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Combative PFP hurts itself and the nation
Paul Lin

Taiwan's political instability originates in the media and the Legislative Yuan, while media and legislative instability originates in the uncertain political situation. The situation prior to the transition of power in 2000, when politicians staged shows aimed at gaining media attention, has changed. Pan-blue politicians now oppose anything that President Chen Shui-bian does and anything that has to do with Taiwan and localization.

The accusation by People First Party (PFP) Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung and others that Chen gave former Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso a "birthday present" -- a check for US$1 million -- as a "settlement fee" to cover up "improper dealings" is a typical example of collusion between certain political and media circles.

Liu and the others first heard this information in a radio program hosted by UFO Radio chairman Jaw Shao-kang. They went on to conjecture that the check was a settlement fee to cover up improper behavior on Chen's part. The original "red envelope" allegation, however, came from Huanqiu Shibao, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party newspaper People's Daily. Huanqiu Shibao has a close relationship with China's military and a clear anti-Taiwan and anti-US stance. Birds of the same feather, pro-China media in Taiwan are also spreading rumors to hurt the country. The PFP and the New Party, where Liu and Jaw respectively came to prominence, make up the most China-friendly part of the blue camp.

PFP Chairman James Soong clearly understood the seriousness of the incident. When Liu was still busy talking his nonsense, proclaiming that he would file a counter lawsuit, Soong came out to end things and then apologized together with Liu. Yet they continued to make reference to money politics, secret diplomatic aid and so on in an attempt to shift the focus of attention.

Jaw, less remorseful than Liu, is relying on a tendency for media figures to get off the hook by referring to "freedom of the press." His political wisdom is vastly inferior to Soong's, but Jaw is canny enough to have pulled out of politics.

There are several reasons why Soong fears that this issue will be detrimental to the PFP.

First, the use of false information from China to attack Taiwan's already very difficult diplomatic situation unambiguously painted the PFP as being on China's side. Continuing in this fashion will only clarify and reinforce this pro-China stance, and although it will earn the party a good grade from China, it is certain to place them at a disadvantage in December's legislative elections.

Second, the success in converting news of a "red envelope" into slandering Chen for an "improper relationship" with Moscoso reflected the base nature of Liu's attitudes and language, as well as a sexist way of thinking that could lead to a loss of votes from women.

Third, the incident ran the risk of becoming a diplomatic incident. Fortunately for the PFP, Moscoso reversed her decision to file a lawsuit. Had the incident degenerated further and Moscoso tried to hold Huanqiu Shibao to account, it would have become more embarrassing for the PFP.

The object chosen by pro-China politicians and media for their attack is the same topic that China would use were it to make a combined domestic and external attack on Taiwan's reputation.

The acts of these politicians are nothing less than an attempt to collaborate with China to wrestle back lost power. Voters should protect the nation's interests and throw these politicians out of the legislature, thus denying them a powerful vehicle for creating disorder in Taiwan -- the very disorder which China is waiting to capitalize on.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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