Taiwan elects parliament speaker ruling party views as pro-China

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - TAIPEI, Feb 1 — Taiwan’s parliament today elected a former presidential candidate for the largest opposition party as its new speaker, who will be responsible for hosting visiting foreign lawmakers and who the ruling party has said is pro-China.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) last month won the presidential election but lost its majority in parliament. China, which claims Taiwan as its own despite the objections of the government in Taipei, views the DPP as separatists.

Under Taiwan’s presidential system of government, it is the president who appoints the premier, though with no parliament majority now the DPP will have to work with the opposition to get its legislative agenda passed.

The largest opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) won one more seat than the DPP, but the small Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) took eight seats, depriving the KMT of a majority in the 113-member house.

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The KMT’s Han Kuo-yu, who badly lost the presidential election to the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen in 2020, won the election for the speakership. The TPP abstained from voting after the party’s own candidate lost in the first round of voting.

“I believe the majority of the Taiwanese people look forward to a Legislative Yuan that is serious about governance, unites and cooperates, and is dedicated to the welfare of the people of Taiwan, rather than taking fighting as its aim,” Han told reporters, using parliament’s official name.

During the election campaign, the DPP ran a television advertisement focusing on Han’s visit to the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong in 2019 before his candidacy was announced, saying that was the place “he most likes” going to.

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Han also visited mainland China that year where he met with senior Chinese officials and reiterated his commitment to the position that both Taiwan and China belong to “one China”.

“It’s very possible he meets someone from the United Front Work Department or the People’s Liberation Army,” DPP lawmaker Puma Shen told Reuters, referring to the Chinese Communist Party body charged with spreading its influence and propaganda overseas.

Han, who did not take questions from media, has previously strongly denied being pro-Beijing, as does the KMT.

KMT lawmaker Hung Mong-kai told Reuters such accusations were unfair and pure electioneering.

“It’s the lowest possible trick to paint us red,” he said, that being the colour of the Communist Party.

Colloquially known as “Korean fish” in a play on the pronunciation of his name, Han was also the mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung before being removed in a re-call vote in 2020 after he lost the presidential election. — Reuters

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