Taiwan to probe assets of parties

Legislators from Taiwan's ruling DPP holding placards reading "Ill-gotten party assets Bill must pass". Taiwan is set to launch an investigation into the assets of the island's political parties, a move that the opposition KMT criticised. Only the KM
Legislators from Taiwan's ruling DPP holding placards reading "Ill-gotten party assets Bill must pass". Taiwan is set to launch an investigation into the assets of the island's political parties, a move that the opposition KMT criticised. Only the KMT has faced questions about its trove.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TAIPEI • Taiwan is to launch an official investigation into the ill-gotten assets of political parties in a move blasted by the opposition Kuomin- tang (KMT) as persecution.

The move comes after Beijing- sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen took power in May, marking the end of an eight-year rapprochement with China under the previous KMT government.

Since then, relations with Beijing have become increasingly frosty, and the new investigation is likely to deepen divisions between Taiwan's main parties.

Ms Tsai repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the KMT's assets in her presidential campaign and accused it of trying to dispose of them before presidential and parliamentary elections in January.

Although the Bill passed by Parliament late on Monday authorises the investigation and seizure of ill-gotten assets from all parties, it is only the KMT which has faced questions about its trove.

Considered one of the richest parties in the world, it registered total assets of NT$18.96 billion (S$802 million) by the end of last year, compared with NT$478.72 million by Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Critics have long accused the party of stealing from the people of Taiwan and illegally amassing fortunes through cosy business links during its half-century grip on power.

Ms Tsai described the passing of the Bill as a "milestone for mature development in Taiwan's democratic politics".

But KMT chairman Hung Hsiu-chu lashed out at the DPP for using "majority violence to pass an illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic vicious law" for its own partisan interests.

The KMT has repeatedly blocked the assets Bill, which was first proposed 14 years ago when it held a parliamentary majority.

Under the Bill, all assets of a political party, with the exception of membership fees, political donations and government subsidies, obtained since Aug 15, 1945 - when the KMT took over Taiwan from Japan - are considered ill-gotten and must be returned to the government.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan to probe assets of parties'. Print Edition | Subscribe