2012 ELECTIONS: Presidential candidates cross swords

HEAD TO HEAD::The following is a transcription of the third part of yesterday’s televised presidential debate, in which each candidate posed two questions to each opponent

Transcribed by Loa Iok-sin, Lee I-chia and Jake Chung  /  Staff Reporters

Sun, Dec 04, 2011 - Page 1

Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九): Chairperson Tsai [Ing-wen, (蔡英文)], you said in your opening statement that ‘It is Tsai Ing-wen who stands in front of you, not [former president] Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).’ That is, of course, correct. However, you forgot to mention that many of those standing behind you were members of Chen Shui-bian’s team. Clearly Chairperson Tsai is aware of this problem, which is why she continues to stress that the members of her campaign team would not necessarily become members of her government.

In fact, so many people in your team have been involved in judicial cases — some have been indicted and others found guilty — that it has to be asked whether it can reasonably be considered a good team. How does the public feel about it?

If we look at the list of Democratic Progressive Party’s [DPP] -legislators-at-large, one candidate was found guilty of paying people to turn up at rallies and has withdrawn from the list, one has been found guilty of insider trading, another of credit violation, and one has been sentenced to eight years in jail on corruption charges.

Despite this, Chairperson Tsai still insists this is the best list ever, and much better than anything the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has to offer. My questions is, how is this a good list?

The public does not share her view of the DPP’s list. Chairperson Tsai, do you still think this is a good list? Chairman Soong, what do you think?

Tsai: Thank you. President Ma Ying-jeou, you have been in office for a while now and you have been KMT chairman for even longer. You should know that whether a team is good, efficient and clean, depends on the leader. If the leader leads effectively and ensures that the team is clean, then it is clean.

The DPP used the time after its defeat in 2008 to engage in a period of self-reflection and we came back stronger as a result. In terms of income, the party depends on the gradual accumulation of small donations. As a result, we cherish the people’s support, learn from that experience, stand closer to the people and are determined to take care of the disadvantaged in society.

However, the key is the leader. President Ma says that some people have legal problems. Well, judicial cases should be handled by the judiciary. The entire team should not be judged by the acts of a few. If we are talking about the behavior of individuals then I would like to ask President Ma, how many people in the KMT have been involved in election irregularities or vote-buying?

A great many by-elections have been held as a result of the actions of such people, so I would like to know if President Ma has ever thought of his own team as a group of election cheats and vote-buyers? What do you have to say to Taiwanese society about that? The key is the leader and it is how a team is led that matters. I would say that Tsai Ing-wen’s team is both clean and efficient.

James Soong (宋楚瑜): I think that the question raised by Chairman Ma is worth addressing seriously. Chairperson Tsai, we all have high expectations of your leadership of the DPP. However, as Chairman Ma said, there are two things that worry people: your complicated relationship with Chen Shui-bian’s office; and the fact that you are clearly influenced by that office in the way you deal with cross-strait issues.

This teaches us a good lesson — one that can be equally applied to Chairman Ma — we know that a good team is not only about a legislators-at-large list, it is also about the momentum of a government. In 2000, we could feel that people were tired of political corruption and had high expectations of the DPP government.

In 2008, the people had equally high expectations of you [Ma], but the government team has not worked as effectively as it should have. A government should do more than just present an -attractive list of legislators-at-large that is intended to distract from the fact that it is not taking good care of the disadvantaged. It should do more than just parade a few model candidates from that list, it needs to come up with policies that work to do its job well.

I would like to ask my good friends in the KMT legislative caucus: Have you been consulted or taken part in the decisionmaking process when it comes to major policies? When we hear the word “team” what comes to mind is a central belief, a group of people, and more importantly not forgetting what the people have asked you to do.

Tsai: Thank you. President Ma, since taking office, you have worked to rapidly reduce the distance between the government and China. However, you have moved so fast that you are leaving the opposition party and the people far behind, so much so that the distance between us is even greater than that from Taipei to Beijing.

President Ma, why do you always echo Chinese leaders on major issues such as the [so-called] “1992 consensus,” but reject the DPP’s comments with threats? “Born of the same root, why torment each other so cruelly?” We are all Taiwanese, whenever our ancestors first arrived here, we are all part of one big family, does it not make more sense to first strive to achieve our own Taiwan consensus?

If you are so confident about your policy of “no unification, no independence, no use of force” and “one China, with each having its own interpretation,” why won’t you allow us to first reach a consensus within Taiwan? I would like to ask President Ma and Chairman Soong: do you agree that we should develop a Taiwan consensus through democratic means?

Soong: When I met Chen Shui-bian shortly after he was elected in 2000, at the Taipei Guesthouse, he took some papers out of his pocket and began telling me how good the economy was, but everyone knew the economy was bad, many people were losing their jobs and stores were closing down. At the time, I told him: “Mr President, you are too detached from the people.” The same is now true of Chairman Ma, whose impressive numbers are a world away from the true feelings of the people. You say that per capita personal income has reached US$20,000, but you should visit each of our countrymen and ask them whether they make NT$50,000 (US$1,660) a month?

If so, feel free to vote for a second term for President Ma, if not then please give James Soong a chance to deliver hope for the future of ordinary people and the middle class.

Chairperson Tsai mentioned the Taiwan consensus and it’s actually an easy question to answer, because all Taiwanese have a true consensus, that is, we are all Taiwanese. Which one of you present here today would raise your hand and say “I am not Taiwanese?” So isn’t this the “Taiwan consensus?” Each person in Taiwan has the right to love Taiwan, to love the Republic of China, this is our shared right and our responsibility.

However, besides loving Taiwan, one must ask what else Taiwanese insist on. We insist on being our own masters, the core value of Taiwanese is that we do not want the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to point guns at each other, we want to be in a peaceful relationship. This is a consensus among Taiwanese. What Taiwanese really want is for us all to coexist in peace, so that the next generation can live with dignity and look forward to a prosperous future.

Ma: Chairperson Tsai said that the distance between the pan-blue and pan-green camps seems greater than the distance between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]. Well, I was actually the first person to say that, a long time ago, and with that in mind I have tried on several occasions to arrange a meeting with Chairperson Tsai over the past two or three years, but each time I have been turned down.

I have only had a chance to debate with her on issues related to the ECFA [Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement]. She has never shown any interest in talking to me before; this is the first time I have heard her say publicly that she is willing to talk to me, and about issues such as “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.” That is great news, I am as happy, as if hearing someone’s footsteps in an empty valley.

Once I am re-elected I will invite Chairperson Tsai to discuss “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” and the “three noes,” and then we can work toward developing a true Taiwan consensus.

I think Chairperson Tsai understands that our “Three Noes” policy — no unification, no independence, no use of force” truly represents mainstream public opinion in Taiwan.

A Taiwan consensus based on a promise that there will be no talks on unification, no declaration of independence and no use of force while I am president, is supported by an absolute majority of the people, and that ensures we stand firm when negotiating with the Mainland [China].

More importantly, this idea is clear, it’s not vague, unlike Chairperson Tsai’s idea of “harmony without uniformity, and seeking similarities in peace” — no one has any idea what that means. In contrast, everyone understands what I am saying, the “one China” in “one China, with each having its own interpretation” is the Republic of China. Are you not able to recognize the Republic of China when you are running for the position of its president? If not, then what exactly are you running for?

I very much hope that we will have a chance in the future to invite chairpersons Tsai and Soong to talks. Let us forget about political ideologies and come up with a Taiwan consensus that truly represents Taiwan, and based on that we can then talk with the mainland — I completely support that idea.

However, I ask that Chairperson Tsai does not turn down my invitation when it is extended.

Soong: The next generation is “generation C,” a generation of cloud computing. The industries of “generation C” — for example, food safety, agricultural production sales, health and medicine — all need cloud-computing technology. The government should establish the infrastructure in advance. In the past, [former president] Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) constructed the freeway system; now I promise to establish an Internet freeway. I propose that Chunghwa Telecom Co give bandwidth back to the people, cut the fee by half, double the speed and break up the company, if necessary, to prevent a monopoly and protect people’s rights. Internet speed in Shanghai increased 10-fold overnight. In the past 12 years, your two political parties have both been in office, but neither could achieve this. Chairman Ma and Chairperson Tsai, what do you think about this issue?

Ma: I am very glad that Mr Soong puts great emphasis on the establishment of information infrastructure. When I headed the Taipei City Government, I pushed ahead with the Wireless City project in the first four years and Broadband Wireless in the following four years. Now Taipei has become the city with the most widespread broadband wireless applications in Taiwan. Therefore, I have long hoped to turn “M Taipei” [Mobile Taipei Project] into “M Taiwan.” Of course, Chunghwa Telecom did reduce its fees a few times recently, but Internet users are still very dissatisfied. So on New Year’s Day this year, I brought up the “Centennial Vitality” project. It not only means protecting the environment, but also the Internet, hoping to increase its speed, with cheaper fees and more convenient usage. Not long ago, the Executive Yuan set up wireless Internet at 2,500 public sites of central government agencies. Since its inception in October, the results have been pretty good. We will continue to expand it. The competitive strength of the Internet has become a crucial part of the nation’s competitive strength. So on the one hand, we will continue this [policy] and on the other we call for high-resolution TV and digital convergence. There are, to be frank, some parts of China where progress [in those areas] is ahead of us. We have to rise and catch up. On this aspect, the DPP’s past efforts were actually very insufficient, so after we were in office, we did as much as we could, but because of various conditions, not everyone was satisfied with some parts. I am willing to review this part and accept Chairman Soong’s suggestion, to make further efforts, hoping all the infrastructure will be what I said at the beginning of the year — cheaper, faster and more convenient. Because the competitive strength of the Internet equals the competitive strength of the nation, I fully agree with you on this aspect, Chairman Soong and I hope Chairperson Tsai can join us. Let’s push for it together. The Internet has nothing to do with political stances.

Tsai: Our policy on technology has clearly stated that the Internet is a basic right of the people, so the government has to establish an Internet infrastructure to ensure the people can have the freedom and right to go on the Internet and pay reasonable fees to use the Internet. In the past, the telecommunications industry was the problem of Chunghwa Telecom Co, because it is state-run and a long-time monopoly. So in going the last mile, it has the privilege of a monopoly. However, whether this right of monopoly is an absolute monopoly, we have to consider. Technology is advancing every day; many problems that we are facing now can be solved with progress. So my treatment for Chunghwa Telecom Co’s position on monopoly is, whether stronger measures are necessary to break the company up, we can still consider it.

The important part is that customers can use it [the Internet] without barriers, at a reasonable price. On the other hand, I think, besides accelerating the Internet, I know what people think is missing from the Taipei City Government’s efforts, which is the content industry. If you have Internet broadband space, but don’t have a content industry, then it is useless. So what’s most important is a content industry. We have to allow it to develop vigorously. Moreover, what Chairman Soong just said is very important, which is that many government agencies’ work needs the support of the Internet to increase the efficiency of the government. Having technology assist in governmental operations will increase efficiency, but in the past four years, we haven’t seen any improvement in this aspect and efficiency has long been in doubt.

Ma: Chairperson Tsai, you advocate land justice and support farmland for farm use, but when your running mate [DPP vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) built a luxurious farmhouse, you did not say anything. Your Cabinet, when the DPP was in office, opened the doors to allow the import of 936 agricultural products from China to Taiwan. I think you are contradicting yourself on these things, saying one thing and doing the other. Similarly, you said that the members of your election campaign might not necessarily be the members of your government, but is it that difficult to nominate people who do not have legal problems on your legislators-at-large nomination list? The KMT has done it. Isn’t your DPP the “Democratic Progressive Party”? Your party has to be more progressive than us to live up to this name, but you couldn’t do it. Public perception on this issue is very clear. You have also said the Republic of China is a government-in-exile, so are you now running for the president of a government-in-exile? You advocate a high-level election, but use the case of [bookie] Chen Ying-chu (陳盈助) to smear my reputation. Can I ask you to clearly explain this?

Soong: It seems that this question isn’t for me. However, I must say, this election has attracted the attention of the whole world, and is also important to Taiwanese. However, the two sides [political parties] have been smearing each other or saying things of no importance. This is what we really think: Presidential elections should talk about public developments and policy.

So on the one hand, on the matter of farmhouses, sorry, but the KMT and the DPP have both made many violations. In 1999, the Statute For Agricultural Development (農業發展條例) shouldn’t have loosened the limits on building on farmland. At present, we see the seriousness of having a lot of segmented land. Maybe there will be no uninterrupted cropland in Yilan within the next five years and no unbroken cropland in northern Taiwan within the next 10 years. At a time when the whole world is facing food shortages, the food self-sufficiency rate in Taiwan is only 30 percent, way less than the 40 percent in Japan, 120 percent in the US and 200 percent in France. Under such circumstances, I hope the other two political parties can really demonstrate their interest in learning why farmers want to build farmhouses. And regulations related to agriculture have to be discussed along with agricultural policies. If we keep on talking about those unimportant things in the election, Chairman Ma, Chairperson Tsai and I will all say … In 2000, James Soong was smeared by it and finally is having a debate with [Tsai and Ma] today. I was supposed to sit down there and applaud you both. Smearing is temporary, but the light of true democracy is forever.

Tsai: President Ma, I really expect and hope that the question you just brought up was prepared by your staff and not yourself. Indeed, all the things you said, doesn’t it sound just like a spat? Actually, what Chairman Soong said is correct, we have to return to the problem’s substantial side and its policy side and how we should deal with it. The leader of a nation has to consider whether there is a problem of policy and if institutional changes are necessary. If people violate the law, is it because there is a problem with the institution, or because the people deliberately violated it? These are what a leader should consider. The leader would not sensationalize a single case, or use it to smear his or her opponent, especially when the opponent is a party not in office. So the most important responsibility of the party in office is to review its policies, its measures, and if anything is neglected when you are looking into something. So you said I am inconsistent, you said I say one thing but do another, and you have said many things about me in the past. Granted, they weren’t called smears, but then I ask Chairman Ma, if we can improve our policies and thoughts in a positive way, this should be counted as progress, right? It shouldn’t be called inconsistent or discordant. If it is inconsistent, Chairman Ma, why were you against direct presidential elections by the people in the 1990s when you benefited the most from direct elections in 2008. So I think this is a problem of how you view it as a leader, not the attitude of your propaganda team. Some of the nominees in the DPP’s legislators-at-large nomination list have not received a verdict in criminal cases. The case is still in court, so you can’t just say they are criminals. I cannot agree on this.

Tsai: President Ma has been in power for nearly four years. Although he has been unable to meet his 6-3-3 policies, the key point is that his economic policies have completely overlooked the basic goal of consolidating the national economic base. Total government debt has reached NT$1.3 trillion — a record high — while the government’s focus on the Chinese market and cross-strait cooperation has caused Taiwanese investors to rush into China. A lot of professional talent has also been poached by Chinese companies. Half of our economic growth has also been appropriated by overseas production orders.

At present we are also seeing a lot of people without jobs and the unemployment rate, despite being massaged by massive short-term hiring, is still at a high of 4.3 percent. Average pay has fallen to levels last seen 13 years ago. Trying to boost the economy without consolidating the national economic base is not going to stop the economy bleeding talent and money, and growing weaker by the day. Without the consolidation of the national economic base, the nation will not be at peace.

President Ma, aside from opening up the market to China, what are your policies for consolidating the national economic base? Chairman Soong, what are your policies on the subject?

Ma: Chairperson Tsai has mentioned that our investment in China has greatly increased. I think that you are taking about “expected” capital, not the capital that is already there. There is no major difference in the capital invested in China and that in the past. In addition, on Taiwan’s acceptance of overseas production orders, those orders rose quickest during the eight years of DPP rule, when they jumped from 12 percent to 46 percent. At present, the level is 50 percent. In the four years we have been in power, there has been an increase of just 4 percent. In contrast, the numbers increased from 12 percent to 46 percent when the DPP was in power — that is a total of 34 percent. I think it is clear who is more effective on the issue of overseas production orders.

Second, on the issue of wages, our wages are in fact gradually rising. Certainly, they have not increased enough, but if our economy can continue to grow, then our wage standards will also be higher.

On the issue of debt, according to Chairperson Tsai our national debt stands at NT$1.3 trillion, but the most important thing about the national debt figure is why we spent that money and it was primarily to expand domestic demand during the 2008 financial crisis. At that time we promoted a great deal of infrastructure construction. Chairperson Tsai might not have a full understanding of the issue. On this particular issue, the funds given to central and southern Taiwan greatly exceed the amount given to those regions under DPP rule.

Using Greater Tainan as an example, the DPP gave that area an annual NT$2.7 billion for transportation infrastructure, whereas we have paid NT$18.4 billion a year. We give them a lot of money and where does that come from? It comes from investing in infrastructure.

This funding is an investment in the future, creating jobs and commercial benefits, and so the money spent slowly trickles back in [to the treasury].

The fact that the central government’s debt has fallen from 3.5 percent of the budget to 3 percent, 2.5 percent, and will drop to 1.6 percent next year, [shows] that our financial situation is gradually improving. Every penny we spend is on construction, which will create more wealth. What we are leaving for future generations is not debt, but construction. All countries uses financial policies to stimulate the economy. Chairperson Tsai is an economics expert and is surely aware of that.

Therefore, the consolidation of the national economic base requires building good infrastructure, because only a nation with a good infrastructure has a future.

Soong: I think Chairperson Tsai is talking about two distinct questions — one concerning government debt and the other on how to strengthen the national economy for future development. During the eight years the DPP was in power, it raised the debt figure by NT$1.4 trillion, but President Ma, you’ve only been in power for four years and already you’ve raised the debt by NT$1.7 trillion.

The nation faces hidden debts of as much as NT$13 trillion, meaning that every citizen is burdened with NT$810,000 in debt from the moment they are born. That is truly terrifying.

However, if I am elected president, I would push for an amendment to the Public Debt Act (公共債務法) and the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法), and would not raise any unnecessary special budgets to avoid the annual debt raising ceiling

The problem of debt is a very serious one. The debt crisis in the eurozone stems from an over--inflation of social benefits. Therefore, if I am elected president, I would hold a financial policy meeting and seek inter-party consensus to resolve problems that have accumulated over the years.

Second, on the issue of consolidating the national economy, I must say that up until now we have not really tried to understand what the ECFA is. The ECFA is a platform that allows Taiwanese industry to establish itself in Taiwan, develop in China and market itself to the world. Taiwan is a gateway, a hub, into China for international multinationals.

This election will determine how ECFA is viewed by management and how it is used to create commercial benefits in the future.

Soong: Ever since the Chiang Kuo-ching (江國慶) case [the wrongful execution in 1997 of a soldier suspected of rape and murder] and the White Rose movement, there has been considerable public disquiet about “dinosaur rulings” and “dinosaur judges.” A total of 81 percent of the public feels that the courts are not just and people are scared of judicial reform, just like they are afraid of educational reform. For the past 12 years, the KMT and the DPP have taken turns in running the central government, but the people are gradually losing confidence in judicial reform. Not intervening in individual cases does not constitute reform of the judicial system. In addition, corruption and graft are causing our society to lose its sense of justice and equality.

How would you seek to re-establish people’s trust in the judiciary and the legal system?

Tsai: I agree with Chairman Soong that judicial reform is a very urgent issue. Judicial reform involves more than just solving several so-called major cases; it is all about ensuring the common people receive justice.

Therefore, judicial reform must be based on ensuring the law is the people’s law. That is to say, when citizens have their rights infringed upon, the law is there to ensure they get justice and compensation.

If a person is accused of breaking the law, then he or she has a right to due process and all the protections that go with that, especially the protection of human rights. That is the true meaning of a judicial reform.

For a long time in the past, I must say frankly that we used a lot of professional lawyers to guide judicial reform and I feel that this is perhaps one reason why those reforms have gone nowhere.

The reform of the judiciary touches on several problems, including interests and benefits, the distribution of benefits, differing opinions and interpretations, even that the different ideas of different generations of lawyers.

This process of discussion, mediation, and movement toward change needs to be guided by a political leader. Once again the most important thing is the political leader, who must have the firm hand needed to lead judicial reform.

Judicial reform is extremely urgent. In his discussion of judicial reform our president has said that he will not intervene in specific cases or investigations in major cases. However, that is not judicial reform. If I were elected president, we would work together with different sectors to ensure true judicial reform.

Ma: Chairman Soong’s question is a good one. When I was running for president I also mentioned my proposal for judicial reform. Over the past three years, my administration has passed the Fair and Speedy Criminal Trials Act (刑事妥速審判法). There are three prime reasons why the laws have been criticized, mainly the implementation of the Judges Act (法官法), administrative efficacy and the quality of rulings.

One the issue of conduct, my administration actively investigated and targeted corruption in the judiciary. We also appointed Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who has a reputation as a “tough guy,” as state public prosecutor-general.

A series of investigation into judges and prosecutors also achieved a great deal in this respect.

On the issue of administrative efficiency, only those in the know are aware whether the system is efficient or not. What we would like to do is have the Control Yuan promote a jury system, so that people can participate directly in the legal process, which will also introduce judges to popular opinions on certain issues. I believe feel that this would be a very important step in terms of judicial reform.

However, reform does not end there. In terms of the “unsuitable judges” Chairman Soong was referring to, whether the issue is character or professionalism, we have also proposed that the Judges’ Act, should allow outside organizations participate [in passing judgment on judges].

There have been calls for a Judges’ Act for decades, but it was only passed during my presidency. My countrymen, I am a president who is familiar with the entire litigation process and I am very much aware of those areas where there are real problems.

I introduced a few minor reforms when I first became president, including the addition of a live-feed recording how the court clerk takes notes during a court session and prosecutor’s questions. It is now very rare for modern courts To need to verify the veracity of the written court proceedings.

We have done our best to promote judicial reform and I have pushed for these reforms in on a variety of occasions, so they are not just limited intervening in individual cases.

In conclusion, I think you are mistaken, Chairperson Tsai.