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KMT's Miaoli fiasco and Taiwan politics

KMT's Miaoli fiasco and Taiwan politics

Persons familiar with Taiwan grassroots politics know that Miaoli County has been traditionally considered to be a stronghold of the ruling rightist Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang).
Through six decades of divide-and-rule tactics toward the district's large Hakka ethnic community and entrenched cronyism, the KMT has established a pervasive organization and ranks of "iron votes" in the mainly and agricultural rural county.
Nevertheless, recent flaps related to incumbent KMT Miaoli Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung and ex-KMT Miaoli commissioner Ho Chih-hui point to the potential shattering of this edifice and may trigger a snowball effect on the upcoming municipal mayoral elections on Nov. 27.
Buoyed by a landslide re-election victory last December against a virtually unknown opposition Democratic Progressive Party rival, Liu launched a "surprise attack" against 28 hectares of farmland owned by 14 households of farmers in Dapu Village of Chunan Township in late June to effect a "final solution" to a two-year deadlock caused by resistance against the takeover by the "Dapu Self-Salvation Association."
The farmland was designated for use in the 362-hectare Houlung Science and Technology Industrial Park, one of whose major investors is expected to be the Hong Hai Precision Technology Group of tycoon Terry Guo Ming-tai.
Video clips of Miaoli County government excavators digging up rice paddies broadcast repeatedly on CNN and domestic media sparked a public outcry that gained momentum when farmers held a sleep-in demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace July 17.
Evidently surprised by the flap and public anger over Liu's rigid rejection of any dialogue, President Ma Ying-jeou and KMT Premier Wu Den-yih offered to designate an agricultural zone for those farmers who had rejected the takeover and witnessed the destruction of their farmland.
This controversy has raised fundamental issues including whether the local government had a legitimate right to expropriate the high quality farmland over their objections.
While Liu insisted that the county government was acting according to the law, the dissident farmers retorted by by the Miaoli government of failing to engage in reasonable negotiations and then violating due process by arbitrarily seizing and destroying their farmland just before harvest.
Moreover, this affair raises the question of whether Taiwan's agriculture should continue to be sacrificed for the sake of industry or whether our government should finally take the task of upgrading agriculture seriously.
In the past decades, the central government has used both (at least superficially) legal and political means of manipulation to expropriate farms to build "science and technological industrial parks" or related infrastructure.
The primacy given to industry over agriculture, of development over environmental protection and government authority over human rights adopted during the KMT martial law period provided the underlying "rationale" behind Liu's arrogant order to dig up the rice land and use hundreds of policemen to block the owners from resisting the expropriation of their land.
During the just-concluded special session of the Legislative Yuan, the KMT used its overwhelming majority to pass the Rural Revitalization Act, a bill which actually aims not to rejuvenate Taiwan's agriculture but to open the door for conglomerates to buy out and "re-develop" farmland.
Back to 'old-time' development
The habitual domination of industry over agriculture will also receive in the wake of the signing of the controversial "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" and the Ma government's efforts to attract Taiwan businessmen like Kuo to transfer operations from China to Taiwan.
Although Liu reluctantly accepted Wu's compromise solution to provide alternate land for the 14 resisting farmers, the KMT Miaoli County mayor has only apologized to Ma for causing "discord and has refused to apologize to the victimized farmers or to society for his misconduct and disrespect for public opinion and instead bizarrely accused the DPP for politicizing an incident caused by his own hubris.
The case of Ho Chih-hui is cut from the same cloth of cronyism.
A former senior KMT legislator and ex-Miaoli County commissioner, Ho was indicted in 2004 on charges of extorting bribes in a development project in Miaoli's Tonglo Township nearly a decade ago.
Ho was convicted and sentenced to 19 years for extortion in 2006, but, on a second appeal, a panel of Taiwan High Court judges overturned the conviction on May 12.
However, the three High Court judges, one prosecutor and two alleged go-betweens were arrested last week for accepting Ho's bribes to secure the "not guilty" verdict, while Ho himself appears to have escaped abroad, presumably to China.
Ho's evident use of his KMT political connections to "buy" his acquittal humiliated both Taiwan's judiciary and the Ma administration and promoted Ma to demand the resignation of Judicial Yuan president Lai Ing-jaw and announce plans to establish a new anti-corruption bureau under the Justice Ministry.
However, just as in the Dapu case, such gestures will not succeed in whitewashing the damage to the credibility of the KMT administration as these two incidents have exposed the hollowness of Ma's campaign promises to commitments to stand by farmers and fight government corruption.


Updated : 2021-09-20 03:21 GMT+08:00