Thu, Mar 09, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Fathers of the nation?

We are indebted to DPP presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) for making us aware of an interesting and factual aspect of the election campaign that might have gone overlooked. It is the curious incident, as Sherlock Holmes might have put it, of the absent relatives, especially the males.

First, some background. For his cross-strait policy, Lien Chan (連戰) presented a 10-point wish list, progress on which depended on the Chinese making a gesture of peace and goodwill. Four days later they issued a white paper threatening Taiwan with invasion if it dithered too long on reunification talks. Having shot Lien in the foot they then tried to repair the damage by shooting Chen in the head, with editorials in the Liberation Army Daily talking up China's military might and threatening dire consequences in the wake of a Chen victory -- a United Front style of cooperation between the CCP and the KMT that we haven't seen in 60 years. Chen has been put on the defensive, saying that of all the candidates, he has the biggest commitment to peace in Taiwan because he is the only one whose family is here, not mostly residing abroad; and by the same token, he is the only candidate whose son will perform his so-called compulsory military service. In a campaign of endless speculation, most of it utterly without value, here is a fact that we can throw light on.

James Soong's (宋楚瑜) son, Soong Chen-yuan (宋鎮遠), was born in the US, has a US passport, is working in the US at present and never did his military service. Soong does, however, have a daughter studying in Taiwan.

Lien has two sons, Lien Sheng-wen (連勝文) and Lien Sheng-wu (連勝武). Both were born in the US. Sheng-wen returned to Taiwan, where in theory he should have had to do his military service. He was, however, deemed too overweight to be able to do so. Sheng-wu has remained in the US where he is a student. Lien also has two daughters, one studying and one working in Taiwan.

Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) has two sons who, while both born in in Taiwan, are US/ROC dual nationals. One currently studies in Paris and the other studies in Beijing. Neither has done their military service in Taiwan. He also has two daughters, one of whom works in Taiwan while the other studies in the US.

And then there is Soong's running mate, Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄) and his wife Li Fang-hui (李芳惠), both of whom possess US passports.

As for Chen, his son will graduate from National Taiwan University Law School next year, after which he will have to do his military service. None of Chen's family has any other passports, which means his son might actually get into harm's way defending his country.

Unlike Chen, all the other candidates show a clear preference for making sure their families share as little of the danger inherent in being a citizen of Taiwan as is possible. Responsible parenthood, one might say, especially in a society that places a high Confucian value on sons. Yes, but isn't the president supposed to set a moral example to his people? Is he not supposed to be a patriarch to his extended family? If so, what is the moral example that Soong, Lien and Hsu have set? Shirk your duty, try to become a citizen of somewhere else, move your valuable assets abroad. Does anyone really want to be led by such men?

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