Sun, Feb 15, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen, Lien face off in first debate

DIFFERENT STROKES The president focused on policy, particularly regarding China, while his challenger concentrated on personality-related issues

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, right, and Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan shake hands before Taiwan's first-ever televised presidential debate, held at a Public Television Service studio in Taipei yesterday.


Cross-strait policies and personality traits became the focal points of yesterday's presidential debate, the first-ever televised presidential debate in the nation's history.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) questioned election rival Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Lien Chan (連戰) over China policy while Lien focused on the president's character, calling Chen "capricious," "irresponsible" and "unreliable."

During his eight-minute concluding statement, Chen took aim at Lien's idea that sovereignty issues should be put aside when dealing with China, saying that such an approach was hazardous.

"We have to stand firm on the nation's sovereignty, not put it aside; this is highly dangerous," Chen said. "Our stance is clear; that is, the national name of Taiwan is the Republic of China and we're dedicated to safeguarding the status quo across the Taiwan Strait."

Chen also called on Lien to stop hindering the nation's first national referendum, which is scheduled to be held alongside the presidential poll on March 20.

"You can disagree with it but please don't obstruct it," Chen said. "History will have its final say on his opposition today."

Dismissing Lien's upbraiding of his personality traits, Chen said that he is not a capricious person.

"My hairstyle has never changed over the years nor my love for my wife," he said. "Besides, I've never abused her and never will."

Chen was referring to a long-standing rumor that Lien has physically abused his wife, Lien Fang Yu (連方瑀).

Chen said the referendum gave power to the people, adding that he supported this because he had faith in the people and their wisdom.

He also called on the public to help him and his running mate Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

"Don't let someone who cares so little about the nation's sovereignty and is inconsistent in his cross-strait policy rule the nation," Chen said.

Lien, however, focussed on Chen's character.

"In my opinion, a good national leader has to be responsible, reliable, consistent in his or her words and behaviors and a team player," he said.

"Why do we need a president who blames the nation's economic downturn on global recession, the poor political climate on the lawmaking body and the cross-strait stalemate on opposition parties," Lien said.

Were he elected, Lien said that he would be committed to establishing a clean and efficient government, resuscitating the economy, creating a fear-free and discrimination-free society and instituting a peaceful cross-strait relationship under the premise of equality and dignity.

"I'm calling on the public to send those in power but incompetent in governing the country home to reflect on themselves and give those who have a yearning to serve the people and the country a second chance," Lien said. "The nation desperately needs a change and it's needed now. Only change can bring us hope."

During the eight-minute opening speech, Chen highlighted his intention to push for reforms, boost the economy and build a safer and more stable homeland for the 23 million people of Taiwan.

Likening national development to house-building, Chen said that a high-rise building requires not only a good height but also a solid foundation.

Chen also called on opposition lawmakers to help push the passage of financial, judicial and legislative reform bills and sunshine bills in the legislature.

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