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Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九 Hanyu Pinyin: Mǎ Yīngjiǔ, Wade-Giles: Ma Ying-chiu Tongyong Pinyin: Ma Yingjiou) (born July 13, 1950) was elected mayor of Taipei, Taiwan, in 1998 and reelected in 2002. He is generally seen as a consistently incorrupt and charismatic politician, although some consider him to be excessively well-treated by the media. Regardless of criticism, towards which he seems to be relatively resilient, Ma remains fairly popular with Taipei citizens of both pan-blue and pan-green loyalties.
Ma was born in Hong Kong (Kwong Wah Hospital in Kowloon), then a British colony. When he was a year old, his family, supporters of the Kuomintang (KMT), fled to Taiwan making him part of the Mainlander subgroup on Taiwan. He earned a law degree from National Taiwan University in 1972. With a scholarship from KMT, he first acquired a masters degree in law from NYU and then proceeded to earn a doctorate in law from Harvard University in the United States. He returned to Taiwan in 1981 to teach law.
Rise in politics
With his father's personal connections, he started working in the presidential palace under Chiang Ching-kuo within half year after he acquired his PhD. Later he became the personal translator of Chiang Ching-kuo. Ma was promoted to the chair of the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission under Executive Yuan at the age of 38 and had became the yongest cabinet member of the ROC.
He was deputy secretary-general of the KMT from 1981 to 1988, for some time also serving as head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), a cabinet-level body in charge of cross-straits relations. President Lee Teng-hui appointed him Justice Minister in 1993. He was relieved of his post in 1996, reputedly because he proved too effective at fighting black gold political corruption within his own party. Ma then returned to academia, and most people at the time believed his political career to be finished.
However in 1998, the KMT, faced with no other credible candidates, did field him to challenge the then incumbent Taipei mayor, Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who was seeking re-election. His honest, clean-cut image (and baby face appearance) helped him win 51% of the vote. In the 2000 Presidential Election, Ma remained loyal to the Kuomintang and supported its candidate Lien Chan over James Soong who had bolted from the party. The competition between Lien and Soong split the pan-blue votes and allowed his former rival Chen Shui-bian to win the presidential election with votes below 50% of the popular votes. This, combined with Soong's good showing and Lien's poor showing, incited a great deal of anger against Ma when he tried to dissuade the discontented Lien and Soong supporters from rioting by appealing to them as city mayor and a high-ranking KMT member. It was evidenced by one famous scene in which he was pelted with rotten eggs from Lien and Soong's supporters.
Ma was able to repair this damage and in December 2002, Ma became the superstar of the KMT by easily winning reelection with the support of 64% of Taipei voters, while his DPP challenger, a novice politician Lee Ying-yuan , received only 36 percent. His solid victory, especially in light of opposition from both President Chen Shui-bian and former President and former KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui, led many to speculate about his chances as the KMT candidate for the 2004 presidential elections, although this proved unfounded.
Ma suffered some political damage as a result of the SARS epidemic in early 2003 and was criticized for not mobilizing the Taipei city government quickly enough. The flooding in metropolitan Taipei in 2004 also led to public questioning of his leadership and caused slides in Ma's approval rating.
His prestige increased after the loss by Lien Chan in 2004 ROC Presidential Election as he is widely seen as the natural successor of Lien Chan. His handling of the post-election demonstrations of the Pan-Blue Coalition, in which he at one point sent riot police to control the demonstrations of his pan-blue party supporters, was generally seen as impartial. He and Wang Jin-pyng will be contesting for KMT Chairmanship in 2005. On 5 April 2005, in an exclusive interview with CTV talk show host Sisy Chen, Ma Ying-jeou said he wishes to lead the opposition Kuomintang with Wang Jin-pyng, if he were elected its chairman, as their support bases are complementary.
During his administration years, Ma had many conflicts with the central government which include health insurance rates and control of the water supply during the drought. Ma also was implicated in a scandal of Taipei Bank stock releases in 2003; however, the case was dismissed by the Taipei prosecutor after an investigation.
His initiatives in administering the city of Taipei include changing the street names into Hanyu Pinyin, the spelling compatible with mainland China, as opposed to the Taiwanese-developed Tongyong Pinyin.
Ma is married with two daughters and is an avid jogger and swimmer.
Though Ma Ying-jeou is a popular politician in Taiwan, Ma has a record of standing at the opposite side during Taiwan democratization. Among them: Ma opposed modification of Article 100 concerning criminal law, which is similar to the idea of Hong Kong's Article 23 of the BASIC LAW and has been used by the authoritarian ROC government to incriminate dissidents before martial law was lifted in the mid-20th century. He spoke against direct presidential popular vote and insisted on indirect election. Ma also opposed the supreme court's opinion which held custody decision made by prosecuters as unlawful and in breach of human rights. Lastly, he opposed the referendum held by the government and does not condone major military weapon procurement from the United States. Ma is publicly opposed to drastic actions towards or formal declarations of Taiwan independence from the Mainland. He was strongly criticized by the opposing party for not allowing the ROC national flag to be flown along with a PRC flag during a cross-strait soccer match held in Taipei. Ma responded that he was merely following Olympic protocol, which only officially recognizes the Chinese Taipei Olympic Flag, and forbids ROC national flags from being shown in an Olympic Game Stadium.
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