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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Recall of President Chen Shui-Bian


DE RUEHIN #2038/01 1650850
R 140850Z JUN 06





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary: As the Legislative Yuan's efforts to recall President
Chen Shui-bian stayed in the Taiwan media's spotlight June 14, news
coverage also focused on further investigations into the kickback
and murder scandal involving Taiwan's purchase of Lafayette-class
frigates; investigations into President Chen's son-in-law's insider
trading scandal and questionable gifts received by First Lady Wu
Shu-chen; and the FIFA World Cup. All Chinese-language papers
reported on the Presidential Office's decision not to submit a
written defense in the face of the Legislative Yuan's recall motion.
The pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest daily, ran
an exclusive news story on page three, quoting an "ambassador-level"
U.S. official as saying that the United States is concerned that
political confrontations will weaken Taiwan's democracy.

Several papers also reported on inside pages that Legislative Yuan
President Wang Jin-pyng canceled his planned U.S. trip because
Taiwan has not passed the U.S. arms procurement bill. The "Liberty
Times" and mass-circulation "Apple Daily" carried similar headlines:
"Displeased with Failure to Pass Arms Procurement Bill, United
States Turns Down Wang Jin-pyng Meeting with U.S. Officials." The
pro-unification "United Daily News," however, headlined "Arms
Procurement Blocking the Road, Wang Cancels His U.S. Trip."

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2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial supported President Chen's decision not to submit a
written defense to the recall motion, saying the law will do him
justice eventually when the motion fails to be adopted by the
Legislative Yuan. An editorial in the limited-circulation,
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" urged Chen and the
DPP to turn the recall into a comprehensive review of and debate on
the problems of Taiwan's governance. A "United Daily News" analysis
said that for Chen, the focus of deciding whether to submit a
written defense lies not in constitutional procedure but in
political effects. The article said Chen can explore a new
battlefield and does not need to dance to the pan-Blue tune. An
editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" said Taiwan is now facing an extended
period of political uncertainty. End summary.

A) "President Chen Should Not Submit Written Defense in Response to
Recall Motion"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000]
editorialized (6/14):

"... The pan-Blue camp did not stop political confrontations for the
sake of the interest of the whole and Taiwan's social stability
since President Chen admitted his political responsibilities [with
regard to his son-in-law's alleged involvement in the insider
trading scandal]. It even went further to act both from inside and
outside the system by taking to the street and having a recall
motion adopted in an extraordinary legislative session. These two
moves have in fact deviated from the normal track adopted by a
democratic country in handling corruption scandals. The submission
of the recall motion today has nothing to do with whether President
Chen is involved in any corrupt practices or misconduct; instead, it
was based on unsubstantiated rumors and questions, such as whether
Chen is competent enough and has sufficient prestige to lead the
country. How can such rhetoric that incriminates other people be
able to convince the Taiwan people? ...

"According to the law, the President is entitled to submit a written
defense within seven days before the Legislative Yuan (LY) starts to
review the recall motion after the motion is adopted by the LY's
Procedure Committee. The Presidential Office, however, decided not
to submit a written defense. ... In such a situation, we support
Chen not submitting a written defense and using his silence as a
gesture to protest the LY's move. As long as Chen believes he is
clean, he can look people straight in the eye. The law will do him
justice eventually when the recall motion fails to be adopted."

B) "Turn Recall into Full Political Debate"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (6/14):

"... Recent statements by KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and PFP Chairman
James Soong and the content of the '10 major charges' contained in
the legislative recall motion make it crystal clear that the
rationale for the impeachment effort has little to do with whether
President Chen is actually guilty of wrongdoing but is a political
action aimed at regaining state power. ... We hope the president
and the DPP will display the political courage to accept this
challenge and turn the pan-KMT recall drive into a comprehensive
review and debate for the benefit of all citizens on the problems of
Taiwan's governance. ... In sum, President Chen and the DPP should
openly tell the people what is really at stake in this political
crisis, namely the future of our democracy."
C) "Bian Is Planning: Day of Decisive Battle Will Be Time for Him
to Get away"

Journalist Sean Liu commented in an analysis in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] (6/14):

"When the Presidential Office was considering whether to submit a
written defense, its focus lay not in constitutional procedure but
in political effect. For Bian, since he wants to create a situation
of Blue-Green confrontation, there is no need for him to do as the
pan-Blue camp planned, or dance to the Blue camp's tune. In any
case, the recall motion is doomed to fail to collect enough votes in
the Legislative Yuan, so Bian can go right ahead and explore another
battlefield for himself. As long as he can intensify confrontations
between the Blue and Green camps by not submitting a written
defense, he can easily simplify the pan-Blue camp's recall motion,
turn it into political confrontation, and get away with it.

"As a result, Bian shows no fear in the face of the pan-Blue camp's
eagerness to fight. In the next two weeks, while the opposition
parties passionately put on their show in the Legislative Yuan, Bian
will carry out his presidential duties as usual and his schedule as
planned, using action to prove that he will never be forced to step
down. ..."

D) "Taiwan Faces Political Unease Amid Efforts to Recall Chen"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] wrote in an editorial (6/14):

"... True, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou has raised a good reason for
the recall of Chen when he said recently: The people, such as
Chen's wife, son-in-law and his two ex-deputy secretaries who were
suspected of committing crimes in one or another, were able to do so
because they have the advantage of access to the president, but
failed to be restrained from improperly using his influence. Thus
it is justifiable for a vote to recall him, having him take
political responsibility. ... To gather momentum for their efforts,
the KMT and the PFP will also conduct an island-wide campaign to
gather signatures to their cause. While this campaign may increase
pressure on him to resign voluntarily, it could pose the danger of
provoking violent contests by people who support Chen and want him
to stay on. So Taiwan is now facing an extended period of political


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