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

VZCZCXYZ0026
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #2164/01 1730834
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220834Z JUN 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0832
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5341
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6550

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 002164

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - ERIC BARBORIAK
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

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 coverage
June 22 on KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's speech Wednesday evening in
response to President Chen Shui-bian's "report to the people" the
previous day; the KMT's and PFP's plans to bring Chen down; further
investigations into the alleged role of First Lady Wu Shu-chen in
the Sogo Department Store ownership case and an earlier political
contribution controversy; the controversy over whether the
government is to turn over its control of a local financial holding
company to private hands; and a local train accident-turned-murder
case. The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" front-paged "Ma Pleads for
Bian to Quit Politics," while the pro-independence "Liberty Times,"
Taiwan's biggest daily, ran a banner headline on page two that read
"Bian Reports to the People, Ma Blasts [Chen] for Shirking
Responsibilities." The pro-status quo "China Times" carried the
results of its latest poll on its front page: 46 percent of those
polled are displeased with Chen's self-defense, while 23 percent are
pleased with Chen's speech. The same poll also showed that 43
percent of respondents support Chen's recall, while 34 percent said
it's better to have Chen stay on and finish his term of office. The
pro-unification "United Daily News" also front-paged the results of
its latest poll, which showed 49 percent of those polled think that
the First Family was involved in the Sogo Department Store ownership
battle. The same poll also showed that in the wake of the pan-Green
rally last weekend and Chen's speech Wednesday evening, Chen's
approval rating rose from 17 percent in late May to 20 percent;
still, 63 percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with
Chen's administrative performance.

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, a "Liberty Times"
editorial urged Ma Ying-jeou not to become a political puppet
manipulated by James Soong. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, pro-independence, English-language "Taipei
Times" lamented that Taiwan's stability is jeopardized by the
incessant political wrangling between the Blue and Green camps. An
editorial in the limited-circulation, pro-independence,
English-language "Taiwan News" said during his speech Chen "missed
an opportunity to alert moderate voters of the gravity of the threat
to Taiwan's democracy represented by the renewed power struggle
launched by the pan-KMT camp." An "Apple Daily" editorial
criticized local people for caring only about the Blue and Green,
but forgetting about what's right and what's wrong. A "United Daily
News" analysis said the pan-Green's counterattacks have pushed the
pan-Blue camp deep into a quagmire. An editorial in the
limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" criticized Chen's speech for raising more questions
than it answered. End summary.

A) "Advice for Ma Ying-jeou: Do Not Become a Political Puppet
Manipulated by James Soong"

The pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation: 600,000]
editorialized (6/22):

"... The reason why we particularly pointed out the distinct role
played by James Soong in the protests calling for Bian's recall is
because, based on acute observation of the recent political
developments, [we are] surprised to note that the safety and welfare
of the 23 million people of Taiwan seem to have been hijacked by a
few crazy politicians and become bargaining chips in power struggles
for personal political interests among certain individuals. What
the pan-Blue camp is doing right now is intensifying the island's
inner ethnic antagonisms and social confrontation. Its persistent
and uncompromising protests demonstrate a tough and destructive
attitude that will likely lead all Taiwan people to definite
disaster. Thus, we have to remind all Taiwan people to pay close
attention to the pan-Blue camp's crazy actions and the latent crises
they might bring to Taiwan. ..."

B) "Chen Shui-bian Just Can't Win"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (6/22):

"On Tuesday night, President Chen Shui-bian gave an unprecedented
"Statement to the People," spending two hours addressing a list of
10 accusations drawn up by opposition lawmakers charging him with
being unfit for office. ... While many more might still be in the
process of digesting and forming their opinion of the president's
address, one thing is clear: the increasing polarization of the
country's pan-green and pan-blue camps. ... The risk is that the
opposition's unreasonable and relentless attack against Chen in its
effort to unseat him will arouse more negative sentiment among
Chen's supporters. And as pan-green supports' anger toward pan-blue
politicians' tactics gather strength and they start venting their
discontent in public, this would in return generate more heat from
the pan-blue crowd. ... Either way, Chen just can't win, and
national stability is being jeopardized by all of this incessant
political wrangling."
C) "Chen's Report Only a Partial Success"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] commented in an editorial (6/22):

"President Chen Shui-bian's 'report to the people' Tuesday evening
refuted the content of the recall motion filed June 13 by Kuomintang
and People First Party lawmakers, but missed an opportunity to alert
moderate voters of the gravity of the threat to Taiwan's democracy
represented by the renewed power struggle launched by the pan-KMT
camp. In our view, Chen's decision to offer a coherent statement
directly to citizens regarding the recall motion sponsored by the
KMT-PFP and its 10 vacuous charges was correct and he was well
within his constitutional rights to submit or not to submit an
official rebuttal to the Legislative Yuan. ... Contrary to the
claim by KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou in his half-hour address last
night, there is ample reason to believe that the current effort is
precisely aimed at toppling the democratically elected government of
President Chen Shui-bian and his DPP administration without regard
to whether the president or even his immediate family or aides are
actually guilty of corruption or other crimes. ..."

D) "[People] Only Care about Blue or Green, But Not Black and
White"

The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 500,000] wrote in
an editorial (6/22):

"President Chen's televised monologue the other night has indeed won
him some support from pan-Green voters. The fact that Chen chose to
speak in Taiwanese all through his speech indicated that he was
targeting those deep-Green voters who were originally disappointed
with him, not those Blue mainlanders. ... Bian's speech totally
satisfied the needs of those fundamentalists. Having calmed the
Green voters, Bian has became active again in the DPP; no one dares
to criticize him, and party members also need Bian to stimulate and
solidify the party. The DPP, which was severely cut up by Chen's
son-in-law's alleged involvement in the insider trading case, to the
extent that it almost split, has passed its trials and started to
organize itself and join hands together to face the rivals. The
peak of the pan-Blue camp's exposures of various scandals is over;
the pan-Blue camp has missed the best timing for a recall or
no-confidence vote. It is now very difficult to try to bring the
Chen administration down. ..."

E) "When Professor Ma Meets Lawyer Chen ..."

Journalist Fan Ling-chia noted in an analysis in the pro-unification
"United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]:

"Following President Chen's address to the people, KMT Chairman Ma
Ying-jeou also appeared on TV Wednesday evening. Ma acted as if he
were discussing constitutional principles in the classroom, typical
of 'Professor Ma's' unique style and rhythms, which, when compared
with the court debate of 'Lawyer Chen' the previous day, seemed
evidently less exciting. Ma failed to catch the edge of one who
attacks later in the field. ...

"As it now stands, the person who really 'plans before he moves' is
Chen, not Ma. The KMT, when it attacks, is unable to defeat Bian,
and when it retreats, it is unable to protect Ma. The pan-Green's
counterattacks have pushed the Blue camp deep into a quagmire. On
the other hand, James Soong already took the lead in pushing for the
no-confidence motion; he even started a sit-in with his supporters.
The KMT has missed the chance to take the first shot, and is now in
a dilemma."

F) "President's Address: More Questions Than It Answers"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] noted in an editorial (6/22):

"... The president's remarks, convincing though they may seem to
some people, sound hollow and reek of insincerity and dishonesty.
It has raised more questions than it has answered. ... Chen spoke
the local dialect of Hoklo nearly from beginning to end. This
testifies to the fact that although he was speaking to 'the people,'
the speech was meant to generate cohesion among supporters of the
ruling Democratic Progressive Party and to arouse anti-opposition
sentiment among native Taiwanese. ... Yet unless he can provide
satisfactory answers to the questions concerning the moral integrity
of him and his family, chances are that his approval ratings,
hovering at all-time lows at the moment, will continue to decline."

KEEGAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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