Mon, Oct 13, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Appointment designed to court Hakka

ETHNIC DIVISIONS Political watchers say the Chen administration is trying to win over Hakka support by appointing Lin Kwang-hua as the new Taiwan Provincial Governor

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lin Kwang-hua, left, schmoozes with former Council of Agriculture chairman Fan Cheng-tsung last November. Both Lin and Fan are ethnic Hakka.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

The appointment of Lin Kwang-hua (林光華), former Hsinchu County commissioner, as the new Taiwan Provincial Governor by the Executive Yuan on Friday is intended to woo the support of Hakka voters for next March's presidential election, political observers said yesterday.

"It's manifestly a political gambit intended to court Hakka voters because Lin is of Hakka decent and has grassroots support after serving as Hsinchu County commissioner," said Ger Yeong-kuang (葛永光), a professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

While the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration has made efforts to solicit Hakka votes since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000, Ger said that the DPP-led government oftentimes shot itself in the foot by introducing contradictory government initiatives.

"The establishment of the Council of Hakka Affairs and the 24-hour Hakka television channel do help put the DPP-led government in a better light in the eyes of the Hakka population," Ger said.

"However, government policies such as using Hoklo-language questions in the national examination for civil servants and pushing for the birth of a new constitution really showcase its `Hoklo chauvinism' and turn the Hakka population off," Ger said.

Chiou Chwei-liang (邱垂亮), a Hakka native from Miaoli County and a visiting professor at the Graduate Institute of Southeast Asia Studies at Tamkang University, expressed the same opinion.

"Without doubt, Chen's support for Hakka culture has won general acceptance and applause from Hakka groups. However, I am still doubtful about Hakka votes for Chen in the next presidential election," he said.

As the next presidential election approaches, Chiou said that Chen has worked hard to carry out his promises by setting up Hakka television stations, establishing Hakka schools and promoting Hakka culture.

"However, we feel that Hakka people remain unmoved and that votes for Chen are still nowhere to be seen," he said.

Chiou said that Hakka people cherish the culture of the central plains in China and feel that they are a minority group just like many "New Taiwanese" mainlanders who arrived in Taiwan after the end of World War II.

"Because of their fear and enmity toward the majority of Hoklo people, the Hakka people prefer to align with the `New Taiwanese' and challenge the Hoklo people," Chiou said.

Echoing Chiou's view, Ger said that Hakka people are not the only ethnic group with that mentality.

"Mainlanders, for example, have a strong sense that the DPP is a party made up of Hoklo supremacists who regard mainlanders as either traitors or Beijing's cohorts," he said.

The party even relentlessly discriminated and humiliated its own cadre, Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), a Hakka descendant and former DPP chairman, when he was running as an independent candidate in the 2000 presidential election.

While a power struggle is one reason the party moved against Hsu, his policy of "boldly marching west" toward China also ran counter to the DPP's guiding principle of Taiwanese independence.

The views of Hsu, however, are the mainstream political belief among Hakka groups in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli.

In Hsinchu, where ethnic Hakka account for 85 percent of the population, local factions maintain a larger membership than any single political party.

Traditional and united, they tend to vote for the candidate they best identify with. As such, an endorsement by major clans is indispensable at election time.

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