Taitung and the KMT's Kuang Li-chen: She Did it All for Love

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Tuesday August 05, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

One thing about Taiwan politics, it will never disappoint. Even in the remotest of areas, scandals and bhagwa can be brewing. The latest of a long string of episodes involves the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taitung County Magistrate, Kuang Li-chen. Kuang Li-chen has gained the reputation of being a jet-setting magistrate after having taken eight trips aboard in her two and a half years in office at a cost to tax-payers of 10 million NT dollars or roughly $1,200,000 NT dollars (US$40,000) a trip.

A little background is in order. Wu Chun-li, Kuang Li-chen's husband, had been the KMT Magistrate of Taitung County but he was found guilty of corruption and jailed. He appealed but it was overthrown. With this sentence he could not serve as Magistrate of Taitung County. Stymied in this avenue, he wanted to keep the lucrative position in the family and wished for Kuang, his wife and a former airline stewardess, to succeed him. Again the law stepped in. Because of her relationship as wife, she was forbidden to run for office. Not to worry, now comes the interesting twist.

With her jailed husband as an impediment for running for office Kuang quickly divorced him and qualified to run. Allegedly the importance of family values is a high priority for Chinese and Taiwanese. This is no doubt true for many, but for Kuang Li-chen being County Magistrate seemed to rank a tad higher on the value scale. The convenience of this arrangement was approved by the KMT and their then party Chair none other than Mr. Clean & Family Values Man, Ma Ying-jeou. Ma subsequently campaigned for her, after all, what is divorce when there is an office to be won which Kuang did.

The plot thickens. Taitung is a southeast county of Taiwan with a total population of around 240,000; its largest city is Taitung with a population of 40,000. Primarily an agricultural county on an island of 23,000,000, it is not a prime travel spot, yet it does have some unique sites. There is Green Island - the prison of choice for political prisoners during the KMT's White Terror days and Orchid Island known for its unique aboriginal culture that prizes flying fish.

No, Taitung is also not a rich county. Few families in it could earn in one year what it cost for one of Kuang's trips. Undaunted, Kuang decided it was her duty to make Taitung known to the world. Purely out of love for her county she launched into eight junkets that would take her to Japan, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, Great Britain, Thailand, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. She would leave no stone unturned in letting the world know about Taitung. So strong also were her family values that she took her mother and her former (divorced-so-she-could-get-office) husband along with her. What dedication, what love! It was at taxpayer expense of course.

Kuang was quoted, "No one sympathizes with Taitung, but I am willing to step up and fight for Taitung's future." She had long considered Taitung, an orphan among Taiwan counties so recently with a typhoon barreling down on the county and devastation sure to follow, Ms. Kuang decided it was time to head for the airport for yet another trip abroad. Such love and dedication, it was all done for Taitung's future--its future debt that is.