Wed, Dec 04, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Most reject unification, survey says

CHANGING VIEWS A poll released by a Cabinet commission says more than 50 percent of the public prefers the status quo or independence

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

More than 50 percent of the people in Taiwan prefer independence to unification or prefer to stick with the status quo, according to the latest opinion poll released by the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission yesterday.

According to the survey, which questioned about 1,000 adults between Monday and Tuesday last week, about 32 percent of the people polled said that Taiwan independence is better for the nation's interest than unification with China.

Over 21 percent said that unification is better for the nation's interest than independence, while nearly 20 percent said that they prefer the status quo.

A survey administered by the commission about the same time last year showed that nearly 30 percent of the people polled said that it is in the best interest of Taiwan if the nation declares independence, while about 28 percent said that they preferred unification to independence.

About 17 percent of the people questioned last year said that they prefer the status quo.

A separate opinion poll conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council (陸委會) last December found that those who preferred the status quo stood at over 32 percent, while those supporting immediate independence accounted for 17 percent and those for immediate unification were about 10 percent.

Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political observer and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine, said that the surveys send a clear message.

"There are more and more people who prefer Taiwan independence to unification with China nowadays," Chin said. "The 2004 presidential election will become a referendum for Taiwan's future if the issue of independence or unification becomes the main theme of the campaign."

Chin, who regarded those preferring the status quo as "mild supporters of independence," said that the commision's latest poll actually showed that 52 percent of the people support the idea of independence, while 21 percent prefer unification.

Wu Tung-yeh (吳東野), a political scientist at National Chengchi University differs.

"Although more and more people support Taiwan's independence, I don't think it'll become a key issue in the presidential election in 2004," Wu said.

Direct transportation links with China, however, will become an issue because it is not as controversial as independence, which triggers more ideological confrontation than rational debates, Wu said.

"The candidate who points out a way to strike a balance between national security and business opportunities will win the election," Wu said.

Wu also questioned the reliability of the commision's latest poll.

"I know that more and more are pro-independence, but I doubt that there are that many people," Wu said.

Wu said that as pro-independence people increase and pro-unification people decrease, there should be more people are in favor of maintaining the status quo.

"That's one of the reasons why Beijing has kept a low profile recently, because on the one hand, the international community will condemn it if it uses military forces against Taiwan and on the other hand, it's afraid that it'll lose its grip on Taiwan as it becomes more democratized," he said.

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