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Taiwan’s richest man quits opposition, hints at presidential run

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Agence France-Presse

Taiwan’s richest man sensationally quit the opposition party on Thursday, rebuking his former political allies and strongly hinting that he would run as an independent in an upcoming presidential election.

Terry Gou, who made his billions at the helm of the world’s largest electronics assembler Foxconn, made his announcement in a hand-written letter which has shaken a political establishment long dominated by two parties.

Gou, 68, said the Kuomintang party he joined 49 years ago had become “corrupt” and a “platform for personal gain and power”.

And he also hit out at the ruling Democratic People’s Party.

“The reality is that neither the blue nor green parties can give the Taiwanese people hope,” he wrote.

Those comments are the strongest indication yet that Gou will throw his hat into the ring.

The island will vote for a new president and parliament in January elections set to be dominated by relations with China.

Relations between Communist-ruled Beijing and Taipei have plummeted since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016 because her DPP party refuses to recognise the idea that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

Beijing has since cut official communications, increased military exercises, poached diplomatic allies and ratcheted up economic pressure on the island.

The KMT tends to advocate warmer ties with China while the DPP remains deeply sceptical of its huge neighbour.

Speculation has been mounting for weeks that Gou would run as an independent after he was beaten in the KMT primaries by Han Kuo-yu, the populist mayor of southern Kaohsiung city.

Han has a fervent support base. But his campaign has been beset by gaffes and he has struggled to attract widespread support, alarming many KMT establishment figures.

Gou has made no secret of his desire to run for president. But he doesn’t have long to decide. Under Taiwan’s rules he must announce as a candidate by next Tuesday.

Analysts say he will likely join forces with KMT heavyweights, or Ko Wen-je, the independent mayor of Taipei who is popular among many younger voters.

Alexander Huang, from Taipei’s Tamkang University, told AFP Gou could create a “third force” in Taiwan’s politics, chipping away at swing voters from both the main parties.

Gou’s self-made tale is legendary in Taiwan and mimics the island’s phenomenal economic success.

But the huge factories built in China under Gou have rattled critics over his perceived cosiness with Beijing’s leadership.

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