Political figures from the ruling and opposition parties were mixed yesterday in their reactions to the latest remarks made by former President Lee Teng-hui, who claimed that he never backed Taiwan independence.
Lee told Next magazine, in its latest edition, that he hopes to visit China and forswears Taiwan independence. The former president and spiritual leader of the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) also urged the government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to open up to Chinese capital and tourists, according to the report.
Vice President Annette Lu expressed her “astonishment” when asked for her opinion regarding Lee’s denouncement of Taiwan independence. She then argued that the public must judge a political figure’s words and deeds over a long term.
In response to reporters’ inquiries, Premier Su Tseng-chang insisted that Taiwan already has independent sovereignty, though he claimed that he was not fully aware of Lee’s remarks.
Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, a stalwart in the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), however, said that Lee has always been consistent in his stance regarding Taiwan independence and that Lee was never active in the movement.
KMT Legislator John Chiang, who once served as KMT secretary-general when Lee was president and the party’s chairman, said that the prime purpose of Lee’s denouncement of the Taiwanese independence movement was aimed only at fortifying the TSU’s position in domestic politics.
This was by no means the first time that Lee has changed his stance regarding major national issues, Chiang claimed, adding that Lee’s statement highlights the fact that independence is no longer supported by the mainstream of Taiwanese society and that the cause will attract few voters.
Lee Hung-chun, spokesman of the opposition People First Party (PFP) , accused Lee of seeking to score political points with the interview. The former president’s changing attitudes only follow the various twists in his political line, Lee Hung-chun said.
Sheng Fu-hsiung, a former DPP legislator who is widely viewed as a moderate in Taiwan’s polarized politics, praised what he called the former president’s frank comments in the interview.
Speaking at a news conference, Sheng urged the public not to interpret Lee’s remarks negatively. He claimed that Lee was only opposed to unworthy politicians scheming to manufacture an artificial confrontation by rehashing old issues.
Sheng hailed Lee’s pragmatic attitude toward Taiwanese independence and pointed out that it does not mark a departure from the ruling DPP’s resolution on Taiwan’s future.
However, Sheng also called on Lee to provide the public with a clear explanation for his changing attitudes on the independence issue by discarding his personal concern for the TSU’s future or the 2008 presidential election.
Doing so will help the former president better dispel public misconceptions about him and encourage social elites to join forces with him, Sheng said.