Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen vows to tackle ethnic conflict

By Jewel Huang and Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian, seated right, center, listens as students take turns in expressing their ideas about the country's political situation and education during a forum held at the Red House Theater in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday promised to review the accusations that he had manipulated ethnic conflict to gain an election advantage.

At a meeting with about 130 members of 44 university and college student clubs from around the country, Chen said he was planning an "ethnic and culture development conference" to work toward a completely equal ethnic environment.

The Presidential Office had arranged a dialogue forum at the Red House Theater in Ximending yesterday in response to a demand by the students who staged a sit-in protest at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial last week. However, as the student protesters refused to attend the dialogue, claiming that it was just a trick by Chen to win them over, the members of college clubs were invited in their place.

Chen told the students that, as the head of state, his priority during the next four years would be to propose concrete measures to bridge the country's ethnic divides, which he blamed on political parties' vicious campaigns in previous elections.

"The ethnic issue does not just concern the identification of the country, but also perspectives on cultural differences and language. Therefore, we must call a national conference to discuss the ethnic and cultural developments in our country," he said.

The forum was modeled on the format of a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Yuan and students took turns in putting their questions to Chen. They quizzed the president about educational reform, election affairs and the Constitution.

Some focused on the recent political conflict between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the pan-blue alliance in the wake of the presidential election.

"The so-called `Taiwanese awareness' is not private property that belongs to Chen or the DPP," one student representative said.

"We are wondering why President Chen and the DPP suppressed the opposition force during the election by saying they do not love Taiwan, as well as by saying you are the one [group] that represents Taiwan?" the student said.

"We hope that President Chen could serve as a real example to transcend the mindset of green-blue confrontation," anther student said.

Chen also promised students that he would hold a conference on national affairs especially for young people and students after his inauguration on May 20.

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