KMT stands with S. Taiwan mayoral candidate amid plagiarism scandal

KMT official says party will continue to 'support Li's candidacy', stresses voter consolidation

KMT mayoral candidate Li Mei-jhen

KMT mayoral candidate Li Mei-jhen (CNA photo)

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Saturday reiterated that it will continue to throw its full weight behind Li Mei-jhen (李眉蓁), its candidate in the upcoming Kaohsiung mayoral by-election, two days after she said she was "renouncing" her graduate degree amid accusations that she had plagiarized her thesis.

At a press conference Saturday, Wang Yu-min (王育敏), head of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee, denied reports that KMT members with backgrounds in academia and others had been calling on the party's leaders to cut ties with Li. "The KMT leadership continues to support Li's candidacy, and the party is united in its efforts to get her elected and consolidate the support of KMT voters," Wang said.

For instance, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) will attend Li's campaign rally on Saturday, as scheduled, and none of her other campaign activities with elected KMT officials in Kaohsiung have been canceled, Wang said. On the question of whether Chiang should apologize to KMT supporters over the Li matter, Wang said the candidate herself had already apologized and taken responsibility.

"Let that be the end of it," Wang said. Addressing reports that former KMT Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), whose recall on June 6 led to the by-election, would endorse Li at a rally on the eve of the Aug. 15 poll, Wang said that decision was entirely up to Han.

"The party will respect Han's decision on the matter, either way," Wang said. Meanwhile, Li said Saturday that she was confident the recent "furor" would only serve to more closely unite the KMT.

Li, a 41-year-old Kaohsiung City councilor, faced accusations over the past week that she had plagiarized as much as 96 percent of her 2008 master's thesis when she was a student at National Sun Yat-sen University. On July 22 after the news broke, Chiang said that as a former university professor, he had no tolerance for plagiarism, and he urged Li to take responsibility for her mistakes and renounce her degree.

Regarding Li's candidacy, however, KMT Deputy Secretary-General Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) said there was "no question" that she would remain in the race. "Not only Li, but the entire KMT in Kaohsiung has no room for retreat," Lee said.

Later Thursday, Li apologized for her "personal failings" and said she was "renouncing" the degree. The university, however, said it was referring the thesis to an academic ethics review committee for investigation.

Li will compete in the by-election against former Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and Wu Yi-jheng (吳益政) of the centrist Taiwan People's Party. The winner will serve out the remainder of Han's term, which ends in 2022.