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PRESIDENT CHEN VOWS TO ADDRESS ETHNIC DIVISION ISSUE

2004-04-12 17:59:42

    Taipei, April 12 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Monday he and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will reflect on their presidential campaign strategy and consider how to narrow political and ethnic divisions.

    Chen made the pledge during an unprecedented meeting with a group of university student leaders at the Red Chamber Theater in Taipei's Hsimenting shopping district.

    In the meeting, some students claimed that divisive rhetoric made by Chen and other DPP politicians during the presidential campaign had hurt social harmony.

    During the presidential campaign, Chen often assured voters that he wouldn't cave in to Beijing, and he often questioned his sole challenger Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's willingness to stand up to Beijing. Some observers feel that political and ethnic divisions have become even more serious after Taiwan-born Chen narrowly defeated mainland China-born Lien.

    President Chen assured the students that he and his party would reflect on their rhetoric and work to narrow the widening gap between different political parties and ethnic groups. "We do have a crisis and it's something the ruling party and I need to review and to address, " Chen said. "We are all proud of Taiwan, and we have no need to pigeon-hole people. We all love Taiwan and we shouldn't try to paint someone black or red."

    As part of the efforts, Chen said he will push relevant government agencies to organize a conference to discuss issues regarding ethnic equality in education, language and cultural development.

    Chen further said he believes that love and tolerance are the best way to defuse ethnic divisions and promote social harmony and internal unity.

    Except for a small group of aboriginal tribes, most of Taiwan's 23 million people are ethnic Chinese. But the population can be divided into two sub-ethnic groups: the "mainlanders" whose families fled to Taiwan when the Chinese Communists took over the mainland in 1949, and the "native Taiwanese" whose ancestors began arriving the island in the 17th century or earlier.

    The mainlanders, about 15 percent of the population, have largely supported the opposition KMT and its ally People First Party, and their support base is in northern Taiwan. The native Taiwanese control the south, and they tend to favor Chen's DPP and the smaller Taiwan Solidarity Union.

    The mainlanders have traditionally supported eventual unification with mainland China, while the native Taiwanese lean more toward formal independence.

(By Sofia Wu)

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