TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Taiwan’s Beijing-friendly opposition Kuomintang party on Wednesday nominated Hou Yu-ih, a popular mayor, as its candidate for the presidential election next year.
The election in January is seen as a referendum on President Tsai-Ing-wen’s handling of self-ruled Taiwan’s relations with China, which have soured during her tenure.
Tsai does not accept China’s claim that Taiwan is its territory, and during her two terms, China has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure on the island.
In contrast, the Kuomintang (KMT) traditionally favours warmer ties with China.
Hou said during a KMT party meeting on Wednesday that “safeguarding” Taiwan and bringing prosperity to it were his main aims if elected.
“The Republic of China is our country and Taiwan is our home. Everyone should stand united… so we can look after our home and create a common future,” the 65-year-old said, using Taiwan’s official name.
A former police chief, Hou entered politics in 2010 when he was appointed by then-New Taipei City mayor and current KMT chairman Eric Chu as his deputy, a position he held for eight years.
He became mayor of New Taipei City — Taiwan’s biggest constituency with around four million residents — in the 2018 local elections and was re-elected last year.
During a recent city council session, when asked to clarify his position on China, Hou said he opposed Taiwan’s independence and the “one country, two systems” arrangement, referring to the model used in Hong Kong.
China has proposed it for Taiwan as well but a majority of Taiwanese people have rejected the model, especially after Beijing crushed political freedoms in Hong Kong despite promising a degree of autonomy to the city.
The KMT chose Hou over tech giant Foxconn’s billionaire founder Terry Gou.
Hou will face off against current Vice President William Lai, 63, who has been more outspoken about Taiwan’s independence than Tsai.