The Taiwanese representative office in Washington responded sharply on Friday to an op-ed article that quoted critics accusing President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of undermining the country’s sovereignty.
The article, published in the Washington Times, was written by Taiwan Institute of Political, Economic and Strategic Studies chief executive Parris Chang (張旭成), and the rebuttal came from Frank Wang (王億), director of the press division at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington.
Chang said in the op-ed that most Taiwanese opinion polls showed Ma trailing Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the upcoming presidential election.
“Critics fault Mr Ma’s government for pre-emptive concessions to the communist government [in China] and charge that his strategy has undermined Taiwan’s sovereignty and compromised its de facto independence,” he added.
In his response, Wang accused Chang of alleging that Ma’s policies have undermined sovereignty, when Chang had actually said that Ma’s critics made the charge.
Wang said in a press release issued from Washington that Chang’s op-ed was “misinforming.”
He went on to claim that Ma’s policies had improved cross-strait relations and enhanced regional stability and prosperity “a fact that [US] President [Barack] Obama and [US] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have publicly praised.”
Politicians from both major parties have expressed concern about the way the Obama administration has supported Ma in a seeming attempt to boost his re-election chances.
There are worries that Washington will be accused of interfering in the Taiwanese elections at a time when it should be strictly neutral.
Chang said that Ma’s economic engagement with China had been responsible for capital flight and accelerated the movement of Taiwan’s manufacturing to China.
“Consequently, more that 1 million blue-collar and white-collar workers in Taiwan have lost their jobs,” he said. “While Taiwan’s close economic links with China have benefited Taiwan’s big businesses and foreign multinationals, unemployment remains high, and incomes are shrinking.”
“Given Mr Ma’s present high disapproval rating, running close to 70 percent, if polling were held now, he would probably lose his re-election bid, and Taiwanese voters would likely elect the first female president in Taiwan’s history,” Chang wrote.
Washington-based observers said that it was unusual for TECRO to respond on Ma’s behalf during an election campaign and that it left the “troubling impression” that Ma was using government staff to support his re-election bid.