Factbox-Hou Yu-ih, presidential candidate of Taiwan's main opposition party

Mayor of New Taipei, Hou Yu-ih, gestures during his speech following the confirmation as the presidential candidate for Taiwan's main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), in Taipei

By Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu

(Reuters) - Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party picked New Taipei City mayor Hou Yu-ih on Wednesday to be its presidential candidate in the election next year, with China tensions set to top the election agenda.

Below are facts about Hou:

- Fluent in Taiwanese, the 65-year-old mayor of New Taipei City gained nationwide attention after a landslide re-election win late last year in the city that surrounds the capital. The KMT trounced the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in December's local elections.

- With a doctoral degree in crime prevention and corrections, Hou started his career as a criminal police officer and later became head of the National Police Agency. In 1997, he became a household name after rescuing the family of a South African diplomat in a high-profile hostage case, earning the reputation of a "tender tough guy."

- Hou rarely voices his stance on Taiwan's current and future relations with China. When pressed by reporters on issues including his China policy and his role in the coming election, Hou often replied with a phrase in Taiwanese that means to focus on doing the task at hand well.

- Hou said in a Facebook post last month that as Taiwan externally faces a tricky international situation and internally faces daily problems such as soaring prices, "it is necessary for the country's people to unite, to put political confrontation and conflicts aside, and to pragmatically face various challenges."

- Earlier this month, Hou said he objected to Taiwan's formal independence as well as Beijing's offer to rule the island under the "one country, two systems" formula of governance, similar to the arrangement in Hong Kong. He has also vowed to defend the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, if it was attacked.

- Hou joined the KMT in 1975, which traditionally favours close ties with China and supports the stance that both Taipei and Beijing are part of a single China although each can have its own interpretation of the term.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; additional reporting by Jeanny Kao; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)