Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Chen claims credit for helping Hakka voters gain rights

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday continued to boost the government's contribution to Hakka culture, urging all people of the country to respect the Hakka language.

During his weekly televised talk, Chen reached out to the country's 5 million Hakka and called himself of a "son of Hakka," an extension of his unofficial title "son of Taiwan."

"Language is a vital part of an ethnic group's identity," Chen said, "and it is a big boost to the dignity of a given ethnic group if its language is accepted and respected by the whole society."

Chen, who presided over the inauguration of the nation's first all-Hakka television channel July 1, said that language is a basic tool of communication as well as a means of understanding an ethnic group's history and culture.

"An ethnic group will feel that it is an integrated part of society if its language is accepted and respected by the whole society as a means of communication," Chen said.

The president said that this is why he insisted, while serving as Taipei mayor from 1994 to 1998, that announcements made on Taipei's Mass Rapid Transportation public address system include the Hakka language.

He added that this was also the reason behind his decision to start the all-Hakka channel after he was elected president.

Claiming he is a descendant of the Hakka from Saoan in the southern Chinese province of Fujian, Chen said his experience in learning some of the Hakka dialect for the inauguration of the all-Hakka channel has given him a rare glimpse into the rich Hakka culture.

He also claimed credit for the formation of a Council for Hakka Affairs under the Executive Yuan and the setting up of a Hakka research institute at the National Central University in Chungli, Taoyuan County.

Contrasting his administration's respect for the Hakka dialect and other dialects used by the local people with that of Taiwan's previous governments, he said the former governments had discriminated against these dialects by forbidding their use in public, let alone in broadcasts.

According to the DPP's recent public surveys on the issue of next year's presidential election, Chen's support rating, which has fallen behind his opponent KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) in recent months, recently has increased to 40 percent.

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