Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

China on blue camp's side: legislator

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese officials have attempted to influence next year's presidential election by asking an influential Taiwanese Buddhist master to support the opposition camp, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker alleged yesterday.

Former Chinese ambassador to Washington Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) visited Master Hsin Yun (星雲) in Hsi Lai Temple in California last December to deliver a message from Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), then China's vice premier, said DPP Legislator Charles Chiang (江昭儀).

Wen hoped the monk could mobilize religious resources to help Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his running-mate, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), Chiang said.

In April, Wang Mingjian (王明鑑), an official from China's Taiwan Affairs Office, visited Hsin Yun at the temple to make the same request, he said.

Chiang, who published five facts accusing China of helping the opposition parties' election campaign last week, said "very reliable" sources told him about the meetings between the Chinese officials and Hsin Yun.

"Hsin Yun, with virtue and wisdom, rejected China's request. I applaud his fortitude and would like to call him a patriotic monk," Chiang said.

Chiang, however, admitted to not contacting Hsin Yun to confirm the existence of the meetings.

The DPP has been exchanging fire with the pan-blue camp over whether China has secretly supported the KMT and the PFP since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) made that allegation in an interview with the Washington Post.

KMT Legislator Cheng Feng-shih (鄭逢時) dismissed Chiang's charge as ridiculous.

"China has always kept a distance from religious groups," Cheng said.

"The Chinese government has never been interested in religious groups. The Falun Gong sect has brought quite enough trouble for the government," Cheng said.

"How is it be possible that the Chinese government would want to use religious groups or a Taiwanese Buddhist leader to influence the presidential election? The accusation is rather improper," Cheng added.

KMT Legislator Kwan Yuk-noan (關沃暖) said the DPP government should review its practice of linking politics with religion.

"Taiwan's Presbyterian churches have always supported Taiwan's independence. Their participation in politics is a typical example of religious intervention in politics," Kwan said.

"Chiang's accusation is groundless and false," Kwan said.

PFP spokesman Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said Chiang has lost credibility over the comments.

"Chiang's comments are always dominated by ideology. The PFP doesn't want to comment on what he said. It doesn't matter what other people say about the PFP. What matters is what the PFP has actually done," Hwang said.

The Fo Kuang Shan monastery in Kaohsiung, which is funded by Hsin Yun, was unable to respond to Chiang's remarks yesterday.

The monastery has a worldwide temple network. Hsin Yun, 77, was born in China and once served as a soldier and a high-ranking official in the KMT, according to Chiang.

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