Tsai Ing-wen Must Answer Chen Shui-bian
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 27, 2011
Chen Shui-bian has publicly asked two questions, and is now awaiting Tsai Ing-wen's answer.
The first question is: Tsai Ing-wen, if you are elected president, will you grant me amnesty? Chen Shui-bian recently penned an article entitled "Yingluck Shinawatra Wins on Her Brother's Behalf." He said former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was forced into exile when charges of corruption were leveled against him. His sister Yingluck ran for parliament in his place. She did not distance herself from Thaksin. She acknowledged and affirmed Taksin's achievements. She openly advocated "amnesty for convicted political prisoners." As a result, she won the election and became prime minister. Chen Shui-bian said this is why Tsai Ing-wen should not distance herself from him. He said "distancing herself from me will only lead to defeat." Chen Shui-bian said Yingluck never denied she was "Thaksin's clone." Therefore Tsai Ing-wen should "replicate Yingluck's experience." Chen went on and on. But Chen Shui-bian's real question was "Tsai Ing-wen, do you intend to pardon me, Chen Shui-bian?"
The second question is, "Tsai Ing-wen, why not promise that if elected, you will abolish ECFA?" Chen Shui-bian said the issue of "Taiwan's primacy and national identity," and even the termination of ECFA, are questions that cannot be avoided. These remarks were of course directed at Tsai Ing-wen, who has been studiously avoiding them. Chen Shui-bian feels they must be "confronted directly." He feels she must "dominate the issue and seize the initiative." Chen Shui-bian and Chen Chih-chung have both expressed their views on the matter. Once Tsai Ing-wen is elected, asssuming Beijing does not preempt by terminating ECFA first, then "President Tsai" should do so. Chen said that provisions for the termination of ECFA by either Beijing or the Democratic Progressive Party, is a question that cannot be avoided. Chen went on and on. But Chen's real question was, "Tsai Ing-wen, why not promise that if elected you will abolish ECFA?"
Will Tsai pardon Chen Shui-bian? Will Tsai abolish ECFA? These are questions most people would like to ask Tsai Ing-wen. Today, these questions have been asked by Chen Shui-bian. Naturally she is under increased pressure to respond. These are questions that Tsai Ing-wen must not evade and cannot evade.
For Chen Shui-bian, this was an audacious move that took everyone by surprise. Tsai Ing-wen is under the gun, both inside and outside her party. Logically speaking, Chen Shui-bian should be easing any pressure on Tsai Ing-wen. He should not become the straw that breaks the camel's back. He should wait until after Tsai Ing-wen is elected to bring up such matters. Yet Chen Shui-bian has deliberately chosen this chaotic moment to raise two issues that could impact Tsai Ing-wen's election prospects. What is he doing, but intentionally making life difficult for Tsai?
He has two possible motives for doing this. One. Chen Shui-bian may think that people within the Green Camp have strong feelings about ECFA and a presidential pardon. If Tsai fails to respond to these people, she may find it dfficult to generate any political momentum. Two. Chen Tsai Ing-wen may feel a need to force Tsai Ing-wen to take a stand before the election. On the one hand this would force Tsai to keep her campaign promises. On the other hand this would give him an opportunity to endorse Tsai's candidacy. That way, if Tsai is elected, she will be obliged to fulfill her campaign promises. The act of pardoning Chen will also be given greater legitimacy.
But when confronted with the two questions, Tsai Ing-wen remains hesitant. Will she pardon Chen Shui-bian? Her answers are, "This is a serious matter" and "This is something everyone on Taiwan must contemplate." What sort of answer is that? In response to questions about terminating ECFA, she first said that ECFA "pandered to [Mainland] China and sold out Taiwan." Later she said it "forfeited our sovereignty and humiliated our nation." She said, "one option would be to hold a referendum." She said she "would not rule out having the Legislative Yuan take another look at the law." Finally she said she "would continue the previous administration's cross-Strait policy." Again, what sort of answer is that?
Is Tsai Ing-wen like Yingluck Shinawatra? Consider the current situation. Chen Shui-bian, Lee Teng-hui, Frank Hsieh, Koo Kwan-min, and the Taiwan independence movement have taken Tsai Ing-wen hostage. Tsai Ing-wen has even declared that "people in southern Taiwan feel that a president who represents the Taiwanese people has been hunted relentlessly and persecuted politically." Is this not an expression of support? Does she not resemble Yingluck Shinawatra? Not really. Tsai Ing-wen has yet to fully endorse the Chen regime's eight years in office. Instead, she continues to stress "Taiwan Next," and "taking responsibility for the future." She has not publicly promised to pardon Chen Shui-bian. She merely speaks of "solemnly confronting the issue." Also, Chen Shui-bian opposes ECFA. Tsai Ing-wen however, has refused to take a clear stand on ECFA. In response to such questions, she is nowhere as consistent in her words and deeds as Yingluck Shinawatra. Therefore she bears scant resemblance to Yingluck Shinawatra.
Chen Shui-bian posed two major questions. He was of course, making a calculated, Machiavellian political move. But these are two questions Tsai Ing-wen must face. On terminating ECFA, Tsai has no desire to alarm Chen Shui-bian. According to Chen Shui-bian, if Tsai is elected, Beijing may well invoke the ECFA termination clause. If it does, will Tsai still support ECFA? Or will she preempt by terminating ECFA first? Tsai Ing-wen has no answer. Regarding a presidential pardon, Chen Shui-bian is even less likely to back off. He thinks Tsai Ing-wen should make a clear yes or no declaration before the election. She should ask voters to act as witnesses and support her decision. If Tsai does not answer these two questions before the election, but is elected, these two issues will become a nightmare for everyone on Taiwan.
Tsai Ing-wen finds herself on the horns of a dilemma. Her situation is a little like Yingluck Shinawatra's, but not entirely. For Tsai, "Is she or isn't she like Yingluck Shinawatra?" is an embarrassing question. Yingluck Shinawatra won because she talked the talk, and walked the walk. Voters backed her all the way. But if an ersatz Yingluck Shinawatra says one thing but does another, if she tries to pull the wool over the voters' eyes and muddle through, the result may be very different. Can Tsai Ing-wen become another Yingluck Shinawatra? That depends on whether Taiwan is another Thailand. That depends on whether voters on Taiwan are like voters in Thailand.
Chen Shui-bian wants Tsai Ing-wen to confront the issues, to force her to tell him where she stands. This is what most voters want as well.