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Sun, Aug 19, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Independence activists bemoan Chen's `betrayal'

CROSS-STRAIT POLICY Scholars and politicians who have carried the flame for Taiwan independence say that the president is ignoring ethics for the sake of politics

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

As President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) sets about removing legal obstacles to China-bound investment and direct flights across the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwan Independence Party is bemoaning the loss of an ally.

The party is committed to the formal separation of Taiwan and China and for them the impending policy shift marks the final betrayal of former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) Taiwanization legacy.

It regards Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) call for "those in power [to] consult their consciences" when reviewing cross-strait trade as a reasonable stance to take.

"The abandonment of the `no haste, be patient' policy will expose Taiwan businessmen to more risks in China, as the country shows no respect for the rule of law," TAIP Chairman Ho Voonky (何文祈) warned.

Lee introduced the "no haste" policy in 1996, placing a US$50-million ceiling on single investments and banning the production of high-tech products in China, fearing that Taiwan would become overly dependent on China economically.

Chen is poised to replace this with a policy of "pro-active opening and effective management" -- as recommended by the Economic Development Advisory Conference -- to boost the economy. Also to that end, relevant agencies are giving serious thought to introducing direct flights between the two sides.

This series of changes, the Chen administration calculates, can guarantee Taiwan a sizeable share of the giant Chinese market, thereby turning the troubled economy around.

"Few actually make a profit from doing business there," Ho noted. "These people never bother to channel it back to Taiwan where banks and friends loaned them their capital in the first place."

Proponents of loosened rules have blamed the absence of capital return on unfavorable tax codes here.

But the TAIP chairman equated the planned direct air links to "surrendering" to China, as Beijing has treated Taiwan as a local province and labeled the flights domestic in nature.

To precipitate the establishment of direct trade, transportation and postal links between Taiwan and China, Chinese leaders are set to authorize unofficial delegations to negotiate "domestic air links" with Taiwan during which the issue of "one China" will not be brought up, according to news reports.

"Chen has deviated from Lee's course by failing to assert Taiwan's statehood before engaging in the policy changes," Ho said, referring to Chen's failure to portray cross-strait ties as state-to-state in nature.

Lee Yung-chih (李永熾), a history professor at National Taiwan University and a member of the TAIP, agreed.

"The government's shift in position will make rational debate over the sovereignty feud more difficult, if not impossible," said Lee, who expressed fear that "China fever" was threatening to become excessive. Lee, whose party has staunchly defended the Chen administration during the last 15 months, said the president is using the economic forum to create the impression that the entire nation is behind his drift towards China.

"The truth is that only two or three members from the pro-independence camp were invited to the economic conference, whose findings were predetermined," the scholar pointed out.

He said he knew long ago that Chen was "inconsistent" but did not expect he would be "so frail."

"Despite Chen's shortcomings, my friends and I have spoken in his favor in the hope he can withstand pressure from the opposition," Lee said.

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