A political tempest within the ruling Kuomintang over a controversial comment made by the son of a former KMT chairman shows no signs of abating and threatens to widen a rift in the party before the Taipei mayoral election in 2014.
President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as the current KMT chairman, has accused Sean Lien, the son of Lien Chan and a member of the KMT Central Committee, of "over-simplified comments" that could lead to the public questioning his government's efficiency.
In response, Lien said yesterday that he was less concerned about criticism targeted at him than he was about broader issues such as national and social development.
Lien, considered a rising political star among the younger generation of the KMT, set off the firestorm on Saturday after dodging a question from reporters about whether he planned to run for Taipei mayor.
Lien said that, given the poor state of the island's economy, most of the public, with the exception of scheming politicians, did not care who was elected.
"Whoever is elected will merely be the head of the Beggars' Sect," he said, using the term for a fictional martial arts sect made popular by the Hong Kong novelist Jin Yong .
The comment met with a harsh rebuttal from Ma's supporters, reigniting an old feud between pro and anti-Ma factions within the KMT, with Ma's opponents threatening to rally supporters to vote for another candidate in next year's KMT chairman election.
In an apparent attempt to quell the squabbling, KMT spokesman Yin Wei said on Monday that Lien's comment was made with good intentions, while conceding that some of his remarks could be misinterpreted by the public.
On Tuesday, Ma said that while he was open to criticism and constructive advice, "over-simplified and labelling" remarks such as those by Lien could cause more harm than good.
"They could be used by certain ill-intentioned people to attack confidence in Taiwan's economy, and this is unfair to those who have made great efforts to improve our economy," Taiwan's Central News Agency quoted him as saying.
The United Daily News in Taipei said Ma had hoped to put out the fire, but what he was doing was more like "pouring gasoline on the fire," which could threaten to create a bigger rift within the KMT and affect the party's chances in the 2014 election.