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Tue, Aug 14, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Elections 2001: Hu takes leap into Taichung politics

Former minister of foreign affairs Jason Hu has returned to his hometown of Taichung to run for mayor. Hu discussed KMT factions, his plans to internationalize the city and how voters in the area have changed. The former minister sees nothing odd about entering local affairs from his former perch in the central government.

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Taipei Times: Previously, much of your work focused on promoting Taiwan in the international arena, but now you are running for the post of a local government head. What are the major differences for you?

Jason Hu: Actually both are the same -- they are about dealing with public affairs. Although in the diplomatic arena you pay great attention to protocol and the rules of the game, to present yourself successfully either in a formal diplomatic activity or in a local meeting with the general public, it is the human touch that you need to master.

TT: Your opponents criticize you as being "unfamiliar with local affairs." How do you respond to that criticism?

Hu: I was [Taiwan's] representative to the US and later foreign minister. I did these jobs not for my own benefit, but to safeguard Taiwan's security and dignity. Wouldn't it be strange if my efforts in Taiwan's foreign affairs win nationwide recognition but fail to gain the approval of Taichung City residents?

TT: If you are elected but then have opportunities to join the Cabinet or return to the central government, say, if the KMT wins in the next presidential election, what would your choices be?

Hu: I would stay [in Taichung] for at least four years and surely hope to win re-election. This is a contract with voters and also my commitment. I hope when I look back on my life, I will be able to say that I was once a good mayor, and not just a good minister.

TT: In the last Taichung mayoral election, one of the major factors of Chang Wen-ying's (張溫鷹) victory was that some of your party's local factions didn't support the KMT candidate. Have you secured those votes?

Hu: Basically, I still doubt whether factional defections were really the key factor in the KMT's loss. More importantly, Taichung City has evolved with an urban constituency structure, in which local factions do not control most votes.

These voters don't identify themselves with factions and don't affiliate themselves with political parties. Even the influence of political parties is declining remarkably. Most voters base their choice on individual candidates' qualifications instead of their party affiliation. I will not adopt traditional campaigning methods. But basically, the KMT is united this time.

TT: How about the effect of the People First Party's attitude toward the election?

Hu: While James Soong (宋楚瑜) got the most votes, 220,000, in Taichung City, outshining other candidates in last year's presidential election, the PFP should not indulge in the myth that all those votes will automatically transfer to the PFP in the year-end elections.

I think that the PFP's best strategy is to maintain an ambiguous attitude. If they insist on coarsely nominating some heavyweight to join the election, it will only tarnish Mr. Soong's image, instead of drawing more supporters [for his party].

TT: You've put forth plans for the city to have an international dimension and you advocate "integrating Taichung City into the Asia Pacific economic market." How do you present this to Taichung City residents in plain language?

Hu: Residents in central Taiwan have always criticized the government for "tilting toward the north, ignoring the south and forgetting Taichung."

Now the people want Jason Hu for Taichung City because only with Jason Hu can the people of Taichung tell other people with pride that they also have a top mayor and that Taichung is on a par with Taipei and Kaohsiung.

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