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3 months in office, president committed to cross-strait status quo

2016/08/20 21:00:52

Taipei, Aug. 20 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) reaffirmed Saturday the importance of maintaining the status-quo when it comes to relations across the Taiwan Strait, three months into her presidency.

"Our goal is to establish consistent, predictable and persistent cross-strait relations, under the framework of the Constitution," Tsai said during a meeting with local and international media.

She also noted that her administration has selected some candidates, one of whom will take over as head of the Straits Exchange Foundation, the semi-official organization responsible for cross-strait negotiations, and will make an announcement on the personnel appointment soon.

Relations across the strait have cooled since Tsai, who is concurrently chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took office May 20. This is mainly due to China's insistence that the "1992 consensus" must remain the political foundation for the development of cross-strait exchanges, and the Tsai administration's reluctance to accept that.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit understanding reached between Taiwan -- then under a Kuomintang government -- and China in 1992 that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.

On the issue of regional stability, Tsai said that Taiwan has been working together with other countries to maintain stability in the South China Sea since an international arbitration ruling on disputes in the region was issued July 12.

That ruling, which defines Itu Aba (known in Taiwan as Taiping Island) as a rock rather than an island, has triggered strong opposition from the Taiwanese people, especially fishermen. A group of angry fishermen visited Taiping recently in an effort to defend the country's sovereignty and their fishing rights.

Noting the people want the government to do more on the South China Sea issue, Tsai said that "we are aware of and recognize that."

Commenting on her work since assuming her duties in May, she said her administration has also been focusing on social problems that have been around for many years, including the issue of transitional justice and the dispute between employees and their employers over weekly days off, on which the government will solicit different opinions from the public to seek a consensus in society.

On Aug. 1, Taiwan's Indigenous Peoples' Day, Tsai issued a formal apology on behalf of the government to Taiwan's indigenous people for the discrimination and neglect they have suffered over the past 400 years.

Although the way she issued the apology has triggered some controversy, Tsai stressed that the apology was just a beginning and that her administration will face and address the matter with sincerity.

On the issue of reforms, Tsai noted the July passage of the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations, which she said is conducive to Taiwan's democratic development.

As for judicial reforms, the president said she will serve as the convener of a committee under the Presidential Office responsible for preparations for a national conference on judicial reform.

Amid criticism from the public, the president withdrew her nominations Aug. 14 for the two top posts in the country's judicial branch. She said she hopes to name a new pair by the end of August.

Another touchy issue her administration has to deal with is to reform the existing pension scheme, which has been predicted to go bankrupt within 15 years.

Tsai said the committee under the Presidential Office tasked to handle the issue has held nine meetings. Although it is difficult to integrate so many different opinions, she stressed that her administration is committed to coming up with a feasible plan.

The top goal is to establish a sustainable system that will ensure all people will be taken care of after retirement, she said.

On the area of the economy, Tsai reiterated her administration's efforts to push for a policy to create an economic model focusing on innovation.

The government is also making efforts to promote social welfare policies, including a social housing project and a system for long-term care services.

In her speech, she emphasized that her administration will be one that addresses problems and will not blame all the problems on the previous administration.

The president also mentioned Wang Tuoh (王拓), a renowned Taiwanese writer, literary critic and politician who died aged 72 earlier this month, and thanked him for all the encouragement extended to her.

She said she will always remember Wang for being willing to serve as DPP secretary-general in 2008, at a time when the party suffered its worst setback -- losing to the KMT in both the legislative and presidential elections that year -- and when Tsai took over the party's chair for the first time.

(By Sophia Yeh and Elaine Hou)
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