Choice between Strait 'peace or crisis'

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 29 Jul 2019

Taiwan's upcoming elections will be a "heart-pounding, soul-stirring battle" for the island's future, Beijing-friendly candidate Han Kuo-yu said in his first speech since becoming the opposition's presidential candidate.

To a packed stadium at the Kuomintang's national congress, Han described January's vote as a choice between "peace or crisis" with China.

Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the 1949 end of a civil war, but Beijing still views the island as its territory, and has vowed to regain it - by force if necessary.

Han is looking to unseat President Tsai Ing-wen of the Beijing-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party, in a contest that will be dominated by relations with China.

"This won't be a polite gentleman's race, it will be a heart-pounding, soul-stirring battle for the survival of the Republic of China and Taiwan's next generations," he told the crowd. "The people will make a sacred choice for the fate of our country in the next four years. We will choose whether to defend the ROC or destroy the ROC... we will choose cross-strait peace or Taiwan Strait crisis."

Relations with Beijing have soured since Tsai came to power in 2016, because her party refuses to recognize the idea that Taiwan is part of "one China."

Han presented himself as someone who can reverse Beijing's ire as he rounded on the Tsai administration's domestic and foreign policies and vowed to create "an economic miracle".

The 62-year-old has enjoyed a stunning rise in the last two years, journeying from relative obscurity to become his party's presidential candidate, in a phenomenon that has been dubbed the "Han tide."

He was a relative unknown until he seized the Kaohsiung mayoralty in local elections last year. And to become the KMT's candidate, he saw off a challenge from Taiwan's richest man, Foxconn founder Terry Gou.

But speculation is rife Gou could run independently.

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