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KMT presidential nominee wants policy debate amid calls to quit race

2015/10/11 19:58:01

KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu shakes hands with a supporter.

Taipei, Oct. 11 (CNA) Facing calls to give way to someone else as the presidential nominee of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) appealed on Sunday for a policy debate to address an issue -- her China policy -- that has hurt her candidacy.

"It would be better to have a lucid debate or conversations," Hung said during a visit to Hsinchu County in response to questions on the KMT's plan for a provisional party congress to consider a proposal to replace Hung as the KMT's presidential candidate.

Hung, who is deputy legislative speaker, has drawn controversy with her "one China, same interpretation" cross-Taiwan Strait policy.

Although Hung has insisted her policy is no different than the policy followed under the KMT administration of President Ma Ying-jeou since he took office in 2008 -- "one China, different interpretations" based on the "1992 consensus" -- the party does not think so.

At a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting on Oct. 7, party chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) clearly said Hung's cross-strait policy differed from the party's longtime stance and deviated from mainstream public opinion.

"We hope Hung can return to the KMT's firm stance," Chu said.

"One China, different interpretations" and the 1992 consensus argue that Taiwan and China reached a tacit understanding in 1992 that there is only "one China" but with each side free to interpret what that means.

It essentially allows the two sides to agree to disagree over the status of Taiwan, known formally as the "Republic of China."

Ma has consistently said that the "1992 consensus" should serve as "the most important guideline in cross-strait relations."

Hung said she used the term "one China, same interpretation" to describe existing relations between Taiwan and China, which she described as "overlapping sovereignty claims by two constitutional governments in two separate jurisdictions."

In other words, there are two constitutional governments inside "the entire China," according to Hung.

The idea may be hard for the majority of Taiwan's population to swallow, as it implies that Taiwan is a part of China.

Opinion polls here have consistently shown that most local residents see Taiwan as a sovereign, independent country separate from the People's Republic of China.

Some senior KMT members feel the same way, seeing Hung's approach as very different from the Ma administration's approach and the president's stance of maintaining the status quo by not seeking unification, independence or military confrontation in relations with Beijing.

The KMT Central Standing Committee passed a unanimous resolution on Wednesday to convene an extraordinary party congress later this month to consider replacing Hung.

Aside from Hung's China policy, the committee members were worried about Hung consistently trailing front-runner Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party by at least 20 points in most polls, with the gap showing no signs of narrowing.

Many KMT candidates in the legislative elections, which will be held along with the presidential election on Jan. 16, 2016, fear that the weakness of Hung's candidacy will hurt their chances and have been particularly vocal in wanting another face at the top of the ticket.

The date, location and agenda content of the planned provisional party congress has not yet be decided, and the KMT members in charge of planning the event have kept quiet on those details.

While local media reported that Hung's campaign team proposed a secret ballot at the party congress, Hung herself responded that simply holding a vote on her candidacy would damage the party's primary system.

(By Tai Ya-chen and Elizabeth Hsu)