Taiwan ruling party pledges steady hand as opposition rallies
TAIPEI — The front-runner to be Taiwan’s next president pledged on Sunday to be a steady hand who would keep the peace with China, as his two opponents attended a thronged rally calling for domestic legal reforms and more action to combat high property prices.
January’s presidential election comes as China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military and political pressure to force the island to accept Beijing’s sovereignty, alarming the region and Washington.
William Lai, Taiwan’s vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, has consistently led the majority of opinion polls, though former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je of the small Taiwan People’s Party is running a close second.
Speaking at the DPP’s annual congress, Lai reiterated an offer to talk to China on an equal basis to promote the peaceful development of ties, but also the need to strengthen Taiwan’s defences.
“I will use peace as a beacon and democracy as a compass. In the complex geopolitical situation, I will brave the winds and the waves to lead Taiwan steadily forward,” he said, speaking at one of Taipei’s most well-known hotels.
The DPP conference coincided with a rally for legal reform and against high real estate prices organised in downtown Taipei in front of the presidential office by internet celebrity Holger Chen and Huang Kuo-chang, a former lawmaker for the New Power Party, a small opposition group.
While billed as non-partisan, both Ko and Hou Yu-ih of Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang took part, though they did not share the stage together. Terry Gou, the retired founder of major Apple supplier Foxconn, also attended.
Ko, to cheers from the several thousand strong crowd on a scorching hot day, said it was not a protest, despite the anger directed at the DPP by speakers and many in the crowd.
“This is a day to promote Taiwan’s progress,” Ko said. “We’re not here to protest anything or to create antagonism.”
Hou, running a distant third in the polls, was less well received and got some boos when he spoke.
Taiwan’s opposition parties frequently criticise the government for interfering in what should be independent bodies like the media regulator, moves the government denies.
Lai told his party’s congress that the rally was a normal thing for a democracy and criticism should be taken on board.
“We must listen to their voices, and not reject opinions based on who is speaking,” he said.
“I have always been convinced that only with more open democratic governance can it be possible to achieve a stronger democratic community and a greater country.”