The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticized Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) for proposing that the central government cut subsidies to cities and counties that have publicly spoken out against a proposed trade agreement with China.
Tsai, a member of the KMT’s standing committee, “displayed a lack of respect for democracy,” DPP spokesman Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said, adding that he was unsure what Alex Tsai hoped to accomplish as “everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the agreement.”
The spokesman called Tsai’s comments “groundless fear-mongering.”
Speaking at the Legislature’s Finance Committee on Wednesday, Alex Tsai said that any city or county that did not support a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China should have their subsidy transfers from the central government cut.
He said subsidies should also be cut for those areas that persist in criticizing Taipei City for failing to pay back fees owed to the National Health Insurance system.
During the session, Minister of Finance Lee Sush-der (李述德) agreed with Alex Tsai’s comments.
“You read my mind,” he later told Alex Tsai.
Tsai Chi-chang said the KMT’s tactics were “becoming eerily similar to those of a dictatorship, similar to China, which attempts to control and limit freedom of expression.”
The DPP is also asking for Lee to stand down because of his “inability to remain neutral over the issue, which makes him unfit to be be a public servant.”
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Alex Tsai clarified his remarks, saying it would be inappropriate for people who did not support the nation’s development to share in its largesse.
He also pledged his support for the besieged minister, but said Lee should have taken an even tougher stance.
This did not prevent heavy criticism from DPP-controlled cities and counties, some of which accused both Alex Tsai and Lee of being “undemocratic” and demanded a public apology from both.
“[Alex Tsai’s] comments betray his autocratic ideas. What he said is deeply regrettable. He should apologize immediately,” said Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財) who has expressed support for a referendum on an ECFA.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday also criticized Alex Tsai’s proposal, saying that distribution of government funding had nothing to do with local government support for an ECFA.
KMT Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) came to Alex Tsai’s defense yesterday, saying the proposal was appropriate.
This was not the first time Alex Tsai created controversy over an ECFA.
He previously asked company representatives attending a Financial Supervisory Commission report to publicly state whether they supported the agreement.
On Monday, Tsai also proposed to the legislative Finance Committee that banks, insurance and securities companies be required to promote an ECFA before being awarded licenses to operate in China.
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