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Tsai Ing-wen defends Taiwan sovereignty in heated debate

By
Elizabeth Shim
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen is up for re-election in 2020. File Photo by EPA
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen is up for re-election in 2020. File Photo by EPA

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- The situation in Hong Kong is becoming the source of heated discussion in Taiwan's presidential race as President Tsai Ing-wen seeks re-election in January.

Tsai said Sunday her rival Han Kuo-yu, the candidate for the opposition Kuomintang party, has not done enough to reject China's "one country, two systems" model for Hong Kong and Macau, Hong Kong's Mingpao and other news services reported Monday.

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Tsai, whose cautionary stance toward China cost her in the polls until the violent crackdown in neighboring Hong Kong created a backlash for Chinese authorities, was responding to a challenge from Han, who claimed during the presidential debate she was "using" the Hong Kong protests as she seeks re-election.

Tsai replied with an attack on Han for not reacting in a timely manner to Beijing's "one country, two systems" of governance, which has been followed by decreasing autonomy in the city-states, according to Focus Taiwan.

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Han, who had run on a platform of friendlier cross-strait relations prior to the outbreak of police violence in Hong Kong, has also advocated a more independent Taiwan defense policy; Tsai has called for closer coordination with the United States to counter a stronger China.

"We should not believe in the notion that the United States is our best friend," Han said at the debate.

Tsai said Sunday Taiwan's "top concern" is whether "the president can face China without bending at the knees." The Taiwanese leader was referring to her rejection of Chinese President Xi Jinping's call in January to turn down independence and embrace "peaceful reunification" with the mainland.

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Han, mayor of Kaohsiung, suggested at the debate Tsai was pigeonholing him.

"What I am seeing now is Tsai Ing-wen trying desperately to make Han Kuo-yu synonymous with 'one country, two systems,' like squeezing every last bit of toothpaste out of tube," Han said at the debate.

A Taiwanese television poll following the debate indicated Tsai is leading; about 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for the president, another 29 percent they would elect Han.

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Taiwan goes to the polls on Jan. 11.

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