KMT picks 'chilli padi' as presidential candidate
TAIWAN'S ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party officially endorsed wildcard candidate Hung Hsiu-chu yesterday to run for the island's presidency in January, as the deeply divided party faces a battle to regain public support.
Known as "xiao la jiao" or "chilli padi" for her straight-talking style, Ms Hung is known for advocating that there exists only one China, comprising the mainland and Taiwan.
But the 67-year-old unmarried deputy parliamentary speaker has also stressed her immense love for Taiwan.
She vowed in her speech yesterday that if elected, she would ensure equality for the island in a lasting peace deal with Beijing, reported the China Times.
Concern about Taiwan's warming ties with China is seen as one reason behind the Beijing-friendly KMT's rout in last November's local elections, reported Agence France-Presse.
Many believe that sentiment would also cause the KMT to lose the presidential vote.
With the party tipped for another defeat, KMT heavyweights including chairman Eric Chu and parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng have sat on the sidelines, leaving Ms Hung the only candidate.
Ms Hung, who won backing from the KMT's standing committee last month, was endorsed to applause and a standing ovation yesterday by more than 1,000 party members at a congress in Taipei.
"As long as we stand together, we can win the election," said Ms Hung, following a week which saw five KMT legislators who had criticised the party expelled.
Her main electoral opponent will be Tsai Ing-wen, chairman of the Beijing-sceptic main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), with Taiwan's China policy at the heart of the duel.
If either wins, it would be the first time a woman leads the island.
Ms Hung saw her popularity soar after she put in her nomination bid.
But it has since dipped on concern over her China message.
Beijing sees Taiwan, which split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war and has since ruled itself, as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated at the congress yesterday the importance of a 1992 agreement with China, which states that there exists only one China.
According to Taiwan, there is a caveat to the agreement: the "one China" could be interpreted as Communist China or the Republic of China, which is another name for Taiwan.
"We must do everything we can to safeguard the 1992 consensus, which has become the most critical source of stability over the past seven years," said Mr Ma.
The DPP has rejected the consensus, saying there is no such agreement.
Chairman Chu yesterdayurged unity at the congress.
"This moment is for the KMT to stand together and start again," he said.
"The KMT is in a difficult situation but it is not hopeless," he added.