Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Presbyterian church backs Chen's campaign

RELIGION AND POLITICS Without mentioning any candidate by name, the traditionally pro-independence church took a sideswipe at the pan-blue candidates

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Calling Taiwan the Republic of Confusion rather than the Republic of China (ROC), the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan yesterday set forth its pro-independence position on the upcoming presidential elections but came just shy of actually specifying its support for Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"We advocate principles and ideals," said church General Secretary Reverend William J.K. Lo (羅榮光). "People can think for themselves and decide which presidential candidate they believe draws closest to the principles we uphold."

The church yesterday issued a statement in support of a presidential candidate who upholds the "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait principle, advocates approving a new constitution via a referendum and demonstrates integrity.

"No candidate is perfect, but the national leader is a symbol for the country. A leader should not use public funds for personal benefit or condone domestic violence," said Lo, referring to People First Party Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜) involvement in the Chung Hsing Bills Finance scandal and allegations that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) physically abuses his wife.

In addition, Lo also said that Taiwan's future should be decided by Taiwanese citizens via a referendum.

"There shouldn't be any external influences. Both the US and China have to respect Taiwan's autonomy. Launching missiles at Taiwan to influence election results stands in the way of world peace. Conducting a referendum is the most peaceful tactic," Lo said.

"Taiwan's national status is up in the air right now -- it's floating in the `blue' sky. Taiwan needs to come down to earth -- the `green' earth," said Lo, explaining that the pan-blue camp's interpretations of Taiwan's national status led only to confusion.

"It's important to note that the [church's ] statement uses the term `Taiwan's president.' The president of Taiwan has no right to oppose Taiwan's independence -- that would be like Bush opposing US independence or Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) opposing China's independence. It would be an act of betrayal," Lo said.

The church also called for the promotion of Aboriginal self-rule and rights for minority groups in the rewritten constitution. The church statement pointed to the need for economic justice, calling for the sharing of resources and narrowing of the income gap.

The 230,000-strong Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has traditionally been deeply involved in national politics, particularly with the Taiwan independence movement, but yesterday clarified that it would not be establishing a campaign support group for Chen.

"The upcoming elections are crucial in determining Taiwan's sovereignty. People are torn between the two presidential nominees. As Christians, it's not enough to just worship and sing hymns. The church needs to express concern for society, the economy, politics and culture," said Lin Chung-cheng (林宗正), deputy general secretary of the church.

Lo also remarked that historically the church and state have engaged each other in dialogue and interaction, calling an absolute separation of religion and politics a myth.

"What value is there in a church that does not engage the world but focuses only on the church itself?" Lo asked.

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