Foxconn founder Terry Gou qualifies to run for Taiwan president

By Jeanny Kao and Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of major Apple supplier Foxconn, has collected three times the amount of signatures needed to qualify to run in Taiwan’s presidential elections, the government said on Tuesday.

In a statement, Gou thanked his backers for their “enthusiastic support” and vowed to work hard to achieve “peace across the Taiwan Strait”.

Gou announced his bid in August, saying he wanted to unite the opposition and ensure the island did not become “the next Ukraine”, blaming the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for taking Taiwan to the brink of war by antagonising China which claims the island as its own territory.

Gou, who stepped down as Foxconn chief in 2019, had to gather around 300,000 voter signatures by Nov. 2 to qualify as an independent candidate, according election regulations.

The election commission said he got more than 900,000 valid signatures. He now has until next Friday to formally register his candidacy with the election commission.

Gou, 73, is one of four candidates in the election, due to be held in January. Opinion polls show he is the least favoured candidate, well behind front-runner, Lai Ching-te of the DPP and who is currently vice president.

Gou has kept a low profile since a Chinese newspaper last month implied a tax probe into Foxconn’s operations in China was due to Beijing’s unhappiness with his campaign, given he could split the opposition vote and ensure victory for Lai.

China’s government detests Lai and views him as a separatist. He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future and has repeatedly offered talks with China which Beijing has rebuffed.

While China’s government has not confirmed the Foxconn investigation, Lai has assailed Beijing for targeting the firm. Gou has not commented on the matter.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Wellington Koo, head of Taiwan’s National Security Council, said China “definitely” did not want Gou running given he could split the opposition vote.

“Aren’t we all waiting to see if Terry Gou will run until the end?” he said.

The other two opposition candidates have shown little interest in wanting to work with Gou, and are instead talking to each other about cooperating against Lai.

Foxconn says Gou no longer has anything to do with the company’s day-to-day operations, though he remains its largest single shareholder.

Asked on an earnings call on Tuesday about potential political risks from Gou’s election bid, Foxconn Chairman Young Liu said Gou had the right to make his own decisions, but added that the company has “prepared for all possible cases”.

“I wish him the best. That’s all I can say,” Liu added.

(Reporting by Jeanny Kao and Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Miral Fahmy)