Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Lien Chan has little-known history with independence

STAFF WRITER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) unwillingness to acknowledge his loss in a democratic election and his ambiguity on Taiwan's future make it difficult to imagine him as someone having anything to do with the pro-independence movement, yet Lien has a long history with the movement.

When pro-independence figure Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) was still a politics professor at National Taiwan University and released his Declaration of Self-Salvation of the Taiwanese People (台灣人民自救宣言) in 1946, Lien was Peng's student. It was widely rumored that Lien had translated the declaration into English, although Lien has long denied the rumor.

Most people do not realize that Lien has had strong connections to pro-independence figures since his youth.

Some who know him well, however, believe that Lien's attitude toward Taiwan's sovereignty, something that developed during his youth, was the reason that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) chose Lien as his successor.

During Lee's 12-year reign as president, Lee has kept in touch with Peng. Peng has also remained on cordial terms with Lien, and it is Peng's name that is listed as the "matchmaker" on Lien's marriage license.

When Peng ran against the Lee-Lien ticket in the 1996 presidential election, the two sides never verbally abused each other.

One of Lien's prominent pro-independence contacts is the newly-appointed representative to Japan, Koh Se-kai (許世楷), once the chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence (台獨聯盟) and the Taiwan Independence Party.

Lien and Koh were classmates from high school through university, and Koh used to be a frequent guest at Lien's home.

When Koh and Lien studied together at the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University, they were, together with another female student, the only three Hoklo (more commonly known as Taiwanese) students in the class.

"I was not aware of the number of differences between the Mainlander and Taiwanese students at first. Only when I started to speak in Taiwanese did I realize that none of my classmates would be able to understand me -- except Lien Chan. I became aware that Lien and I were the minority in the class," Koh said.

Sometimes Lien would refer to himself and Koh as "the two Taiwanese" in the class -- but since Lien in fact had one Mainlander parent and one Taiwanese parent, Koh said that he would sometimes half-jokingly correct Lien by saying that the two were "one and a half Taiwanese."

Koh recalled that there was one occasion when he and Lien passed through the Presidential Office, Lien pointed at the Presidential Office and said, "in the future, a Taiwanese will become the President." But Koh pointed out that the differences between him and Lien was that, while Lien wanted Taiwanese to take over from the Mainlanders in politics, especially in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Koh wanted to promote independence with all races treated equally.

After graduating from university, Koh continued to pursue higher education in Japan and Lien in the US. This became the watershed in the two friends' fate with Koh becoming a blacklisted figure and Lien a future star in the KMT.

After Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) became the President in 2000, Chen had difficulties realizing his policies due to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holding a minority of seats in the legislature. Peng and other pro-independence figures all tried to persuade Lien and the KMT to help the DPP, without success.

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