TAIPEI (Reuters) – A China-friendly mayor in Taiwan on Monday won the opposition party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential election beating Foxconn founder Terry Gou and posting a direct challenge to President Tsai Ing-wen who is seeking re-election.
FILE PHOTO: Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu speaks during a forum in Taipei, Taiwan, April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu beat four other contenders in a national tally for its primary race, including the billionaire founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, Terry Gou.
The self-ruled island is set to hold its presidential election in January amid heightened tension with China, which considers it a wayward province and has never ruled out the use of force to return it to the fold.
Han gained island-wide popularity after winning the mayoral election in November in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, formerly a stronghold for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“The past three years under the rule of Tsai Ing-wen have been too disappointing,” Han told reporters at KMT’s headquarters in Taipei after the results. “DPP supporters should open their eyes and think it over.”
The China-friendly mayor triggered controversy after his meetings with several senior officials in China earlier this year, including Wang Zhimin, director of the Liaison Office of the People’s Government in Hong Kong.
Han has said both sides are part of “one China”, a cherished principle for Beijing, and has previously described Taiwan independence as being “more scary” than syphilis.
Han led the seven day phone survey of more than 15,000 people across Taiwan, winning 44.8% support, compared to Gou’s 27.7%, who ranked second.
Gou, who launched an extensive primary campaign including banners on buses and online advertisements, canceled a press conference originally scheduled for later on Monday and was not immediately available for comment.
Tsai’s administration suffered a defeat in local elections late last year amid mounting criticism over the party’s reform agenda and rising pressure from China.
Reporting By Yimou Lee; editing by Richard Pullin and Michael Perry