Understand the genuine meaning of Lien-speak

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒  / 

Mon, May 30, 2005 - Page 8

Since Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) said, "Personally, I have no wish to run for the party chairmanship," we must look for other than "personal" factors to understand the true meaning of Lien's wishes.

On the first day that candidates could register for the KMT chairmanship election, the party's central standing committee met. Most importantly, all 22 members of the committee, led by KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), enthusiastically signed a petition calling for Lien to stay on as chairman and made speeches predicting that the party will split unless he does. The scene outside the meeting was even more outrageous, with people kneeling down and chanting "Brother Lien save the KMT" while chastising Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his candidacy and calling him a "betrayer of the nation."

It seemed as if the white sun would drop out of the blue sky without Lien, while it was immoral of Ma to stand for election. Furthermore, Lien said that he had "taken to heart" what Formosa Plastics chairman Wang Yung-ching (王永慶), Evergreen president Chang Jung-fa (張榮發) and other voices from industry and business had said: it seemed the air was filled with calls for Lien to stay on. So what does "personal wishes" have to do with this?

KMT Legislator Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) has said that Lien told him "there is no way" he will stay on. Giving Wu a figurative slap in the face while also refuting this rumor, Ting Yuan-chao (丁遠超), director of Lien's office, retorted that none of the multitude of statements regarding Lien's plans counted for anything.

But are statements by a spokesperson "official"? Following comments at a press conference by KMT Central Standing Committee Spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文), some media outlets reported that Lien is not standing for re-election. Immediately after that, Lien's henchman and KMT spokesman Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭) immediately criticized the reports for being "one-sided." So will Lien stand for election, or won't he? We now see that considerations of "personal wishes" have nothing to do with it.

The biggest stumbling block to Lien's staying on is Ma's unwavering determination to stand for election. This is also the reason for Lien's attack on Ma during the Central Standing Committee meeting, when Lien asked, "In what direction will the party develop following the election? Will it have the guts to oppose those actions of the populist government that should be opposed? Or demonstrate when a demonstration is called for? Will it take the necessary steps?" What is this, if not a settling of accounts for Ma's earlier lack of enthusiasm for "demonstrating against losing the election"? Even more clearly, Lien criticized Ma, saying that the party had "lost its ideals" and that "I cannot accept such statements."

Since Lien is not standing for re-election, is it necessary for him to announce his political opinions? Must he attack Ma to protect the KMT vote? Most crucially, Lien has "ordered" Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Ma to inform the Central Standing Committee about the party's future direction and development, saying that "if not everyone is happy, further negotiations can be held" and "if problems remain unresolved, I will consider joint negotiations."

With Lien first attacking Ma for everyone to see, it is pretty obvious what his "concerns" and "joint negotiations" are all about. The problem is that Ma is determined to follow through with his candidacy regardless of what Lien says. Who said that elections aren't everything?

Chin Heng-wei is editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine.

Translated by Perry Svensson