03/20/2008, 00.00
TAIWAN – TIBET
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Presidential Election: Tibet might sink the KMT

The Progressive Democratic Party candidate attacks his adversary’s support for the Lhasa demonstrations, saying that the KMT plans to sell Taiwan down the river to Beijing and turn it into a new Tibet. Polls open next Saturday; the outcome remains uncertain.

Taipei (AsiaNews) – The Tibet crisis might backfire against Taiwan’s candidates in next Saturday presidential election to replace two-term President Chen Shui-bian. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Frank Hsieh Chang-ting used his opponent’s support for protesters in Lhasa to raise the possibility that Taiwan might be sold down the river. He said that Kuomintang (KMT) leader Ma Ying-jeou might turn Taiwan into the next Tibet.

The charges were picked up by the island nation’s press and found echo in the ongoing election rallies. Even Kuomintang supporters are blaming Ma for being too cosy with Beijing. His wish for greater investment and closer contacts between them the two governments is seen with suspicion by many in both parties.

Frank Hsieh did not even spare his opponent from criticism over his nationality. The KMT candidate in fact was born in Hong Kong and was for a while a US resident.

In the meantime the DPP expressed its “full support’ for demonstrations in Lhasa. President Chen said that protests by Buddhist monks were a sign of deep dissatisfaction with Chinese rule, urging island voters to back Taiwanese independence in a referendum that will also take place on 22 March.

For analysts the elections are too close to call. Although the KMT won the last year’s parliamentary elections with an overwhelming majority (more than 70 per cent), the presidential poll is somewhat different and is being fought over the candidates. Many Taiwanese are also reluctant to have the same party occupy the Presidential Palace and parliament.

Indigenous Taiwanese, who are a majority, are especially concerned about a possible return to the type of military rule established by Chiang Kai-Shek when he fled the mainland in 1949 and which ended only in 1987.

In order to allay such fears, the KMT’s Ma took part in the latest debates wearing the traditional aboriginal costume, only to elicit scorn from his adversaries.

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