Shih campaigning on ‘autonomous port’ platform

The China Post staff

Former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh yesterday promised to turn Kaohsiung into an “autonomous trading port” and open direct shipping links with mainland China if he is elected mayor of that city at the end of this year. Shih put the proposal forward while formally announcing his intent to run for mayor of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. Later last night, though, he said that he would be willing to withdraw from the campaign if his idea of an autonomous port was implemented before year’s end. “If someone is willing to get it done before the year is out, I won’t need to run,” he said.

Shih said he will be meeting with incumbent Frank Hsieh and members of Taiwan’s major political parties. If there are no takers, though, Shih said that he would treat the upcoming elections as a plebiscite on Kaohsiung’s becoming a self-governing port. “If you oppose this idea, don’t vote for me,” he said.

According to Shih, making Kaohsiung into a self-governing free trade zone would help bring prosperity back to the city and transform Taiwan’s economic environment. Shih claimed that by making the city an independent port, the “one China” issue and all of the ideological baggage that comes with it could be avoided.

“Let Taipei deal with the politics. Kaohsiung will take care of Taiwan,” he said. Please see SHIH on page

Once political issues had been pushed to the side, Kaohsiung would be able to start opening up direct shipping links with mainland China immediately, he said. The former political prisoner predicted that Kaohsiung could then become the gateway to China and its market potential for not only the world but for Taiwan’s businesses as well. At the same time, Shih said he estimated that the city’s coffers could expect to see over NT$200 billion in tax revenues generated annually from trade with mainland China. In an apparent swipe at Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman and incumbent Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh, Shih hinted that the city was missing out on opportunities by being overly submissive to the central government. The city would have to learn to say “no” to the DPP controlled government if it wanted to once again stand at the forefront of Taiwan’s economic, political, and social progress. Shih also took his former party to task for losing sight of its ideals. Shih said that since coming to power, the DPP has lost its ability to feel the pain of the people and its willingness to help people ease that pain. “What we see now of the DPP is the arrogance of power and greed without the acceptance of responsibility,” he said. That appeal to the party’s conscience is just that sort of criticism that analysts say could weaken Hsieh’s chances of re-election by luring away traditional DPP voters. And while Hsieh has in the past attempted to implicate Shih in ongoing government investigations into political corruption, his response yesterday was more low-profile. “I wish him luck,” Hsieh said. On the other hand, Huang Chun-ying, a potential candidate for the Kuomintang potentially the “pan-blue alliance” of that party and James Soong’s People First Party, welcomed Shih’s announcement. Saying that he had made great contributions to Taiwan’s democratization, Huang said that he looked forward to fighting the good fight with Shih. However, Huang expressed some doubts about Shih’s plan to implement direct shipping with mainland China. While admitting that it would be in Taiwan’s best interests to implement direct links with the PRC in the near future, Huang said that the issue was a national one and not one that Kaohsiung could or should handle on its own. What Kaohsiung should do is prepare itself to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves after the central government agrees to opening up direct links with the mainland, he said.