Sun, Jan 07, 2007 - Page 3 News List

NewsMaker: Election defeat proves no obstacle for Hsieh

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former premier Frank Hsieh makes a gesture during an interview in this file photo from Dec. 14 last year.


Life is like a rollercoaster ride -- at least for former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

Even though he lost the Taipei mayoral race to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) last month, he has been lauded for narrowing the vote margin between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the KMT in that race.

The popularity of his two-term mayoral tenure in Kaohsiung has also been viewed as a major factor that helped DPP Kaohsiung candidate Chen Chu (陳菊) win the city's mayoral election last month.

Despite his defeat in Taipei's mayoral race, Hsieh has been urged by many supporters to run in next year's presidential election. So far, he has yet to declare his candidacy.

Hsieh has been received warmly across the country while on a nationwide tour over the past few weeks.

Hsieh unexpectedly stepped into the political arena during the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, in which a peaceful demonstration ended in clashes with police and arrests.

Joining Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as a defense lawyer for the accused in the incident, Hsieh showed his potential as a politician through his flexibility and ability to coordinate with others.

In 1994, Chen won the DPP's Taipei mayoral candidate primary in a contest with Hsieh.

Tension from their contest was transformed into an alliance after Hsieh took up a position as the director of Chen's campaign headquarters, contributing his political skills to Chen's election campaign.

When senior pro-Taiwan independence activist Lee Hung-hsi (李鴻禧) raised Chen and Hsieh's hands at a campaign rally celebrating Chen's mayoral election victory later, Hsieh not only won himself Chen's friendship but also respect from within the DPP.

The Frank Hsieh story

* Date of birth: 5.18.1946

* Place of birth: Taipei

* Party affiliation: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

* Academic background: Master of Law from Kyoto University, Japan

* Career: Defense attorney in the Kaohsiung Incident (1980), denominator of the DPP and draftsman of the DPP's party platform (1986),Taipei City Councilor (1981-1989), legislator (1989-1996), DPP vice presidential candidate (1996),DPP Chairman (2000-2002),Kaohsiung Mayor (1998-2004), premier ( January 2005-January 2006)

The first major blow of his political career came in 1996, when he ran as Peng Ming-min's (彭明敏) running mate under the DPP banner for the nation's first presidential election.

At that time, Hsieh was alleged to have taken inappropriate political donations from sect leader Sung Chi-li (宋七力) who claimed he had supernatural powers.

Hsieh suffered fierce criticism from the public then because he and his wife were followers of Sung.

Sung was charged with fraud in 1997 due to supernatural powers claims and for encouraging his followers to donate money to him.

Hsieh temporarily disappeared from the political scene following the scandal.

When he re-surfaced by winning the Kaohsiung mayorship for the DPP in 1998, very few people at the time thought he would regain a political edge.

Yet he did, surprising many by making remarkable changes in Kaohsiung.

These included beginning the construction of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit system, improving the water quality of Love River and incorporating art and music into the fabric of the city, which had long been mocked by the media as a "cultural desert."

Before the Taipei mayoral election last month, a pan-blue interviewee who wished to remain anonymous told the Taipei Times that although she did not want to vote for the DPP, "undeniably, Kaohsiung changed a lot, for the better, during Hsieh's term as the mayor."

"He is a man with firmness and resolution," said Juan Chao-hsiung (阮昭雄), one of Hsieh's close aides. "He makes decisions after careful evaluation, but once he decides to do something, he is fully commited [when carrying out the decisions]."

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who worked as the director-general of the Kaohsiung City Government's Department of Information and Bureau of Cultural Affairs when Hsieh was mayor, said what Hsieh did was to reconstruct the city in a "cultural and humane" way.

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