Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Not the time for direct cargo flights

With the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) continuing to spread in this country, people in many communities are anxious and worried. The implementation of controls against the spread of the epidemic need to be improved. The government needs to take tougher measures to cut off exchanges across the Taiwan Strait to help block the virus from entering the country from China, Hong Kong or Macau.

In the face of SARS, the usual political wrangling has come to a temporary halt. Apparently, all the political parties understand that the only thing people are concerned about right now is SARS and no one is in the mood for political wrangling. Unfortunately, some politicians are seeking to capitalize on SARS fears.

KMT legislator John Chang (章孝嚴) on Tuesday called for direct cross-strait chartered cargo flights -- in the name of reviving the economy. He said his proposal was aimed at reducing the epidemic's serious economic impact on Taiwan and Hong Kong. But he has ignored the fact the virus originated in China and ignored the public's concerns about SARS. By hyping the direct-links issue, Chang is trying to make political gains from the SARS outbreak.

In recent years, the KMT's repeated election defeats have undercut its political value. The private lives of many party members have also become tabloid fodder. Chang himself had to step down as the party's secretary-general after a scandal over his involvement with former entertainer Sophie Wang (王筱嬋). For a while Chang almost completely lost his political visibility. One can imagine his despair and eagerness to make a comeback.

The illegitimate son of the late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Chang rose to prominence through the patronage of KMT heavyweights and public sympathy. Despite his limited experience in foreign missions, Chang soared through the diplomatic ranks to become foreign minister. After the KMT lost power, Chang lost his political stage. Hyping on his family background was a way for him to make a comeback. He easily won a legislative seat in Taipei City's Ta-an district, where many mainlanders and their descendants are concentrated.

However, after the Ministry of the Interior legally recognized his status as Chiang's son, he lost a means to generate publicity. Then he started shouting about direct flights. Once again he grabbed the media headlines by pushing for direct charter flights during the Lunar New Year. Now that the political and media focus is on epidemic prevention, politicos like Chang have been left out in the cold. That's why he is using the direct links issue to grab attention again.

Chang's proposal for direct cargo flights shows how little he cares about this nation's security. Surprisingly, however, 17 of the 129 legislators who reportedly endorsed Chang's proposal are from the DPP. Apparently some DPP lawmakers have also leaped into the trough of cross-strait trade. This reminds one of the recent rumors that some DPP people have gained benefits by intervening in cross-strait business.

As the ruling party, the DPP has the responsibility to take care of the welfare of the people of this nation. Any self-serving acts on the part of individual lawmakers may cause the party to lose power and endanger national security. Chang's proposal may only reflect the interests of some individual lawmakers but it could carry a big price tag in terms of the security of the people of Taiwan.

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