Candidates in Taiwan's local elections could pledge to defend the democratic island

Calls grow for would-be municipal, regional and village councilors to sign a pledge of 'no surrender' to China.
By Hsia Hsiao-hwa and Chen Meihua for RFA Mandarin
Candidates in Taiwan's local elections could pledge to defend the democratic island World United Formosans for Independence called on voters not to support politicians who are hesitant about defending Taiwan in mostly local elections later this year, Sept. 5, 2022.

UPDATED at 8:54 p.m. EDT on 9-6-2022

Pro-independence groups in the democratic island of Taiwan have called on candidates in November's elections to sign pledges never to surrender in the event of a Chinese invasion.

The World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) hit out at the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) for sending its vice chairman Andrew Hsia on a tour of several Chinese cities and provinces during military saber-rattling from Beijing sparked by the Aug. 2-3 visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Hsia's trip came amid several days of PLA military activity around Taiwan in the wake of the visit to the island, which Beijing claims must be 'unified' with China, by military force if necessary.

In a Sept. 5 statement, WUFI called on Taiwanese voters not to support "politicians who are hesitant about defending Taiwan or even support surrender" in local elections on Nov. 26 to elect county magistrates and councilors, township mayors and councilors, and chiefs of village in six municipalities and 16 counties.

Citing Ukraine's defense of its territory against the Russian invasion, the statement said the concerted Ukrainian resistance had meant that Russia was still very far from its aim of occupying the country and setting up a "puppet regime."

"Taiwan should get itself out of the quagmire as soon as possible by completing the establishment of a Taiwanese state that matches its actual situation, and defend our freedom and human rights that have been earned through generations of hard work," the WUFI statement said.

"We should require political parties and politicians to make clear that they will stand up for these values and not be coerced by outside forces," it said.

"We call on everyone to make good use of the democratic tools in their hands in each election, examine them carefully, support candidates who have the will to resist and defend Taiwan's democracy and freedom to the death, and eliminate candidates who parrot totalitarian threats, and who may surrender to the aggressors," the group said.

Robert Tsao, who founded the United Microelectronics Corp (UMC), appears on RFA's 'Asia Wants to Talk' program.

Funding a defense force

The statement came after the founder of a major Taiwanese chipmaker reapplied for Taiwanese nationality after naturalizing as a citizen of Singapore, saying he wants to help in the fight against the military threat from Beijing.

Billionaire Robert Tsao, who founded the United Microelectronics Corp (UMC), has regained the passport of the 1911 Republic of China, which has controlled Taiwan since it stopped being a Japanese dependency after World War II, saying he hopes everyone will defend the island against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Tsao, 75, has also pledged U.S. $100 million to help train some three million civilians -- including 300,000 snipers and sharp-shooters -- to be deployed in the event of a Chinese invasion.

He cited growing concerns that China will, if it is allowed to take Taiwan, set up mass "re-education" camps to brainwash the population into accepting CCP rule.

Tsao dismissed as "nonsense" Beijing's claim on Taiwan, saying indigenous peoples have lived there for 4,000 years and Hokkien settlers for more than 350 years, while the People's Republic of China is only 73 years old.

"Therefore, if the CCP uses force against Taiwan, it will be an act of blatant aggression, a deliberate massacre, a vicious war crime and a crime against humanity," Tsao told a news conference on Sept. 1.

Tsao's funding will go to set up the Black Bear Academy of military training, whose graduates he said would be ready to defend Taiwan within the next three years.

He said with U.S. arms sales and technical support, together with Taiwan's own scientific and technological capabilities, would mean the island is "definitely capable of defeating communist invaders."

"So in the future, the CCP can only hope to sow civil unrest and self-destruction in Taiwan," Tsao said. "They will support local gangsters to cause trouble everywhere, or secretly help some low-quality politicians and politicians in Taiwan to spread defeatism and capitulation, rumors and provocation."

"Training three million Black Bear warriors and 300,000 marksmen will offer psychological and technical assistance for young people in Taiwan to become staunch warriors against the CCP," he said.

China 'more evil' than Russia

When the nationalist KMT regime of Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong's Soviet-backed communists, it took over what had been a dependency of Japan since 1895, when Taiwan's inhabitants proclaimed a short-lived Republic of Formosa after being ceded to Japan by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The island had just been handed back to the Republic of China as part of Japanese reparations in the wake of World War II, and KMT rule wasn't welcome in many quarters, particularly after the Feb. 28 massacre following a popular uprising in 1947.

Nonetheless, Beijing forces countries to choose between diplomatic recognition of Beijing or Taipei, and has repeatedly threatened to annex the island, should it seek formal statehood as Taiwan.

WUFI chairman Chen Nan-tien said China is potentially far more of a threat to Taiwan than Russia is to Ukraine.

"Taiwan is facing a regime that is more evil, possibly stronger and more ambitious than Russia," Chen told reporters at a recent press conference. "Any candidate for public office should swear a solemn oath to defend Taiwan to the death."

Shen Po-yang, co-founder of Black Bear Academy, said Taiwan's civil defense organization currently leaves local politicians in command, leaving the system vulnerable to political and covert infiltration.

"If these people have already negotiated terms with the CCP, then any civil defense we might mount will collapse under their command," Shen told RFA. "Then the collapse of logistics networks will definitely lead to the collapse of the military services in combat, because the medical system may be affected."

"Voters may not know how [a particular candidate] will act if there is a war," Shen said. "People need to know if the candidates they are voting for are willing to take on civil defense roles in the event of war."

"If not, you shouldn't be supporting them."

To sign or not to sign

Chen Li-fu, vice-chairman of the Taiwan Association of Professors, said signing the pledge of "no surrender" could have repercussions for candidates, who could be barred from traveling to China or face potential detention as "pro-independence" activists if they do.

"This letter of commitment will help the people of Taiwan identify the opportunistic politicians, and enhance the effectiveness of democratic defense mechanisms," Chen told RFA.

Chen Chi-hsiung, secretary-general of the Taiwan Federation of Students, agreed.

"The letter of commitment is important ... to get an overview of candidates' views before the election, and to watch to see whether these commitments are truly being implemented after the election," Chen said.

Peifen Hsieh, spokesperson for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said the government has recently boosted defense spending for 2023 by nearly 14 percent, putting it at around 2.4 percent of GDP.

"All the DPP candidates support President Tsai [Ing-wen]'s ... policy of defending a democratic Taiwan," Hsieh told RFA. But he said it would be up to individual candidates to decide whether or not to sign the "no surrender" pledge.

"The DPP is a democratic political party, and we respect the right of individual candidates to choose whether or not to sign," Hsieh said. But he added: "The DPP is at the heart of the resistance."

Independent Taipei municipal councilor Miao Boya said he would sign the pledge, citing the mayor of Kyiv and other Ukrainian municipal councils as role models.

"Since Taiwan is on the frontline of the threat from China, of course people should be given a clear understanding of our position on defending our country and our sovereignty," Miao said.

The KMT responded by saying it pledged to defend Taiwan military, that it supports strengthening the military, but that it refuses to "give up on dialogue" and will continue "taking pragmatic action" to ensure Taiwan's security and prosperity.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Updated to include date and constituencies of Taiwan's elections.


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