Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Hualien candidates debate democracy

SPATThe three contenders squared off on a number of issues, including the independent candidate's reputation and a kickback scandal involving a land-acquisition deal

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN HUALIEN

The three key candidates in the Hualien County commissioner by-election -- the KMT's Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山), the DPP's You Ying-lung (游盈隆) and independent candidate Wu Kuo-tung (吳國棟) -- yesterday expressed their respective campaign platforms and cross examined each others' qualifications to vie for the commissioner seat.

Discussing their campaign platforms in turn, Hsieh, the former KMT Cabinet secretary-general and the candidate representing the pan-blue alliance in the campaign, first remarked that his seasoned experience as a public official over the past three decades have enabled him to focus on promoting the welfare of laborers and minority groups.

"Though I have spent most of my life serving as a public official in the central government, I worked tremendously hard to develop Hualien. My previous jobs as director of the Council for Labor Affairs and Cabinet secretary-general allowed me, with my efficient coordination capabilities and professionalism, to deal with laborers, who also constitute most of Hualien's population," Hsieh said.

Wu, a former KMT Hualien County commissioner running an independent campaign, appeared calm and eloquent in the debate but was fiercely criticized by the DPP's candidate, You Ying-lung, during the cross-examination session of the debate for accepting kickbacks in a land acquisition scandal in Hualien. The charges against Wu -- regarded as his Achilles' heel, is still being processed in the Supreme Court -- a situation that aroused doubts from You who questioned whether Wu could perform his duties consistently if he was elected commissioner.

Wu said he was innocent of all the charges, and cited a previous court's decision which ruled that Wu was not guilty.

He also said he has solid support from grassroots supporters as opposed to Hsieh or You.

You, who has lost three elections so far, was attacked by Hsieh and Wu yesterday for saying that Hualien's residents lacked the democratic spirit because Hualien has never experienced a change of political powers over the past five decades.

Responding to a question from the press about why the DPP has actively promoted You's candidacy, You said, "Hualien residents' democratic performance is relatively low compared with other cities and counties in Taiwan because Hualien has only been ruled by the KMT over the past five decades. The DPP is simply concerned about the health of Hualien's democracy."

In addition, You also downplayed the widely-believed implication that the by-election will set a precedent for the next year's presidential election and stressed that the election is as simple in scale as a local government election.

"The pan-blue camp's implication that this election will heavily influence the outcome of the presidential election is an exploitation of the electorate," You said.

You eventually promised to develop the remote county on the eastern coast by turning it into a tourism hub and bio-technology and cultural center.

Meanwhile, Hsieh yesterday tried to dilute his connections with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who is seen as a weakness of Hsieh's campaign in Hualien as Lee's pro-independence stance would repulse Hsieh's pan-blue supporters.

"I wouldn't deny that Lee had helped me out when he promoted me by offering me several important positions. But now, because our political stances are different, I have to abide strictly by the KMT's rule," said Hsieh, who has been smeared by rivals about his close ties with Lee.

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