Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen has some questions for Hu Jintao

CAMPAIGN TRAIL THe DPP endorsed the Chen-Lu candidacy, after which the president asked some taxing questions of his counterpart across the Taiwan Strait

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, center, gives a speech yesterday in which he reiterates his stance to hold a defensive referendum after the Democratic Progressive Party's national congress endorsed the party's presidential ticket yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held a national congress yesterday to endorse the party's presidential campaign ticket featuring President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

Addressing the convention, staged as a gala-like campaign event, Chen raised three questions he would like to put to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤):

? Why can't Taiwan and China go their separate ways since they have antithetical political systems?

? Why can't China dismantle its missiles used to intimidate democratic Taiwan?

? And why can't Taiwan enter the World Health Organization?

"If the Beijing authorities can't provide answers to these questions, I believe the people of Taiwan will give their own answers on March 20," Chen said, reiterating his stance to hold a "defensive referendum" on the same day as the election.

Chen said that it was not his desire to hold a referendum which was the destabilizing factor in the region, but China's attempts to intimidate Taiwan, its missile build up and its refusal to renounce the use of force.

"It is China's military threat that would change the cross-strait status quo, not Taiwan's democratic practice of holding a referendum."

Chen stressed that the referendum was not intended to be provocative, but to safeguard Taiwan's security and that it would certainly not be cancelled as a result of threats by China.

"No matter how hegemonic China is and how much pressure Taiwan faces from such a power, Taiwan must insist on following the path of democracy," Chen said.

Speaking in his capacity as the DPP's flag-bearer, Chen yesterday also pledged to conduct a "fair, positive, and quality" campaign.

He also said he was willing to reconcile with the opposition parties, after a long period of inter-party feuding, for the sake of political harmony after the election.

"It is foreseeable that after the election next year, the domestic political situation is bound to have a new look due to the reintegration of party elements. The DPP is willing to attempt reconciliation with supporters of all political stripes to allay the negative effects of election feuding," Chen said.

The DPP's national congress yesterday also honored a total of 626 senior party members for their contribution to the process of Taiwan's democratization.

To gear up full support for Chen's re-election, seven counties and municipalities yesterday convened a campaign meeting prior to the national congress, with each administrative unit pledging to increase the DPP's total vote by 10 percentage points compared with the 2000 presidential election.

In Chiayi County yesterday, former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) extended his support for Chen's reelection bid and vowed to mobilize one million people on Feb. 28 for an island-wide rally.

Lee made the comments at the establishment of the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) Chiayi County Chapter. Lee founded the TSU in 2001, which has since become a strategic partner of the DPP.

Later yesterday the DPP staged a 100,000-people rally in Taipei County's Erchung Waterfront Park.

Chen and Lu, as well as the DPP's five major campaign leaders -- Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Presidential Secretary General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), Taipei County Magistrate Su Chen-chang (蘇貞昌), Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and DPP Secretary General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) -- all attended the rally.

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