Cablegate: Media Reaction: Recall of President Chen Shui-Bian
DE RUEHIN #2079/01 1670830
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160830Z JUN 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0730
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5323
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6534
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002079
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - ERIC BARBORIAK
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: RECALL OF PRESIDENT CHEN SHUI-BIAN
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
coverage June 16 on further investigations into President Chen
Shui-bian's son-in-law's role in an insider trading scandal and the
roles of First Lady Wu Shu-chen and President Chen Shui-bian's close
aides in the Sogo Department Store ownership case; former Premier
Frank Hsieh's announcement he will run for Taipei mayor as the DPP
candidate; and the FIFA World Cup. The mass-circulation "Apple
Daily" ran a colored banner headline on page four that said "Bian
Strongly Asserts That Recall Motion and No-Confidence Vote Are Meant
to Usurp Power." The sub-headline added "Tainan County May Very
Likely Be First Stop [for Chen] to 'Make a Report to the Taiwan
People.'" Several papers also carried on inside pages the State
Department's remarks Thursday welcoming the announcement of
cross-Strait charter flights.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an analysis in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said the Bush administration's
backing for President Chen may meet Washington's short-term national
interests, but the United States will be a loser when it comes to
major values of honesty and democracy. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan
News" supported Chen's decision not to submit a written defense to
the recall motion to the Legislative Yuan and urged Chen to report
to the Taiwan people with humility and honesty. An analysis in the
limited-circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" criticized KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou for trying to recall
Chen for no reason. End summary.
A) "United States Fully Supports A-bian Out of Comradeship"
Professor Edward Chen of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of
American Studies opined in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 500,000] editorialized (6/16):
"On June 13, 2006, Taiwan's opposition parties successfully had the
recall motion aimed at the month-long heatedly discussed 'Bian-gate'
case adopted in the Legislative Yuan. Following its review, the
Legislative Yuan is scheduled to vote on the motion June 27. The
United States is undoubtedly a key factor during this process.
"This writer believes that the United States deserves some credit
for helping to strengthen the legitimacy of the exposure of corrupt
practices in Taiwan. ... In addition, before the recall motion was
adopted in the Legislative Yuan, new AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt
visited Taiwan, but he did not say anything harsh with regard to all
the corrupt practices and misconduct happening in Taiwan.
Burghardt's move is akin to helping Chen under the table to
stabilize his stand and is thus viewed as a 'demerit' for the United
States when it comes to the normal development of Taiwan's
democracy. On the surface, Chen's faithful assurance to adhere to
his 'Four Nos' pledge and not to go beyond the Constitution when he
pushes for constitutional reforms, in exchange for no harsh comments
from Burghart, seemed like a fair deal. But given Chen's current
situation, he has lost the legitimacy to launch any constitutional
"On the surface, it seems that Washington's assistance in
stabilizing the morale in Chen's camp is in the U.S.'s interest.
For one, Chen, who is stuck in the 'Bian-gate' case, has never been
so vulnerable since he came to power, so now is the best moment for
the United States to put him under control. Second, at this
sensitive moment, when Chen is facing hostility from all sides, it
will be most easy for Washington to make requests. Following the
normalization of [cross-Strait] charter flights, Washington's next
request should be direct transportation across the Taiwan Strait.
Third, the United States is worried that once Chen is recalled, Lu
will succeed him. [If that be the case,] not only will there be a
new and dynamic atmosphere but unpredictability will also increase,
and as a result, [the island] will be more difficult to control.
"If this is really what the Bush administration has in mind, its
actions might meet Washington's short-term national interests. The
United States, however, will be a loser when it comes to the values
that it has honored since the founding of its nation: honesty,
democracy, and [the tenet that] politicians should not take any
"For a long time, the United States has attached great importance to
Taiwan's democracy. While facing difficulties for the time being
with regard to its efforts in pushing for a democratic roadmap in
the Middle East, Washington can shift its attention to Taiwan, whose
young democracy still relies on the United States. As a
full-fledged democratic country, the United States should not just
say empty words like 'there are often sensitive moments in a
democratic age,' but should directly tell the Taiwan people that one
can make mistakes during the process of democratization, but he can
never act shamelessly."
B) "Chen Should Report to People with Humility, Honesty"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (6/16):
"We strongly support the decision by President Chen Shui-bian and
the Democratic Progressive Party to report directly to Taiwan's 23
million people on the record of the six years of DPP governance
instead of submitting a formal reply to the recall motion filed
Tuesday by the Legislative Yuan. ... We therefore approve of the
DPP's call for the president to issue a report to the people that
rebuts the recall motion and explains the DPP's administrative
concepts, the difficulties it has experienced in the past six years,
its administrative achievements and the directions and visions that
will guide Taiwan's future development if DPP administration
C) "Ma's Brazen Attack on Taiwan's Democracy"
Cao Changqing, a Chinese-born dissident writer based in the U.S.,
opined in the pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times"
[circulation: 30,000] (6/16):
"... When Ma gave his reasons for supporting the recall motion, he
inadvertently told us the truth. He said that the motion to recall
Chen was a 'political action' and that 'a violation of the law is
not necessary' to support such a move. In the midst of the barrage
of pan-blue accusations against Chen, this was tantamount to telling
the world that Chen had not violated the law and that he was not
involved in the corruption scandals; that these accusations, in
effect, were political fabrications without any foundation in fact.