Government officials and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday rushed to slam Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for calling the Republic of China (ROC) a government-in-exile while the DPP defended Tsai, saying her remark was taken out of context.
Tsai on Tuesday suggested in a speech at a book launch that from Taiwan’s perspective, the ROC government was a Chinese authoritarian government that had dominated Taiwanese politics for the last six decades. However, she also said that in the past few decades, with the rise of Taiwan’s democracy movement and replacement of Chinese interests with Taiwanese interests, the ROC government had become both legitimate and sovereign.
The KMT-led government, however, reacted strongly.
“Tsai’s comments belittled national dignity. It was a serious blunder that reflected self-denial and an opposition party of a democratic country should not hold such a stance,” Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said.
Lo accused Tsai of attracting support from extremists in the pan-green camp through rhetoric.
He also urged her not to manipulate the issue of national identity for campaign purposes, ahead of the November special muncipality elections.
“It was the first time Chairperson Tsai gave her stance on the status of the ROC. We are sorry that she chose to attract the support of deep-green supporters,” he said.
The term “government in exile” refers to a temporary organization with no authority to rule the country, Lo said, while the ROC government has enjoyed the authority to reign over Taiwan.
The “Resolution on Taiwan’s Future,” proclaimed by the DPP in 1999, also acknowledged Taiwan’s title as “ROC” in the Constitution, Lo said, adding Tsai’s comments were clearly contrary to reality.
“Did the former DPP government rule the country illegally for the past eight years? Does Tsai, as the DPP’s candidate in Sinbei City, decide to abandon her moderate approach?” Lo said.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said Tsai’s remark was “shocking,” and she should know what an exiled government means.
“She was once the ROC’s vice premier and Mainland Affairs Council chairwoman. Was she on the payroll of a government in exile?” Wu said.
Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said some academics used to refer to the ROC government as a “government in exile,” but the official view is the “ROC government is the ROC government.”
KMT lawmakers questioned whether Tsai was crazy.
“When I first heard the remark, I thought it came from [former president] Chen Shui-bian [陳水扁]. [Did she make the remark] because she was possessed by Chen?” KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) said.
KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said the ROC would never be an exiled government because it has all the characteristics of an independent nation.
KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) urged Tsai to apologize for her blunder.
Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs, yesterday downplayed Tsai’s remarks, saying they were taken out of context.
Tsai was referring to historical events instead of the ROC’s current status, Hsiao added.
On what Tsai originally meant by her comments, Hsiao said: “The ROC did come to Taiwan as a government-in-exile in 1949, but in the last 60 years through our pursuit for and subsequent exercise of democracy … we can proudly say that Taiwan is a sovereign country. The [government] took Tsai’s remarks out of context and completely distorted the meaning.”