Sean Lien announces for Taipei City Mayor’s race
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-02-24 12:32 PM
Sean Lien made it official Monday, telling a small but packed room of reporters that he will be a candidate for the KMT in the Taipei City Mayor’s race in November. Lien made the long-expected announcement in a venue seating less than a hundred as supporters left outside protested at not being allowed. One disappointed supporter was heard to grumble, "Doesn’t Sean Lien want our votes?" as he stood outside the cramped press room.

Lien briefly outlined the focus of his campaign, which will include revitalizing the western areas of the city to balance development in the city and realize what is being called a "twin-core” vision of Taipei City. Taipei’s eastern side and the Xinyi, Neihu, Songshan and Daan districts have boomed over the past few decades, while its western half and districts including Wanhua, Zhongshan and Datong have lagged far behind.

Lien noted that former mayors including Ma Ying-jeou and Hau Lung-bin have tried repeatedly but failed to put more effective policies into effect in the city. Lien said that as a symbol of his hopes for the more neglected areas of the city he will set up his campaign office in Zhongshan District, a move directly aimed at taking on the Green Camp’s voting strength in the western side of the city.

Lien stressed that he has spent the past 17 years working to help companies with limited resources gain the maximum benefit from their operations. "This is my profession," he said, “and I can do it better than anyone else.”

Lien said his experience as head of the Easy Card Company taught him some very important lessons. He noted that new ways of thinking and creativity are very important in the traditional public sector. Different methods can be useful in solving difficult problems, he said, and "even a slow-moving old clunker can be converted into a Transformer."

Lien revealed that his campaign will be run with the assistance of a core of 7 or 8 advisors headed by Ou Chin-der, chairman of Taiwan High Speed Rail Company (THSRC), and including Cheng You-wei, Director of the Institute of Industry and Economics at National Central University; Liu Yi-cheng, chairman of Taoyuan MRT Company; Lin Chih-ying, president of the Taipei City Traffic Safety Association; and You Tsui-hsiang, a professor at Shih-hsin University.

The announcement that Ou Chin-der will head up Lien’s campaign has already aroused reactions in political circles.

On Saturday Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih criticized Ou’s inclusion in the campaign in Taipei. Yeh said THSRC raised its fares last October but has failed to improve in its service quality, adding that “high-speed rail has too many issues. I am very disappointed. Ou Chin-der should focus on high-speed rail.”

Saturday morning around 5,000 THSRC passengers were affected by power outages and 15 trains were delayed, including two that were halted for more than 30 minutes.

Ou is currently in Japan and has not directly responded to Yeh’s remarks. A spokesperson for Ou noted that THSRC is Ou’s most important responsibility and that will not change. Ou has said he will draw on his past municipal experience to provide advice and assistance to Lien so long as it does not interfere with the operations of THSRC.

Lien was accompanied in the press conference by KMT legislators Lin Yu-fang and Chiang Nai-shin. Conspicuously absent were Lien Chan and Tsai Yi-shan, Sean Lien’s father and wife, who have expressed great reluctance at having the younger Lien follow his father into politics.

Hsu Hung-ting, who has served as a special assistant to Sean Lien and accompanied Lien to the hospital when he was shot in 2010, has tendered his resignation and will leave to run for the Taipei City Council. His departure is seen as a move to provide flanking support for Sean Lien in his campaign for mayor.

Competition in the Taipei mayoral election is expected to be very intense. Sean Lien faces three opponents in the KMT primary including legislators Alex Tsai and Ting Shou-chung. The party primary is set for early April.

With his announcement Lien immediately becomes the front-runner in the KMT primary, even as his prospective rival, or rivals, on the opposition side continue to squabble over the importance of being a party member and whether the DPP nomination process needs to be adjusted.

Lien’s announcement that he is in the running was not a call for a military campaign or a religious crusade, calling instead for both offensive and defensive measures and touching on Ko Wen-je’s tale about "expensive stool" from a few days ago as well as his own quip a few months back that being chosen leader of an economy-challenged city or nation would make him little more than the "King of Beggars." Lien’s speech would seem to indicate in the next generation of politics "Sean Lien-style" might bring some striking changes.

Lien’s speech sought to turn what some see as a political weakness – his family’s wealth – into an advantage. His pledge to forgo his salary as mayor if elected is nothing new, but his comment that " Bloomberg will be my teacher" clearly shows that he is trying to say that "money is not necessarily a sin, it can also be a good thing."

Sean Lien has limited experience in politics, but his main potential rival at present appears to be Ko Wen-je. Ko has even less political experience than Sean Lien, and he has attempted to turn that fact into a positive in the acid environment of Blue versus Green politics. With his speech Monday, Sean Lien began a campaign to swing Ko’s barbs back around on Ko, who at present is still insisting he will run as an independent in the election. Elaborating on his own "experience," Lien put the emphasis on what he learned as the head of the Easy Card Company. It was a barb aimed directly at Ko Wen-je.

Lien’s speech presented hints of what lies ahead in the primary and election campaigns. The primary campaign will be interesting in itself: just as Sean Lien was announcing his candidacy, full-page newspaper ads for Ting Shou-chung pushed news of Lien’s press conference to page 2 in the inner pages. As Sean Lien himself was saying Monday, ‘Money talks.”

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