Tsai Ing-wen's Justification as DPP Chairperson Shattered
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 15, 2009
Yesterday Tsai Ing-wen visited Chen Shui-bian at the Taipei Detention Center. To understand the meaning of her gesture, we need ask only, "What would have happened if Tsai Ing-wen refused to visit Chen Shui-bian?"
Everyones' attention has been focused on President Ma Ying-jeou's first year in office. But DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen has also been DPP Chairperson for one year. One year ago, Tsai Ing-wen vowed to lead the DPP toward an "Era without Chen Shui-bian." But one year later, as an anniversary present, Tsai Ing-wen has actually visited the Taipei Detention Center.
Pale Green elements at all levels, reformist elements within the party, centrist voters, and others who still have expectations of the Democratic Progressive Party, have hoped that as DPP Chairperson, Tsai Ing-wen could lead the DPP out of the shadow of Chen Shui-bian. When she took office a year ago, she said that only by soul-searching can the DPP regain the public trust. But yesterday, when Tsai Ing-wen marched into the Taipei Detention Center, she symbolically signaled that the hopes of distancing the DPP from Chen Shui-bian over the past year have been shattered. Tsai Ing-wen's justification as DPP Chairman has also been shattered.
Politicians who hold important positions know that their political image depends on an implicit contract with society. Tsai Ing-wen's political image was predicated upon ridding the Democratic Progressive Party of Chen influences, on meeting the needs of the party and the expectations of society. This is the contract Chairman Tsai Ing-wen reached with reformers within the party and mainstream society. Today however, Tsai Ing-wen submitted her instrument of surrender to Chen Shui-bian. Her raison d'etre as DPP Chairperson has been nullified. Did Tsai Ing-wen betray her promise to reform the Democratic Progressive Party? Or did the DPP destroy Tsai Ing-wen?
Looking back, what would have happened had Tsai Ing-wen refused to visit Chen Shui-bian? The problem is Chen Shui-bian has used the May 17 protest march to take Tsai Ing-wen hostage. Tsai Ing-wen envisioned the May 17 march as an opportunity to "Denounce Ma, Defend Taiwan." But Chen Shui-bian and Taiwan independence forces have used the event to "Denounce Tsai, Defend Ah-Bian." First, Taiwan independence elements threatened to stage their own, separate protest in southern Taiwan. Next, Chen Shui-bian called for north and south to join forces. He called for Taiwan independence forces in the south to end their march in Kaohsiung and head north. One can imagine the "support Chen Shui-bian" and "denounce Tsai" slogans and incidents that were likely to occur. During past demonstrations, Tsai Ing-wen forbade support Chen Shui-bian banners and gestures. But this line of defense has now been broken. If Tsai were to hold firm, the denunciations of Tsai on May 17 would be ugly indeed.
Tsai Ing-wen's visit to the Taipei Detention Center was an attempt to preempt potential protests against her during the march. Gathered crowds have repeatedly asked her why she hadn't visited Chen Shui-bian. They denounced her as "heartless," right to her face. If Tsai Ing-wen did not bow to them, all sorts of embarrassing denunciations of Tsai were likely to occur. But on the other hand, this May 17 "Denounce Ma" march has become a kind of anvil on which Tsai Ing-wen's political image is being reforged. Tsai Ing-wen has effectively shredded her contract with society. Tsai Ing-wen, from this day hence, will no longer be the Tsai Ing-wen on whom so many people pinned their hopes.
This visit was obviously arranged. Frank Hsieh was first in line. Su Tseng-chang was second, but could not see him due to visiting restrictions. As a result Tsai and Su both went yesterday. Hsieh, Su, and Tsai have not been to the Taipei Detention Center in over one hundred days. Obviously they each have their own political calculus. But for each of them to schedule visits now was of course by mutual agreement. Each of them is looking after his or her own interests. If we look at past protest marches, Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP Central Committee's impregnable line of defense has now been breached in a hundred different places. Chen Shui-bian and Taiwan independence forces are now on the offensive. They once had to bite their tongues. Now they are the tail wagging the dog. Now they are in control. Taiwan independence forces want not merely to protest that Chen Shui-bian has been a victim of injustice. They want to hold Chen Shui-bian up as the spiritual leader of the DPP and the Taiwan independence movement. They have hijacked every Green Camp protest march held since last year's march on May 20. Again and again, they have used protests agains Ma as opportunities to further their own agenda. They have finally succeeded in forcing Tsai Ing-wen to visit the Taipei Detention Center. They have successfully transformed the protests into a denunciation of Tsai and a defense of Ah-Bian. Yesterday, when Tsai Ing-wen marched into the Taipei Detention Center, she effectively conceded leadership to Chen Shui-bian and the forces of Taiwan independence forces. Was this Tsai Ing-wen's intent when she orginally sought the party chairmanship last year? Is this the implicit contract drawn up between Tsai Ing-wen and reformers within the party and mainstream society?
We can now attempt to answer this question. What would have happened had Tsai Ing-wen refused to visit the Taipei Detention Center? Had she refused to visit the Taipei Detention Center, Taiwan independence forces would have used May 17 to force a showdown with her. She would have been put on the spot. The march would have been ruined. Therefore it is reasonable to speculate that Tsai Ing-wen visited the Taipei Detention Center in exchange for promises from Taiwan independence forces not to provoke a showdown on May 17. Tsai Ing-wen's status as chairperson and her political future requires the recognition and blessing of Chen Shui-bian and Taiwan independence elements.
Yesterday Tsai Ing-wen's raison d'etre as DPP Party Chairperson was shattered.
2009.05.15 06:03 am