Taiwan’s Hung makes comeback as leader of Nationalist Party

Taiwan’s Nationalist party names Hung Hsiu-chu as new leader after she was removed as presidential candidate in January

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Hung Hsiu-chu, newly elected chairperson of Taiwan's Nationalist Party or Kuomintang, waves in front of a portrait of the founding father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen, after a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, March 26, 2016.

Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party picked as its new leader a woman it had ditched as its presidential candidate weeks before January's election after a wave of criticism of her campaign.

Pro-China Hung Hsiu-chu, a one-time schoolteacher known by the nickname "Little Hot Chili Pepper," won 56 percent of the vote, a Nationalist Party spokeswoman said, beating three other candidates.

She becomes the first female leader of the Nationalist Party, which in January lost not only the presidency but also control of Taiwan's parliament to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Hung's victory marks a comeback for a woman who in October was removed as her party's candidate for the presidential election after a campaign riddled with gaffes and political attacks.

Hung, who is widely seen as supporting unification with China, faces a tough job rebuilding support for the party. The popularity of the DPP has surged since 2014 when hundreds of students occupied parliament for weeks to protest trade pacts negotiated with China. It was the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his capacity as head of China's Communist Party, sent a congratulatory message to Hung, according to a note released by the Nationalist Party.

"We hope both parties can cement a foundation of mutual trust, increase exchanges and interaction, and ensure peaceful development and stability across the Taiwan Strait," Xi wrote in the message.

Known in Chinese as the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party ruled China before being forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a bloody civil war with the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

TRTWorld, Reuters