Sun, May 01, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Lien plays his last card

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was most disappointing. Not only did he fail to convey Taiwan's resentment over the "Anti-Secession" Law, he gave credibility to the so-called "1992 consensus" in a five-point press communique released jointly with Hu.

Lien's acknowledgement of the "1992 consensus" on "one China" covering the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is problematic for several reasons. President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government has never acknowledged the existence of this "consensus." In a recently released autobiography, this view is supported by the late Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), who represented the government in the 1992 meeting with Chinese representatives in Hong Kong in which the "consensus" is said to have been reached.

Lien's acceptance of the "consensus" clashes with Taiwan's cross-strait policy. He is also treading on dangerous legal ground. The existence or not of the "consensus" impacts on the political status of the country. The power to acknowledge such a consensus is reserved by the government. Evidently, Lien has not learned his lesson from KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤), who is under investigation for similarly encroaching on the authority of the state.

The KMT hopes that by phrasing the agreement reached between Hu and Lien as a "vision" and by packaging it as a "press communique," Lien will be able to avoid legal trouble. This remains to be seen. But what he has done is no less inappropriate, if not downright despicable.

To publicly contradict the government's cross-strait policy by echoing the views of a regime bearing hostility toward Taiwan in full view of the international community amounts to a betrayal of the worst kind.

It must be pointed out that Koo's performance in negotiations with Chinese officials was a lot more praiseworthy than Lien's. In 1998, during his last meeting with Wang Daohan (汪道涵), the chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, Koo did not neglect calling for equality in the cross-strait relationship and for respect for Taiwan's democracy.

Even though Lien can never come close to being the negotiator or diplomat that Koo was, at the very least he could have conveyed the feelings of humiliation and resentment that Taiwanese feel over the Anti-Secession Law. At the very least he could have told Hu that "unification" with China would become a more palatable option for the people of Taiwan when and only when China democratizes. But he said nothing of the sort.

At the end of the day, perhaps it was a mistake to hold any hope that Lien would give a remotely adequate performance in China. After all, he did not have much leverage or negotiating power. Shaking hands with Hu and issuing a semblance of a joint statement is the last card that Lien can play to salvage his political career and postpone retirement.

Lien's colleagues in the KMT are already talking about him running for president -- for the third time. So how does it help Lien if his five-point "vision" accomplishes nothing for the Taiwanese people?

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