Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Frank Hsieh: a president in waiting?

PAN-GREEN CONTENDER At the beginning of his political career, analysts thought Hsieh had a more promising future than Chen Shui-bian. They may still be right as Hsieh has a shot at the presidency in 2008

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh rides a bicycle in the city's Chichin District on Nov. 22 to mark the opening of the Chichin bicycle area.


Presidential Office Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) is often described as President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) No. 1 counselor, while Chiou himself, referring to former legislator Chou Po-lun (周伯倫), says the cleverest man in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is jailed in Hualien. Most DPP members, however, consider the cleverest politician with the fastest response to be Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

"Very often when others have thought things over once, Frank Hsieh has already thought things over three times," deceased former DPP legislator Lu Hsiu-yi (盧修一) once said.

Hsieh, 57, is often compared with the 53-year-old Chen. Both were both born to poor families. They were both hardworking students and passed the bar examination with the highest score among their competitors when they were only in their junior year.

Both began their political careers with the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 when they decided to defend the accused dissidents.


"Looking back to their performances at that time, I feel that Chen Shui-bian focused on the details of the incident and related papers as evidence. It looked complicated and trivial, but it also showed Chen's sincerity and devotion," said former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德).

"But Frank Hsieh adopted an attacking strategy. He revealed the prosecutors' flaws by playing on the prosecutors' responses and words and catching their contradictions. This shows that he indeed has a better grasp of a comprehensive strategy."

Early on in the two men's careers, political observers thought Hsieh would advance further than Chen because of Hsieh's tact and emphasis on building relationships and trust with other participants in the democratic movement.

They saw Chen as having a heroic air and basing his political ideology on justice and anti-corruption.

Based on that ideology, Chen would attack his own alliance or supporters if they were involved in illegal matters.

When non-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) democracy groups held an event called "Looking for a Leader" in 1985, over 60 leading figures of the democratic movement voted Hsieh to be their top leader and Chen their No. 2.

When Hsieh and Chen were running against each other for the Taipei mayoral nomination in 1994, each formed his own faction within the DPP.

Chen's Justice Alliance (正義連線) was seen as a single-person faction while Hsieh's Welfare State Alliance (福利國) consisted of elites from both northern and southern Taiwan.

"A strong A-bian [Chen] won support from the grassroots with his personal style, and a gentle Frank Hsieh had support from the party," said Chen Sung-shan (陳淞山), Civil Service Commissioner and the director of Chen Shui-bian's legislative office during his time as a lawmaker.

"Finally A-bian, who looked for support from the people, won the nomination and became the DPP's candidate for Taipei mayor. Hsieh, who imitated the Japanese-style interaction among political factions, chose to become the executive director of A-bian's campaign and to try to go a step forward from there," Chen Sung-shan said.

Hsieh's political philosophy probably stems from his education background.

With a master's degree from Kyoto University in Japan, he stresses hierarchy and seniority in office, and treats well-educated people with respect. But he is also known to unconsciously show arrogance toward blue-collar workers.

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