Sat, Mar 20, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Evergreen tycoon switches support from Chen to Lien

SHIPPING MAGNATE Although the influential head of the giant comglomerate supported Chen Shui-bian in the 2000 election, he decided Lien is better for business



Taiwan's leading shipping tycoon, who endorsed President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) candidacy in 2000, appeared to switch support on the eve of today's presidential election.

Yesterday's statement by Evergreen Group Chairman Chang Yung-fa (張榮發) came just hours Chen was shot and wounded while on the campaign trail. Chen was campaigning in his hometown of Tainan in southern Taiwan and suffered a bullet wound to the stomach.

Chang stopped short of naming his preferred candidate, but left little room for doubt when he called on voters to support the candidate who promised better ties with arch-foe China.

The main issue dividing the contenders is their policy towards China, with incumbent Chen espousing a policy that sees Taiwan as independent while Nationalist Party leader Lien Chan (連戰) favors a conciliatory approach to its giant neighbour and main trade partner.

"Which presidential candidate can bring us a life of peace, stability, prosperity, and well-being? The answer should be fairly clear," Chang said in a statement.

"The ideal candidate must ... be able to build a peaceful, stable and harmonious cross-Strait relationship in order to lead us to re-create Taiwan's economic miracle," Chang said.

Chang was a member of an advisory panel to Chen led by Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) in the 2000 presidential election. The panel's backing was instrumental in Chen's election victory that ended more than five decades of Nationalist Party rule.

In an eleventh-hour show of support, Lee, the 1986 Nobel winner in chemistry, backed Chen for the second time in a row but tempered his move with reservations about Chen's first term.

Chang said he had met Wang Yung-ching (王永慶), influential chairman of petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics Group, on Wednesday and discussed the economy and opening direct transport links with China.

Chang, who has set his sights on the vast China market, turned down an offer to be a senior adviser to Chen in 2002.

Businessmen such as tycoons Chang and Wang have been clamoring for the lifting of a decades-old ban on direct sea and air links with the China to save time and reduce costs.

Despite testy political ties, Taiwan investors have poured more than US$100 billion into China since detente first began in the late 1980s, lured by low land and labor costs as well as a common language and culture.

The Evergreen Group consists of Evergreen Marine, the world's third largest shipping line, EVA Airways and Uniglory Marine. It has set up offices in a dozen Chinese cities and invested heavily in joint ventures in China.

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