- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nearly two weeks of violence in Tibet prior to today’s presidential election in Taiwan has given new life to the ruling party candidate, who previously seemed headed toward a humiliating defeat.

Ma Ying-jeou, the candidate from the opposition Nationalist Party led Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party by more than 20 percentage points in the last public opinion survey, taken March 11.

A law barring public opinion polls within 10 days of the election left voters guessing and candidates tailoring last-minute pitches to voters as images of a bloodied Tibet filled the island’s airways.

Beijing’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters has given the ruling-party candidate a chance to portray the Nationalists as pro-Beijing weaklings who could not defend the island’s sovereignty.

Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan a renegade province and hopes to one day reunite it with the mainland.

“As we look at Tibet, we must think about our own fate,” Mr. Hsieh said this week. Yesterday, he suggested that a vote for more-China-friendly Nationalists could make Taiwan “a second Tibet,” Reuters news agency reported.

Mr. Ma’s party advocates eventual unification with China, while Mr. Hsieh’s seeks independence.

Mr. Ma warned against comparing Taiwan to Tibet.

“To draw an analogy between Taiwan and Tibet is an incorrect one,” Mr. Ma, whose Nationalist Party once ruled all of China, told reporters Monday. “Tibet is under mainland China rule, and Taiwan is not.”

Mr. Ma, at the same time, has tried to take a strong position against the crackdown in Tibet.

On Wednesday, he suggested Taiwan could decide to boycott the Beijing Olympic Games in August if he was elected president. The next day, he explained that two scenarios could bring about a boycott: “One, if the Chinese government continues to suppress Tibetans, and two, if the situation in Tibet worsens.”

Mr. Ma also said he would seek public consensus before adopting any actions.

Mr. Hsieh argued that instead of threatening to boycott the games, Mr. Ma should abandon his “one China market” policy, which aims to strengthen trading roots with the mainland and achieve the political unification through economical unification.

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