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Ex-President Ma Ying-jeou boycotts Taiwan's national day celebrations, says DPP govt using event to push for independence

Published October 2, 2023 Updated October 2, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

TAIPEI — Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Monday (Oct 2) that he would boycott official celebrations for the island’s national day this year after accusing the government of turning it into an overt attempt at pushing independence ahead of an election.

Taiwan’s identity, including how it relates to China, which claims the island as its own territory and has in recent years threatened to take control of it with force, is a major issue for Taiwanese voters. A general election is set for January.

Taiwan celebrates Oct 10 as its national day, marking an uprising in 1911 that ended China’s last imperial dynasty and ushered in the Republic of China.

The republican Government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s Communists, who set up the People’s Republic of China. 

In an angry post on Facebook, Mr Ma, who was President from 2008 to 2016 and is a senior member of Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), said the government was laying a path to Taiwan’s independence by calling the celebration in its official English translation “Taiwan National Day”, which it has done since 2021.

“I cannot sit idly by while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government jeopardises Taiwan’s security and harms the Republic of China,” he wrote. “Use your votes in the presidential elections next January to remove this government that violates the constitution of the Republic of China and disregards the safety of the Taiwanese people.”

The KMT’s presidential candidate, Hou Yu-ih, offered his support for Mr Ma, saying: “I believe that what Taiwan and the people of Taiwan need is peace, not war.”

The Kuomintang, which traditionally favours close ties with China, is trailing in opinion polls for the elections, with the DPP’s William Lai the favourite to win.

The DPP champions an identity for Taiwan that is separate from China.

Taiwan Premier Chen Chien-jen, a DPP member himself, dismissed Mr Ma’s criticism, saying Mr Ma had attended festivities previously when the English translation was Taiwan National Day.

“Let us come together to defend the sovereignty, freedom and democracy of our Republic of China, Taiwan,” Mr Chen told reporters, using the formulation the government favours for Taiwan’s formal name.

Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, will give a major speech on national day, and there will also be a military parade in front of the presidential office.

Both Ms Tsai and Mr Lai have repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but have been rebuffed, as China believes both of them to be separatists. REUTERS

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