Tue, May 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chen must stand up to the quislings

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) will return to Taipei tonight after a controversial eight-day visit to China. On Thursday, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) will begin his tour of China. It is to be expected that Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) will roll out the red carpet for Soong and hold talks with him on a party-to-party basis, just as he did with Lien.

At such a crucial time for the future of the country, it is worth reminding the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that there has been a dangerous polarization of public opinion over these visits. The government must clearly state its stance on these trips in order to resolve the suspicions between rival camps and defuse potential confrontations.

Regrettably, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the only person who has the final say in cross-strait affairs, is not only out of the country on a diplomatic trip, his comments on the China visits and Lien's recent statements are totally at odds with other DPP heavyweights. This has created chaos in the interaction between the government and the DPP's legislative caucus. A responsible government should inform its people of its intentions when there is a change of policy rather than engaging in political games that keep everyone in the dark.

A succession of opposition officials have visited China, meeting with a government that claims Taiwan is a part of its territory and that Taiwan's democratically elected government is nothing more than a regional government similar to those in Hong Kong and Macao. Faced with this situation, why is this nation's government doing nothing more than watching from the sidelines? Have the nation's leaders nothing to say and no policy to put forward as opposition officials engage in a dangerous farce with the other side of the Strait?

When a serious split occurs in domestic politics, the people have the right to demand the government engage with them and explain what measures it is taking and in what direction it is leading them. The efficacy of closed-door methods of resolving political crises is a myth. Successive US presidents have understood this and have engaged the public in "fireside talks" during which they reveal their thinking and help the people understand where the government is taking the country. Chen should consider a similar method.

Trying to deal with a political crisis by keeping the ruling party and its legislative caucus in the dark over party policy is absurd. Only by communicating with the people can the government reduce misunderstanding and friction between the public and the government. Only in this way can a situation in which a small number of politicians instigate violence between rival political camps be avoided. Chen should bear this in mind as the first anniversary of his second term in office approaches.

What worries the people of this country is that China could get involved in domestic politics through the KMT and the PFP. The opposition has long sought to impede the president, which would serve Beijing's political interests.

The pan-blue camp has long been making preparations for a bid to recall Chen, and there are even suggestions that members of the pan-green camp would not shrink from this course of action. Therefore, Chen must not hesitate to demonstrate his leadership and tell the people what he intends to do, instead of what he cannot do. Chen should not be afraid to rely on public opinion since the majority is strongly opposed to Beijing's efforts to ally itself with the opposition. Only in this way will the people fully accept Chen as their leader.

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