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Taiwan Candidates Focus On Referendum in Second Debate
Chang Yun-ping, Taipei Times

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TAIPEI - President Chen Shui-bian used the opportunity of the second presidential election debate yesterday to exhort the Taiwanese people to treasure the referendum, scheduled to run in tandem with the presidential poll of March 20, and upbraided his opponent Lien Chan of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who said he would not vote in the referendum.
Lien's attitude showed he had no faith in the people, Chen said.

The referendum issue became the focal point of yesterday's debate.

Asked by Chen whether Lien will vote on the referendum, Lien said "I respect the people's right to vote on the referendum, but for me, it is an illegal and controversial referendum. I certainly won't cast my vote on it and I suggest Mr. Chen immediately stop it."

Chen, however, countered Lien's remarks, urging people to vote and calling Lien's attitude contradictory in asking people to exercise their democratic right by voting for him but to abrogate that right in the referendum vote.

"We hope Lien can stop being stubborn [on the referendum issue]. How can he not believe in people, while asking people to believe in him? How can he ask people to vote for him while he himself is not going to cast a [referendum] ballot? This is very contradictory," Chen said.

In addition to the referendum issue, cross-strait policies, personality traits and economic development also figured in yesterday's debate.

Chen again attacked Lien's statements about laying aside sovereignty issues when dealing with cross-strait interactions and said Lien's running mate James Soong's proposal of a "one China" roof has reduced Taiwan's status into something like "carpets and tiles" under the roof.

"Do you agree or not about your presidential running mate's proposal of a `one China' roof theory? If you agree, then what does Taiwan represent? Is it carpets or tiles that Taiwan has become [under this roof]?" Chen asked.

For his part, Lien blamed Chen's cross-strait policy for stalling progress on direct links over the past four years and promised to start a cross-party national development meeting to tackle the issue of the National Unification Guidelines.

Chen also said in his concluding speech that he will endeavor to normalize cross-strait relations by dispatching Taiwan's first representative to be stationed in Beijing and push for Taiwan's entry into the World Health Organization within two years of his re-election.

He said his biggest wish after May 20, the inauguration date of the new presidency, was to "shake hands and reconcile with [Chinese President] Hu Jintao."

On the economy, Lien urged people to support a second transition of political power to restore economic prosperity to the country under the KMT's administration.

Chen, however said a second transition of political power means a return of the KMT's "black-gold" money politics and corruption, which the Democratic Progressive Party administration has tried hard to eliminate.

Likening the revamping of the country to housecleaning, Chen said his administration has "cleaned the garbage left by the KMT, repaired the leaky roof, built new pillars for the house and polished the windows of the building."

Chen said a second political transition will mean that "we would hang up the 50-year-old curtains again ? and replace the new TV sets with the old TV picture tubes of this black-gold politics."

Lien yesterday again attacked Chen's character as "capricious," citing his inconsistency on the policies of whether to continue the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Other issues discussed in the debate ranged from gender equality, the autonomy of Aborigines and revisions of compulsory military service to the rezoning of municipalities.

At the end, Chen also invited Lien to participate in another two rounds of debates in order to better present the policies of both parties to the people. However, Lien shied away from giving an answer to Chen's invitation.

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