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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President Chen's Overseas Trip, Campaign To

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #3041/01 2482159
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 052159Z SEP 06
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1937
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5614
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 6819

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 003041

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - DAVID FIRESTEIN
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A


TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: PRESIDENT CHEN'S OVERSEAS TRIP, CAMPAIGN TO
OUST PRESIDENT CHEN, ARREST OF STRAITS TIMES REPORTER FOR SPYING


1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused their
coverage September 2-5 on moves to oust President Chen Shui-bian;
Chen's trip to the South Pacific aboard Air Force One; and the
renaming of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. The
pro-independence "Liberty Times," Taiwan's biggest daily, ran a
Central News Agency story on page four September 3 with a banner
headline that read "Arms Procurements Must Be Passed, Political
Situation Must Be Stable; For Taiwan-U.S. Relations, September and
October Are Key." Several papers also carried a news story
September 4 regarding a publication of the American Chamber of
Commerce in Taipei, whose editorial criticized the Taiwan government
for succumbing to the Taiwan Solidarity Union and sidelining
important cross-Strait issues, which would only "weaken Taiwan's
competitiveness."

2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
pro-unification "United Daily News" slashed at President Chen's
overseas trip aboard Air Force One, saying that the indifference
shown by the United States towards Chen's transit "is in exact
proportion to Chen's declining legitimacy." An editorial in the
pro-status quo "China Times" commented on the campaign to oust
President Chen, saying Taiwan faces the tough subject of how to
deepen its democracy and rule of law and how to ensure people's
freedom and equal rights. An editorial in the limited-circulation,
pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" said in the face
of the movements to unseat President Chen, Chen is not the only one
under pressure; instead, it is the DPP that has more to lose. In
terms of China's verdict on a Straits Times journalist accused of
spying for Taiwan, editorials in the limited-circulation,
pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" and the
limited-circulation, conservative, pro-unification, English-language
"China Post" both said the verdict shows that the Chinese government
under President Hu Jintao has no intention of opening the door to
political reform, despite China's torrid pace of economic expansion.
End summary.

3. President Chen's Overseas Trip

"Air Force One: Showing Off to Palau, But Asking for Insults in
Guam!"

The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (9/2):

"... But no matter how hard President Chen has tried to create an
ambiance for his overseas visit, one can hardly sense any joy in
current developments; all people could discern was the feeling of
depression and decay. The United States' refusal to allow
[Taiwan's] Air Force One to transit Guam was actually not
unexpected. What is noteworthy, however, is the United States'
persistently cold and indifferent attitude when commenting on this
issue.

"Chen traveled westbound in a rage in May to protest to Washington
for not allowing him to transit the continental U.S., giving people
the impression that he is uninhibited and mercurial. Such an
attitude would only make the U.S. government treat him with more
guarded prudence. Besides, after Chen returned from his odyssey, a
series of scandals, including his son-in-law's being taken into
custody, and his and his wife's involvement in the special state
affairs expense account scandal and the false report of jewelry
assets case, respectively, have done severe harm to his image as
well as that of the ruling party. The indifference shown by the
United States is in exact proportion to Chen's declining legitimacy.
Did the United States need to speak courteously to a state leader
who is being protested with contempt by a million of his people?

"Given Chen's personality, he would have announced that he would not
transit Guam after having been turned down [by the U.S.], because a
few hours' transit is tasteless for him. But the situation today is
different from that in the past; Chen's personal reputation and
position are all in a critical situation. How much is left to his
own advantage that he can use to turn hostile to the United States
except for simply gulping down Washington's indifference? ..."


4. Campaign to Oust President Chen

A) "Deepening Democracy Is Ultimate Concern of Anti-Graft
Movements"

The pro-status quo "China Times" [circulation: 400,000]
editorialized (9/3):

"... This round of movements to oust Bian and oppose corruption is
directly aimed at President Chen Shui-bian. In other countries
where democratic elections are held, even if the accused [leader]
does not step down on his accord out of guilt or shame, he would at

least solidly reflect on himself and review his practices. But when
we look at President Chen and how he confronted the public
accusations and doubts, we saw that he not only failed to clarify
the doubts but also adopted various approaches, such as dividing,
attacking or making fun of [the accusers] - all the moves that would
only help to highlight the legitimacy and necessity of the
anti-graft appeals. ...

"... The main reason why such an embarrassing and displeasing scene
happened in Taiwan was because over the past few decades, Taiwan has
transformed from an authoritarian system to a democracy... without
going through any revolution or blood-shed. But the corruption and
degeneracy that appeared following the transfer of power have all
the more underscored the fact that Taiwan's democratic
transformation has yet to be completed. ... All these signs
truthfully showed that Taiwan remains in an unfinished stage of its
democratic transformation. As a result, how to deepen democracy and
the rule of law as well as how to ensure freedom and equal rights is
a tough subject and the ultimate concern of the one million
anti-graft people. ..."

B) "The DPP Flounders over Shih"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (9/5):

"As the countdown begins for the month-long, round-the-clock sit-in
rally led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih
Ming-teh, it would seem that President Chen Shui-bian is not the
only one under pressure. The DPP itself is struggling to defend
itself against Shih's attacks and is hamstrung by internal divisions
and bickering. The worst moment of the crisis for Chen ended when
the opposition failed to recall him. No one was surprised by the
failure of that attempt, since the pan-blue camp did not have enough
legislative votes for the measure to succeed. The moment that Chen
retained the support of the DPP, he was home free. Without that
support, he would have faced a serious threat from the recall. ...

"It is the DPP that has more to lose. Ever since Chen declared that
he would hand over a degree of responsibility to the premier, the
party has acted like a child in serious need of guidance. There
seems to be no leadership - individually or collectively - in the
party. At a time like this, the last thing that the party needs is
an extension of the crisis to show how helpless it has become.
..."

5. Arrest of Straits Times Reporter for Spying

A) "PRC Ruling Shows View on Freedoms"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] wrote in an editorial (9/5):

"The decision by a state court in the People's Republic of China to
sentence Ching Cheong, the Hong Kong-based correspondent for
Singapore's Straits Times to five years in prison on charges of
spying for Taiwan's quite naturally sparked fierce criticism and
grave concern in Hong Kong's media circles. Taiwan's Mainland
Affairs council also strongly rebuked China for the engineered
verdict by its state-controlled 'justice system' as yet another
example of the PRC's oppression of news freedom and freedom of
expression. ... The case of Ching Cheong and other instances of
suppression of news freedom and human rights have shown that the
Chinese government under PRC State Chairman Hu Jintao has no
intention whatsoever of opening the door for political reform
despite China's torrid pace of economic expansion and the
continuation - if in fits and starts - of reform of the economic
system. ... Indeed, actions by the PRC authorities aimed at
intensifying their control over civil society, such as Ching's
arrest or the forceful passage of 'anti-subversion' legislation in
Hong Kong, displays publicly their fear of the vibrant civil society
being fostered by China's overheating economy. ..."

B) "Controversial Verdicts Damaging to China's Image"

The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] commented in an editorial (9/2):

"In barely a week, mainland China has handed down two verdicts of
two Chinese-born journalists working for foreign newspapers - Zhao
Yan of the New York Times and Ching Cheong of the Straits Times in
Singapore. ... Whatever the facts, it doesn't help Beijing's image
to arrest journalists on such dubious charges of espionage or
leaking state secrets. Only dictators are afraid of journalists who
report truths. Mainland China, which has made stunning progress in
the economic field, has failed to do the same in the political area.
The jailing of the two journalists serves no interests of the
mainland. It hurts the country's image as a modern, civilized

member of the international community."

YOUNG

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