Taiwan's new president calls for dialogue with China; no mention of 1992 Consensus

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (left) receiving an official seal after swearing in at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (left) receiving an official seal after swearing in at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen signing after swearing in at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen signing after swearing in at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Tsai Ing-wen swearing in as Taiwan's President at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.
Tsai Ing-wen swearing in as Taiwan's President at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen looking on (left) as Chen Chien-jen swears in as Vice President in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen looking on (left) as Chen Chien-jen swears in as Vice President in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Taiwan's new President Tsai Ing-wen (right) and outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou walking together during the Presidential inauguration, in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016.
Taiwan's new President Tsai Ing-wen (right) and outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou walking together during the Presidential inauguration, in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
A military band conductor performing during the inauguration ceremony for Taiwan's incoming president Tsai Ing-wen, at the Presidential Palace in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday, on May 20, 2016.
A military band conductor performing during the inauguration ceremony for Taiwan's incoming president Tsai Ing-wen, at the Presidential Palace in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday, on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Indigenous Taiwanese dance during a parade to reflect Taiwan's history as part of an inauguration ceremony of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on May 20, 2016.
Indigenous Taiwanese dance during a parade to reflect Taiwan's history as part of an inauguration ceremony of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on May 20, 2016. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Military officers checking the uniforms of soldiers during a rehearsal for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration in Taipei on May 18.
Military officers checking the uniforms of soldiers during a rehearsal for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration in Taipei on May 18. PHOTO: EPA
Soldiers at the rehearsal for the presidential inauguration in Taipei on May 19.
Soldiers at the rehearsal for the presidential inauguration in Taipei on May 19. PHOTO: EPA
Pro-independence protesters gathering outside the inauguration ceremony grounds in Taipei, calling for Taiwan's independence.
Pro-independence protesters gathering outside the inauguration ceremony grounds in Taipei, calling for Taiwan's independence.ST PHOTO: JERMYN CHOW
Crowds streaming into the venue of the presidential inauguration ceremony.
Crowds streaming into the venue of the presidential inauguration ceremony.ST PHOTO: JERMYN CHOW
Giant balloons floating in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei in preparation for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration.
Giant balloons floating in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei in preparation for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration. PHOTO: EPA
Soldiers firing cannons during a rehearsal for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration in Taipei on May 18.
Soldiers firing cannons during a rehearsal for president-elect Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration in Taipei on May 18. PHOTO: EPA

New President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday (May 20) that Taiwan and China must "set aside the baggage of history" and engage in positive dialogue to benefit both sides, making no mention of the 1992 Consensus that Beijing insists must be the basis for stable cross-strait ties.

China will no doubt be angered by the omission in Ms Tsai's inauguration speech of the tacit agreement between the two sides, which recognises that there is one China but with differing interpretations. 

The 59-year-old leader who was sworn into office on Friday, however, alluded to the 1992 Consensus in her inauguration speech, saying: "I respect this historical fact."

She acknowledged that talks took place in 1992 at which there was "joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground".

 

Dressed in a white top and cream jacket - the more neutral colours of her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - Ms Tsai also spoke about the need for transitional justice to address the historical past and heal old wounds so that these will not continue to divide Taiwanese society but be a force to propel the island forward.  She was alluding to the White Terror era of suppression of political dissidents from 1947 to 1987 that was enacted at the inauguration ceremony.

But a good part of  her speech was on reforms to boost a moribund economy and improve the social safety net, issues that concern the Taiwanese greatly. 

 

Ms Tsai, who is Taiwan's fourth directly elected President, is also the island's first-ever woman president. She took the oath of office and received the presidential seals in a solemn ceremony held inside the red-brick Presidential Office Building on Friday.  

She then accompanied outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou out of the presidential office as he shook hands with smiling staff and a brass marching band paraded.  

Ms Tsai and the DPP swept the Jan 16 elections, backed by an electorate that was frustrated with Mr Ma and his Kuomintang (KMT) Party.

"I hope she will be able to deliver what she promised during the elections and make our lives better," said school teacher Lin Kai-xi, 38, who was among the invited guests.

The inauguration ceremony started at 9 am local time (9am Singapore time) but locals and visitors showed up at the ceremony grounds along Ketagalan Boulevard as early as 7am. 

More than 100 protesters, including environmental activists and pro-independence supporters, also gathered, some as early as midnight.

"We don't want to be part of any country and want to let the world know that we want to be independent and not be bullied by China," said Mr Ding Young-jiung, a member of the Free Taiwan Party who travelled from PingTung to Taipei on Thursday night.

Security was high on Friday, with hundreds of security personnel keeping an eye on the proceedings to ensure the inauguration ceremony proceeded without a hitch.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Ms Tsai  joined Vice-President Chen Chien-Jen and the rest of the guests to watch performances by students and arts groups. There was also  an aerial ballet performance by Taiwan's aerobatics display team, The Thunder Tigers, which were performing for the first time in 20 years.

As part of the festivities, each guest received a goodie bag called the "wu bao dai" or " Five Treasures Bag". The colourful paper bag has sketches of Taiwan's native products and popular icons and contains a scarf, a bottle of water, a poncho and a hat.

The colour theme of the inauguration stage was switched to Tiffany blue from bright red following criticism that the original design was too old fashioned.

Even the dark blue background of the official websites of the Presidential Office has been changed to Tiffany blue, a colour which Taiwanese media say signified the reconciliation of the blue and green camps.

Among the invited guests were six heads of state from the island's 22 diplomatic allies, mainly small states in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Other guests included Mr Ron Kirk, former Trade Representative of the United States with which Taiwan has a close, if unofficial, relationship; Mr Dominique Riquet, a member of the European Parliament; and Archbishop Joseph Chennoth, representing the Holy See.

Representing Singapore were former Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi and Members of Parliament Cedric Foo and Foo Mee Har.