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Fri, Mar 10, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Two more join Soong

DEFECTION Taichung County Council Speaker Yen Ching-piao and ex-premier Hau Pei-tsun are the latest heavyweights to join James Soong's campaign

By Lauren Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the March 18 presidential election looming, two more political heavyweights appeared to nail their colors to the mast in support of independent presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜).

While Taichung County Council Speaker Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) for the first time openly declared his backing of Soong, former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) appeared to do so by default.

"By standing firm in my position to back Soong's campaign, I want to prove that I am not the kind of person that keeps his feet in both camps, or forgets his moral principles at the sight of profit," Yen said.

"During Soong's tenure as Taiwan provincial governor for the past five years, he visited Taichung County 229 times and spent NT$13.48 billion on construction projects. I could spend two days in talking about Soong's merits," Yen added.

Just as Yen finished speaking, Soong himself arrived to express his gratitude.

Shortly after, Yen stumped for Soong at a rally in Taichung County.

The KMT, however, questioned Yen's ability to mobilize votes for Soong.

"In an open society like Taiwan's, I wonder if one person can exert influence over the political climate," said Eric Chu (朱立倫), a KMT legislator and spokesperson for Lien Chan (連戰).

Yen is both Taichung County council speaker, the leader of the local "black faction," and the president of the Chenlan Kung Temple (鎮瀾宮), an important Matsu temple in Taichung County.

Both Lien's and Soong's camps were seeking Yen's support.

Just last Sunday, the two major candidates attended a ceremony for the completion of a new temple building dedicated to Matsu.

Critics, meanwhile, said Yen's announcement would not generate a huge impact on the current presidential landscape, since his vote captains have already tried their best to campaign for Soong.

"Regardless of whether Yen clarified his stance, it couldn't been more obvious that his vote captains have already switched sides to Soong, so Yen's gesture was less substantial but more symbolic," said Wang Yeh-lih (王業立), a political analyst at Tunghai University.

"With Yen announcing his pro-Soong stance, the local `black faction' is doomed to split in two. The other local faction leader, Chen Kang-chin (陳庚金) -- the head of KMT's Taiwan Provincial Affairs Department -- is sticking with Lien," Wang said.

Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), meanwhile, remained tight-lipped about possible support for any specific candidate, but has already lashed out at both Lien and the DPP's Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

His son, New Party legislator Hau Lung-pin (郝龍斌), explained: "My father would never vote for the pro-independence candidate. He was very disappointed with Lien's claims he will maintain President Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) `special state-to-state' model," said the younger Hau.

Under pressure from the media, Hau Lung-pin admitted that "my father now endorses Soong's campaign emotionally.

"My father will announce his final decision before voting day," Hau said.

Still, campaign officials for Soong believe that voters who respect Hau are almost all already in in the Soong camp.

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