Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen urged to stand aside by hardline pro-independence faction

  • Senior party activists want Tsai to drop plans for second term as president and take a back seat role for the rest of this one
  • Current situation is severe for Democratic Progressive Party, according to open letter
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 9:14pm

Taiwan’s hard core pro-independence camp has warned the self-ruled island is facing an “imminent crisis” and called on President Tsai Ing-wen to drop her ambitions for a second term and take a back seat role for the rest of her government’s time in office.

Four senior figures from the hardline faction of Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) endorsed an open letter, published on Thursday in several local newspapers, which warned of a party split if she insisted on standing again.

The four signatories – Peng Ming-mun, Wu Li-pei, Lee Yuan-tseh and Kao Chun-ming – are veteran pro-independence activists whose faction within the DPP has long shown its displeasure with Tsai for her relatively soft position on independence.

The incendiary letter was published a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping said it was time for Beijing and Taipei to start talks on unification and the adoption of “one country, two systems” in Taiwan, a stance which was roundly rejected by Tsai.

Xi urges Taiwan to follow Hong Kong model for unification

In what analysts said was clear evidence the two leaders were now playing a zero-sum game, Tsai said Taiwan would not accept the “one country, two systems” model and that it was opposed by majority opinion. She also said no individuals or parties could represent the government in talks with the mainland.

The open letter called the current situation extremely severe and difficult for the DPP, due to its crushing defeat in the November local elections, in which the party lost 2 million votes and seven of the 13 cities and counties it used to control, including Kaohsiung, its stronghold in southern Taiwan.

The Kuomintang (KMT) victory in the local elections was equivalent to Taiwan opening up to the mainland, as the heads of local governments from north to south were now from the mainland-friendly KMT, the letter said.

It said if Tsai insisted in running, not only she would face a bitter defeat, but the party would split because other, more qualified, party members – who no longer have trust and confidence in Tsai – would challenge her in next year’s elections.

The hard core camp would have no option but to support those people, the letter continued.

China’s reunification of Taiwan: are Taipei and Beijing locked in a zero-sum game?

“Our appeals are very clear: First, President Tsai must give up her ambition to seek a second term and announce that she would only serve one term.

“Second, the president must hand over her executive power and retreat to the backstage to allow the premier to assume his duty of forming his own cabinet in line with the constitution.”

Presidential spokesman Alex Huang said the most serious thing to do at this time was to safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty, rather than discussing next year’s elections.

“No one can decide who to run and who shouldn’t run. It’s the democratic mechanism which has the last say,” he said.

In Beijing, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, lashed out at Tsai for rejecting Xi’s calls for unification.

“What Tsai said is a naked announcement of the separatist’s state-to-state theory, which not only goes against the wishes of the people of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, but also intensifies the confrontation between the two sides and sabotages cross-strait peaceful development,” he said.

Ma said Tsai must self-reflect after the DPP’s crushing defeat instead of continuing to promote a confrontational policy towards the mainland.

“One country, two systems …. is the best solution for cross-strait unification issue,” he said.

Taiwan and the mainland have been divided since Kuomintang, or Chinese Nationalist, ­forces were defeated by the Communists and retreated to the island in 1949, at the end of China’s civil war.

In the 70 years since, relations across the strait have been tense, with the threat of military ­confrontation ever present.