TAIPEI (Reuters) – Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of major Apple supplier Foxconn, resigned as a company board member, the Taiwanese company said on Saturday, less than a week after announcing a bid to be the island’s next president.
After months of speculation, Gou, who stepped down as Foxconn’s chairman in 2019, announced on Monday he would stand as an independent candidate in a presidential election to be held in January.
In a brief statement, Foxconn said Gou had resigned due to “personal reasons”, and noted he had “officially handed over leadership of the group to a professional manager four years
Gou’s campaign team declined to comment.
Asked on Monday about the issue of conflict of interest with Gou being a major shareholder of Foxconn, which has massive investment in China, Gou said he’s willing to “sacrifice” his personal assets in China in the event of a Chinese attack.
“I have never been under the control of the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “I don’t follow their instructions.”
Gou is the fourth person to throw his hat in the ring, but his poll numbers even before his announcement put him well behind the front-runner, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) William Lai, who is currently vice president.
The election is happening at a time of increased tensions between Taiwan and China, with Beijing regularly mounting military drills near the island, prompting concerns of possible conflict.
Gou has repeatedly accused the DPP of courting war with China, which claims the island as its own territory, with an antagonistic stance towards Beijing.
The DPP-led government, and Lai, have repeatedly offered talks with China but been rebuffed, as Beijing views them as separatists.
Gou, one of Taiwan’s most high-profile business figures internationally, has this week been trying to unify the opposition against the DPP, but so far no agreements have been reached.
The other two candidates are former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je of the small Taiwan People’s Party, and Hou Yu-ih of Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang which traditionally favours close ties with Beijing.
Even before Gou’s announcement some opposition politicians had expressed concerns that his entry into the race would only split the anti-DPP vote further and make it even easier for Lai to get elected.
Speaking in an interview with Formosa TV broadcast on Saturday night, Lai said he was not letting up in his campaign just because of Gou’s entry.
“On the contrary I’m going at it even harder, as after chairman Gou announced his candidacy it’s not yet known how the landscape will change before the election,” he said.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by John Stonestreet; Editing by Louise Heavens)