Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Nation's future lies in its history: Hsieh

NO SPARKS The two presidential candidates were invited to speak about Chiang Wei-shui's role in the nation's history, but in order to avoid conflict, a debate was dropped

By Flora Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taiwan's future does not lie in making connections with China but in learning local history and recognizing and identifying with Taiwan, Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said during a "dialogue" with his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) counterpart Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday.

Hsieh made the comments during a forum held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Taiwan People's Party, founded by Taiwanese nationalist pioneer Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) in 1927.

Hsieh said he advocates the idea of a "Taiwanese community which shares a common destiny" and dislikes the idea of "building a relationship by blood" because the latter is the rationale behind China's claim that its sovereignty extends over Taiwan.

"Only those who rule [a country] without legitimacy would appeal to blood ties ... Emphasizing the relationship by blood is also dangerous for Taiwan," he said. "Regardless of whether one is a Mainlander, a Hakka, a Hoklo or an Aborigine, it is more important to identify with this land."

"Taiwan does not necessarily need to connect to anyone in order to have a future. I believe the logic behind this argument is wrong and could be misleading," he said.

The panel marked the first public "dialogue" between the two presidential candidates since they won their respective presidential nominations in May and last month.

The panel, however, was not a debate between the two because they did not have the opportunity to question each other.

Hsieh said the Taiwan People's Party was the first modern political party in Taiwan, but the then KMT government did not want to acknowledge the history of that party because "it was a history of opposition to dictatorship and to the foreign [Japanese] regime."

Hsieh said that not every regime that has ruled in Taiwan can be called a "pro-localization regime."

"Whether or not a regime is `pro-localization' depends on whether it regards this nation as its homeland ... the [then] KMT government was a foreign regime because it forbade individuals from identifying with Taiwan," Hsieh said.

Ma disagreed with Hsieh and criticized the government for failing to address peoples' needs.

"Taiwanese directly elected former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in 1996 and the KMT gained full legitimacy through such a democratic process," Ma said.

Arguing that the term "foreign regime" was "terminology from the last century," Ma said the key to the nation's development was the legitimacy of the government rather than ethnicity.

"A government would lack legitimacy if it were incompetent and corrupt," Ma said.

Before making his remarks, Ma shook hands with Hsieh, and took the occasion to laud Chiang for adopting a "moderate" course and seeking to improve the lives of the blue collar workers.

Shrugging off Hsieh's attack on him and the KMT, Ma said that Chiang's contributions should not be "consumed" for electoral purposes and that history should not be a subject for debate.

"What we should debate are public policies," Ma said during a gathering with reporters later.

"It's not my purpose to have a war of words with Hsieh today and I acknowledge that Hsieh is more eloquent than me," he said.

The foundation had initially invited Ma and Hsieh to hold a debate on Chiang's impact on the nation's democracy, but later dropped the idea to prevent conflict.

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