Lee calls pan-blue camp `collaborators'

PARTING SHOT: The former president finished his visit to Washington with a swipe at the pan-blue alliance and an appeal to the US and the world to treat Taiwan seriously

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Sat, Oct 22, 2005 - Page 1

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on Thursday lashed out at the pan-blue alliance, calling its members collaborators with China in a plan to reverse Taiwan's democratization, and he repeated his call for the name "Taiwan" to be changed to the "Republic of Taiwan."

Speaking to a standing-room-only audience of nearly 200 people at a press conference at the National Press Club, Lee said that the main problem facing Taiwan today is the need for heightened national identity, and that a name change is the only way Taiwan can expect to gain recognition from the nations of the world.

He said he was not in Washington to promote Taiwan's independence, because "Taiwan is already independent," and that a new name and constitution are needed to codify that.

However, his words failed to move the Bush administration, which has steadfastly rejected the idea of a name change, and has been cool on suggestions for a new constitution.

Asked at a regular daily State Department press conference about Lee's remarks, spokesman Sean McCormack simply said, "No change in our policy."

And US observers who listened to Lee said afterwards that they doubted his words would have any impact on the Bush administration's feelings or policies.

"I don't know whether it will change anything or not," said Nat Bellocchi, a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan.

Nevertheless, Lee had "raised Taiwan's name in the international community, and that's primarily what he's after," Bellocchi said.

William Brock, chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council and a former Tennessee senator, said he did not think Lee's push for a name change will affect relations with Washington.

"I think the US has a lot of respect for Taiwan. I think we're going to watch and see what the people of Taiwan want to do with their name. The important thing is to maintain a strong relationship, a strong commitment to democracy and make sure there remains a peaceful atmosphere in the entire region," Brock told reporters after the speech.

Michael Fonte, the DPP liaison officer in Washington, said, "I think the administration won't say anything," in view of its basic policy seeking peaceful resolution of cross-strait tensions.

Lee said that a name change would be a "simple process," Fonte noted.

"I don't think the administration will accept the simpleness of his answer," he said.

Lee said that in his years as president, he had never called for Taiwan's independence, and "I am not calling for Taiwan independence now. What I want is for the Taiwanese people to have recognition in the international community, to live a normal life in a normal country."

Lee's experience both in office and subsequent to that time had convinced him that "there are only two ways to resolve this critical problem" of global recognition.

"One is for the world to recognize the Republic of China's existence. The second is for Taiwan to change its official name so the international community can accept it. Experience has taught us that the first option is very difficult to achieve.

"Therefore, we are only left with the second option," he said.

Lee's speech and responses to questions were delivered in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) and translated into English.

Lee lashed out at the "anti-democratic" philosophy of the pan-blue camp, which had "reignited ethnic tensions" and impeded the development of a national identity for Taiwan in recent times.

"The anti-democratic forces with their ideological wrappings inside Taiwan and the authoritarian Chinese have quickly become good friends. With the support of the Chinese, their anti-democratic actions have become unrestrained and unhampered," Lee said.

"The interplay of these internal and external factors has led to complexity and confusion in Taiwan's national identity," the former president said, adding that this was the "most significant threat to Taiwan's democracy."

He accused the pan-blue camp of "bringing Qing soldiers through the gate" in "cooperating with the communists to control Taiwan."

Lee will return to Taiwan on Oct. 24.

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Editorial: Lee's voice is better than none