In Sept.-Oct. 1996, just before the US Presidential elections, former Commerce Department official John Huang became a household name in the US, because of his shady fundraising activities for the Democratic National Committee. In mid-February 1997, it became known that the FBI had discovered a plan by the Chinese authorities to buy influence in Washington. Mr. Huang and Indonesian/Chinese Lippo Bank group reportedly played a key role in this (see Taiwan Communiqué no. 75, pp. 8-10).
During the past two months, several major American newspapers published extensive exposés on the matter. Here we simply give a brief listing of the major articles:
Over the past years, California Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a major pro-China voice in the U.S. Senate. Through the business dealings of her husband she also benefited from trade and investment in China (SeeTaiwan Communiqué, April 1997).
Recently, representatives of the Taiwanese-American community in the Bay Area wrote her the following letter:
A series of high-profile murders has focused attention in Taiwan on the rising crime and corruption, and on the Kuomintang's inability to solve the murders. The matter has clouded the political horizon for President Lee Teng-hui, only one year after his overwhelming election as Taiwan's first democratically-elected President.
The latest episode, the April 1997 kidnaping and murder of Ms. Pai Hsiao-yen, the 17-year-old daughter of singer-actress Pai Ping-ping, followed earlier gangland-style murders of Taoyuan County magistrate Liu Pang-you and seven associates in November 1996, and of DPP Women's Division Director Mrs. Peng Wan-ru in December 1996 (see Taiwan Communiqué no. 74, pp. 22-23). All of these murders are still unresolved.
The public anger and frustration are focused on the Kuomintang, because the ruling party seems to be unable to effectively combat crime, and seems to condone association of many of its local members with various underworld gangs.
According to Taiwan's own Justice Minister, some one-third of the island's city and county councilmen either are gangsters themselves or have gangster connection. Justice Minister Liao Cheng-hao stated also that 10 % of the members of the national legislative bodies, the Legislative Yuan and the National Assembly, have gangster ties, and one KMT member of the Legislative Yuan even openly prided himself on his underworld connections.
Ties between the Kuomintang and gangster organizations are not new: In the 1940's, the infamous Green Gang and Bamboo Union followed Chiang Kai-shek to the island (see the book "Fires of the Dragon", by David E. Kaplan). The now well-known murder of Chinese-American writer Henry Liu in October 1984 brought to light that close links existed between gang organizations and the KMT's secret police. While the secret police was disbanded after the 1987 end of Martial Law, and lost much of its influence, many of the operatives continued their "work" and infiltrated the restaurant, nightclub, gambling and construction business. Many of them made fortunes through connections with their old KMT network.
Public concern over the rising crime and public safety prompted two unprecedented large demonstrations in Taipei. On 4 May 1997, some 50,000 people gathered in front of the presidential building to express their anger, and to demand that Premier Lien Chan step down. The demonstration was organized by a coalition of some 150 citizens groups.
On 18 May 1997, 550 citizens groups organized yet another large-scale demonstration. According to the Hong Kong-based publication Asiaweek it drew close to 100,000 people. A statement from the gathering simply read: "We have a very humble request; we want a government that can safeguard the safety and welfare of women and children."
In front of the Presidential Palace
In the meantime, in the Legislative Yuan a coalition of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and the New Party proposed several legislative motions to recall Vice President Lien Chan as premier, a position he held concurrently. After ten rounds of voting, the motion was defeated only narrowly by two (out of a total of 154) votes.
After Interior Minister Lin Fong-cheng resigned to take responsibility for the government's inability to solve the murders, President Lee appointed KMT legislator Ms. Yeh Chin-fong as the new Interior minister.
Premier Lien Chan in an attempt to bolster his public image appeared on television talk shows and made the public announcement that he would resign in July 1997 after the constitutional reform was completed.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: the Kuomintang would do well to speedily solve the murders, crack down on the gangsters, and make the streets of Taiwan safe again. There is strong incentive for the Taiwan authorities to move quickly: at the end of the year, elections will be held for twenty-five County Magistrate and City mayor positions.
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