Wed, Sep 10, 2008 - Page 3 News List

DPP slams president over ‘Taiwan region’ comment

NOT AN ISSUE Ma’s latest reference to Taiwan had the DPP up in arms, with some members saying the KMT was taking the nation ever closer to unification

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday accused President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of denigrating the country by referring to it as the “Republic of China, Taiwan region” (中華民國台灣地區) on Monday.

While receiving Brian Mishara, president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and recipients of the 2008 International Caring for Life Awards on Monday, Ma pledged that his administration would endeavor to reduce the suicide rate, adding that suicide was now the nation’s ninth leading cause of death.

Ma then said that “over the past 10 years, the number of suicides in the Republic of China, Taiwan region, had doubled, from 2,172 in 1997 to 4,406 in 2006, before falling to 3,933 last year.”

DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) told reporters yesterday that Ma should apologize immediately for the remark, as it degraded the nation’s sovereign status.

Ma had denied the existence of his own country, Lai said.

Chuang Suo-hang (莊碩漢), director of the DPP’s Policy Research Committee, said that Ma’s policies were leading Taiwan one little step at a time toward unification with China.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said yesterday that Ma should not have to apologize because his comment was not an issue.

“The Republic of China is an independent sovereignty,” Wang said.

“There is nothing wrong in the president referring to Taiwan as the Republic of China, Taiwan region, during a non-political occasion,” he said.

“The public should refrain from overinterpreting the president’s remarks, because they did not have any political meaning,” he said.

In Washington, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that Taiwanese were increasingly wary of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s policy on China.

Tsai made the comments during a dinner banquet with Taiwanese expatriates after her arrival earlier in the day from New York City, which was the first leg of her two-week visit to the US.

“All of Taiwanese society has grave concerns about the KMT government’s stance toward China,” she said, adding that KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) was guilty of “seriously misjudging” the political situation.

Wu’s claim, shortly after a visit to China earlier this year, that “China does not intend to fire missiles at Taiwan” was misguided, Tsai said.

“In the face of Taiwan’s dwindling independent status and worsening economic situation, the DPP’s top priority is to protect national sovereignty, help improve the economy and take care of the underprivileged,” she said.

In addition to giving a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Tsai will meet US officials and aides from the Republican and Democratic parties before visiting Los Angeles on Friday and San Jose, California, on Sunday.

She is scheduled to return to Taipei on Tuesday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KO SHU-LING

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