KMT criticized for sidestepping consensus that enabled good relations

06/19/2020 11:42 PM
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Taipei, June 19 (CNA) A reform committee within the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Friday put forth new proposals for cross-Taiwan Strait relations, in view of its eroding base of supporters following the January presidential election, but it was quickly criticized within the party for abandoning the only policy that had enabled Taiwan to get along with mainland China in the past few decades.

Following a meeting earlier Friday, the committee's cross-strait panel came out with its proposals suggesting the party insist on safeguarding the sovereignty of the Republic of China, protecting democracy and human rights, prioritizing Taiwan's security and building a win-win situation and prosperity on both sides of the strait as the four pillars to shape a new relationship with the mainland.

The four proposals regarding cross-strait relations, however, did not mention the "1992 consensus," a longstanding policy framework of the party in its dealings with the mainland.

The consensus refers to a tacit agreement reached between then-KMT government and Chinese officials in Hong Kong in 1992, which states that both sides of the strait acknowledge there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

It's widely believed that Taiwan can interpret it as the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, while Beijing would interpret it as the People's Republic of China, albeit both sides refrain from doing so publicly.

The agreement was conveniently vague, allowing both sides to put aside their different views on Taiwan's sovereignty so that they can reduce tensions and build good relations.

But President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has refused to accept the consensus since assuming her first term in office in 2016. Her party has argued that it's not a real agreement because it's not written down and Beijing has never acknowledged the KMT's assertion that each side can interpret what "China" means.

Some argued that Beijing, however, has also not openly rejected the KMT's interpretation.

President Tsai has in her presidential campaigns equated accepting the consensus with losing Taiwan's sovereignty, independence and freedoms. The KMT, on the other hand, had argued none of the above were lost when Tsai's predecessor President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) from the KMT embraced the consensus and used it to smooth ties with Beijing and gain economic and other benefits for Taiwan.

Darby Liu (劉大貝), a member of the KMT's policy-making Central Standing Committee, called the proposals announced Friday the worst cross-strait theory he has ever seen, questioning the no-mention of the "1992 consensus" and whether the KMT's leadership was solely parroting the rhetoric of the DPP.

"The proposals made by the panel were mostly the same as those broached by the DPP. No wonder that the KMT has been described as a small green (party in the green camp dominated by the DPP)," he said.

According to Liu, the party must not ditch the consensus just because it lost the presidential election in January.

He pointed to the KMT's sweeping victory in the 2018 local government elections in which it won 15 of Taiwan's 22 cities and counties, versus the DPP's 6, and the 2008 and 2012 presidential polls, in which former President Ma, a staunch supporter of the "1992 consensus," won by more than 50 percent of the votes. In all three elections, the KMT and its candidates accepted the "1992 consensus," yet most voters had no problems voting for them.

As the major opposition party in Taiwan, the KMT must delve into a discourse on why it is against Taiwan independence, Liu stressed.

In response to Liu's criticism, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said he felt there was a deep generation gap within the party, which needs to be mended through communication and integration.

The KMT needs to face up to this reality and seek to expound the values that the party upholds, otherwise its reform efforts will go nowhere, Chiang said.

"The KMT is by no means a small green party, and I cannot accept such a comment," Chiang said.

The KMT will stick to its middle-way philosophy and spirit of the ROC as set by its founding father Sun Yet-sen (孫中山), because democracy and freedom are not exclusive assets of the DPP, he stressed, alluding to Sun's desire for a democratic China.

In terms of cross-strait ties, Chiang said, the most important thing is to find the key to solving the current stalemate between the two sides.

The misunderstanding of and distrust about the "1992 consensus" among Taiwan's people was a result of the changes brought about by the DPP and Beijing's actions, not by the KMT, he said.

Beyond the "1992 consensus," the KMT must also tell Taiwan's people what its goal is, in terms of cross-strait relations, he added.

The four proposals put forth by the panel represent the basic principles that the party must hold when dealing with cross-strait issues, he noted.

Five members of the cross-strait panel also voiced their views regarding the proposals they made.

The panel's members pointed out that the consensus has been seriously defamed, losing its function and appeal in Taiwan's society.

They said the KMT needs something new beyond the "1992 consensus" to create extra room for it to rekindle its interaction with mainland China while at the same time win back voters.

Due to the DPP's interpretation of the consensus and general public distrust of China, especially given its attempts to pressure Taiwan after Tsai declined to accept the consensus, Taiwanese people, especially young voters, have made a link between the KMT and the "1992 consensus" and equated the party's acceptance of the consensus as the KMT being pro-China.

The KMT camp has more recently begun to openly object to being described as such, emphasizing they are instead pro-peace and pro-good cross-strait relations.

(By Flor Wang and Yu Hsiang)

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