Cablegate: Media Reaction: Recall of President Chen Shui-Bian
DE RUEHIN #2127/01 1720859
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210859Z JUN 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0787
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5338
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6545
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002127
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: President Chen Shui-bian's two-hour televised "report
to the people" Tuesday evening was the front-page headline story of
all major Chinese-language Taiwan dailies June 21. All papers also
devoted their first few pages to detailing Chen's refutations of the
accusations that led to the recall motion by the pan-Blue alliance.
The pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest daily,
front-paged "Bian Refutes Each of Ten Major Reasons for Recall," and
ran a banner headline on page two that said "Someone Wants to Pull
the Trigger ... Bian: I Am Willing to Sacrifice for Taiwan."
Several papers also reported that the Taiwan stock market took a
dive Tuesday of 219 points, due to local political confrontation.
2. Almost all newspapers editorialized on Chen's speech Tuesday
evening. A "Liberty Times" editorial criticized the pan-Blue
leadership for seeking to usurp power at the expense of pan-Blue
legislators. Editorials in the limited-circulation,
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" and "Taiwan News"
both appealed to the judiciary to uncover the truth regarding the
corruption scandals. An editorial in the mass-circulation "Apple
Daily," however, pointed out two major flaws of Chen's self-defense.
An editorial in the pro-status quo "China Times" said that during
Chen's two-hour speech, people only heard him argue his points and
deny accusations against him in a clever and sophisticated way, but
they didn't hear him reflect on or review his behavior. An
editorial in the pro-unification "United Daily News" called Chen's
speech a political monologue that deceived himself and others. An
editorial in the limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification,
English-language "China Post" said Chen's speech failed to defuse
his crisis. End summary.
A) "Ma and Soong Usurp Power at Expense of Pan-Blue Legislators"
The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000]
"... The pan-Blue leaders are free to act at their own discretion
and accuse [President Chen] in an attempt to use the recall or
no-confidence motions to cover up their aggressive usurpation of
power. But still, the whole process must be carried out carefully
in accordance with the Constitution. Judged from this perspective,
it is very easy to tell that even though the so-called recall or
no-confidence motion may possibly be part of the pan-Blue leaders'
scheme to usurp power, it will not only result in political
upheavals unwelcome to the public but will also sacrifice those
pan-Blue legislators who serve as foot soldiers. This is an issue
that these legislators must face seriously before they start acting
belligerently in the Legislative Yuan."
B) "While Silence Is Not Gold"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (6/21):
"The pan-blue camp's motion to recall President Chen Shui-bian will
be put to a vote next Tuesday. This campaign is unprecedented in
the history of Taiwan. The pan-blue camp continues to hold public
hearings on the presidential recall in the legislature, while Chen
continues to resist calls to respond to the legislature, including
in a national address on television last night. The forces for and
against the recall are moving in two parallel lines, finding no
common ground nor resolution to the conflict. ... But Chen's
refusal to clarify in detail the widely debated allegations of the
first family's involvement in corruption scandals is less than what
the public expected from the president. Those allegations are the
focus of the pan-blue camp's attacks, as well as media interest and
public concern. They involve the first family, and apart from Chen
himself, no one else can clear up these allegations.
"If Chen remains quiet, the pan-blue camp and media will continue
their reckless and uninhibited muckraking, and the asymmetric
information and allegations against the first family will continue
to flow freely, while the truth will remain lost in the political
labyrinth of hard-to-define truths and untruths. Chen's report to
the public may have helped consolidate core supporters against the
recall motion, but it will not do much to restore public confidence
in the president. The bribery and corruption cases are now under
official investigation. But with the legislative vote scheduled for
next week, the judiciary's findings will come too late. Since there
is not enough time to unearth the truth, both the DPP and the
opposition will have to rely on political means such as their
legislative clout or launch demonstrations in support of or against
Chen. Politicians do not treat the truth with respect, nor is their
ability to review their own actions improving. And that is the real
threat to Taiwan's democracy."
C) "All Must Respect Judicial Independence"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] noted in an editorial (6/21):
"The current controversy over the allegations of scandal and
corruption in the extended first family or close aides of President
Chen Shui-bian and the recall drive launched by the conservative
'pan-blue' opposition camp has offered an excellent chance for our
citizens to observe the degree of genuine respect of our leading
politicians and political parties for the core values of democratic
constitutional politics, judicial independence and human rights. ...
On the one hand, the outbreak of this set of scandals is certainly
shocking and damaging to the reputation of the president and the
DPP. On the other hand, we believe that the fact that the president
has not stood in the way of the detention, and possible indictment,
of his son-in-law stands in stark contrast to the former
authoritarian KMT regime and demonstrates the progress made in
democratization during the past two decades."
D) "President Argues Obstinately While Pan-Blue Camp Acts
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000]
"... But President Chen has shown two major flaws during his
defense, which made his arguments unconvincing. First, while
seeking to clarify all the corruption scandals, Chen merely said in
a resolute tone that he and his wife have never been involved in any
of the scandals, without offering any reasonable details. ...
Second, while seeking to rebut the political 'accusations,' such as
his causing cross-Strait tensions, diplomatic defeats, provoking
ethnic confrontation, and suppressing freedom of the press, Chen
cited many similar mistakes made during the old KMT regime in
defending himself. Such a defense may be convincing, but we are
living in a different age now, and one should not use behavior under
a totalitarian era to justify mistakes made during a democratic age.
E) "Our Great President Chen, We Have All Blamed You Unjustly"
The pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] commented in
an editorial (6/21):
"Having listened to President Chen's 'Report to the People,' we only
felt one thing: The person we listened to was Lawyer Chen, who was
defending himself using fine words, or Legislator Chen, who was
involved in severe interrogation. But we did not see President Chen
'reporting to the people.' During his talk, for two whole hours, we
only heard [Chen] argue his point and deny [any accusations] in a
clever and sophisticated way; he neither reflected on nor reviewed
[his behavior]. ...
"We need a president who listens to the voices of his people, not
one who unilaterally cries out to his people. We need a president
with whom we can engage in a dialogue, not one who tries to ignite
people's emotions using populism. We need a president who faces
doubts against him with a modest and open-minded attitude and who
honestly explains the facts to his people, not one who cannot tell
right from wrong and who tries to argue obstinately using various
kinds of excuses. Chen's 'Report to the People' made us see the
part that is the last thing we expect from him."
F) "Report to the People: A Political Monologue That Deceives Chen
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000] said
in an editorial (6/21):
"... As of yesterday evening, the performances by Chen Shui-bian and
the DPP in response to the recall motion have done nothing at all to
help clarify the truth. [Chen's defense] failed to get him out of
the corruption scandals; instead, it has all the more deconstructed
and sowed discord in society. This 'Report to the People' was
indeed a monologue that 'deceived Chen and others!' Chen said:
Please pull the trigger (against me) then! A president who has led
his country into disasters has turned out to be a victim, and a
president who lacks a moral grounding and fails to govern his
country appropriately has suddenly become a political saint. ..."
G) "Chen's Report to People Won't Help Defuse Crisis"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] wrote in an editorial (6/21):
"The decision by President Chen Shui-bian to deliver a televised
report directly to the people yesterday in his first formal response
to a legislative motion to recall him - instead of testifying before
the lawmaking body, as constitutionally demanded - deserves
condemnation by the opposition and the general public for his
contempt for parliament and violating the rules of democracy. ...
The way Chen dealt with the legislative move by the Kuomintang (KMT)
and the People First Party (PFP) to oust him not only demonstrated a
lack of wisdom, but once again proved that he is a politician who
will do anything if it can help him ride out a difficulty, caring
little about moral principles. ...
"This attitude suggests that the president is still unwilling to
honestly face the people and to come clean about the controversies
surrounding the many alleged wrongdoings by the people around him.
... In the event of a failure to push through the recall bill and
have it voted on later by the people in a referendum, the best
alternative to increase pressure on Chen is to launch a
no-confidence vote against his premier, Su Tseng-chang. ... Many in
the public may be concerned that a round of sustained contests waged
by the opposition against Chen will inevitably lead to political
tensions, but allowing a president lacking the will to end
corruption and having proved incapable of leading the country to
continue to perform his role could prove to be more dangerous."