Taiwan President makes overture to opposition

Taiwan President makes overture to opposition
Above: Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou

TAIPEI, Taiwan - In his New Year's Day address, President Ma Ying-jeou said he would welcome a national affairs conference as a way to foster cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties.

"I am willing to support any manner of dialogue or cooperation that would help to ease political tensions. I would welcome a national affairs conference of any sort on any issue," Ma said yesterday at the Presidential Office's annual flag-raising ceremony.

The statement was a response to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who last month called for a national affairs conference after declining Ma's invitation to a tete-a-tete.

Ma yesterday described a state of intense bipartisan antagonism that has prevented cooperation.

"Improving relations between the two sides may take time, but Taiwan faces too many pressing matters that must be dealt with over the next year and more. There is no more time to waste. Taiwan cannot afford to wait any longer," he said.

In the message, Ma said that the two political camps must be united for Taiwan to deal with international political and economic conditions including global trade liberalization and regional economic integration.

On Youth and Chinese Trade

The president's annual address usually charts directions for the administration in the coming year.

This year's message, titled "Reconciliation, Cooperation and Peace," also focused on youth outreach and the advancement of cross-strait relations.

"This (youth) generation faces tepid economic and wage growth, which stands in stark contrast to the experience of the preceding few generations," Ma said.

Ma said the administration will respond with policies aimed at reaching wealth parity, expedited tax reform, improvement of social services and an open-data approach to governance that will boost public participation.

On cross-strait relations, Ma reiterated his policy of the "Three Nos" that maintain the status quo.

The "Three Nos" are no unification, no independence and no use of force under the framework of the Constitution and the "1992 Consensus."

In what is an updated policy message, Ma said that cross-strait economic and trade talks will ensure the gains of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Protest during Speech

A group of independence activists demonstrated yesterday in the audience section during Ma's address.

At the beginning of the speech, approximately 20 activists in the South Plaza unfurled green-and-white Taiwan Nation flags and called out, "Taiwan and China, one country on each side."

They also called for the release of jailed former President Chen Shui-bian. Supporters hoped he would be released on New Year's Eve, but the Ministry of Justice has postponed the handling of Chen's medical parole case to Jan 5.

Security details yesterday moved to corral the activists, but shouting matches rapidly broke out between activists and bystanders.

Some members of the public responded to activists by waving the national flag and calling out phrases including "Long live the Republic of China".

Former Vice President Annette Lu, who previously pledged to protest at the ceremony, was absent due to her hospitalization after an 81-hour hunger strike for Chen's release.

Eyes on Ko

Press cameras were trained yesterday on newly elected Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je, who attended the Presidential Office ceremony on invitation.

Ma and the mayor's encounter has drawn pundit commentary for appearing cursory.

Before the ceremony Ma reached to shake Ko's hand and instead shook Ko's closed fist, which was wrapped around a national flag. The exchange was wordless and brief.

Vice President Wu Den-yih was next in line and also shook Ko's fist.

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