Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Lien, Soong to attend flag raising

CHANGING TACK After regularly turning down invitations to national events, the pan-blue leaders have decided to attend the New Year's Day flag-raising ceremony

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

After shunning the Presidential Office's New Year's Day national flag-raising ceremony for the past three years, opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his People First Party (PFP) counterpart James Soong (宋楚瑜) are planning to make their appearance this time around on Jan. 1.

Although the decision is yet to be finalized, KMT spokeswoman Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) yesterday confirmed that "it is the KMT-PFP alliance's plan to have both Lien and Soong attend the event."

"If nothing surprising comes up, it is likely that both Lien and Soong will show up [at the Presidential Office's flag-raising ceremony] on New Year's Day," she said.

Since the KMT lost power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000 after ruling Taiwan for more than five decades, both Lien and Soong had turned down the DPP government's invitation to participate in national occasions, including the 2000 presidential inauguration and the customary flag-raising ceremony held in front of the Presidential Office during National Day and New Year's Day celebrations.

The pan-blue alliance had instead chosen to hold its own flag-raising ceremonies and stage separate celebrations on days of national importance, such as in front of the KMT headquarters or the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

KMT policy committee convener Tseng Ying-chuan (曾永權) said that if both Lien and Soong show up at the Presidential Office's New Year flag-raising ceremony this Thursday, they would do so in their capacity as ordinary citizens and not as opposition party leaders.

Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday said that Lien, and all national citizens, are invited by the Presidential Office to attend the New Year's Day ceremony.

Huang however said that Lien should explain to the people why he had declined to attend these events for the past three years and had chosen this time around -- with the presidential election just around the corner -- to participate in the ceremony.

Issues relating to national symbols such as the anthem and flag had earlier been the topic of arguments between the pan-green and the pan-blue camps following a DPP campaign advertisement broadcast on TV two weeks ago featuring the national flag with the anthem playing in the background.

The pan-blue camp said the DPP's use of the national anthem and flag was insincere, while President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) camp fought back, saying that Chen had saluted the national flag and anthem at all kinds of official events during the past years, while Lien and Soong were the ones who had not once taken part in these national celebrations.

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) whip Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙) yesterday called into question the motivation behind Lien and Soong's intention to attend the event, asking "if Lien lose the presidential election next year, would both the KMT and the PFP still come for the New Year's Day national flag-raising ceremony?"

Lien, with Soong as his running mate, is challenging Chen's re-election bid in the upcoming presidential election slated for March.

Liao said the pan-blue camp leaders' intention to attend the flag-raising ceremony was merely a campaign stunt to "cheat people out of their votes."

New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明), who in the past three years held New Year's Day flag-raising ceremonies at the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, said he would follow Lien's example and attend the official New Year's Day flag-raising ceremony on Thursday.

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