Taiwan Communiqué No. 83, October 1998

Elections coming up

On 5 December 1998, a set of three major elections will take place in Taiwan. The residents of Taipei and the southern port city of Kaohsiung will elect their mayors and members of the city councils, while in all of Taiwan, elections will be held for the Legislative Yuan, the national legislature, which is increasing its size from the present 164 seats to 225 seats.

Mayor Chen
Mayor Chen Shui-bian

Of the three races, the race for mayor of Taipei is viewed as an important indicator of future politics on the island. DPP incumbent Major Chen Shui-bian is facing a challenge from KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou, the former Minister of Justice. The popular Mayor Chen has been widely mentioned as the likely DPP candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in March 2000. He wants to win this race for a second term as mayor in order to build momentum for 2000, while the Kuomintang is trying to garner all its resources in an attempt to stop Mr. Chen.

The Taipei mayoral race may still run into a three-way contest, since the pro-reunification New Party has nominated former finance minister Wang Chien-hsuan to be its candidate. However, observers in Taiwan believe that most supporters of the radical pro-unification New Party will cast their votes for Mr. Ma, who still clings to the idea of unification with China.

Mr. Chen's record as mayor is significant: when he was elected in 1994, he pledged to turn Taipei into a modern city in the 21 century. In the past three years, he improved the well-being of the Taipei citizenry in many ways, and changed the city as none of his KMT predecessors had been able to do in the preceding 40 years. He streamlined the Taipei City Government and improved the administrative efficiency. He also implemented several important social programs. The Metropolitan Rapid Transport System was completed and is in operation. The traffic congestion in the city has been greatly reduced.

Many of the measures he took to modernize Taipei city, such as cracking down on gangsters, banning prostitution, tearing down illegal buildings and clearing the streets of vendors caused resentment among those who felt victimized by his policies, but were applauded by the population as a whole.

Prof. Li Hung-hsi, a law professor from National Taiwan University and a top-notch speaker who can draw huge crowds to the campaign rallies, has accepted Mr. Chen's invitation to be the campaign manager.

Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian's reelection bid and Hsieh Chang-ting's candidacy for Mayor of Kaohsiung have galvanized Taiwanese-Americans into forming support groups in major cities of the United States. So far 42 local action committees have been set up. On September 12, 1998, delegates from all over the United States gathered in Los Angeles to discuss strategy and plan action.

Independence sentiment growing

Rally for independence in Taipei

On 8 September 1998, a major rally was held in Taipei in support of independence. It was organized by the Overseas Taiwanese National Affairs Advocacy Group (OTNAAG), an umbrella group for some 31 overseas Taiwanese organizations. Among these the World United Formosan for Independence (WUFI), World Federation of Taiwanese Associations (WFTA), the Taiwanese American Association (TAA), Formosan Association for Public Affairs(FAPA), and the North American Taiwanese Professors' Association(NATPA).

The organizations issued a joint statement, in which they urged president Lee Teng-hui to: 1) Use the name Taiwan in applications for a seat in U.N. and other international organizations; and 2) Abolish the Unification Guidelines and the National Unification Council.

On September 8th, more than a thousands people gathered in front of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and proceeded to the 2-28 Memorial Park, where a rally with speeches and performances was held. At 3:00 p.m., six representatives of the group led by Dr. Samuel Chou, accompanied by Legislator Lee Ying-yuan and National Assemblyman Chang Cheng-Hsiang, walked over to the Presidential Palace to deliver the statement.

Initially, the Presidential Palace declined to send higher level official to receive the document. Then, the whole crowd moved in the pouring rain to the front of the Presidential Palace in a show of support. A barbed-wire barricade was set up and the police and military police in anti-riot gear started to line up behind the barricade.

A prominent US-based medical doctor, Dr. Ko Sebo, who presently serves a President of the US Chapter of the World United Formosans for Independence, saw a gap and went through the barricade. As the demonstration proceeded, he was initially left alone, and continued to wave his placards in the heavy afternoon rain of Taipei for a good twenty to thirty minutes.

Then, all of a sudden, police jumped him, and he was dragged into a police station nearby. During the arrest, one of the plainclothes security man punched him in the stomach several times. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt. He was held at the police station for about one hour, when his wife and several of his friends simply walked into the station and pulled him out of there.

While all this was happening, the Presidential Palace finally sent a high-level official to receive the petition. The gathering ended at 5:00 p.m. It was the first time that a combined group representing all major overseas Taiwanese organizations had organized a demonstration in Taiwan.

New Nation Alliance set up in Taiwan

On 18 September 1998, a new political alliance was set up in Taiwan by a group of pro-Taiwan independence politicians. The group was named New Nation Alliance and is dedicated to promote political, social and cultural reforms. The alliance issued a manifesto explaining its main purpose — promoting the establishment of a "new nation, new society and new culture."

Six of the politicians are currently independent members of the Legislative Yuan. They left the DPP two years ago due to the wishy-washy policies of former chairman Hsü Hsin-liang.

The manifesto said all of its members share the same political concepts and ideals. "We are willing to serve as woodpeckers and antiseptics in a new era and to dedicate ourselves to pushing for the birth of a new, free and democratic Taiwan Republic," it stressed.

The Alliance will field 15 candidates for the upcoming December 5th elections for the Legislative Yuan and Taipei and Kaohsiung city councils. Under current regulations, it will be given two at-large seats in the legislature if its legislative candidates receive at least five percent of the vote.

Addressing the ceremony, Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the formation of the new alliance indicates that Taiwan has become a mature pluralistic society. "I think there will be ample room for the DPP and the New Nation Alliance to cooperate in pursuing the creation of a new nation," Lin noted.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Premier Vincent Siew said the formation of the Alliance signifies the value of democracy and will make the Legislative Yuan's political spectrum even more diversified. "Even though my political concepts differ from those of the Alliance, I believe that we are both pursuing the country's well-being," the premier said.

A leading member of the Alliance is Legislator Chen Yung-hsing, from Hualien County, who played an important role in the late 1980s in calling for a new interest in, and commemoration of, the February 28th Incident of 1947. Up until that time, it had been a taboo to speak and write about this Taiwanese equivalent of the Holocaust.

Chen Yung-hsing said the year-end elections will offer a new opportunity for the adjustment of Taiwan's political map. "In order to ensure the survival of those with clean images and lofty political ideals in the legislature and the city councils of Taipei and Kaohsiung, we have decided to form this new alliance to promote our cause," he noted.

Chen said the alliance will maintain cooperative ties with the pro-independence DPP and the Taiwan Independence Party. "We'll cooperate closely in the year-end elections in the hope that the opposition camp will be able to control more than half the seats in the legislature."

Opinion poll: independence on the rise

Two recent opinion polls in Taiwan do show yet another marked increase in support for independence on the island. A telephone survey conducted by the Rising People Foundation among 1008 adult residents throughout the island in mid-August showed that some 40 percent were in favor of independence, while those who still supported unification had dropped to 31.2 percent.

The August poll also showed that an overwhelming 79.4 percent were strongly opposed to Beijing's "One Country, two systems" proposals. An even higher percentage, 80.7 percent, was opposed to unification, even if China promised not to interfere in Taiwan's internal and economic affairs. Even if Taiwan was allowed to retain its own military, then 71.7 percent said they still couldn't accept unification.

A telephone poll conducted by the United Daily News among 1205 adults in the third week of September 1998 showed an even higher percentage, 47 percent, in favor of independence, with some 13 percent undecided and the remainder opposed.

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