Taiwan’s Tsai, Challengers Focus on Cross-Strait Links in Debate

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(Bloomberg) -- Cross-strait relations were the major focus as candidates for Taiwan’s top job faced off in the final televised debate before January’s election.

President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking a second term, said the biggest challenge facing the government is China’s expansionary ambitions, and a new leader needs to be able to protect Taiwan sovereignty and democracy.

“We will not let Taiwan become the next Hong Kong when facing challenges from China,” said Tsai. “Internal unity is the way to resist the pressure of ‘one country, two systems’.”

Tsai warned of China’s penetration into Taiwan society and said she refuses to trade economic benefits for sovereignty. The president questioned her main opposition challenger, Han Kuo-yu of the more China-friendly Kuomintang, about his visit to Beijing liaison office in Hong Kong earlier this year. Han said that if elected he would continue to protect the constitution of Republic of China, the formal name of Taiwan.

The debate was one of Han’s last opportunities to win over voters as he seeks to unseat Tsai in the Jan. 11 election. The president holds a more than 30 percentage point lead over her challenger, according to an aggregated poll of publicly available opinion surveys published by The News Lens. However, Han said he had sabotaged the polls by calling on his supporters in November to claim they backed Tsai if contacted by pollsters.

People First Party candidate James Soong said the next Taiwan leader should make use of the economy’s advantages in geographic and democracy to stabilize cross-strait relations. He said he aims to restart official exchanges with China and promote more tourism from the mainland.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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