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Was Frank Hsieh reborn on his trip to the mainland?

Publication Date : 25-10-2012


Frank Hsieh, a former Democratic Progressive Party chairman who ran for president unsuccessfully in 2008, appears like a politician reborn.

He paid a visit to China early this month to sell to Beijing leaders his “one Constitution with different interpretations” doctrine which differs little except in name from the Kuomintang's “1992 Consensus” — a tacit pact under which both sides of the Taiwan Strait agreed that there is but one China, whose definition each can orally and separately enunciate. It's just a modus vivendi. Since his return, he has been blasted by his fellow politicians for speaking in Beijing like a turncoat, abandoning the party whose aim is to create a sovereign, independent republic of Taiwan.

To prove he isn't a turncoat, Hsieh appeared at a local radio station for an interview last Friday. Asked by pro-independence political commentator Cheng Hung-yi on Super FM98.5 whether he has already given up independence for Taiwan, Hsieh equivocated, saying only that Taiwan independence can be a movement but can't be an election campaign issue for a political party. Then, he went on to explain why.

In the past, Hsieh explained, the Democratic Progressive Party truly wanted to found a sovereign, independent republic of Taiwan. “But that's not necessary now,” he added. The reason is that Taiwan has already achieved sovereignty and is independent. “Therefore, Taiwan independence can be just a movement but it can never be an election campaign issue,” he stressed.

Recalling the inception of the Democratic Progressive Party in 1986, Hsieh, a founding member, said there wasn't a Taiwan independence issue. It's only after “those blacklisted people returned to Taiwan from abroad” that the “Taiwan independence doctrine has come into existence,” he added. “But,” he pointed out, “in 1999 the Democratic Progressive Party passed its 'Resolution on the Future of Taiwan,' emphasising Taiwan is a de facto sovereign, independent state, whose name now is the Republic of China, according to the Constitution.”

“In other words,” Hsieh went on, “whether one identifies oneself with the Republic of China or with Taiwan, one does so with the same country, the same 'national identification' that is mutually tolerant but not mutually exclusive; ergo, we can't say one has given up Taiwan independence.”

It's a long explanation in response to a short point blank question, but Hsieh didn't offer a yes-or-no answer. Well, that's the way every politician replies to a question he doesn't want to answer. But Hsieh has a reason to beat around the bush. He harbours an ambition to run again for president in 2016, and of course, doesn't want to alienate independence activist supporters before party primaries, while trying to champion a cause basically the same as that of the ruling Kuomintang.

His doctrine requires Taiwan and China to agree that they are part of one and the same country under the same Constitution of the Republic of China though they may define separately how they stand in regards to each other. The Democratic Progressive Party wants to write a new Constitution for Taiwan, though.

That's just a very clever, non-literary play on words. In plain words, both the Kuomintang and the opposition party want to keep the status quo through the same means but with different names. The People's Republic of China, however, wishes to change that status quo sooner rather than later.

Supporters of both parties know, just like everybody else, that independence for Taiwan is impossible in the foreseeable future, and practically all people hope the status quo will remain unchanged for the rest of their lives, but there are independence idealists who dream of a sovereign, independent Taiwan.

So, Hsieh has changed the pro-independence stance that he showed in his 2008 bid for presidency, and went on the record by declaring Taiwan independence to be an unworthy movement, while cautioning against it as a campaign issue in the 2012 presidential election.

Professor Tung Chen-yuan, a former Mainland Affairs Council vice chairman and a sidekick to Hsieh, has recommended that the Democratic Progressive Party amend a Taiwan independence clause in its 1991 party platform to help develop a new China policy. He argued that since the party platform stipulates no change in the designation of the country without public support, the fundamental purpose of defending Taiwan's sovereignty is still served even after the revision.


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