Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The president must be trustworthy

In a meeting with the Taiwanese media on Sunday during his visit to the Dominican Republic, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) finally admitted that he did ask People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) to forward a message to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) before Soong's visit to China.

According to Chen, the message can be summed up with the words "sovereignty, democracy, peace and equality." Also, he said that he is willing to shake hands with Hu in order to reach conciliation and to engage in rational dialogue with him without any preconditions. He added that this goodwill gesture does not mean that Taiwan is raising a white flag.

On the same day, Chen confusingly attacked the opposition parties for not passing the arms procurement bill, saying that the opposition leaders block the plan in order to curry favor with Beijing, fearing that Hu would not meet with them if they passed the bill. Although Chen's words were reasonable, the Taiwanese people cannot help but wonder: Since Chen himself is highly enthusiastic about reconciliation with Hu, why does he want to persuade the opposition leaders to pass a bill to buy arms intended for use against China? His words were certainly confusing to our foreign allies.

What is even more ridiculous is that, since Chen admitted that he delivered a message to Hu through Soong, this shows that the repeated denials of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government since the Chen-Soong meeting in February were all lies. Whether or not the DPP government officials were aware of the true facts, it was shameful for them to repeatedly deny correct reports in the media. They have to apologize to the public and the media.

Ultimately, Chen acted behind the backs of high-level government officials and policymakers, secretly negotiating with Soong -- a staunch opponent of the arms procurement bill who strongly favors unification -- to act as an emissary, with the hope of setting up direct talks with the Chinese leadership. Acting alone on such crucial issues, Chen is likely to invite suspicion and criticism from DPP supporters in the future. That Chen is willing to believe that a man whose political convictions completely contradict his own will loyally complete a secret diplomatic mission, suggests that his political judgement is seriously askew. The mission may not have turned out as intended, as according to Chen, Soong never confirmed with him that he had passed on the message. That Chen could admit such a thing is totally inappropriate, for this is not a game. After all, this was a mission personally given to Soong by the president. Surely there should be some official debriefing process upon its completion.

We all believe that peaceful, rational discussion is the best way of resolving the differences on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist government continues to use nationalism to stupefy the majority of the people. It spares no effort to interfere with the media, restricting press freedom, suppressing dissidents and preventing the formation of political parties. If this situation continues, then the time is not ripe for peaceful or rational discussion, and Taiwan's politicians should not rush to perform the role of "angels of peace."

Cross-strait peace is clearly an important issue during elections, but it is not the only one. Even more importantly, the DPP must earn the trust of the people and the president too must be trustworthy, for otherwise, not only the people of Taiwan, but also our foreign allies will lose all faith in our changeable China policy. We all know that Chen is already looking to the end of his term as president, but we advise him to remain cautious. Otherwise, criticisms that the DPP is seeking only short-term solutions to problems will be placed squarely at Chen's door.

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