KMT decries ruling on ill-gotten property act

Kuomintang Chairman Johnny Chiang denounces court ruling of political party asset law

KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang.

KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang. (CNA photo)

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) has denounced a court ruling upholding the constitutionality of a law governing the assets of political parties, calling the law illegitimate and unconstitutional.

"We anticipated such an outcome, and it proves that the current administration is not only acting unlawfully but is doing things that are unconstitutional," Chiang said Friday in response to the Constitutional Court's Interpretation 793. Earlier Friday, the court declared that the provisions of the Act Governing the Settlement of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations were constitutional despite claims that the committee created by the law overstepped its authority in confiscating the KMT's assets in violation of the Constitution.

"The KMT's assets are an issue left over by history, and the party has done its best to explain and handle the issue," Chiang said at a news conference. The KMT's case, he said, was focused on protecting "the Constitution and the law, not the party's assets."

The court gave its interpretation in response to a request from seven judges with the Taipei High Administrative Court in May after the KMT brought a case questioning the legality of the law in 2016. The judges were concerned that decisions made by the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee based on the act to confiscate all the assets of the KMT and those of affiliated groups could be unconstitutional.

The act and the committee were approved and established in 2016, shortly after incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) assumed office in May that year as part of her efforts to implement what she called transitional justice. In explaining the ruling, Judicial Yuan Secretary-General Lin Hui-huang (林輝煌) said at a news conference that there was a need to adequately limit a political party's finances for the sake of equal opportunities for different political parties.

The KMT, which retreated to Taiwan from mainland China in 1949 after losing a civil war there, was once deemed the wealthiest political party in the world, boasting assets worth more than NT$100 billion (US$3.4 billion). During the martial law period, the KMT amassed a large fortune through illegal or anti-democratic methods, helping it gain power and control the country over a long period of time, Lin said.

That had to be corrected to help build an equal footing for the development of different parties to lay a sound foundation for a free and democratic constitutional order in Taiwan, he said. The KMT did not accept that explanation.

"Whether the Constitutional Court has become an affiliated agency of the DPP is open for public debate," KMT Culture and Communications Committee Chairwoman Wang Yu-min (王育敏) said at the same news conference, questioning why decisions by the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee could supersede legal decisions. Echoing Wang's view, KMT Administration and Management Committee head Chiu Da-chan (邱大展) said former President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the DPP thoroughly investigated and prosecuted the KMT assets issue during his time in office from 2000 to 2008.

"The assets owned by the KMT are now legal property verified by a court. How can the DPP create a new law to change the rules of the game after losing the case in court," Chiu asked. Asked why the KMT's assets must be handled by a committee rather than litigated in court, Lin said the committee, as an administrative agency, had the advantage of launching a more comprehensive investigation.

The target can still appeal if it is not happy with the decision made by the committee, he contended. Meanwhile, the ruling DPP welcomed the ruling in a statement, saying it has "helped get rid of a cancer in Taiwan's democracy" and marked a new start in having Taiwan's judicial system join in efforts to implement transitional justice.