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New political party established to campaign for social welfare (update)

2015/08/19 19:26:41

Taipei, Aug. 19 (CNA) A new political party, the Social Welfare Party (SWP,社會福利黨), was established in Taipei on Wednesday to campaign for better social welfare policies, joining a wave of new and emerging parties that are eyeing seats in Taiwan's Legislature.

“The population of people with disabilities has reached 1.14 million in Taiwan and these people and their families expect our care and support,” Cheng Long-shui (鄭龍水), chairman of the party, said at a press conference to announce the establishment of the SWP.

Cheng, a former New Party (新黨) legislator, said the Social Welfare Party is a single-issue party focused solely on advancing social welfare in Taiwan.

The SWP aims to relax regulations so that foreign caregivers can be hired to take care of all disabled people and senior citizens aged 70 and above, and improve the certification and testing of accessible environments for disabled people, Cheng said.

The party also supports long-term care programs for senior citizens and the removal of registration fees for disabled people and senior citizens at hospitals and clinics, Cheng said.

It also hopes to subsidize caregiver costs for low-income families and people with severe disabilities, fund the purchasing of special needs equipment by disabled people, and provide more educational and professional training subsidies to disabled people, he said.

Cheng said his party is expected to announce in late October or early November its list of candidates for district and legislator-at-large seats in Taiwan's ninth legislative elections on Jan. 16, 2016.

"We have no plans to cooperate with any political parties at the moment, but we invite all parties to work toward the goal of advancing social welfare," he said.

He said the SWP is aiming to win 15 percent of the valid votes in the legislative elections and five legislator-at-large seats in the 113-seat Legislature.

The vice chairman of the party is Pai Hsiu-hsiung (白秀雄), a former deputy Taipei mayor. Its other core members include Ku Yeun-wen (古允文), professor of social work at National Taiwan University; Lin Chung-shan (林忠山), associate professor of political science at Chinese Culture University; and advertising consultant Jerry Fan (范可欽).

In order to carry out the aforementioned policies without adding a burden to the government budget, Cheng said, his party is proposing increasing the taxes on the rich, raising the business tax by 1 percent and hiking the health and welfare surcharge on tobacco products by NT$10 (US$0.31) per packet of cigarettes.

It is also proposing raising the alcohol tax by 10 percent and allocating half of the earnings from public welfare lotteries to social welfare programs, Cheng added.

On the question of whether his party will endorse any of the current presidential candidates, Cheng said only if they support the SWP's polices.

The SWP is likely to endorse any such candidates before the 2016 presidential election, which will be held Jan. 16, in conjunction with the legislative elections, he said.

"We want to let everyone know that 'blue' or 'green' are not the only options for Taiwan, 'unification' or 'independence' are not the only possibilities, and collision is not the only choice," said Hsu Tao (徐韜), a university student and head of the party's Youth League.

Hsu said his party hopes to "occupy the Legislature with votes."

Over the past two years, Taiwan has seen a wave of new and emerging political parties formed with the hope of exerting more influence on government policies and diversifying Taiwan's political scene, which has so far been dominated by the ruling Kuomintang and opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Among these new parties are the New Power Party (時代力量), Social Democratic Party (社會民主黨), Minkuotang (民國黨), and Trees Party (樹黨).

(By Christie Chen)