Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) launched a scathing attack on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his record on the economy, cross-strait policy and security, in a campaign-style speech in Washington on Monday that many observers felt was inappropriate for a Taiwanese political leader to deliver to an audience overseas.
"The people in Taiwan have lost their confidence in the government led by President Chen Shui-bian," and "have no confidence in the future of the relations across the Taiwan Strait," Lien told nearly 200 people at a luncheon hosted by two conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
Questions such as a new constitution, referendums, "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait and other issues touching on sovereignty should be "left for the future generations to decide," Lien said, slamming Chen for much of his cross-strait policy over the past three years.
Saying that Chen's positions "create more problems than they solve," Lien said, "I see no need to rush history." Taiwan and China can pursue "parallel development" for a long time to come, he said "without having to make a choice on this unification-independence issue."
Lien appeared to be responding to actions by Chen and his deputies over the past week in setting up a task force to draft a new constitution and recent statements by Chen firming up plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution in conjunction with next March's presidential election. The exercise would aim at drafting a new constitution by 2006 that would come into effect on March 20, 2008.
In addition, Lien took Chen and his government to task over a wide range of issues facing Taiwan. He accused Chen of "toying with the political, diplomatic and even military disputes" while ignoring pressing economic issues, being a "troublemaker" to the US in the face of America's friendship.
"We can be more discrete and more prudent," he said.
Lien's comments brought about a sharp rebuke from a top Taiwanese representative in Washington.
"I feel it is not right, and that it is inappropriate," said Michael Tsai (
"When any political leader [from Taiwan] comes to Washington or the United States, they should not attack Taiwan or accuse the government in front of a foreign audience," Tsai said.
"He openly accused the government and Taiwan as a whole," Tsai said, "and that's not right."
Several people in the audience, Tsai said, also expressed such sentiments.
Lien had a busy schedule yesterday: breakfast with a number of congressmen, a meeting with members of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, visits to a number of think tanks and a reception hosted by the US-Taiwan Business Council, in addition to meeting with Taiwanese-American groups.
Lien will travel to New York today.