Sat, Mar 06, 2004 - Page 1 News List

It's safe to vote for Chen, liberals say

WIN-WIN SITUATION Regardless of whether Beijing issues threats or exercises restraint, the China issue works in Chen's favor, the president of Liberal International says

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN KAOHSIUNG

China's reluctance to interfere in Taiwan's presidential election allows the Taiwanese people to vote with confidence for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), said the president of Liberal International, a worldwide federation of liberal political parties.

"The Beijing authorities have clearly avoided any preference this time, that they are not going to interfere with Taiwan's election," Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroek, president of Liberal International and former Belgian deputy minister of foreign affairs, told the Taipei Times in Kaohsiung.

"This means the people of Taiwan should have the confidence to vote for Chen," she said.

China's taking a hard-line approach to threaten the people of Taiwan with a war if they voted for Chen in the 2000 presidential election helped Chen, as the public found Beijing's intimidation unacceptable.

She also dismissed the opposition parties' accusation that Chen's re-election would be destabilizing to Taiwan's future.

"It has not been the case of what the KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] said in the previous election that if Chen became president, the future of Taiwan will become very uncertain and very dangerous," she said.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) hosted the Liberal International Asian Conference along with the executive meeting of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) from Thursday to today in Kaohsiung.

Neyts-Uyttebroek said Liberal International supports Chen and believes his re-election would further consolidate Taiwan's democracy and sustainable economic development.

"Chen's re-election is the strengthening of democracy in Taiwan. The campaign so far was absolutely peaceful. It's testimony to the political maturity of the Taiwanese people and the political party," Neyts-Uyttebroek said.

She also condemned a recent proposal by French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to lift the EU's arms embargo on China.

"What I found very amazing in the lifting of the arms embargo is some European governments had taken the positions without even mentioning a number of conditions," she said.

"If we would eventually engage in the road of lifting the embargo, at least we should demand a number of guarantees from China, such as whether China is willing to engage in the worldwide effort to ban weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, and whether China would improve its human rights records," Neyts-Uyttebroek said.

In terms of cross-strait relations, given the growing economic attraction of China and the strengthening of democracy in Taiwan, Neyts-Uyttebroek expressed optimism that China's economic prosperity will bring peaceful developments to both sides.

"The changes in China are tremendous. People are encouraged to take all economic initiatives and develop economic activities. My feelings are that a majority of people in China realize that probably never before have the Chinese enjoyed as many possibilities as they do today. And they are not going to put that in jeopardy lightly," she said.

"From that perspective, there should be room for negotiations and peaceful talks."

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and members Liberal International yesterday said the referendum is a necessary step toward democratic consolidation.

The CALD executive meeting also saw Chen take over the rotating chairmanship from his predecessor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, former deputy minister of foreign affairs of Thailand and an incumbent MP for Thailand's Democratic Party.

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