Tsai reassures Taitung farmers of status quo maintenance
Democratic Progressive Party ( DPP) Chairwoman and 2016 presidential candidate Tsai Ingwen tried to assure local farmers in Eastern Taiwan that a possible political transfer of power next year would not affect shipments of agricultural produce to China. She also urged Communist China to stay out of Taiwan’s elections.
Tsai made the statements while on a campaign stop that has taken her to the eastern county of Taitung for the past two days. She was joined by local legislators, county councilors and the Beinan township leader in an agricultural forum involving local pitahaya fruit farmers. The DPP chair- woman took to the fields herself, wearing gloves and crouching in the orchards to harvest the fruit, attempting to get a feel of the occupational conditions of local farmers. According to local officials, approximately 8,000 tons of pineapples and sugar apples are exported from Taitung to the mainland annually.
Hung Chung- kai, a county councilman of Taitung said fruit farmers including those of pineapples, sugar apples and pitahaya are worried that if policies toward China were to change, it would have deleterious effects on their livelihoods. Farmers in the region were reminded of circulated rumors in 2012 that claimed that mainland China would stop importing fruit from Taiwan should Tsai assume the presidency.
Beinan Township leader Hsu Wen-hsien also recalled that three months before election day in 2012, Chinese tourists had stopped arriving at the region’s renown hot spring resorts in Zhiben. He said that if Tsai were elected, China would order an immediate threemonth halt in group tours to Taiwan for “renegotiation” and if those talks failed, would call off tours for an additional three months.
In response, Tsai emphasized that in both statements abroad and in Taiwan, the maintenance of the current status quo was the most important aspect in Taiwan’s international diplomacy. She said that by maintaining the status quo, other countries would recognize that Taiwan is a stable region and that everybody could sit down for talks.
She added that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) in the past has stated that it would not interfere in Taiwan’s elections. Tsai said she hoped the TAO would underscore its understanding that Taiwan’s democratic society sees possible political transitions as normal, and that such changes do not necessarily amount to changes in existing policy. She said that if China shifted its policy toward Taiwan based on a political transition on the island, it would constitute interference in the island’s domestic politics.
Tsai stated she was concerned with the plight of farmers, and indicated that the most important issue pertained to finding more avenues to increase product competitiveness, including agricultural techniques, food safety and other means. The DPP leader said that the government needed to step up its efforts in promoting sales to other markets, without just relying on one destination.
Campaign officials urged farmers not to buy into China’s tactics, saying the government policy included pursuing and increasing market share in neighboring countries and regions including Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.