Tue, Mar 09, 2004 - Page 8 News List


Chen deserves to win

I refer to the article "Foreign journalists to flock to Taiwan" (Friday, March 5, page 4).

It is no surprise that foreign journalists and news organizations are keen to report on the presidential election. Beyond the historic referendum to be carried out on March 20, the fact is that the choice of Taiwanese voters on that day will have a huge impact on the world in general.

It is no exaggeration to state that after the events which occurred in the past four years, a victory for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) would indicate to the world that Taiwan does not value democracy, freedom and independence.

Five key factors point to a win by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮): the candidates' backgrounds, the events that have transpired in the past four years, the Hong Kong July 1 demonstration, the influence of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and the actions of China.

Unlike Lien, Chen grew up with a humble background, and that certainly speaks of his ability to empathize with the less fortunate in society. Lien and Soong have been embroiled in financial scandals, which have yet to be resolved. Also, at the age of 68, is Lien able to relate to the feelings and aspirations of the younger, modern Taiwanese? Chen is only 53. Lien has also frequently modified his views and actions over the past few years. From supporting the view of "special state-to-state relations between Taiwan and China," as espoused by his former party chairman Lee in 1999, Lien has now indicated that he would prefer a peaceful reunification of the two countries. The Chen-Lu partnership has worked considerably well for the past four years, and will a Lien-Soong partnership work as well, given that in 2000, they launched ferocious attacks on each other?

While economic growth in the country has not been as ideal as in the 1990s, voters should note that Taiwan has enjoyed a better economic growth rate than the EU and Japan, with a lower unemployment rate than Hong Kong and the EU. The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report also ranked Taiwan as fifth in the world and first in Asia last year.

The fact that 500,000 people participated in a mass demonstration of protest against the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) on July 1 last year would surely have strengthened the drastic possibility of Taipei following the path of Hong Kong, should the voters elect a pro-unification candidate, namely Lien.

While blame for the lack of economic growth in Hong Kong since 1997 could be attributed to the 1997 financial crisis, Sept. 11 or SARS, Taiwanese have seen how Hong Kong has not developed more freely in terms of individual freedom since 1997.

Despite China's lack of aggressive threats this time round, other issues such as China's opposition to Taiwan's joining the World Health Organization, especially with memories of the SARS outbreak a year ago, have irked and upset many Taiwanese and international observers, that instead of it being purely a medical and social issue, the Chinese have turned it into a political issue.

Lee has been widely regarded as the founding father of democracy and economic development in Taiwan. It is probably no exaggeration to say that Lee is probably regarded in Taiwan what Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) is to Singapore or what Mahathir Mohamad is to Malaysia. Would voters want to see Lee's fight for democracy disappear overnight?

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