Han Kuo-yu on Monday won the opposition KMT’s nomination for Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, setting the stage for an intense battle with Tsai Ing-wen, the island’s incumbent leader, in the upcoming contest.
Han, who is the mayor of the port city of Kaohsiung, trumped four other contenders, including Foxconn Group’s billionaire founder Terry Gou, in a national tally for the KMT primary race, Reuters reports.
Han, who champions closer ties with mainland China, gained island-wide popularity after winning the Kaohsiung mayoral election in November last year, emerging on top in a former stronghold of 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.”
Taiwan is set to hold its presidential election in January next year amid heightened tensions with China.
Han 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.
In the KMT primary race, Han led a seven day phone survey of more than 15,000 people across Taiwan, winning 44.8 percent support, compared to Gou’s 27.7 percent, who ranked second.
Gou, who launched an extensive primary campaign including banners on buses and online advertisements, thanked supporters and congratulated Han in a statement.
“I will never change my passion for the Republic of China. I will never give up my dedication to the Republic of China,” Gou said, using Taiwan’s official name.
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.
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