accounting from New York University, the 49-year-old Chu has been groomed to ascend the political ladder since he served as a legislator and was Taoyuan's magistrate for two terms between 1999 and 2009.

In September 2009, Ma appointed Chu vice-premier. Since then Chu has been generally seen as one of his successors - if Ma wins re-election next year.

Chu quit as vice-premier after eight months to campaign for the mayoralty. 'Chu taking control of Taiwan's biggest constituency will help Ma secure his chances in the 2012 re-election,' said Yen Chen-shen, research fellow at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations.

Chu justified Ma's trust; he beat Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, by 1 million votes on November 27.

Soon after taking up his new post, Chu vowed to co-operate with his friend Hau Lung-bin, who won re-election as Taipei's mayor.

'He knows perfectly well that full co-operation will help the KMT expand its influence in the two major municipalities,' said George Tsai Wei, political science professor at Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.

Hau, 58, son of former premier and defence minister Hau Pei-tsun, is generally recognised as an honest and capable administrator. He won a second term in November, with voting for him up 1.85 percentage points from 2006.

This was despite attacks by DPP opponent Su Tseng-chang over some of the shortcomings in administrative policies that date from when Ma was still mayor.

For instance, a 16-month closure of Maokong Gondola barely a year after its opening in 2007 due to safety concerns was a constant subject of criticism of Hau after he succeeded Ma. It was later found the entire project had planning and structural defects when it was built - under Ma's tenure.

'Hau has to shoulder the responsibility of the problems left by Ma, and being a straight person, he is also too square to know the importance of packaging himself and his administrative merits,' Tsai said.

Hau's success in landing two international events - the Summer Deaflympics in 2009 and the International Floral Expo that opened in November - plus improvement of the once highly polluted Tamsui River and other administrative victories helped him win a second term, Tsai said.

But another important factor in Hau's victory was the election-eve shooting of Sean Lien Sheng-wen, son of Lien Chan, the Kuomintang's elder statesman, honorary KMT chairman and former Taiwanese vice-president.

Dubbed a new political star, Sean Lien, a 40-year-old former KMT Central Standing Committee member, had been seen as a possible successor to follow in his father's prominent political footsteps.

But the shooting changed all that.

Invited to speak at a campaign rally the day before the municipality's elections, Sean Lien, who was Hau's deputy campaign manager, was shot in the face at close range. He survived, and many pundits said the incident helped the KMT win sympathy votes and stopped it from being defeated.

But the shooting apparently dampened Sean Lien's political aspirations. 'There is nothing more important than being able to live with my family,' he said after leaving hospital in December.

But his suffering did not scare away the two sons of former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung, who are being groomed to follow in their father's footsteps. Wu Chih-yang, 41, is now the magistrate of Taoyuan, a post his father once held, and Wu Chih-kang, 39, is a city councillor in Taipei.

Neither has it affected Chen Chih-chung, 31, son of disgraced former president Chen Shui-bian. At one time, the younger Chen chose to stay away from politics after being repeatedly thrown into the spotlight because of allegations that he unfairly used the privileges granted to him as the president's son.

The younger Chen was studying in the United States when he was called back to Taiwan along with his wife, Huang Jui-ching, in 2008. His father and mother, Wu Shu-chen, had just been charged with corruption, and the young couple was accused of helping their parents launder money abroad, charges on which they were convicted.

Vowing to avenge what he called the unjust conviction of his parents, the junior Chen ran as an independent candidate for a seat on the Kaohsiung City Council in November and scored a landslide win, despite being implicated in a sex scandal. He sued Next Magazine for libel for reporting in July that he had solicited a prostitute, but he lost.

'My victory proves that many supporters believe my father was unfairly convicted and that the KMT used a dirty scheme to smear my reputation,' Chen Chih-chung said after the election.

With the support of the hardcore pro-independence camp, the younger Chen is expected to do well in his new political job.




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