Despite former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) insistence that media reports of his comments about the new cross-strait service trade agreement at a cross-strait forum in Hong Kong had been “distorted,” several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members yesterday criticized his remarks.
“If [the pact] was as good as advertised, Taiwanese should have celebrated with firecrackers. However, there has been strong opposition, showing that there must have been communication errors [between Taipei and Beijing]. It was also the result of imbalanced interaction,” Hsieh was quoted as saying in his closing remarks at the forum on Sunday morning in a press release from his office.
However, China News Review, a pro-Beijing news agency, and Newtalk, a Web-based media outlet, both reported that Hsieh said Taiwanese “should celebrate with firecrackers,” which triggered DPP members’ criticisms after the stories were published on Sunday afternoon.
In a statement issued on Sunday night, Hsieh’s office described the reports as a “vicious distortion.”
DPP members, supporters and netizens lambasted Hsieh for “prettifying” the trade pact, which many believe could jeopardize tens of thousands of small businesses in Taiwan, and for describing strong public opposition to it as simply a result of “miscommunication.”
The DPP said it does not oppose the pact, but insisted that the agreement, which it said was signed without a comprehensive impact assessment and transparency, should be reviewed by the legislature clause by clause and should not take effect until it is ratified by lawmakers.
Former Examination Yuan president Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), one of the strongest advocates of the DPP’s independence wing, yesterday said Hsieh, a member of the DPP’s Central Standing Committee, would have a lot of explaining to do after his return from Hong Kong.
“Hsieh has been one of the most prominent DPP leaders. If he holds different views from the party [on cross-strait affairs], he might as well quit the party,” Yao said.
DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) yesterday said that he has taken back his criticism of Hsieh, which was posted on his Facebook page on Sunday after he read the media reports, and apologized for his “rashness.”
However, Hsieh’s comments only tell part of the story, Tuan said, because “Taiwanese understand there must be give and take in trade negotiations, but they will be hesitant about engaging with China as long as Beijing asserts its territorial claims over Taiwan.”
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that while Hsieh has always been wise in dealing with political affairs, it was a pity that he did not counter the “one China” framework with the DPP’s resolution on Taiwan’s future in 1999.
DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said Hsieh represented only himself and “one of the voices” of the DPP, since he was not authorized to make his comments by the party.
Responding to the controversy, DPP spokesperson Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) said the party was glad to see more interactions between the DPP and Beijing, adding that Hsieh’s opinion was his own.
Other politicians, including academics who accompanied Hsieh on the Hong Kong trip, defended the former premier, with former DPP legislator Julian Kuo (郭正亮) saying that Hsieh “had held his ground” and expressed mainstream public opinion and concern in Taiwan.
Hsieh met China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) in a two-hour meeting in Shenzhen, China, late on Sunday night.
Hsieh, who was visiting Taiwanese businesspeople in Shenzhen yesterday, told reporters that the meeting was impromptu rather than prearranged and, while Zhang reiterated China’s insistence on the “one China” framework during the meeting, he underlined the importance of Beijing having a “balanced interaction” with the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).