Sun, Jan 30, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Hsieh, Chen are friendly rivals

COMPETITION The Kaohsiung mayor and soon-to-be premier Frank Hsieh has a long political history with President Chen, going all the way back to the `tangwai' days

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Finance Minister Lin Chuan, center, smiles as premier-designate Frank Hsieh, left, shakes hands with his assigned minister of justice, Morley Shih, at a Cabinet meeting yesterday that included those members staying on from the previous Cabinet as well as new members.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUI, TAIPEI TIMES

Coming from a blue-collar family in Taipei City's "blacksmith street," premier-designate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has proven to be tremendously flexible and resolute, which should make valuable assets in his new negotiation and stability Cabinet.

Progressing from a gymnast to a lawyer, one of Hsieh's most well-known mottos is "baby fat is not actually fat." In other words, Hsieh believes that a person does not necessarily win the game if he starts early. The theory proves true for in his own career.

Holding a bachelor's degree in law from National Taiwan University (NTU) and a master's of philosophy from Kyoto University in Japan, Hsieh has constantly been compared with his long-time friend and political competitor, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The 59-year-old Hsieh is five years older than the president and entered politics earlier than him. They both began their involvement in politics in the early 1980s before serving as defense lawyers for political prisoners in the wake of the Kaohsiung Incident. Both were elected as Taipei City councilors in 1981.

Hsieh and Chen, as well as former Hsinchu Deputy Mayor Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰), were collectively dubbed the "three musketeers" of the tangwai movement (referring to the group of political outsiders who were not part of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during their dictatorship).

Hsieh served as Taipei City councilor between 1981 and 1989 and as a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker from 1989 to 1996. He also helped to form a party faction called the Welfare State Alliance in 1992.

In 1994, Hsieh decided to withdraw from the second stage of the party's primary in the run-up to the Taipei mayoral election after narrowly losing to Chen in the first round.

He was then recruited by Chen to serve as his campaign director and helped him win the Taipei mayor's office in 1994.

Seeking to boost his popularity, Hsieh ran for vice president in the 1996 presidential election on the DPP ticket with presidential candidate Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) but the duo lost. In 1998, Hsieh was elected Kaohsiung mayor, outshining Chen, who was defeated in his bid for re-election in as Taipei mayor. Chen then went on to win the presidential election in March 2000.

Two months later, Hsieh once again demonstrated his own political strength in the party by winning the DPP chairmanship. After winning his re-election bid in December 2002, Hsieh had little time to celebrate his success before facing a barrage of attacks implicating him in a vote-buying scam in a city council speakership election. Hsu jen-tu (許仁圖), director of the Kaohsiung City Government's civil affairs bureau and former DPP deputy secretary-general, said that when Hsieh was DPP chairman, there was no "sour rivalry" between Hsieh and Chen.

"While the public seems to see their political competition as negative, one thing I can assure you is that their relationship is solid and strong," Hsu said.

Hsu, who has been working with Hsieh for the past eight years, described Hsieh as a man of "wisdom" and "clemency."

"[Hsieh's] wisdom has helped him manage the city and handle crisis well," Hsu said. "I'm certain he'll do a good job in his new position."

Some might question Hsieh's wisdom, however, especially in light of the "Sung Chi-li (宋七力)" incident.

When he was seeking re-election in 2002, Hsieh once sparked controversy by seeking the advice of convicted fraudster Sung Chi-li -- a notorious cult leader who claims to have supernatural powers. A few days after winning the mayoral election, Hsieh raised eyebrows by reiterating earlier remarks that he believed in Sung, despite his conviction on fraud charges.

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