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Retired general widely criticized for 'China's army' remark

ROC Central News Agency

2011/06/08 20:06:49

By Emmanuelle Tseng, Chen Hung-chin, Wen Kui-hsiang, Chang Jung-hsiang, Chen Wei-ting and S.C. Chang

Taipei, June 8 (CNA) Lawmakers across party lines denounced on Wednesday a retired Taiwanese general for reportedly suggesting in China that the Republic of China (Taiwan) Army and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) be called "China's Army."

Taiwanese media, citing a Chinese media report quoting PLA Major General Luo Yuan, said a Taiwanese speaker recently told a gathering of retired generals from both sides of the Taiwan Strait in China, "From now on, we should no longer separate the ROC Army and the PLA. We are all China's Army."

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) issued a statement, however, in which the speaker, identified as former Air Force General Hsia Ying-chou, described the media reports as "not factual."

President Ma Ying-jeou said the reports have yet to be confirmed, "but if they turn out to be true, I'd say such a remark is extremely inappropriate and needs to be strongly denounced."

Hsia's denial did little to appease Taiwan's lawmakers.

George Hsieh, secretary general of the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT) legislative caucus, said he was "shocked and saddened" by the reports.

Though retired generals are not banned from visiting China, the MND must "review and improve" their words and deeds in China, to see if their interactions with Chinese counterparts "meet people's expectations," Hsieh said.

KMT legislator Wu Yu-sheng said it was "extremely inappropriate" for Hsia to make such remarks -- if he indeed said them.

"We can even suspect his loyalty to the country, " Wu said, demanding that Hsia explain himself. "If indeed he made the comment, he should publicly apologize to the people and to the members of the armed forces."

Factual or not, the reports have created a storm in Taiwan's political circles, with the KMT caucus demanding the resignations of Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu and Political Warfare Department Acting Director General Wang Ming-wo if they "failed to set clear rules on military personnel exchanges with China."

It also called on the MND to totally ban unauthorized military and professional exchanges with China.

Gao Jyh-peng, Hsieh's counterpart in the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), demanded to know "how these retired military officers continued to draw their retirement pensions from Taiwan's taxpayers if they considered themselves as members of the Chinese military?"

Gao urged the MND to publicize how many of Taiwan's retired generals have made investments and own property in China.

Yeh Yi-jin, another DPP lawmaker, argued that in addition to pensions, Taiwan's retired generals were also eligible to receive 18-percent interest on designated retirement savings accounts, subsidies for health care premiums and utility bills, and access to government-supplied cars.

"All these benefits and privileges should be taken away from them," Yeh said.

DPP lawmaker Tsai Huang-liang said the comment was a betrayal of the ROC Army's "soul and basic values" and would have a "deeply demoralizing effect" on the serving members of the armed forces.

"It is tantamount to treason which, if it goes unchecked, could eventually lead to a Quisling-like collusion with the enemy to invade Taiwan," Tsai said.

Premier Wu Den-yih said he could not accept such remarks, which he said "were inconsistent with the fundamental policy of the Republic of China."

Replying to media questions on the sideline of an industrial forum in Taipei, Wu said the government's China policy was based on two guidelines:

First, under the constitutional framework, the government insists on the policy of "no unification, no independence and no use of arms to settle differences" with mainland China.

Second, Wu said, the development of cross-strait ties must be in the interest of the people of Taiwan.

The MND said it had never authorized any group or individual to discuss, exchange views or speak with Communist China on its behalf, and the reported remarks were made by individuals in a "private" capacity.

The MND said it "deeply regretted" that remarks by a certain retired general in China have "caused misunderstanding and concern" in society.

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