Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Analysis: DPP softens tone against Shih after initial attacks

NEW STRATEGY After attempting to undermine Shih Ming-teh's credibility with personal attacks, the party has adopted a less confrontational approach

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has changed tactics, adopting a softer attitude in the wake of its campaign of personal attacks against former party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), who has initiated a movement to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Wang Kung-yi (王崑義), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said the shift showed that the DPP was learning.

"The DPP is becoming smarter in terms of strategic counterattacks against Shih because they have achieved the goal of discrediting him," Wang said. "Now they are retreating to the strategic high ground, with the DPP headquarters setting the tone of the response and President Chen going abroad to avoid direct confrontation with his opponents. When he returns, the momentum of the anti-Chen campaign may well be exhausted."

Wang, however, expressed concern over the possibility that the campaign may turn violent as Shih has described supporters of his campaign as a "motley crowd."

"No one can guarantee that things will not get out of control, although Shih says it will be a peaceful sit-in," he said.

After Shih inaugurated a fundraising campaign to depose Chen, the DPP launched a counterattack questioning Shih's character, including an attempt to make public a letter, which he wrote while incarcerated, to dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) asking for forgiveness.

The letter was later made available by Shih's first wife, Chen Li-chu (陳麗珠), who also showed a similar letter Shih had written on the inside of a jacket during the same period.

The writer Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) has criticized the DPP's personal attacks against Shih as "hooliganism." Some DPP lawmakers have called on party members to switch their focus to rational debate on the issue of Chen's resignation.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who was coerced into writing a "confession" letter during her imprisonment, has also called for mutual respect between the DPP and Shih, saying that since "we come from the same root, why do we want to attack each other?"

Responding to the criticisms, DPP Chairman Yu Shih-kun yesterday made clear that the party's stance on the anti-Chen campaign would be non-confrontational. The party will not mobilize supporters to counter the campaign nor will it oppose it in a bid to avoid escalating the matter. Party members defying the policy will face disciplinary measures.

Commenting on the DPP's volley of verbal abuse against Shih, Wang said that the DPP was not at fault.

"Former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) once said that we must not be soft on traitors," he said.

Because the DPP considers Shih, who left the DPP in 2000, to be a "traitor," Wang said that the DPP had adopted a "ruthless and cheap" approach similar to that which would have been adopted by gangsters.

Michelle Wang (王美琇), deputy secretary-general of the Northern Taiwan Society, said that Shih must subject himself to stringent public scrutiny of his morals because he has questioned Chen's.

However, she frowned on the revelation of the letter Shih wrote to Chiang, saying that the DPP should not have capitalized on a tragedy that had happened at an extraordinary time.

Wang Kung-yi said that Chen's resignation would not resolve any problems, but would instead bring more political turmoil.

He also doubted that Lu -- who would take over the presidency in accordance with the Constitution if Chen stepped down -- would be able to contain both the pan-green and pan-blue camps.

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