Taiwan Communiqué No. 80, April 1998

The DPP gears up for upcoming elections

Party primaries

On 29 March 1998, the DPP held its party primary to nominate candidates for the year-end election for the Legislative Yuan and mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung.

77 candidates were nominated for the Legislative Yuan seats. In Taipei county, former county magistrate You Ching was nominated, while in Taipei City, well-known DPP incumbents such as Shen Fu-hsiung, Yeh Chu-lan were on the list. But there were also surprises: former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh did not receive enough votes for his nomination, because of widespread dissatisfaction within the DPP about his performance.

For the first time, DPP members cast their votes to elect candidates. However, the primary is only the first phase of the nomination process. The second phase is the rating each candidate receives in a public opinion poll to be conducted by the DPP in April.

In Kaohsiung, former Legislator Hsieh Ch'ang-t'ing was nominated as the DPP candidate for the mayor position, which is presently the only big-city position still held by the Kuomintang. Mr. Hsieh has a good chance of winning, since within the Kuomintang disunity broke out about the party's candidacy.

Chen Shui-bian decides to remain Taipei Mayor

Mayor Chen Shui-bian At the end of March 1998, Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian announced his candidacy as incumbent for the Taipei mayor position. These elections are scheduled for the end of 1998, concurrent with elections for the Legislative Yuan. The Kuomintang is likely to run a strong challenger for the job. The two candidates mentioned most often are former justice minister Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, and present Taiwan "Provincial governor" James Soong, who is losing his job, because the Kuomintang and DPP agreed to phase out the provincial level of government.

However, Mr. Ma has stated several times that he does not want to be the KMT's candidate for the position, while Mr. Soong is unacceptable to President Lee Teng-hui because of his extremist pro-unification views.

Lin Yi-hsiung to run for Party Chairman

On 9 March 1998, Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian gave his endorsement to Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung for the position chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. Elections for that position are coming up in May of this year, when the present chairman, Hsu Hsin-liang is ending his term.

Mr. Chen said that no-one can match Mr. Lin's qualifications, experience and sacrifice to the democratic movement on the island. He also praised Mr. Lin's high standards. He said he hoped the election for the chairmanship will provide the DPP with a good headstart for the upcoming elections for the Legislative Yuan at the end of 1998.

Mr. Chen also emphasized that Mr. Lin would be the best person to lead the DPP into the 21st century, and that under his leadership the DPP would have the best chance to become Taiwan's ruling party in the year 2000, when presidential elections will be held.

Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung
Lin Yi-hsiung

Mr. Lin is one of Taiwan's most prominent opposition figures. He became well-known in the late 1970s, when as a young lawyer he became member of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly, and was one of the first people to speak out against the Kuomintang's corruption and repression under its Martial Law, which wasn't lifted until 1987.

His life took a tragic turn in the aftermath of the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979, when he was arrested, and on 28 February 1980 — while he was in prison — his mother and twin-daughters were murdered in their home in downtown Taipei, while the house was under surveillance by the secret police. A third daughter was injured severely from knife stabbings, but survived. The Kuomintang authorities never solved the murder although there were strong indications of involvement by the secret police.

After "Kaohsiung", Mr. Lin was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, but was released after four-and-a-half years due to strong international pressure. After his release he has dedicated himself to improvement of Taiwan's social structure and enhancement of the Taiwanese cultural identity, instead of the Chinese identity, which has been emphasized by the mainlander-dominated Kuomintang authorities.

Press distortions

Misconceptions on the newswires

A number of major publications such as the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Economist, The Washington Post, and the New York Times have excellent reporters, who do a good job in writing about the sensitive issues surrounding Taiwan.

However, other publications sometimes sound like a worn-out record, repeating the same outdated refrains over and over again. Some of the newswire reports from Associated Press and Reuters also fall into this category.

Below, we give a number of examples, and hope it helps the newswire editors to update and modify the language used by their writers, so it reflects present-day realities and gives a more balanced view, instead of perpetuating anachronistic concepts dating from yester-year.

Case no. 1: March 19th 1998. Associated Press from Beijing: "China has invited arch rival Taiwan's top negotiator on reunification to visit but warned the island Thursday not to seek formal independence through a popular vote."

There are several problems with this one sentence:

a. Taiwan is not China's rival, and hasn't been that for almost a decade. Since abandoning the "lifelong legislators" in 1992, and stating that the country covered only Taiwan and surrounding islands, the Kuomintang authorities in Taipei have not claimed sovereignty over China.

b. Taiwan's negotiator is head of the Mainland Affairs Council, and is thus not the island's negotiator "on reunification", which is a concept which is rejected by the majority of the people on the island.

Case no. 2: 13 January 1998, Reuters from Manila: "In a move likely to infuriate China, the Philippines said on Tuesday that President Fidel Ramos had met Taiwan Premier Vincent Siew on possible help from Taipei to the beleaguered Southeast Asian economies."

This type of reporting is sensational and inflammatory: at that point China had not given any reaction yet. Such reports only lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy that China feels it has to react when it sees such reports in the media.

Case no. 3: news wire services also often use the phrase: "China considers Taiwan as a "renegade province" and has threatened to use force if it declares independence."

If newswires use this sentence, they should be balanced and also mention that up to the end of World War II, Taiwan was Japanese territory, which was subsequently occupied by the losing side in China's Civil War. Taiwan had no part in that Civil War.

Furthermore, if newswires mention what China considers Taiwan, they should also mention that an increasing majority of the people on the island view Taiwan as a free, democratic and independent nation, which deserves its full place among the members of the international community.

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