KMT vice presidential hopeful responds to ‘treason’ remark

Speaking in a forum during, Chang San-cheng expressed concerns at controversial remark made by Tsai's former campaign spokeswoman. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Chang San-cheng (張善政), the vice presidential candidate of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), expressed concern Sunday over whether President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) supports a controversial remark by her former campaign office spokeswoman that appeared to associate advocating unification with China with treason.

Speaking in a forum during which he exchanged views with some 30 young people, Chang said the key issue involving the controversial remark made by Tsai’s former campaign spokeswoman, Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), does not lie in whether it is related to freedom of speech but in whether Tsai, who is seeking re-election, supports Lin.

Lin of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said during an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Thursday that in terms of national sovereignty, proposing unification with a hostile power like China constitutes treason.

Lin’s remark sparked controversy and prompted her to resign as Tsai’s campaign spokeswoman the following day. She later apologized on Facebook, saying that her wording in the interview was “not sufficiently precise.”

In response, Tsai issued a statement Saturday reaffirming her government’s commitment to political freedom. Tsai said on Facebook that “defending democracy is one of our core values and we have never viewed opposing political views as treasonous.”

While the debate over unification versus independence has always been part of Taiwan’s political discourse, both views are subject to the protection of free speech, Tsai noted.

However, Chang, the running mate of KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in the Jan. 11 presidential election, said everyone is entitled to their opinion but as Tsai’s campaign spokeswoman at the time when she gave the interview, her comments apparently constituted part of Tsai’s campaign strategy, which is why her words attracted attention and criticism.

Chang said that Lin’s use of her own ideology to represent the direction of Tsai’s campaign office is worrisome, while the idea that Tsai might support Lin’s words is also worrisome.