Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - Page 1 News List

DPP sends mixed signals on NHI proposal

UNHEALTHY DEBATE:A suggestion that Chinese students be eligible for the National Health Insurance has been criticized as inappropriate, and praised for good intentions

By Chris Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporters

A proposal by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) to include Chinese students in the National Health Insurance (NHI) program yesterday continued to draw mixed reactions from party members, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) accused the DPP of prevarication.

The initiative, which Wu said was submitted out of humanitarian concerns instead of political motives, backfired in the media, with most DPP members expressing reservations about the proposal.

Wu apologized for his “recklessness” and the “inappropriate timing” after many DPP supporters and politicians expressed opposition in recent days, leading to the proposal’s withdrawal.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), who at first described the proposal as Wu’s “personal opinion,” stepped up the rhetoric on Monday, saying the initiative was “inappropriate and rushed.”

DPP caucus chief secretary Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) told a press conference that most DPP lawmakers were “reserved” about the proposal, despite their position that every proposal should be respected.

“Most lawmakers think the NHI is more of a social welfare and less of an insurance system, which is why it has suffered great financial loss and why they [critics] question whether coverage should be expanded,” Tsai said.

However, DPP legislators Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) lauded Wu for having “good intentions” and said the DPP should encourage discussion and creativity in public policy formulation, while Wang Dan (王丹), a Chinese dissident now teaching at National Tsing Hua University, said he supported the initiative as a teacher and as a Chinese.

“The proposal would attract more Chinese students to study in Taiwan, which would help promote democracy in China. By making a little sacrifice, Taiwan would be able to create a positive image among the Chinese people. Strategically, I think that would be a good option for Taiwan,” Wang said.

“From the perspective of human rights, I don’t see why Chinese students cannot enjoy the same rights as other foreign students,” said Chang Tieh-chih (張鐵志), a political commentator.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which has a more rigid policy on China, opposed the initiative and said state-to-state relations between Taiwan and China should be reaffirmed before such a measure could be adopted.

TSU Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) said that China has never renounced its territorial ambition on Taiwan and Taiwan should take care of its nationals first.

Meanwhile, the KMT accused the DPP of being “capricious” in its cross-strait policies and said the DPP’s decision to withdraw the proposal revealed its unwillingness to come to a better understanding with China, as it claims it is trying to do.

“Chairman Su was capricious about the proposal. It is obvious that the DPP’s cross-strait policies are opportunistic and lack context,” KMT spokesperson Ma Wei-kuo (馬瑋國) said.

She questioned the DPP’s about-face on the issue, saying the party at first made the proposal to address human rights, but then withdrew the proposal because DPP supporters opposed it.

“Chairman Su said the DPP reinstated the Chinese Affairs Department in order to understand China, but the DPP has once again been kidnapped by political ideology. We still don’t know the direction the DPP is heading in terms of cross-strait policies,” she said.

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