Taiwan President Ma Urges More Freedom, Democracy in China

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou
Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's president. Photographer: Maurice Tsai/Bloomberg

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou called for greater freedom and democracy in China as the island celebrates its National Day and the 100th anniversary of the revolution that was a precursor to both governments.

“The 1911 Revolution is a shared memory between China and Taiwan,” Ma said in a televised speech today, referring to the overthrow of imperial rule by Sun Yat-sen and the founding of the Republic of China. “I want to urge China not to forget the aspirations of the founding father to create a free, democratic country with even distribution of wealth.”

Cross-straits tensions have eased since Ma took office in 2008, abandoning his predecessor’s pro-independence stance and strengthening trade and investment ties with the world’s second-biggest economy. The Republic of China’s government has been confined to Taiwan since Mao Zedong’s communists defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang and established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Ma, who is seeking re-election in January as head of the KMT, also said the island needs a strong defense to negotiate with its former civil-war foe. While China’s communist government maintains Taiwan is an integral part of the country that it will take back by force if necessary, the KMT has in the past decade vied for power with pro-independence parties.

Rejuvenating China is the “cherished goal” pursued by Sun and other pioneers of the 1911 Revolution, and should be the “common aspiration of all compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits,” Xinhua cited Chinese President Hu Jintao as saying.

In the upcoming election, Ma will run against Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Ma is preferred by 39 percent of voters against 35 percent for Tsai, according to a poll conducted by China Times Inc. from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3.

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