Jumping ship to save King’s skin
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2015.2.16

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) close aide King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) suddenly resigned as secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) earlier this month. The media have two interpretations of this: The first is that King is paving the way for Ma to step down; the second is that he is jumping ship to save his own skin.

The second seems more likely. He is jumping ship at this critical moment, although it is true that he has suffered serious health problems recently. Although Chinese culture advocates “giving one’s all to the task until one’s dying day,” he is leaving Ma’s team in the face of a major disaster.

When King returned from the US to take up the post as head of the NSC in March last year, he made a public pledge not to intervene with elections. Indeed, during the crucial last weekend before the nine-in-one elections in November last year, he went to a hot spring resort in Nantou County, and on the eve of the recent legislative by-elections, he even tendered his resignation, proving that he is a man of his word.

In October last year, in connection to the allegations that Ting Hsin International Group (頂新國際集團) had been making illegal political donations, Next Magazine accused Ma of being the guardian angel of Ting Hsin after he received Wei Ying-heng (魏應行), the youngest of the four Wei brothers, at the Presidential Office. Meanwhile, journalist Clara Chou (周玉蔻) repeatedly exposed inside stories, saying that King was unaware of these political-business interactions. It is possible to view King’s resignation as a sign of a break with Ma, and furthermore, he could even have been Chou’s “deep throat.”

Issue 1,449 of The Journalist magazine published in mid-December last year included a report that the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) nominations for the 2008 legislative by-elections were dominated by King, who would rather lose the elections than compromise with local political forces. As a result, some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians took advantage of this opportunity and won the elections. That was something that I had also noticed at the time. The report then said that he actually attempted to reform the KMT’s local political forces as the party’s secretary-general but in the end failed to achieve his goal, because the local political factions would only vote for the party if there was something in it for themselves. King had no choice but to resign his post as the party’s secretary-general.

Linked together, it is possible to conclude that, although King is nicknamed “King the pocketknife” (金小刀) for his sharp attacks on Ma’s political rivals in the KMT and DPP, he is a clean politician, and there has been no news about any misconduct in this respect. After witnessing the exposure of the secret relationship between Ma and big business, it is understandable that he would jump ship and distance himself from Ma.

King is jumping ship at a time when new names in Ma’s alleged political donation case are being exposed one after another. The names mentioned recently include Presidential Office Director Kang Bing-cheng (康炳政), former National Communications Commission commissioner Chen Yuan-ling (陳元玲) and her husband, strategic investor Tai Jang-huei (戴章揮). Could they be the key people in the alleged case?

King frequently visited the government’s intelligence agencies after taking over as NSC secretary-general. Was he trying to protect Ma, collect information to understand cross-strait relations or decide his own final direction?

Both King and Ma’s eldest sister, Ma Yi-nan (馬以南), are core members of the president’s team. However, according to Ma Ying-jeou’s Chinese cultural background, his close aide King is replaceable but his eldest sister is not.

However, she is fond of making friends with big businesses. For example, she served as vice general manager of development at Taiwan’s China Chemical and Pharmaceutical Co (中國化學製藥公司), attended the grand opening of Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統長基) which is involved in the tainted oil scandal, paid a new year’s visit to then-Miaoli County commissioner Liu Cheng-hung’s (劉政鴻) brother Liu Cheng-chih’s (劉政池) home and attended a fundraiser of former Bamboo Union leader Chang An-le (張安樂), better known as the “White Wolf” (白狼), in China’s Shenzhen City. Ma Ying-jeou’s eldest sister does not get along well with King and her power is likely to grow after his resignation.

Ma Ying-jeou has few friends inside the KMT. King has even fewer, and jumping ship might not be enough to save himself. However, if he were to expose all the inside stories that he knows about the political establishment, he might not only save himself, but Taiwan too.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Eddy Chang


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