President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for the drafting of a “code of conduct” for retired generals after a former general on a visit to China was quoted as saying that the Republic of China (ROC) Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are both “China’s army.”
Retired generals should put the interests of Taiwan above all, present a transparent itinerary and exercise prudence when visiting China, Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) quoted Ma as saying at the Presidential Office.
“Retired generals are not government officials, but their words and actions remain very sensitive ... If the media reports are true, then the [general’s] comments went against national policy and should be condemned,” Fan Chiang said.
According to Fan Chiang, Ma was “stunned” when he learned of the reported quote.
Ma’s directive follows Taiwanese media citing a Chinese media report quoting PLA Major General Luo Yuan (羅援) as saying that a Taiwanese speaker recently told a gathering of retired generals from both sides of the Taiwan Strait in China: “From now on, we should no longer separate the ROC Army and the PLA. We are all China’s army.”
The Chinese report identified the speaker as retired Air Force General Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲).
Hsia denied making such a remark, but the reports sparked criticism from both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, who urged the government to set clear rules on military personnel exchanges with China.
Ma yesterday met with National Security Council Secretary-General Wu Wei-chen (胡為真), Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and Veteran Affairs Commission Minister Tseng Jing-ling (曾金陵) to discuss the incident.
Ma said government bodies should strengthen efforts to promote the administration’s cross-strait policy, especially its “three noes” policy of no unification, no independence and no use of force, Fan Chiang said.
Ma said that even if Hsia was misquoted, the government “has learned a lesson” from the incident, Fan Chiang said.
Unconvinced, the DPP called on Ma to pay the “ultimate responsibility,” saying Hsia’s alleged comments had demoralized the armed forces and “harmed national sovereignty.”
“It’s the result of the [government’s] attitude of bending over backwards and constantly seeking China’s favor that Ma, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has adopted since assuming office,” DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said. “He should correct the public perception and personally apologize to the public.”
The DPP has asked for a full review of the pension benefits that retired senior officers who have traveled to China still enjoy, saying it is “unfair” for Taiwanese taxpayers to be subsidizing their “Chinese ideals.”
While some DPP lawmakers demanded the government immediately revoke Hsia’s pension and other retirement benefits, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said the government needed proof first that the former general broke the law before it could withhold his pension.
“It is unreasonable to make such a demand when we’re still trying to determine whether he actually made those remarks,” Hsieh said.
Hsia has stressed that he never made the comments when questioned by the media.
In the face of the media scrutiny, the retired general yesterday said that KMT and Ma administration officials had also frequently traveled to China.
“I am of the Shandong temperament and the government’s attitude on this issue is quite heart chilling,” Hsia said, alluding to the stereotypical depiction of people from China’s Shandong Province as being hot-tempered.
“If President Ma Ying-jeou wants to find somebody to blame, just pick me,” he said, adding that it was in the interests of cross-strait peace that retired generals weren’t spending their days resting at home, but spending their own money to travel to China.
Hsia said the government’s treatment of retired officers was being watched by those still in service.
As for Ma’s demands that retired officers should ensure that their visits to China are conducted in a transparent manner, and that they should watch their words and actions, Hsia said the government does not have an agency retirees could report to even if they wanted to.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VINCENT Y. CHAO AND CNA
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