Pro-China Opponents Accuse Taiwanese President Tsai of ‘Sucking Up’ to China

Taiwan's current president and Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, speaks during a rally ahead of Saturdays presidential election on January 8, 2020 in Taoyuan, Taiwan. Taiwan will go to the polls on Saturday after a campaign in which fake news and the looming shadow of China and its …
Carl Court/Getty Images

In one of the odder twists of the Taiwanese presidential election, representatives of the pro-China Kuomintang party (KMT) accused incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of “sucking up to the Chinese Communist Party,” while insisting it is unfair to describe the KMT as pro-China.

The Taipei Times reported Thursday on the remarks by KMT legislative candidate Cheng Cheng-chien and Taipei City Councilor Hou Han-ting of the allied New Party:

Cheng, who is running for Hsinchu City’s legislative seat, told a news conference at KMT headquarters in Taipei that he, Lo and Hou have been labeled as “pro-China” by members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The DPP has applied a double standard to stigmatize them, as some DPP members’ actions should be viewed as pro-China, he said.

DPP legislative candidate Cheng Hung-huei (鄭宏輝), who is also running for the Hsinchu seat, set up a company in China and used the location “Taiwan, China” when he registered it, but his election campaign flags use the slogan “Protect Taiwan,” he added.

“Cheng Hung-huei can use the term ‘Taiwan, China,’ but continues to label people in other political camps as ‘red,’” Lo said. “Is this what the DPP’s ‘Taiwanese values’ really means?”

“Taiwanese only have one option: ‘one China’ in the future,” Lo said, repeating the sentence twice.

As for President Tsai, they claimed she has made three remarks over a span of several years that should be seen as “sucking up to the Chinese Communist Party,” including a time when she said reunification with China was “our only option” and a remark where Tsai described herself as “Taiwanese and also Chinese.”

That does not sound like much “sucking up” when measured against Tsai’s career in public office, and the Taipei Times truculently noted that “One China in the future is our only option” was actually a reference to a statement made by one of Tsai’s predecessors, Chen Shui-bian.

Tsia and her DPP might take heart in knowing the upcoming election has become a contest to become the least pro-Chinese candidate on the ballot. Events including the protest movement in Hong Kong appear to have shifted Taiwanese politics further away from Beijing after a period in which some Taiwanese grumbled that Tsai’s tough line against Beijing brought the island more trouble than it was worth.

The press conference by Cheng and Hou also included allegations of corruption against DPP officials and complaints that the DPP was either orchestrating or tolerating an online smear campaign against KMT’s presidential candidate, Han Kyo-yu.

The Taiwanese election will be held this Saturday, January 11. The campaign has been tumultuous but Tsai has been in the lead since the summer, with late polls giving her over 50 percent support. Han, her closest competitor, is hovering around 15 percent. 

The race was closer in the early stages, but Tsai pulled far ahead as the situation in Hong Kong deteriorated and Taiwanese voters grew increasingly skeptical of China’s “One Country, Two Systems” model of reunification.

The latest bombshell to hit the election was a report that said self-described Chinese spy William Wang Liquiang, who is seeking political asylum in Australia, retracted his story of running political interference operations in Taiwan and Hong Kong because the Chinese government threatened to drag him back and execute him. 

Wang allegedly cooperated with the KMT to set up President Tsai’s DPP with a phony bribery claim. He has stated that Beijing directly supports Han and surreptitiously funded the 2018 mayoral race that brought him to political prominence. 

The KMT quickly denied working with Wang or helping to threaten him into silence, and leveled a counter-accusation that the DPP was using Wang to frame them for bribery and espionage.

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