Wed, Dec 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Presidential candidates visit opposition strongholds

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lien Chan, right, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman and presidential candidate of the pan-blue camp, yesterday visited Chiayi City, which is generally regarded as a pan-green stronghold.

PHOTO: WANG YU-LING, TAIPEI TIMES

The presidential candidates from the ruling and opposition camps yesterday worked at gaining support in their opponents' strongholds.

While President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) visited Hualien County, which is generally regarded as a pan-blue stronghold, the pan-blue presidential candidate, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), was wooing voters in Chiayi and Pingtung.

Chen yesterday met with former Hualien County commissioner Wu Kuo-tung (吳國棟), a renegade from the KMT.

Wu, who has criticized the KMT's nomination process as "non-transparent and unfair," insisted on running his maverick campaign in the county commissioner by-election in August after failing to secure the KMT-People First Party (PFP) alliance's nomination.

Wu finished third in the by-election, well behind the KMT's Hsieh Shen-shan (謝深山) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate You Ying-lung (游盈隆).

Besides presiding over the launch of a local club that has pledged its support for Lien's presidential bid, the KMT chairman visited temples in the south, as well as the Chiayi City Council and Chiayi City Farmers' Association.

Lien was accompanied by independent Chimayo city council speaker Tsai Kuei-szu (蔡貴絲), the wife of former Chiayi City Farmers' Association chairman Hsiao Teng-shih (蕭登獅). During the 12 years Hsiao had been the association's chairman, he established a sound connection with local townsfolk, businessmen and politicians.

A number of Hsiao's family members are involved in politics. His elder brothers Hsiao Teng-wang (蕭登旺) and Hsiao Teng-piao (蕭登標) have both served as Chiayi city council speaker. This politically well-connected family is known locally as the Hsaio Family Clan (蕭家班).

The family's influence in the area and Tsai's apparent close inter-action with Lien have sparked speculation in the media.

Tsai yesterday said it is common courtesy for local hosts to welcome guests visiting from afar. She said that she was not endorsing either one of the presidential candidates.

While Lien was turning on the charm in southern Taiwan, his running mate, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), was promoting the KMT-PFP alliance's cross-strait policies and campaign platforms in Taipei.

Speaking at the American Cham-ber of Commerce's luncheon yesterday, Soong said that if he and Lien are elected, the alliance would approach cross-strait relations in a "sensible, pragmatic and, most importantly, responsible" manner, as opposed to what he called the DPP administration's "reckless and irresponsible" approach.

Soong also condemned Chen's call for a "preventive referendum."

"Especially now, when the US is preoccupied with other things [such as issues relating to Iraq and North Korea], Taiwan has no excuse to press for a showdown with China at this time," he said.

Soong said the pan-blue alliance had no timetable on cross-strait relations, and was prioritizing the economy.

In response to reporters' questions about Chen's proposed referendum, Soong said he wants to urge the president to come to the Legislative Yuan to clearly explain his referendum call and address the US and Taiwanese public's apprehensions.

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