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September 23, 2017

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KMT stages protest over asset seizure

Kuomintang (KMT) politicians and employees descended on the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee (IGPASC) in Taipei twice on Tuesday, demanding to enter the premises before being held back by a large police contingent.

Tensions were high after party staff from seven northern localities were summoned to KMT headquarters to be briefed on the party's downsizing plans. The KMT is suffering under the strains of a financial crisis, which it blames on government asset seizures. According to the KMT, staff at the party's headquarters would be reduced from 134 to 80, while local chapter employees would be cut from the current 609 to 230.

Demanding their wages be returned to them, 200 employees of the opposition party, led by Taipei City Councilor Wang Hung-wei, "strolled" from KMT headquarters to the IGPASC Tuesday afternoon demanding to meet face-to-face with its convener, Wellington Ku, just minutes after their downsizing briefing.

There they were held back by three layers of police and barricades around the committee compound.

In a hoarse voice, Wang accused the government of "appropriating the people's property" for private use by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and called for "a revolution to the very end." She called Ku "a gang leader of the underworld." Speaking through a loudspeaker, KMT Deputy Communications Director Mao Chia-ching called for police to stand aside and not become "accomplices to gangsters."

Scuffles broke out after protesters called for police to step aside to let them inside the building. At least two concerted attempts were made by some protesters, including former Legislator Wu Yu-jen, to charge the barricades to no avail, with demonstrators pushed back repeatedly by anti-riot shielding. Some protesters launched eggs and leaflets toward the building as police on loudspeakers repeatedly blasted appeals for calm while informing them that Ku was currently not in the building. Scuffles also broke out when protesters accused police officers of stealing the eggs they had brought to the site.

A smaller group of protesters also moved onto the site earlier in the morning with scattered clashes with law enforcement.

The IGPASC has acted to freeze KMT assets since October, a move the opposition party has called unconstitutional and unlawful. On Monday, the Cabinet announced it would form a dedicated task force to re-appropriate Central Investment Co. and Hsinyutai Co., which IGPASC has unilaterally deemed as having been illegally obtained assets. The companies have a combined value of NT$15.6 billion (US$494.17 million) and make up a significant portion of the KMT's investments.

Meanwhile, DPP-affiliated councilors from Tainan City held a press conference claiming that a subsidiary company of Central Investment Co. owned 82 separate land holdings and properties valued at NT$700 million, demanding that they be returned to the public coffers. The city councilors claimed that 20 of the properties were being used by local KMT councilors to serve their constituents.

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