Mon, May 20, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Chen changes the face of the presidency

Hau Kuang-tsai sees President Chen Shui-bian as a man who is breaking the rules on what it means to be the nation's leader. With his photographs, he aims to emphasize the transparency and hospitality of A-bian and his administration by taking candid shots of the president in his day-to-day life. `Taipei Times' staff reporter Lin Chieh-yu talked to Hau about his inspiration for his new book `President A-bian: Up Close and Personal'

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President Chen Shui-bian laughs as two young Girl Scouts giggle as they tease him that his bottom is too large for the chair he is about to sit on.

PHOTO COURTESY OF HAU KUANG-TSAI

Taipei Times: You are the coordinator and editor of President Chen Shui-bian's personal photo treasury entitled President A-bian: Up close and Personal (總統開門 打開民主世紀之門), which is being published in commemoration of the second anniversary of his inauguration today. What is the rationale for publishing such an album?

Hau Kuang-tsai (郝廣才): Many people know what the Oval Office in the White House looks like, but few know about what the president's office is like. People in Taiwan could only look at the belongings of the late presidents, such as their graves, pictures of empty desks, chairs and studies, or public file photos with government officials standing next to one another with dull expressions on their faces. How do we expect people to have feelings about this kind of history?

I told the president more than a year ago that he owed the people of Taiwan a book, one that tracks the transformation of Taiwan's democratic environment, culture and atmosphere following the transfer of political power. I believe, before the transfer of power, the authoritarian and mysterious center of power -- the Presidential Office -- remained very closed and inaccessible to the people. That's why the president's aides thought it was a good idea to open the Presidential Office to the public and have city and county cultural exhibitions in the office. Then they decided that this photo album should be published to carry on the cultural revolution of deconstructing authoritarianism.

TT: While he was Taipei mayor, President Chen took a series of steps as part of the "deconstructing authoritarianism" project, such as naming some city streets in Aboriginal languages, throwing a dance on the square in front of the Presidential Office and holding commemorative ceremonies for the 228 Incident. Now as president, is he trying to stand by these ideas?

Hau: A-bian's life is a perfect example of how one might climb to the top from the lowest station in society. He is the most suitable person to break down the taboos of the authoritarian era. When he starts doing it, the bureaucratic system will also follow suit.

Democracy is not just a procedure of allocating power. Rather, it should be a kind of culture. It takes the formation and accumulation of a kind of atmosphere, which is reflected in a politician's sense of humor and the people's sense of the accessibility of power.

For example, in the photo album you'll see things like the president's aides talking to him with their hands in their pockets, his only female secretary hanging up a banner to protest her excessive workload, children mocking the president when he is making a fool of himself, or even security guards cracking jokes right next to the president. These things could not have happened in the old, highly-disciplined era. And these changes are all records of the democratization process.

Besides, the government's departments and their subdivisions should be made accessible and available to the public. In the past, the official promotion materials or pamphlets were little more than propaganda, which was ineffective and a waste of money. This photo album is also intends to show all the government's departments that this is the way to open their door to the public.

TT: In the process of editing the album, you seem to have referred to similar publications of foreign politicians, such as those of the former US president Bill Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

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