Monday, October 13, 2014

The Liens: A Modern Day Dynasty

The Liens
Lien Te-cheng was from an immigrant family that originally came from Zhangzhou City, Fujian Province. He once admonished his son, Lien Hong, for not reading up on his Taiwanese history books, saying "if you want to be seen as a Taiwanese, you must know how Taiwan works." Lien Hong took this seriously, and ultimately wrote his own treatise on Taiwanese history called "Comprehensive History of Taiwan" that brought the Lien family to fame for generations. An article in the Taipei Times from 2004 entitled “The book that built the Lien family” is really a must read (it's only two pages, go on) for an overview of what happened here.

Suffice to say, Lien Hong's tome was little more than an early version of Chinese history propaganda, and modern scholars have criticized much of Lien Hong's work as wrong if not outright fabricated (check Lien Heng's Wikipedia article linked above). From the Taiwanese colonial period, to the story of Wu Feng (a Han Chinese who "civilized" the Taiwanese aboriginals), to plagiarism, and even to getting the origin story of the name "Taiwan" completely wrong - Lien Hong's work was not doing much in the way of helping his family be seen as very "Taiwanese."

As if that weren't enough, Lien Hong wrote an editorial supporting the Japanese colonial government's pro-opium policies in the pro-government daily of the time (the equivalent of today's People's Daily in the PRC) in spite of massive public opposition, as he made money from the opium trade. After realizing that he was not finding much of a warm welcome after publishing these two propaganda pieces, Lien Hong retreated back to China in 1931, where he was welcomed by the KMT for contributing such an important work of Chinese history.

Lien Chen-tung, with a recommendation from his father Lien Hong, obtained a position in the government (KMT), and after the war was sent to Taiwan and appointed as Chairman of the Taipei State Council. He was criticized as a traitor for abandoning Taiwan until after the war, and for using his father's book to impress government officials to secure his own political promotions. In 1953 after being promoted to Unit Director at the KMT's central office, Lien Cheng-tung used his own clout in turn to obtain a position at NTU in that very same year for his own son, Lien Tsian, who was only able to secure admission into military school after his examinations. Lien Cheng-tung went on to hold nearly 30 different positions throughout his tenure in the KMT, including Minister of the Interior, Secretary General, Executive Councilor, and National Strategist and Adviser to the President. Importantly, he was also heavily involved in land reform, and ensured that Lien Tsian would have a prime piece of real estate (farmland, at the time) in downtown Taipei, currently the site of the Yongsheng building on Zhongshan N. Rd.

Lien Tsian, after returning from his studies and a short teaching stint in the US, married a recent Miss China winner and became the Director of the Political Science Department at NTU for six years, until he was appointed as Ambassador to El Salvador for three years. On his return to Taiwan, he went through at least 20 different government and public-private roles, including such varied responsibilities as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Foreign Affairs, President of the Executive Yuan, Vice President of Taiwan, Chairman of the National Policy Research Foundation, and Chairman of the Foundation for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities.

And now, of course, we come to Sean Lien, a man who claims that he was born and raised in Taipei, but was actually born in Tainan - the lies and half-truths start right from the very beginning. Sean, unlike his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, has little-to-no political experience, having spent most of his time thus far gallivanting around the world, managing hedge funds at Morgan Stanley, starting financial companies that mysteriously collapse leaving investors broke, and taking credit for popularizing Easycard.

What's interesting about Sean Lien's course of events is that some facts simply remain unclear: how is it that someone who, under his own academic strength in the university entrance examinations, was only admitted to middle-ranking Fu-jen University, was later able to gain admission into not one, but two of the best law schools in the US, Columbia and Harvard? What's more, having studied law, hw is it that Sean Lien was able to go straight into finance without any certifications or studies, and was then appointed as the CEO of Easycard immediately upon return to Taiwan? His actual business dealings are no less clear and rife with "coincidences" (i.e., scandals) to which he claims complete and total lack of involvement despite being at the center of the storms, while it would seem that he knows almost nothing about the decisions being made in his mayoral campaign - to date, whenever the campaign has made any missteps, Sean Lien has been the first to come out pointing fingers at campaign staff.

In fact, we could go on for days about the mysteries surrounding Sean Lien. Like how, for example, he is constantly showing up in photos driving different fancy cars around town, but claims he doesn't own a single car; or, despite living in Dibao (the most expensive condo in Taiwan), he doesn't own a single piece of property; or, despite how he claims that his success is his own and not his father's, he owned his first home at the age of 18 - in San Francisco!

Or, we could talk about the recent tainted oil scandals that actually started last year, and how the Liens are close family friends with the Weis, the owners of the company at the heart of the scandal. And I don't just mean that they're close in that they live near one another (they do though, the Weis own 9 units in Dibao, the same condominiums that Sean Lien calls - or rather, doesn't call - home), but to the point that Lien Tsian (Sean's father) acted as officiant at Wei family weddings.

And Sean, for all of his talk about humble upbringings and lack of a car or house to his name, has a father who owns more than 1,000 pings (that's almost an acre) of real estate in Taipei City, and has an estimated net worth of over 20 billion (with a 'b') NT - nearly three quarters of a billion US dollars - a fortune that started off with government subsidized Chinese propaganda and opium profits, both of which were severely damaging to the Taiwanese people.

But I digress. What I wanted to show here is a pattern, and I think that pattern is clear enough. For five generations, the Liens have been using and abusing the Taiwanese people for their own financial and political goals, and the people of Taipei now have the ability of stopping this dynasty dead in its tracks. Sean Lien and his forefathers, going back at least 5 generations, have considered themselves Chinese and been unable to find a real place in Taiwanese society, apart from as members of the government-in-exile that is the ROC.

Many of these facts about Sean Lien's murky background are just starting to come to light as he is scrutinized by the Taiwanese electorate in the run-up to the elections. The vote is on for November 29th - we'll find out soon enough whether the people deem him worthy of "continuing the legacy." Let's sure hope not.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home