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Cablegate: A Southern Perspective On the Un Referendum Issue

DE RUEHIN #2071/01 2530322
P 100322Z SEP 07






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: A Southern Perspective on the UN Referendum Issue


1. (SBU) Summary: Recent AIT/K meetings with Southern legislators,
academics and party officials clearly indicate the referendum issue
is not going to disappear before the presidential election concludes
in March 2008. Politicians and academics agree that no one wants to
damage the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, but that winning the 2008
presidential election is paramount. The strong U.S. reaction
against the UN referendum is perceived in the south as helpful to
DPP campaign strategy. End Summary.

A Potato Too Hot

2. (SBU) The general consensus among AIT/K's Southern interlocutors
is that the UN referendum is not going away prior to the March 2008
presidential election. As DPP LY member for Kaohsiung City, Guan
Bi-ling, told AIT/K, "This issue is hot and only going to get
hotter." According to DPP and KMT party operatives and politicians,
the strong support for this issue among the Taiwan people represents
a sincere expression of voters' desire for greater space in the
international community. Neither the DPP nor the KMT can deny this
reality or put a halt to this referendum movement without committing
political suicide. Lo Shih-hsiong, a KMT LY member for Kaohsiung
City, said presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's hope in the
upcoming presidential election lies in his willingness to introduce
a KMT referendum proposal, something which no old-school KMT
politician would consider. Lo is certain the KMT, just like the
DPP, will take this issue all the way to the election.

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It's Just Politics, What's the Fuss:

3. (SBU) Tainan City KMT Chairman Wu Chao-yu told AIT/K that the UN
referendum issue is all about politics ... and politics only.
President Chen, potentially facing post-election indictment on
corruption in office charges, will do anything and say anything to
keep the DPP in the presidential seat, Wu argued. If the DPP loses,
he continued, Chen knows he will do prison time. Wu also
anticipates "drastic last minute DPP campaign tactics" that will
hurt KMT chances on the eve of the presidential election. DPP's
Guan Bi-ling knows the referendum is a controversial issue, but it
can also attract and solidify voters. Focusing on Taiwan identity
issues is a standard operating procedure for the DPP during
elections, she said. In fact, Guan pointed out that the DPP has
numbers to show that throwing out this kind of "provocative" topic
during an important election gains votes for the DPP. Professor
Hsin Tsui-ling, a political scientist at National Sun Yat-sen
University, felt the DPP is using the referendum issue simply to
shift people's focus from the bad economy to ideological issues in
order to boost the DPP's chances at winning the presidency. She saw
nothing new in this campaign tactic. Legislators Lo and Guan both
saw nothing in the UN referendum issue that comes close to crossing
the "red line" or sounding anything like a declaration of

What Happens After the Election?

4. (SBU) Legislator Guan told AIT/K that, since the UN referendum
issue is only a matter of domestic election politics, the DPP will
drop the issue once it wins the presidency in March, 2008. "A
president has to be practical after an election," she noted, "and
everything will return to normal then." Kaohsiung City KMT Chair
Hsu Fu-ming stressed that what must be understood is that the
difference between the KMT and the DPP at this point is that if the
KMT wins the presidency, Ma will not seek independence, but rather
will seek economic cooperation with China. Kaohsiung City DPP Chair
Zhang Zhi-ming sees the upcoming presidential election as a battle
between two extremes. If the DPP wins in 2008, he surmised, it will
consider its ongoing push for "localization" (bentu hua) complete
and the KMT will probably have to change its name to Taiwan KMT,
while if the KMT wins Taiwan will be lost forever to China.

Who Cares about U.S.-Taiwan Relations?

5. (SBU) Conversations with interlocutors in southern Taiwan
revealed minimal concern about the strength of the U.S.-Taiwan
relationship. Professor Hsin believes the DPP cares deeply about
maintaining relations with the U.S., but cares more about winning
the presidency; this is the ultimate goal and nothing can get in the

TAIPEI 00002071 002 OF 002

way. Without the presidency, she said, the DPP can do nothing to
move its agenda forward. DPP Chairman Zhang pointed out that the
DPP understands the U.S. faces many pressures from others to solve
the "Taiwan referendum" problem, but he said eventually Taiwan must
face the inevitability of a push for independence. KMT Chairman Hsu
believes the KMT has channels to communicate both with China and the
U.S. about the nature of this political situation in order to ensure
good relations will continue. Legislators Lo and Guan both felt
there is nothing in the UN referendum debate or action that should
harm the U.S.-Taiwan relationship in the long run.

U.S. Urged to Play Down Opposition to UN Referendum
--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (SBU) Tainan City KMT Chairmen Wu Chao-yu suggested that the
U.S. administration remain low profile and volume on the referendum
issue to prevent President Chen and the DPP from using U.S.
"bullying" and "pressure" as a campaign tactic to appeal to the
voters. Creating the image of a DPP underdog bullied by the U.S.,
he advised, will only upset voters and lead them to cast sympathy
votes for the DPP in the presidential election as a gesture to
support Taiwan's bid to the UN. National Sun Yat-sen Professor Hsin
warned that any reaction from the U.S. should target only President
Chen's actions and performance and not the Taiwanese people or
Taiwan as a state. Legislator Lo urged the U.S. to stay entirely
out of the discussion between DPP and KMT on the referendum issue.
The U.S. strong reaction, he stressed, runs counter to the strong
feelings of the Taiwan people and will serve only to help the DPP
win its ultimate goal of gaining sympathy votes in the presidential


7. (SBU) For both the KMT and the DPP, winning the presidential
election is everything and all other matters fall by the wayside.
The KMT anticipates more political antics from the DPP, though none
may serve to incite voters as effectively as the UN referendum
issue. AIT/K will cover the upcoming September 15 DPP UN referendum
rally in Kaohsiung to see how the "man in Kaohsiung's street" is
reacting to this issue.



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