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Jiang to kick off forums with young people

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Premier Jiang Yi-huah is scheduled to meet with a group of young people in Taipei today in the first of a series of forums aimed at shoring up dwindling support for the government and ruling Kuomintang (KMT) from the younger generations.

Jiang is expected to hold discussions with a group of 50 participants aged 18 to 35 in a forum organized by the Education Ministry on various topics, including important government policies, as well as the controversies surrounding the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement.

In the wake of the student-led Sunflower Movement against the cross-strait trade pact, both the government and KMT party have promised to step up communication with young people.

The Cabinet and KMT plan to hold a series of forums around the nation to promote dialogue with the nation's youth.

But critics have questioned the campaign, saying such forums will be meaningless unless the KMT and government leaders really listen to the young people.

KMT Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng noted that the massive demonstrations in recent months have shown that the young people are eager to challenge the institution, thinking they are upholding justice.

Many of these demonstrators are from families that traditionally support the KMT, which shows that the young people are disappointed with the ruling party, Lin said.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng said that the KMT saw rising support from the young people when Ma Ying-jeou was running for president in 2008 to end the corrupt rule under then-President Chen Shui-bian. But such support from young people quickly faded after the election, Wu said.

Young people's interests in politics are usually sparked by fleeting passions, and political parties must work out ways to sustain their passions and let them know that their ideals can be realized, Wu said.

But critics noted that the KMT has failed to pave the way for young people to establish a place for themselves in the world politics.

The KMT has a Youth Corps, but it has hardly attracted any meaningful participation from the young people, the critics said.

The Youth Corps is more like a university club for socializing than a program to build up a pool of future party and government leaders, the critics said.

Legislator Lin described the Youth Corps as a “complete failure.” He said it has produced no talent for politics, except for Lin Yi-shih, the disgraced former Cabinet secretary-general who has been indicted for corruption.

The United Evening News cited an unnamed high-level government official as saying that the Youth Corps is submerged in “self-complacency” and has no influence on the outside world.

No one from the Youth Corps was able to come forward to defend the cross-strait trade pact against the criticisms levied at it by the Sunflower students, the official said.

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