FILE PHOTO: Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu speaks during a forum in Taipei, Taiwan, April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
TAIPEI (Reuters) – The mayor of Taiwan’s southern port city Han Kuo-yu on Monday won the opposition party’s hotly contested nomination for the 2020 presidential election, posting a direct challenge to President Tsai Ing-wen who is seeking re-election.
The China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) said Kaohsiung mayor Han beat four other contenders in a national tally for its primary race, including the billionaire founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, Terry Gou.
The self-ruled island is set to hold its presidential election in January amid heightened tension with China, which considers it a wayward province and has never ruled out the use of force to return it to the fold.
Han gained island-wide popularity after winning the mayoral election in November in Kaohsiung, formerly a stronghold for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
The China-friendly mayor 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.
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.
Reporting By Yimou Lee; editing by Richard Pullin and Michael Perry